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Book Details

  • Ebook
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $14.99
  • February 2014
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-90534-2
  • 352 pages
  • License Term (days): Lifetime
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

"They Say / I Say"

The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing

Third Edition

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


The best-selling book on academic writing—in use at more than 1,500 schools.

“They Say / I Say” identifies the key rhetorical moves in academic writing, showing students how to frame their arguments in the larger context of what others have said and providing templates to help them make those moves. And, because these moves are central across all disciplines, the book includes chapters on writing in the sciences, writing in the social sciences, and—new to this edition—writing about literature.


Endorsements & Reviews

“Demystifies academic argumentation.” — Patricia Bizzell, College of the Holy Cross

“This book demystifies rhetorical moves, tricks of the trade that many students are unsure about. It’s reasonable, helpful, nicely written . . . and hey, it’s true. I would have found it immensely helpful myself in high school and college.” — Mike Rose, University of California, Los Angeles

“The best tribute to “They Say / I Say” I’ve heard is this, from a student: “This is one book I’m not selling back to the bookstore.” Nods all around the room. The students love this book.” — Christine Ross, Quinnipiac University

“The argument of this book is important—that there are “moves” to academic writing . . . and that knowledge of them can be generative. The template format is a good way to teach and demystify the moves that matter. I like this book a lot.” — David Bartholomae, University of Pittsburgh

“A brilliant book. . . . It’s like a membership card in the academic club.” — Eileen Seifert, DePaul University

“Students need to walk a fine line between their work and that of others, and this book helps them walk that line, providing specific methods and techniques for introducing, explaining, and integrating other voices with their own ideas.” — Libby Miles, University of Rhode Island

“This book uncovers the rhetorical conventions that transcend disciplinary boundaries, so that even freshmen, newcomers to the academy, are immediately able to join in the conversation.” — Margaret Weaver, Missouri State University

Demystifies academic discourse

By identifying the moves that matter in ways that students can easily understand and apply, “They Say / I Say” demystifies academic writing.

Templates provide a starting point

Templates give students language to make the moves that matter in their own writing. An index of templates makes it easy for students to find the ones they need. The third edition includes a new chapter on “Using the Templates to Revise.”

Shows students how writing is always part of a larger conversation

By teaching students to frame their arguments in the larger context of what’s already been said, “They Say” demonstrates how to engage in a lively dialogue in their writing with other writers and thinkers.

A new chapter on writing about literature

“‘On Closer Examination’: Entering Conversations about Literature,” shows students how to get beyond the obvious, using what they first thought about a literary work, what their classmates have said, or what critics have written as starting points.

New attention to online writing

Advice for using links to incorporate what others say shows students how to make the rhetorical moves that matter in writing they post online.

50 readings reflect 5 issues that matter to students today:

• Is College the Best Option?
• Are We in a Race Against the Machine?
• What Should We Eat?
• What’s Up with the American Dream?
• What’s Gender Got to Do with It?

Readings reflect a range of ideological perspectives and can serve as sources for students’ own writing. Each selection is followed by five study questions, including one that functions as a writing prompt, and each chapter includes at least one scholarly piece and one piece written by a student. More than half of the readings in this edition are new, including Sheryl Sandberg on “leaning in,” bell hooks’ argument that women need to “step out,” Joseph Stiglitz’s “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” and more.

Emphasizes writing as part of a larger, ongoing conversation

Many textbooks explain that when we write we are entering a conversation that began before we joined; this is the first book to teach students the rhetorical moves for joining the conversation. Templates guide students through developing ideas as a response to what has already been said and a new chapter—“IMHO: Is Digital Communication Good or Bad—or Both?”—explores how the rhetorical moves work online.  

A new chapter on using templates to revise

"Using the Templates to Revise" provides guidelines for revision, with a checklist that refers students to relevant templates in the book. An annotated essay shows how one student used the moves taught in the book.  

Two books in one

The rhetoric is in the front and readings are in the back, making the book easy to use—and easy to teach. Cross-references in the margins lead students from the rhetoric to specific examples in the readings, and from the readings to the corresponding writing instruction. Instructors can use these to center their classes on either rhetoric or readings, and the links will help them draw from the other part.  

TheySayIBlog—a space where students and teachers can literally join the conversation

“They Say / I Say” teaches the moves for joining conversations and theysayiblog provides conversations students can join—and a space for doing so. The blog—updated monthly—features questions for both writing assignments and in-class discussions, as well as current articles relating to issues covered in the book. Articles range from Sherry Turkle on how digital devices have caused us to be “alone together” to a piece from Time on how Millennials have redefined the American Dream.  

    *New to the Third Edition

    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

    Part 3. Tying It All Together
    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. “He Talks About Deplores”: Using the Templates to Revise

    Part 4. In Specific Academic Settings
    12. “I Take Your Point”: Entering Class Discussions
    *13. “IMHO”: Is Digital Communication Good or Bad — or Both?
    14.“What’s Motivating This Writer?”: Reading for the Conversation
    *15. “On Closer Examination”: Entering Conversations about Literature
    16. “The Data Suggest”: Writing in the Sciences
    17. “Analyze This”: Writing in the Social Sciences

    David Zinczenko, Don’t Blame the Eater
    Gerald Graff, Hidden Intellectualism
    Richard A. Muller, Nuclear Waste
    Barbara Ehrenreich, The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
    Flannery O'Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge

    Index of Templates