An Insight into Academic Writing

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Authors Gerald Graff and Cathy Berkenstein claim in their book, They Say, I Say, that academic writing is not about “playing it safe and... piling up truths and bits of knowledge,” like many people assume. Rather, it is about the dynamic interaction between other people’s points of view and the author’s response to those perspectives. In chapter one of Graff and Berkenstein’s book they emphasize the necessity of balance when implementing certain writing “moves,” specifically, when introducing a counter-view, summarizing other’s arguments, and when quoting someone else’s words.

Graff and Berkenstein contend that by opening an argument with an explanation of what the thesis is responding to--introducing a counter-view--gives the main point clarity and relevance. They encourage stating the opposing view or assumption initially so that it will define and explain what the thesis is addressing. But, they also caution the writer not to bloat their introduction with extraneous information for fear of losing the audience’s focus and engagement. What Graff and Berkenstein suggest, then, is that “as soon as possible you state your own position and the one it’s responding to together, and that you think of the two as a unit.” Basically, they insist that the best way to give a “genuine response to other’s views” during academic writing is to have a balance between introducing what “They Say” (the opposing point of view) and what “I Say” (the writer’s response).

If being in a constant dialogue with others’ positions is essential to arguing persuasively, as Graff and Berkenstein claim, “then summarizing others’ arguments is central to [the writer’s] arsenal of basic moves.” All too often during a summary, writers will provide their own opinions on an article’s topic rather than revealing what the article is actually stating. On the opposite extreme, there are the writers who “do nothing but summarize,” which dilutes their own views in an ocean of someone else’s ideas....
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