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“They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Cathy Birkenstein and Gerald Graff

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Aims to improve academic writing and critical thinking.  Seemingly this book is core reading at many Universities. Has templates that can be completed to write articles; by filling in the blanks you obtain a good structure to your essays.

In essence the ‘they say’ bit is really the background of what is known. Such as people or a person have previously written a certain thing like pigs can’t fly. Follow this by adding potential responses, counterarguments and respond to these with your own views (I say bit). Make sure your argument is a genuine response to others views, otherwise who cares?

Suggests different terms that can be used for effective writing in general. A key concept is building upon previous sentences; this is a comprehensive book about writing.  Contains exercises at the end of each chapter which can help develop learning further.

Simply just having a knowledge of effective writing is useful, which you will gain from this book.  For what it’s worth, in real life, I have been told by a professor that effective writing is the most important skill for academics as this allows them to obtain grant monies.

Use of metacommentary explored, a good way of bulking up your essay if you are short of words. You can include rewrite (must also cite) various sources using ‘in other words’ or ‘I mean… in this’ or ‘this should not be confused with’. Not only a good way of bulking up a paper but an important concept to think about when when writing a title!

When reading think of the text as a conversation and try to comprehend what the author is trying to say, this may not always be apparent, particularly in classical literature. Interesting chapters about different writing that is required in different disciplines, although across all disciplines the They Say … I Say principle remains relevant!

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