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They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in…

They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (2006)

by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein

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This is a very useful guide that introduces students to the basic concepts of argumentative writing at the college level. Graff and Birkenstein stress that students remember they are not writing in a vacuum but rather to a particular audience as part of a larger ongoing conversation. Some of the templates they provide for students to incorporate into their writing are a little clichéd, sure ("On the one hand... On the other hand"), but they will help students who are only beginning to learn how to write critically.

(It's not, after all, necessarily an intuitive skill—one of the things that left me confused and anxious as an undergrad was getting back papers with comments that read, in their entirety, "More analysis." Now when I look back at my earliest work, I can see clearly what my professors meant; then, I thought that that was what I was doing and couldn't figure out how to do better.)

Graff and Birkenstein's templates are like training wheels for student writers, helping them to formulate ideas in ways that are new to them and hopefully to be discarded as composition and analytical skills improve. "They Say/I Say" is also a useful book for instructors to read, as it provides several reminders of the kinds of things that may now be second nature to us but which are likely to be stumbling blocks for students. ( )
1 vote siriaeve | Aug 2, 2016 |
This "textbook" is very easy to understand and super easy to read. It gives you helpful tips on how to write better. For example it teaches you to summarize, quote, and so much more. After reading this book I feel like a better writer already. ( )
  klara333 | Mar 7, 2014 |
They, Graff and Birkenstein, say that writing well is a lot like entering a conversation. It involves listening to what others have said and summarizing it, fairly, prior to stepping up to add your own true, smart, logical statements or opinions (the I say) which may be in agreement with, at odds with, or both in agreement and disagreement with different aspects of what the they have said. The thesis is presented through a sensible division of chapters into the salient points, first, on how to layout what “they say,” e.g. with the art of quoting, moving on to a variety of ways to enunciate and clarify what “I say”, and rounding things off with some useful chapters tying it all together.

I say that this is an excellent and helpful book for students, whose advice, if followed could alleviate stress, low grades and tears, as one makes one’s way through academia. The only chapter I found less than convincing was chapter nine on the use of vernacular or argot in academic writing. But perhaps that is due to cultural differences for a non-American reader/student, or because I am now more than 20 years away from direct classroom experience. In any case, the book as a whole should be of great service to students and educators. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Jan 8, 2012 |
Very informative little guide about how to write more effectively. Tools to help you communicate your ideas. ( )
  NathanaelS | Aug 18, 2010 |
This book is fantastic. Argumentation, "entering the conversation," and the basics of academic writing are broken down in manageable ways (and above all, iin direct, approachable language). Much easier to get a student to read a chapter of this book than it is to get them to read many textbooks on writing.

Of particular help are the provided sentence templates, which students can use to practice many of these academic moves in their own writing.

The second edition breaks down genres particular to the social sciences and the sciences. ( )
  AgentJade | Mar 16, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gerald Graffprimary authorall editionscalculated
Birkenstein, Cathymain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393924092, Paperback)

Identifying the moves that matter in academic writing in ways that students can readily understand and apply.

"They Say / I Say" shows that writing well means mastering some key rhetorical moves, the most important of which involves summarizing what others have said ("they say") to set up one’s own argument ("I say"). In addition to explaining the basic moves, this book provides writing templates that show students explicitly how to make these moves in their own writing.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:44 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The best-selling new composition book published in this century, in use at more than 1,000 schools, They Say / I Say has essentially defined academic writing, identifying its key rhetorical moves, the most important of which is to summarize what others have said to set up one's own argument. The book also provides templates to help students make these key moves in their own writing. The Second Edition includes a new chapter on reading that shows students how to read for the larger conversation and two new chapters on the moves that matter in the sciences and social sciences.… (more)

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