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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $20.00
  • December 2009
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93361-1
  • 245 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

"They Say / I Say"

The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing

Second Edition


Gerald Graff (Author, University of Illinois at Chicago), Cathy Birkenstein (Author, University of Illinois at Chicago)


The book that demystifies academic writing, teaching students to frame their arguments in the larger context of what else has been said about their topic–and providing templates to help them make the key rhetorical moves.

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 (“they say”) to set up one’s own argument (“I say”). 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.


Demystifies academic discourse

Identifies the moves that matter in academic writing in ways that students can readily understand and apply. The Second Edition includes three new chapters on the moves that matter in literature, the social sciences, and the sciences.

Provides templates

Gives students starting points for making the rhetorical moves that matter.

Shows students that writing is always part of a larger conversation

Demonstrates how to engage in a lively written dialogue with other writers and thinkers.

A new chapter on reading

Shows students how to read for the larger conversation and helps them to recognize the argument and to think about the arguments it responds to—and thus to see reading as an act of entering a larger conversation.


Inexpensive enough to add to any course where students are assigned to write.

    Preface: Demystifying Academic Conversation

    Introduction: Entering the Conversation

    Part 1. “THEY SAY”

    1. “They Say”: Starting with What Others Are Saying

    2. “Her Point Is”: The Art of Summarizing

    3. “As He Himself Puts It”: The Art of Quoting

    Part 2. “I SAY”

    4. “Yes / No / Okay, But”: Three Ways to Respond

    5. “And Yet”: Distinguishing What You Say from What They Say

    6. “Skeptics May Object”: Planting a Naysayer in Your Text

    7. “So What? Who Cares?”: Saying Why It Matters


    8. “As a Result”: Connecting the Parts

    9. “Ain’t So / Is Not”: Academic Writing Doesn’t Always Mean Setting Aside Your Own Voice

    10. “But Don't Get Me Wrong”: The Art of Metacommentary


    11. “I Take Your Point”: Entering Class Discussions   

    12. “What’s Motivating This Writer?”: Reading for the Conversation

    13. “The Data Suggest”: Writing in the Sciences

    14. “Analyze This”: Writing in the Social Sciences


    David Zinczenko, Don’t Blame the Eater

    Gerald Graff, Hidden Intellectualism

    Richard A. Muller, Nuclear Waste

    Deborah Tannen, Agonism in the Academy: Surviving the Argument Culture

    Index of Templates

Sample Media