I’m Reading the Book They Say / I Say

I’m reading the book called They Say / I Say: Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. So far, I am really liking it. It gives templates for making the kind of arguments needed in academic writing, such as agreement, disagreement, comparing, contrasting, summarizing, etc. The templates provides actual words to use and blanks to fill in. This is exactly what I need to be a successful academic writer.

The premise of the book, which guides the title, is that to be a successful academic writer, and for your articles to make sense, you must join the debate about the topic you’re writing about. To join the debate, you must introduce the debate by summarizing what others have already said (the “they say” part), and then add what you agree/disagree with and how you would change the debate — the ‘I say” part. The book is really a great reference for people who are interested in being successful writers, something that I plan to become.

I am only about 20% of the way through the book, so there is much to come and much to write about later. But what I really like about this book are the short, concise chapters and the exercises at the end of each chapter that help you practice what that chapter was about. I read the first few chapters in bed before going to sleep, so I didn’t do the exercises, but I will go back and do those over the next week. In fact, I am going to use the 30-minutes of daily writing to complete these exercises. They are contributing to my writing habit, so they count towards the 30 minutes for daily writing.

I foresee this book being a reference book that I return to repeatedly over the course of my career to brush up on the “moves that matter.” As the writers point out, people aren’t born being successful academic writers; it takes practice. But they didn’t get much training in it either; they had to learn the ropes from other successful writers. That’s the beauty of this book — I don’t have to figure out the techniques by reading other people’s writing. I will do that, but to understand their argument, not to have to analyze their writing style. So this book provides specific training on writing so we can focus on our argument.


You make a good point, but...

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