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They Say/ I Say 1-29: Academic Writing Intro
Transcript of They Say/ I Say 1-29: Academic Writing Intro
Scott J. Wilson
“The underlying structure of effective academic writing resides not just in stating our own ideas but in
closely to others around us,
their views in a way that they will recognize, and
with our own ideas in kind” (3).
Ultimately, academic writing is "
They Say/I Say: 1-29
State Your Own Ideas as
a Response to Others
The “They” in your argument
does not always need to be a specific person
or even someone known to your audience.
“It can even be something an individual or a group might say—or a side of yourself, something you once believed but no longer do, or something you partly believe, but also doubt” (7).
Katha Pollitt example from 6-7:
Here, the “they say” is explicit (Pollitt's daughter and like-minded people).
Other times, it is implied; the reader must infer it:
“I like to think I have a certain advantage as a teacher of literature because when I was growing up I disliked and feared books” (7).
Gerald Graff, “Disliking Books at an Early Age”
Here, the “they say”
questions a common belief
(or one we can believe is a common belief) about teaching and reading.
with others leads to controversy (which is what we want in this class).
Making statements nobody can disagree with leads to “flat, lifeless writing and for writing that fails to answer the
avoid vague statements
like “The author makes a very interesting point about mental illness” or “Augustus Waters is charismatic.”
Challenge what “They Say”
For your own good, and so I can sleep peacefully knowing I’ve done my job, become a critical thinker:
ask why, question meaning.
Often times, it feels we have lost our way in terms of expressing how we really feel. We try not to insult people;
we play it safe and that is boring
Develop and embrace
Putting in Your Oar: Entering the Discussion
tactic of starting with what others are saying:
who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language—so the argument runs—must inevitably share in the general collapse…
[But] the process is reversible.
Modern English…is full of bad habits…which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.
George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” (21-2)
introduced your argument and/or “their” argument, you need to return to it often
to remind your reader of your point.
We call these “return sentences” (27).
Ex. In conclusion, then,
as I suggested earlier,
defenders of gun rights cannot have it both ways. The assertion that Americans must be armed to protect themselves is contradicted by the fact that few civilians ever neutralize the threat of shootings with guns. In fact, gunman suicide, interventions by law enforcement and unarmed civilian bravery end such conflicts nearly every time.
Keep What “They Say” in View
Make sure you are
genuinely responding to another point of view
instead of just providing a list of observations about a given subject.
You need to
make and sustain an argument
in order to convince your reader that your viewpoint is significant.
Be clear how everything relates to your thesis.
To avoid looking foolish, you need to listen to others before voicing your opinion.
As Kenneth Burke suggests, treat academia like a never-ending conversation at a party:
“You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about…
You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument
, then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns with himself against you…The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress” (13).
Acknowledging other opinions adds legitimacy to your argument, but also makes it
more complex and informed
It may not feel like it in today’s political atmosphere, but debate can still exist.
Even if you believe they are wrong, you can learn from those with differing ideologies and opinions.
Fox News or MSNBC
(if only for entertainment).
Why acknowledge others?
“To give writing the most important thing of all—namely, a point—
a writer needs to indicate clearly what larger conversation that thesis is responding to
You must articulate “their” and “your” points early
in order to keep proper logic and order in your essays.
The essay needs to start specific.
“Give your readers a quick preview of what us motivating your argument, not to drown them in details right away” (21).
“They Say”: Starting with What Others Are Saying
"You need to enter a conversation using what others say (or might say) as a launching pad for your own views" (3).
"In the real world,
we don't make arguments without being provoked
example on page 4. Something about the show and others' opinions of it influenced that cartoon man's argument.
Risks are rewarded in this class.