Blue-Collar Brilliance

Blue-Collar Brilliance

what they’re saying about “they say / i say”

“The best book that’s happened to teaching composition— ever!” —Karen Gaffney, Raritan Valley Community College

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

“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 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 beautifully lucid way to approach argument—different from any rhetoric I’ve ever seen.”

—Anne-Marie Thomas, Austin Community College, Riverside

“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

“‘They Say’ with Readings is different from other rhetorics and readers in that it really engages students in the act of writing throughout the book. It’s less a ‘here’s how’ book and more of a ‘do this with me’ kind of book.”

—Kelly Ritter, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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“It offers students the formulas we, as academic writers, all carry in our heads.” —Karen Gardiner, University of Alabama

“Many students say that it is the first book they’ve found that actually helps them with writing in all disciplines.”

—Laura Sonderman, Marshall University

“As a WPA, I’m constantly thinking about how I can help instructors teach their students to make specific rhetorical moves on the page. This book offers a powerful way of teach- ing students to do just that.” —Joseph Bizup, Boston University

“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

“What effect has ‘They Say’ had on my students’ writing? They are finally entering the Burkian Parlor of the university. This book uncovers the rhetorical conventions that transcend dis- ciplinary boundaries, so that even freshmen, newcomers to the academy, are immediately able to join in the conversation.”

—Margaret Weaver, Missouri State University

“It’s the anti-composition text: Fun, creative, humorous, bril- liant, effective.”

—Perry Cumbie, Durham Technical Community College

“Loved by students, reasonable priced, manageable size, readable.” —Roxanne Munch, Joliet Junior College

“This book explains in clear detail what skilled writers take for granted.” —John Hyman, American University

“The ability to engage with the thoughts of others is one of the most important skills taught in any college-level writing course, and this book does as good a job teaching that skill as any text I have ever encountered.” —William Smith, Weatherford College

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T H I R D E D I T I O N

“THEY SAY I SAY” The Move s Tha t Ma t t e r

i n Academ i c Wr i t i n g

WITH READINGS

H

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T H I R D E D I T I O N

“THEY SAY !I SAY” The Move s Tha t Ma t t e r

i n Academ i c Wr i t i n g

WITH READINGS

H GERALD GRAFF

CATHY BIRKENSTEIN both of the University of Illinois at Chicago

RUSSEL DURST University of Cincinnatti

B w . w . n o r t o n & c o m p a n y

n e w y o r k | l o n d o n

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W. W. Norton & Company has been independent since its founding in 1923, when William Warder Norton and Mary D. Herter Norton first published lectures delivered at the People’s Institute, the adult education division of New York City’s Cooper Union. The firm soon expanded its program beyond the Institute, publishing books by celebrated academics from America and abroad. By mid-century, the two major pillars of Norton’s publishing program—trade books and college texts—were firmly established. In the 1950s, the Norton family transferred control of the company to its employees, and today—with a staff of four hundred and a comparable number of trade, college, and professional titles published each year—W. W. Norton & Company stands as the largest and oldest publishing house owned wholly by its employees.

Copyright © 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America

Permission to use copyrighted material is included in the credits section of this book, which begins on page 747.

The Library of Congress has cataloged an earlier edition as follows: Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Graff, Gerald, author. “They say/I say”: the moves that matter in academic writing, with readings / Gerald Graff, University of Illinois at Chicago ; Cathy Birkenstein, University of Illinois at Chicago ; Russel Durst, University of Cincinnati.—Third Edition. p. cm Previous edition: 3rd. ed. 2014. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-393-93751-0 (pbk.) 1. English language—Rhetoric—Handbooks, manuals, etc. 2. Persuasion (Rhetoric)—Handbooks, manuals, etc. 3. Report writing—Handbooks, manuals, etc. 4. Academic writing—Handbooks, manuals, etc. 5. College readers. I. Birkenstein, Cathy, editor. II. Durst, Russel K., 1954- editor. III. Title. PE1431.G73 2014 808′.042—dc23 2014033777

This edition: ISBN 978-0-393-61744-3

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110 wwnorton.com

W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., 15 Carlisle Street, London W1D 3BS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

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To the great rhetorician Wayne Booth, who cared deeply

about the democratic art of listening closely to what others say.

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contents

preface to the third edition xi i i

preface: Demystifying Academic Conversation xviii

introduction: Entering the Conversation 1

PART 1. “THEY SAY” 1 “they say”: Starting with What Others Are Saying 19 2 “her point is”: The Art of Summarizing 30 3 “as he himself puts it”: The Art of Quoting 42

PART 2. “ I SAY”

4 “yes / no / okay, but”: Three Ways to Respond 55 5 “and yet”: Distinguishing What You Say

from What They Say 68 6 “skeptics may object”:

Planting a Naysayer in Your Text 78 7 “so what? who cares?”: Saying Why It Matters 92

PART 3. TYING IT ALL TOGETHER

8 “as a result”: Connecting the Parts 105 9 “a in’t so / is not”: Academic Writing Doesn’t Always

Mean Setting Aside Your Own Voice 121 10 “but don’t get me wrong”:

The Art of Metacommentary 129 11 “he says contends”: Using the Templates to Revise 139

PART 4 . IN SPECIFIC ACADEMIC CONTEXTS

12 “i take your point”: Entering Class Discussions 163 13 “imho”: Is Digital Communication Good or Bad—or Both? 167 14 “what’s motivating this writer?”:

Reading for the Conversation 173 15 “analyze this”: Writing in the Social Sciences 184

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readings

16 IS COLLEGE THE BEST OPTION? 205

stephanie owen and isabel sawhill, Should Everyone Go to College? 208

sanford j. ungar, The New Liberal Arts 226

charles murray, Are Too Many People Going to College? 234

liz addison, Two Years Are Better than Four 255

freeman hrabowski, Colleges Prepare People for Life 259

gerald graff, Hidden Intellectualism 264

mike rose, Blue-Collar Brilliance 272

michelle obama, Bowie State University Commencement Speech 285

17 ARE WE IN A RACE AGAINST THE MACHINE? 297

Kevin kelly, Better than Human: Why Robots Will—and Must—Take Our Jobs 299

nicholas carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid? 313

brooke gladstone and josh neufeld, The Influencing Machines 330

clive thompson, Smarter than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better 340

michaela cullington, Does Texting Affect Writing? 361

sherry turkle, No Need to Call 373

jenna wortham, I Had a Nice Time with You Tonight. On the App. 393

malcolm gladwell, Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted 399

C O N T E N T S

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18 WHAT SHOULD WE EAT? 417

michael pollan, Escape from the Western Diet 420

steven shapin, What Are You Buying When You Buy Organic? 428

mary maxfield, Food as Thought: Resisting the Moralization of Eating 442

jonathan safran Foer, Against Meat 448

david zinczenko, Don’t Blame the Eater 462

radley balko, What You Eat Is Your Business 466

michael moss, The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food 471

marion nestle, The Supermarket: Prime Real Estate 496

david h. freedman, How Junk Food Can End Obesity 506

19 WHAT’S UP WITH THE AMERICAN DREAM? 539

david leonhardt, Inequality Has Been Going on Forever . . . but That Doesn’t Mean It’s Inevitable 542

edward mcclelland, RIP, the Middle Class: 1946–2013 549

paul krugman, Confronting Inequality 561

gary becker and kevin murphy, The Upside of Income Inequality 581

monica potts, What’s Killing Poor White Women? 591

brandon king, The American Dream: Dead, Alive, or on Hold? 610

tim roemer, America Remains the World’s Beacon of Success 618

shayan zadeh, Bring on More Immigrant Entrepreneurs 623

pew research team, King’s Dream Remains an Elusive Goal 627

Contents

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20 WHAT’S GENDER GOT TO DO WITH IT? 639

sheryl sandberg, Lean In: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? 642

bell hooks, Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In 659

anne-marie slaughter, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All 676

richard dorment, Why Men Still Can’t Have It All 697

stephen mays, What about Gender Roles in Same-Sex Relationships? 718

dennis baron, Facebook Multiplies Genders but Offers Users the Same Three Tired Pronouns 721

ellen ullman, How to Be a “Woman Programmer” 726

saul kaplan, The Plight of Young Males 732

penelope eckert and sally mcconnell-ginet, Learning to Be Gendered 736

credits 747

acknowledgments 753

index of templates 765

index of authors and titles 781

C O N T E N T S

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preface to the third edition

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When we first set out to write this book, our goal was simple: to offer a version of “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing with an anthology of readings that would demonstrate the rhetorical moves “that matter.” And because “They Say” teaches students that academic writ- ing is a means of entering a conversation, we looked for read- ings on topics that would engage students and inspire them to respond—and to enter the conversations. The book has been more successful than we ever imagined possible, which we believe reflects the growing importance of academic writing as a focus of first-year writing courses, and the fact that students find practical strategies like the ones offered in this book to be particularly helpful. In addition, some teach- ers have told us that this book works well in courses that focus on argument and research because students find these strategies easier to grasp than those in the books that teach various kinds of formal argumentation. Our purpose in writing “They Say” has always been to offer students a user-friendly model of writing that will help them put into practice the important principle that writing is a social activity. Proceeding from the premise that effective writers enter conversations of other writers and speakers, this book encour- ages students to engage with those around them—including those who disagree with them—instead of just expressing their

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ideas “logically.” Our own experience teaching first-year writing students has led us to believe that to be persuasive, arguments need not only supporting evidence but also motivation and exigency, and that the surest way to achieve this motivation and exigency is to generate one’s own arguments as a response to those of others—to something “they say.” To help students write their way into the often daunting conversations of aca- demia and the wider public sphere, the book provides tem- plates to help them make sophisticated rhetorical moves that they might otherwise not think of attempting. And of course learning to make these rhetorical moves in writing also helps students become better readers of argument. That the two versions of “They Say / I Say” are now being taught at more than 1,500 schools suggests that there is a wide- spread desire for explicit instruction that is understandable but not oversimplified, to help writers negotiate the basic moves necessary to “enter the conversation.” Instructors have told us how much this book helps their students learn how to write academic discourse, and some students have written to us saying that it’s helped them to “crack the code,” as one student put it. This third edition of “They Say / I Say” with Readings includes forty-three readings on five compelling and controversial issues. The readings provide a glimpse into some important conver- sations of our day—and will, we hope, provoke students to respond and thus to join in those conversations.

HIGHLIGHTS

Forty-three readings that will prompt students to think— and write. Taken from a wide variety of sources, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Salon, the Atlantic, the

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Pew Research Center, the New Yorker, Wired magazine, best- selling trade books, celebrated speeches, and more, the readings represent a range of perspectives on five important issues:

• 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?

The readings can function as sources for students’ own writing, and the study questions that follow each reading focus students’ attention on how each author uses the key rhetorical moves— and include one question that invites them to write, and often to respond with their own views.

A chapter on reading (Chapter 14) encourages students to think of reading as an act of entering conversations. Instead of teaching students merely to identify the author’s argument, this chapter shows them how to read with an eye for what arguments the author is responding to—in other words, to think carefully about why the writer is making the argument in the first place, and thus to recognize (and ultimately become a part of) the larger conversation that gives meaning to reading the text.

Two books in one, with a rhetoric up front and readings in the back. The two parts are linked by cross-references in the margins, leading from the rhetoric to specific examples in the readings and from the readings to the corresponding writ- ing instruction. Teachers can therefore begin with either the rhetoric or the readings, and the links will facilitate movement between one section and the other.

Preface to the Third Edition

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what’s new

Two topics are new, two are updated—all addressing impor- tant conversations taking place today. The chapters on gender and technology are new. The food chapter now reaches beyond fast food to address a broader question: what should we eat? And the education chapter asks not just is college worth the price but whether it is even the best option.

Thirty-one new readings, including at least one documented piece and one essay written by a student in each chapter, added in response to requests from many teachers who wanted more complex and documented writing.

They Say / I Blog. Updated monthly, this blog provides up-to- the-minute readings on the issues covered in the book, along with questions that prompt students to literally join the con- versation. Check it out at theysayiblog.com.

A new chapter on “Using the Templates to Revise,” which grew out of our own teaching experience, where we found that the templates in this book had the unexpected benefit of help- ing students when they revise.

A new chapter on writing online, exploring the debate about whether digital technologies improve or degrade the way we think and write, and whether they foster or impede the meet- ing of minds.

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A complete instructor’s guide, with teaching tips for all the chapters, syllabi, summaries of the readings, and suggested answers to the study questions. Go to wwnorton.com/instructors to access these materials.

We hope that this new edition of “They Say / I Say” with Read- ings will spark students’ interest in some of the most pressing conversations of our day and provide them with some of the tools they need to engage in those conversations with dexterity and confidence. Gerald Graff Cathy Birkenstein Russel Durst

Preface to the Third Edition

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preface

Demystifying Academic Conversation

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Experienced writing instructors have long recognized that writing well means entering into conversation with others. Academic writing in particular calls upon writers not simply to express their own ideas, but to do so as a response to what others have said. The first-year writing program at our own university, according to its mission statement, asks “students to partici- pate in ongoing conversations about vitally important academic and public issues.” A similar statement by another program holds that “intellectual writing is almost always composed in response to others’ texts.” These statements echo the ideas of rhetorical theorists like Kenneth Burke, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Wayne Booth as well as recent composition scholars like David Bartholomae, John Bean, Patricia Bizzell, Irene Clark, Greg Colomb, Lisa Ede, Peter Elbow, Joseph Harris, Andrea Lunsford, Elaine Maimon, Gary Olson, Mike Rose, John Swales and Christine Feak, Tilly Warnock, and others who argue that writing well means engaging the voices of others and letting them in turn engage us. Yet despite this growing consensus that writing is a social, conversational act, helping student writers actually partici- pate in these conversations remains a formidable challenge. This book aims to meet that challenge. Its goal is to demys- tify academic writing by isolating its basic moves, explaining them clearly, and representing them in the form of templates.

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In this way, we hope to help students become active partici- pants in the important conversations of the academic world and the wider public sphere.

highlights

• Shows that writing well means entering a conversation, sum- marizing others (“they say”) to set up one’s own argument (“I say”).

• Demystifies academic writing, showing students “the moves that matter” in language they can readily apply.

• Provides user-friendly templates to help writers make those moves in their own writing.

• Includes a chapter on reading, showing students how the authors they read are part of a conversation that they them- selves can enter—and thus to see reading as a matter not of passively absorbing information but of understanding and actively entering dialogues and debates.

how this book came to be

The original idea for this book grew out of our shared interest in democratizing academic culture. First, it grew out of arguments that Gerald Graff has been making throughout his career that schools and colleges need to invite students into the conversa- tions and debates that surround them. More specifically, it is a practical, hands-on companion to his recent book, Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind, in which he looks at academic conversations from the perspective of those who find them mysterious and proposes ways in which

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such mystification can be overcome. Second, this book grew out of writing templates that Cathy Birkenstein developed in the 1990s, for use in writing and literature courses she was teaching. Many students, she found, could readily grasp what it meant to support a thesis with evidence, to entertain a counter- argument, to identify a textual contradiction, and ultimately to summarize and respond to challenging arguments, but they often had trouble putting these concepts into practice in their own writing. When Cathy sketched out templates on the board, however, giving her students some of the language and patterns that these sophisticated moves require, their writing—and even their quality of thought—significantly improved. This book began, then, when we put our ideas together and realized that these templates might have the potential to open up and clarify academic conversation. We proceeded from the premise that all writers rely on certain stock formulas that they themselves didn’t invent—and that many of these formulas are so commonly used that they can be represented in model templates that students can use to structure and even generate what they want to say. As we developed a working draft of this book, we began using it in first-year writing courses that we teach at UIC. In class- room exercises and writing assignments, we found that students who otherwise struggled to organize their thoughts, or even to think of something to say, did much better when we provided them with templates like the following.

j In discussions of , a controversial issue is whether

. While some argue that , others contend

that .

j This is not to say that .

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One virtue of such templates, we found, is that they focus writers’ attention not just on what is being said, but on the forms that structure what is being said. In other words, they make students more conscious of the rhetorical patterns that are key to academic success but often pass under the classroom radar.

the centrality of “they say / i say”

The central rhetorical move that we focus on in this book is the “they say / I say” template that gives our book its title. In our view, this template represents the deep, underlying structure, the internal DNA as it were, of all effective argument. Effective persuasive writers do more than make well-supported claims (“I say”); they also map those claims relative to the claims of others (“they say”). Here, for example, the “they say / I say” pattern structures a passage from an essay by the media and technology critic Steven Johnson.

For decades, we’ve worked under the assumption that mass cul- ture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common- denominator standards, presumably because the “masses” want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But . . . the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less.

Steven Johnson, “Watching TV Makes You Smarter”

In generating his own argument from something “they say,” Johnson suggests why he needs to say what he is saying: to correct a popular misconception.

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Even when writers do not explicitly identify the views they are responding to, as Johnson does, an implicit “they say” can often be discerned, as in the following passage by Zora Neale Hurston.

I remember the day I became colored. Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”

In order to grasp Hurston’s point here, we need to be able to reconstruct the implicit view she is responding to and question- ing: that racial identity is an innate quality we are simply born with. On the contrary, Hurston suggests, our race is imposed on us by society—something we “become” by virtue of how we are treated. As these examples suggest, the “they say / I say” model can improve not just student writing, but student reading compre- hension as well. Since reading and writing are deeply recipro- cal activities, students who learn to make the rhetorical moves represented by the templates in this book figure to become more adept at identifying these same moves in the texts they read. And if we are right that effective arguments are always in dialogue with other arguments, then it follows that in order to understand the types of challenging texts assigned in college, students need to identify the views to which those texts are responding. Working with the “they say / I say” model can also help with invention, finding something to say. In our experience, students best discover what they want to say not by thinking about a subject in an isolation booth, but by reading texts, listening closely to what other writers say, and looking for an opening through which they can enter the conversation. In other words, listening closely to others and summarizing what they have to say can help writers generate their own ideas.

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the usefulness of templates

Our templates also have a generative quality, prompting stu- dents to make moves in their writing that they might not oth- erwise make or even know they should make. The templates in this book can be particularly helpful for students who are unsure about what to say, or who have trouble finding enough to say, often because they consider their own beliefs so self-evident that they need not be argued for. Students like this are often helped, we’ve found, when we give them a simple tem- plate like the following one for entertaining a counterargument (or planting a naysayer, as we call it in Chapter 6).

j Of course some might object that . Although I concede

that , I still maintain that .

What this particular template helps students do is make the seemingly counterintuitive move of questioning their own beliefs, of looking at them from the perspective of those who disagree. In so doing, templates can bring out aspects of stu- dents’ thoughts that, as they themselves sometimes remark, they didn’t even realize were there. Other templates in this book help students make a host of sophisticated moves that they might not otherwise make: sum- marizing what someone else says, framing a quotation in one’s own words, indicating the view that the writer is responding to, marking the shift from a source’s view to the writer’s own view, offering evidence for that view, entertaining and answering counterarguments, and explaining what is at stake in the first place. In showing students how to make such moves, templates do more than organize students’ ideas; they help bring those ideas into existence.

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okay, but templates?

We are aware, of course, that some instructors may have res- ervations about templates. Some, for instance, may object that such formulaic devices represent a return to prescriptive forms of instruction that encourage passive learning or lead students to put their writing on automatic pilot. This is an understandable reaction, we think, to kinds of rote instruction that have indeed encouraged passivity and drained writing of its creativity and dynamic relation to the social world. The trouble is that many students will never learn on their own to make the key intellectual moves that our templates repre- sent. While seasoned writers pick up these moves unconsciously through their reading, many students do not. Consequently, we believe, students need to see these moves represented in the explicit ways that the templates provide. The aim of the templates, then, is not to stifle critical thinking but to be direct with students about the key rhetori- cal moves that it comprises. Since we encourage students to modify and adapt the templates to the particularities of the arguments they are making, using such prefabricated formulas as learning tools need not result in writing and thinking that are themselves formulaic. Admittedly, no teaching tool can guarantee that students will engage in hard, rigorous thought. Our templates do, however, provide concrete prompts that can stimulate and shape such thought: What do “they say” about my topic? What would a naysayer say about my argument? What is my evidence? Do I need to qualify my point? Who cares? In fact, templates have a long and rich history. Public orators from ancient Greece and Rome through the European Renais- sance studied rhetorical topoi or “commonplaces,” model passages and formulas that represented the different strategies available

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to public speakers. In many respects, our templates echo this classical rhetorical tradition of imitating established models. The journal Nature requires aspiring contributors to follow a guideline that is like a template on the opening page of their manuscript: “Two or three sentences explaining what the main result [of their study] reveals in direct comparison with what was thought to be the case previously, or how the main result adds to previous knowledge.” In the field of education, a form designed by the education theorist Howard Gardner asks postdoctoral fellowship applicants to complete the following template: “Most scholars in the field believe . As a result of my study,

.” That these two examples are geared toward post- doctoral fellows and veteran researchers shows that it is not only struggling undergraduates who can use help making these key rhetorical moves, but experienced academics as well. Templates have even been used in the teaching of personal narrative. The literary and educational theorist Jane Tompkins devised the following template to help student writers make the often difficult move from telling a story to explaining what it means: “X tells a story about to make the point that

. My own experience with yields a point that is similar/different/both similar and different. What I take away from my own experience with is . As a result, I conclude .” We especially like this template because it suggests that “they say / I say” argument need not be mechanical, impersonal, or dry, and that telling a story and mak- ing an argument are more compatible activities than many think.

why it’s okay to use “i”

But wait—doesn’t the “I” part of “they say / I say” flagrantly encourage the use of the first-person pronoun? Aren’t we aware

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that some teachers prohibit students from using “I” or “we,” on the grounds that these pronouns encourage ill-considered, subjective opinions rather than objective and reasoned argu- ments? Yes, we are aware of this first-person prohibition, but we think it has serious flaws. First, expressing ill-considered, subjective opinions is not necessarily the worst sin beginning writers can commit; it might be a starting point from which they can move on to more reasoned, less self-indulgent perspectives. Second, prohibiting students from using “I” is simply not an effective way of curbing students’ subjectivity, since one can offer poorly argued, ill-supported opinions just as easily without it. Third and most important, prohibiting the first person tends to hamper students’ ability not only to take strong positions but to differentiate their own positions from those of others, as we point out in Chapter 5. To be sure, writers can resort to vari- ous circumlocutions—“it will here be argued,” “the evidence suggests,” “the truth is”—and these may be useful for avoid- ing a monotonous series of “I believe” sentences. But except for avoiding such monotony, we see no good reason why “I” should be set aside in persuasive writing. Rather than prohibit “I,” then, we think a better tactic is to give students practice at using it well and learning its use, both by supporting their claims with evidence and by attending closely to alternative perspectives—to what “they” are saying.

how this book is organized

Because of its centrality, we have allowed the “they say / I say” format to dictate the structure of this book. So while Part 1 addresses the art of listening to others, Part 2 addresses how to offer one’s own response. Part 1 opens with a chapter on

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“Starting with What Others Are Saying” that explains why it is generally advisable to begin a text by citing others rather than plunging directly into one’s own views. Subsequent chapters take up the arts of summarizing and quoting what these others have to say. Part 2 begins with a chapter on different ways of responding, followed by chapters on marking the shift between what “they say” and what “I say,” on introducing and answering objections, and on answering the all-important questions: “so what?” and “who cares?” Part 3 offers strategies for “Tying It All Together,” beginning with a chapter on connection and coher- ence; followed by a chapter on formal and informal language, arguing that academic discourse is often perfectly compatible with the informal language that students use outside school; and concluding with a chapter on the art of metacommentary, showing students how to guide the way readers understand a text. Part 4 offers guidance for entering conversations in specific academic contexts, with chapters on entering class discussions, writing online, reading, and writing in literature courses, the sciences, and social sciences. Finally, we provide five readings and an index of templates.

what this book doesn’t do

There are some things that this book does not try to do. We do not, for instance, cover logical principles of argument such as syllogisms, warrants, logical fallacies, or the differences between inductive and deductive reasoning. Although such concepts can be useful, we believe most of us learn the ins and outs of argumentative writing not by studying logical principles in the abstract, but by plunging into actual discussions and debates, trying out different patterns of response, and in this way getting

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a sense of what works to persuade different audiences and what doesn’t. In our view, people learn more about arguing from hearing someone say, “You miss my point. What I’m saying is not , but ,” or “I agree with you that

, and would even add that ,” than they do from studying the differences between inductive and deductive reasoning. Such formulas give students an immediate sense of what it feels like to enter a public conversation in a way that studying abstract warrants and logical fallacies does not.

engaging with the ideas of others

One central goal of this book is to demystify academic writing by returning it to its social and conversational roots. Although writing may require some degree of quiet and solitude, the “they say / I say” model shows students that they can best develop their arguments not just by looking inward but by doing what they often do in a good conversation with friends and family— by listening carefully to what others are saying and engaging with other views. This approach to writing therefore has an ethical dimension, since it asks writers not simply to keep proving and reasserting what they already believe but to stretch what they believe by putting it up against beliefs that differ, sometimes radically, from their own. In an increasingly diverse, global society, this ability to engage with the ideas of others is especially crucial to democratic citizenship. Gerald Graff Cathy Birkenstein

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T H I R D E D I T I O N

“THEY SAY I SAY” The Move s Tha t Ma t t e r

i n Academ i c Wr i t i n g

WITH READINGS

H

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introduction

Entering the Conversation

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Think about an activity that you do particularly well: cooking, playing the piano, shooting a basketball, even some- thing as basic as driving a car. If you reflect on this activity, you’ll realize that once you mastered it you no longer had to give much conscious thought to the various moves that go into doing it. Performing this activity, in other words, depends on your having learned a series of complicated moves—moves that may seem mysterious or difficult to those who haven’t yet learned them. The same applies to writing. Often without consciously real- izing it, accomplished writers routinely rely on a stock of estab- lished moves that are crucial for communicating sophisticated ideas. What makes writers masters of their trade is not only their ability to express interesting thoughts but their mastery of an inventory of basic moves that they probably picked up by reading a wide range of other accomplished writers. Less experienced writers, by contrast, are often unfamiliar with these basic moves and unsure how to make them in their own writ- ing. This book is intended as a short, user-friendly guide to the basic moves of academic writing. One of our key premises is that these basic moves are so common that they can be represented in templates that you can use right away to structure and even generate your own

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writing. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of this book is its pre sentation of many such templates, designed to help you successfully enter not only the world of academic thinking and writing, but also the wider worlds of civic discourse and work. Instead of focusing solely on abstract principles of writing, then, this book offers model templates that help you put those principles directly into practice. Working with these templates can give you an immediate sense of how to engage in the kinds of critical thinking you are required to do at the college level and in the vocational and public spheres beyond. Some of these templates represent simple but crucial moves like those used to summarize some widely held belief.

j Many Americans assume that .

Others are more complicated.

j On the one hand, . On the other hand, .

j Author X contradicts herself. At the same time that she argues

, she also implies .

j I agree that .

j This is not to say that .

It is true, of course, that critical thinking and writing go deeper than any set of linguistic formulas, requiring that you question assumptions, develop strong claims, offer supporting reasons and evidence, consider opposing arguments, and so on. But these deeper habits of thought cannot be put into practice unless you have a language for expressing them in clear, orga- nized ways.

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state your own ideas as a response to others

The single most important template that we focus on in this book is the “they say ; I say ” formula that gives our book its title. If there is any one point that we hope you will take away from this book, it is the importance not only of expressing your ideas (“I say”) but of presenting those ideas as a response to some other person or group (“they say”). For us, the underlying structure of effective academic writing—and of responsible public discourse—resides not just in stating our own ideas but in listening closely to others around us, summarizing their views in a way that they will recognize, and responding with our own ideas in kind. Broadly speaking, academic writ- ing is argumentative writing, and we believe that to argue well you need to do more than assert your own position. You need to enter a conversation, using what others say (or might say) as a launching pad or sounding board for your own views. For this reason, one of the main pieces of advice in this book is to write the voices of others into your text. In our view, then, the best academic writing has one under- lying feature: it is deeply engaged in some way with other peo- ple’s views. Too often, however, academic writing is taught as a process of saying “true” or “smart” things in a vacuum, as if it were possible to argue effectively without being in conver- sation with someone else. If you have been taught to write a traditional five-paragraph essay, for example, you have learned how to develop a thesis and support it with evidence. This is good advice as far as it goes, but it leaves out the important fact that in the real world we don’t make arguments without being provoked. Instead, we make arguments because some- one has said or done something (or perhaps not said or done

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something) and we need to respond: “I can’t see why you like the Lakers so much”; “I agree: it was a great film”; “That argu- ment is contradictory.” If it weren’t for other people and our need to challenge, agree with, or otherwise respond to them, there would be no reason to argue at all. To make an impact as a writer, you need to do more than make statements that are logical, well supported, and consis- tent. You must also find a way of entering a conversation with others’ views—with something “they say.” If your own argu- ment doesn’t identify the “they say” that you’re responding to, it probably won’t make sense. As the figure above suggests, what you are saying may be clear to your audience, but why you are saying it won’t be. For it is what others are saying and thinking that motivates our writing and gives it a reason for being. It follows, then, as the figure on the next page suggests, that your own argument—the thesis or “I say” moment of your text—should always be a response to the arguments of others. Many writers make explicit “they say / I say” moves in their writing. One famous example is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter

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from Birmingham Jail,” which consists almost entirely of King’s eloquent responses to a public statement by eight clergymen deploring the civil rights protests he was leading. The letter— which was written in 1963, while King was in prison for leading a demonstration against racial injustice in Birmingham—is structured almost entirely around a framework of summary and response, in which King summarizes and then answers their criticisms. In one typical passage, King writes as follows.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.

Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

King goes on to agree with his critics that “It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham,” yet he hastens

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to add that “it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.” King’s letter is so thoroughly conversational, in fact, that it could be rewritten in the form of a dialogue or play.

King’s critics: King’s response: Critics: Response:

Clearly, King would not have written his famous letter were it not for his critics, whose views he treats not as objections to his already-formed arguments but as the motivating source of those arguments, their central reason for being. He quotes not only what his critics have said (“Some have asked: ‘Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?’ ”), but also things they might have said (“One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ ”)—all to set the stage for what he himself wants to say. A similar “they say / I say” exchange opens an essay about American patriotism by the social critic Katha Pollitt, who uses her own daughter’s comment to represent the national fervor of post-9/11 patriotism.

My daughter, who goes to Stuyvesant High School only blocks from the former World Trade Center, thinks we should fly the American flag out our window. Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war. She tells me I’m wrong—the flag means standing together and honoring the dead and saying no to terrorism. In a way we’re both right. . . .

Katha Pollitt, “Put Out No Flags”

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As Pollitt’s example shows, the “they” you respond to in crafting an argument need not be a famous author or someone known to your audience. It can be a family member like Pollitt’s daughter, or a friend or classmate who has made a provocative claim. 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. The important thing is that the “they” (or “you” or “she”) represent some wider group with which read- ers might identify—in Pollitt’s case, those who patriotically believe in flying the flag. Pollitt’s example also shows that responding to the views of others need not always involve unqualified opposition. By agreeing and disagreeing with her daughter, Pollitt enacts what we call the “yes and no” response, reconciling apparently incompatible views. While King and Pollitt both identify the views they are responding to, some authors do not explicitly state their views but instead allow the reader to infer them. See, for instance, if you can identify the implied or unnamed “they say” that the following claim is responding to.

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.

Gerald Graff, “Disliking Books at an Early Age”

In case you haven’t figured it out already, the phantom “they say” here is the common belief that in order to be a good teacher of literature, one must have grown up liking and enjoy- ing books.

See Chapter 4 for more on agreeing, but with a difference.

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As you can see from these examples, many writers use the “they say / I say” format to agree or disagree with others, to chal- lenge standard ways of thinking, and thus to stir up controversy. This point may come as a shock to you if you have always had the impression that in order to succeed academically you need to play it safe and avoid controversy in your writing, making statements that nobody can possibly disagree with. Though this view of writing may appear logical, it is actually a recipe for flat, lifeless writing and for writing that fails to answer what we call the “so what?” and “who cares?” questions. “William Shakespeare wrote many famous plays and sonnets” may be a perfectly true statement, but precisely because nobody is likely to disagree with it, it goes without saying and thus would seem pointless if said.

ways of responding

Just because much argumentative writing is driven by disagree- ment, it does not follow that agreement is ruled out. Although argumentation is often associated with conflict and opposition, the type of conversational “they say / I say” argument that we focus on in this book can be just as useful when you agree as when you disagree.

j She argues , and I agree because .

j Her argument that is supported by new research

showing that .

Nor do you always have to choose between either simply agree- ing or disagreeing, since the “they say / I say” format also works to both agree and disagree at the same time, as Pollitt illustrates above.

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j He claims that , and I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I agree that . On the other hand,

I still insist that .

This last option—agreeing and disagreeing simultaneously—is one we especially recommend, since it allows you to avoid a simple yes or no response and present a more complicated argu- ment, while containing that complication within a clear “on the one hand / on the other hand” framework. While the templates we offer in this book can be used to structure your writing at the sentence level, they can also be expanded as needed to almost any length, as the following elaborated “they say / I say” template demonstrates.

j In recent discussions of , a controversial issue has

been whether . On the one hand, some argue

that . From this perspective, . On the other

hand, however, others argue that . In the words of

, one of this view’s main proponents, “ .”

According to this view, . In sum, then, the issue is

whether or .

My own view is that . Though I concede that

, I still maintain that . For example,

. Although some might object that , I would

reply that . The issue is important because .

If you go back over this template, you will see that it helps you make a host of challenging moves (each of which is taken up in forthcoming chapters in this book). First, the template helps you open your text by identifying an issue in some ongoing conversation or debate (“In recent discussions of ,

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a controversial issue has been ”), and then to map some of the voices in this controversy (by using the “on the one hand / on the other hand” structure). The template also helps you introduce a quotation (“In the words of ”), to explain the quotation in your own words (“According to this view”), and—in a new paragraph—to state your own argument (“My own view is that”), to qualify your argument (“Though I con- cede that”), and then to support your argument with evidence (“For example”). In addition, the template helps you make one of the most crucial moves in argumentative writing, what we call “planting a naysayer in your text,” in which you summarize and then answer a likely objection to your own central claim (“Although it might be objected that , I reply ”). Finally, this template helps you shift between general, over- arching claims (“In sum, then”) and smaller-scale, supporting claims (“For example”). Again, none of us is born knowing these moves, especially when it comes to academic writing. Hence the need for this book.

do templates stifle creativity?

If you are like some of our students, your initial response to templates may be skepticism. At first, many of our students complain that using templates will take away their originality and creativity and make them all sound the same. “They’ll turn us into writing robots,” one of our students insisted. Another agreed, adding, “Hey, I’m a jazz musician. And we don’t play by set forms. We create our own.” “I’m in college now,” another student asserted; “this is third-grade-level stuff.” In our view, however, the templates in this book, far from being “third-grade-level stuff,” represent the stock in trade of

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sophisticated thinking and writing, and they often require a great deal of practice and instruction to use successfully. As for the belief that pre-established forms undermine creativity, we think it rests on a very limited vision of what creativity is all about. In our view, the above template and the others in this book will actually help your writing become more original and creative, not less. After all, even the most creative forms of expression depend on established patterns and structures. Most songwriters, for instance, rely on a time-honored verse- chorus-verse pattern, and few people would call Shakespeare uncreative because he didn’t invent the sonnet or the dramatic forms that he used to such dazzling effect. Even the most avant- garde, cutting-edge artists (like improvisational jazz musicians) need to master the basic forms that their work improvises on, departs from, and goes beyond, or else their work will come across as uneducated child’s play. Ultimately, then, creativity and originality lie not in the avoidance of established forms but in the imaginative use of them. Furthermore, these templates do not dictate the content of what you say, which can be as original as you can make it, but only suggest a way of formatting how you say it. In addition, once you begin to feel comfortable with the templates in this book, you will be able to improvise creatively on them to fit new situations and purposes and find others in your reading. In other words, the templates offered here are learning tools to get you started, not structures set in stone. Once you get used to using them, you can even dispense with them altogether, for the rhetorical moves they model will be at your fingertips in an unconscious, instinctive way. But if you still need proof that writing templates do not stifle creativity, consider the following opening to an essay on the fast-food industry that we’ve included at the back of this book.

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If ever there were a newspaper headline custom-made for Jay Leno’s monologue, this was it. Kids taking on McDonald’s this week, suing the company for making them fat. Isn’t that like middle-aged men suing Porsche for making them get speeding tickets? Whatever happened to personal responsibility? I tend to sympathize with these portly fast-food patrons, though. Maybe that’s because I used to be one of them.

David Zinczenko, “Don’t Blame the Eater”

Although Zinczenko relies on a version of the “they say / I say” formula, his writing is anything but dry, robotic, or uncre- ative. While Zinczenko does not explicitly use the words “they say” and “I say,” the template still gives the passage its underlying structure: “They say that kids suing fast-food com- panies for making them fat is a joke; but I say such lawsuits are justified.”

but isn’t this plagiarism?

“But isn’t this plagiarism?” at least one student each year will usually ask. “Well, is it?” we respond, turning the question around into one the entire class can profit from. “We are, after all, asking you to use language in your writing that isn’t your own—language that you ‘borrow’ or, to put it less delicately, steal from other writers.” Often, a lively discussion ensues that raises important questions about authorial ownership and helps everyone better understand the frequently confusing line between pla- giarism and the legitimate use of what others say and how they say it. Students are quick to see that no one person owns a conventional formula like “on the one hand . . . on the other hand . . . ” Phrases like “a controversial issue”

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are so commonly used and recycled that they are generic— community property that can be freely used without fear of committing plagiarism. It is plagiarism, however, if the words used to fill in the blanks of such formulas are borrowed from others without proper acknowledgment. In sum, then, while it is not plagiarism to recycle conventionally used formulas, it is a serious academic offense to take the substantive content from others’ texts without citing the author and giving him or her proper credit.

putting in your oar

Though the immediate goal of this book is to help you become a better writer, at a deeper level it invites you to become a certain type of person: a critical, intellectual thinker who, instead of sit- ting passively on the sidelines, can participate in the debates and conversations of your world in an active and empowered way. Ultimately, this book invites you to become a critical thinker who can enter the types of conversations described eloquently by the philosopher Kenneth Burke in the following widely cited passage. Likening the world of intellectual exchange to a never- ending conversation at a party, Burke writes:

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 himself against you. . . . The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

Kenneth Burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form

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What we like about this passage is its suggestion that stating an argument and “putting in your oar” can only be done in conversation with others; that we all enter the dynamic world of ideas not as isolated individuals but as social beings deeply connected to others who have a stake in what we say. This ability to enter complex, many-sided conversations has taken on a special urgency in today’s diverse, post-9/11 world, where the future for all of us may depend on our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of those who think very differently from us. The central piece of advice in this book—that we listen carefully to others, including those who disagree with us, and then engage with them thoughtfully and respectfully—can help us see beyond our own pet beliefs, which may not be shared by everyone. The mere act of crafting a sentence that begins “Of course, someone might object that ” may not seem like a way to change the world; but it does have the potential to jog us out of our comfort zones, to get us thinking critically about our own beliefs, and perhaps even to change our minds.

Exercises

1. Read the following paragraph from an essay by Emily Poe, a student at Furman University. Disregarding for the moment what Poe says, focus your attention on the phrases she uses to structure what she says (italicized here). Then write a new paragraph using Poe’s as a model but replacing her topic, vegetarianism, with one of your own.

The term “vegetarian” tends to be synonymous with “tree-hugger” in many people’s minds. They see vegetarianism as a cult that brainwashes its followers into eliminating an essential part of their

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daily diets for an abstract goal of “animal welfare.” However, few vegetarians choose their lifestyle just to follow the crowd. On the contrary, many of these supposedly brainwashed people are actu- ally independent thinkers, concerned citizens, and compassionate human beings. For the truth is that there are many very good reasons for giving up meat. Perhaps the best reasons are to improve the environment, to encourage humane treatment of livestock, or to enhance one’s own health. In this essay, then, closely examining a vegetarian diet as compared to a meat-eater’s diet will show that vegetarianism is clearly the better option for sustaining the Earth and all its inhabitants.

2. Write a short essay in which you first summarize our rationale for the templates in this book and then articulate your own position in response. If you want, you can use the template below to organize your paragraphs, expanding and modifying it as necessary to fit what you want to say.

In the Introduction to “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in

Academic Writing, Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein provide tem-

plates designed to . Specifically, Graff and Birkenstein

argue that the types of writing templates they offer . As

the authors themselves put it, “ .” Although some people

believe , Graff and Birkenstein insist that .

In sum, then, their view is that .

I [agree/disagree/have mixed feelings]. In my view, the types

of templates that the authors recommend . For

instance, . In addition, . Some might object,

of course, on the grounds that . Yet I would argue

that . Overall, then, I believe —an important

point to make given .

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1 H

“THEY SAY”

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ONE

“they say”

Starting with What Others Are Saying

H

Not long ago we attended a talk at an academic conference where the speaker’s central claim seemed to be that a certain sociologist—call him Dr. X—had done very good work in a number of areas of the discipline. The speaker proceeded to illustrate his thesis by referring extensively and in great detail to various books and articles by Dr. X and by quoting long pas- sages from them. The speaker was obviously both learned and impassioned, but as we listened to his talk we found ourselves somewhat puzzled: the argument—that Dr. X’s work was very important—was clear enough, but why did the speaker need to make it in the first place? Did anyone dispute it? Were there commentators in the field who had argued against X’s work or challenged its value? Was the speaker’s interpretation of what X had done somehow novel or revolutionary? Since the speaker gave no hint of an answer to any of these questions, we could only wonder why he was going on and on about X. It was only after the speaker finished and took questions from the audience that we got a clue: in response to one questioner, he referred to several critics who had

The hypo- thetical audience in the figure on p. 4 reacts similarly.

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vigorously questioned Dr. X’s ideas and convinced many soci- ologists that Dr. X’s work was unsound. This story illustrates an important lesson: that to give writ- ing the most important thing of all—namely, a point—a writer needs to indicate clearly not only what his or her thesis is, but also what larger conversation that thesis is responding to. Because our speaker failed to mention what others had said about Dr. X’s work, he left his audience unsure about why he felt the need to say what he was saying. Perhaps the point was clear to other sociologists in the audience who were more familiar with the debates over Dr. X’s work than we were. But even they, we bet, would have understood the speaker’s point better if he’d sketched in some of the larger conversation his own claims were a part of and reminded the audience about what “they say.” This story also illustrates an important lesson about the order in which things are said: to keep an audience engaged, a writer needs to explain what he or she is responding to—either before offering that response or, at least, very early in the discussion. Delaying this explanation for more than one or two paragraphs in a very short essay or blog entry, three or four pages in a longer work, or more than ten or so pages in a book reverses the natural order in which readers process material—and in which writers think and develop ideas. After all, it seems very unlikely that our

conference speaker first developed his defense of Dr. X and only later came across Dr. X’s critics. As someone knowledgeable in his field, the speaker surely encoun- tered the criticisms first and only then was compelled to respond and, as he saw it, set the record straight.

Therefore, when it comes to constructing an argument (whether orally or in writing), we offer you the following advice: remember that you are entering a conversation and therefore need to start with “what others are saying,” as the

See how an essay about community

college opens by quoting its critics, p. 255.

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title of this chapter recommends, and then introduce your own ideas as a response. Specifically, we suggest that you summarize what “they say” as soon as you can in your text, and remind readers of it at strategic points as your text unfolds. Though it’s true that not all texts follow this practice, we think it’s important for all writers to master it before they depart from it. This is not to say that you must start with a detailed list of everyone who has written on your subject before you offer your own ideas. Had our conference speaker gone to the opposite extreme and spent most of his talk summarizing Dr. X’s critics with no hint of what he himself had to say, the audience probably would have had the same frustrated “why-is-he-going-on-like- this?” reaction. What we 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. It is generally best to summarize the ideas you’re responding to briefly, at the start of your text, and to delay detailed elaboration until later. The point is to give your readers a quick preview of what is motivating your argument, not to drown them in details right away. Starting with a summary of others’ views may seem to con- tradict the common advice that writers should lead with their own thesis or claim. Although we agree that you shouldn’t keep readers in suspense too long about your central argument, we also believe that you need to present that argument as part of some larger conversation, indicating something about the arguments of others that you are supporting, opposing, amending, compli- cating, or qualifying. One added benefit of summarizing others’ views as soon as you can: you let those others do some of the work of framing and clarifying the issue you’re writing about. Consider, for example, how George Orwell starts his famous essay “Politics and the English Language” with what others are saying.

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Most people 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 civiliza- tion 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”

Orwell is basically saying, “Most people assume that we cannot do anything about the bad state of the English language. But I say we can.” Of course, there are many other powerful ways to begin. Instead of opening with someone else’s views, you could start with an illustrative quotation, a revealing fact or statistic, or— as we do in this chapter—a relevant anecdote. If you choose one of these formats, however, be sure that it in some way illustrates the view you’re addressing or leads you to that view directly, with a minimum of steps. In opening this chapter, for example, we devote the first para- graph to an anecdote about the conference speaker and then move quickly at the start of the second paragraph to the miscon- ception about writing exemplified by the speaker. In the follow- ing opening, from an opinion piece in the New York Times Book Review, Christina Nehring also moves quickly from an anecdote illustrating something she dislikes to her own claim—that book lovers think too highly of themselves.

“I’m a reader!” announced the yellow button. “How about you?” I looked at its bearer, a strapping young guy stalking my town’s Festival of Books. “I’ll bet you’re a reader,” he volunteered, as though we were

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two geniuses well met. “No,” I replied. “Absolutely not,” I wanted to yell, and fling my Barnes & Noble bag at his feet. Instead, I mumbled something apologetic and melted into the crowd. There’s a new piety in the air: the self congratulation of book lovers.

Christina Nehring, “Books Make You a Boring Person”

Nehring’s anecdote is really a kind of “they say”: book lovers keep telling themselves how great they are.

templates for introducing what “they say”

There are lots of conventional ways to introduce what others are saying. Here are some standard templates that we would have recommended to our conference speaker.

j A number of sociologists have recently suggested that X’s work

has several fundamental problems.

j It has become common today to dismiss .

j In their recent work, Y and Z have offered harsh critiques of

for .

templates for introducing “standard views”

The following templates can help you make what we call the “standard view” move, in which you introduce a view that has become so widely accepted that by now it is essentially the conventional way of thinking about a topic.

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j Americans have always believed that individual effort can

triumph over circumstances.

j Conventional wisdom has it that .

j Common sense seems to dictate that .

j The standard way of thinking about topic X has it that .

j It is often said that .

j My whole life I have heard it said that .

j You would think that .

j Many people assume that .

These templates are popular because they provide a quick and efficient way to perform one of the most common moves that writers make: challenging widely accepted beliefs, placing them on the examining table, and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses.

templates for making what “they say” something you say

Another way to introduce the views you’re responding to is to present them as your own. That is, the “they say” that you respond to need not be a view held by others; it can be one that you yourself once held or one that you are ambivalent about.

j I’ve always believed that museums are boring.

j When I was a child, I used to think that .

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j Although I should know better by now, I cannot help thinking

that .

j At the same time that I believe , I also believe

.

templates for introducing something implied or assumed

Another sophisticated move a writer can make is to summarize a point that is not directly stated in what “they say” but is implied or assumed.

j Although none of them have ever said so directly, my teachers

have often given me the impression that education will open doors.

j One implication of X’s treatment of is that .

j Although X does not say so directly, she apparently assumes

that .

j While they rarely admit as much, often take for

granted that .

These are templates that can help you think analytically—to look beyond what others say explicitly and to consider their unstated assumptions, as well as the implications of their views.

templates for introducing an ongoing debate

Sometimes you’ll want to open by summarizing a debate that presents two or more views. This kind of opening

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demonstrates your awareness that there are conflicting ways to look at your subject, the clear mark of someone who knows the subject and therefore is likely to be a reliable, trustworthy guide. Furthermore, opening with a summary of a debate can help you explore the issue you are writing about before declar- ing your own view. In this way, you can use the writing process itself to help you discover where you stand instead of having to commit to a position before you are ready to do so. Here is a basic template for opening with a debate.

j In discussions of X, one controversial issue has been .

On the one hand, argues . On the other

hand, contends . Others even maintain

. My own view is .

The cognitive scientist Mark Aronoff uses this kind of template in an essay on the workings of the human brain.

Theories of how the mind/brain works have been dominated for centuries by two opposing views. One, rationalism, sees the human mind as coming into this world more or less fully formed— preprogrammed, in modern terms. The other, empiricism, sees the mind of the newborn as largely unstructured, a blank slate.

Mark Aronoff, “Washington Sleeped Here”

Another way to open with a debate involves starting with a proposition many people agree with in order to highlight the point(s) on which they ultimately disagree.

j When it comes to the topic of , most of us will read-

ily agree that . Where this agreement usually ends,

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however, is on the question of . Whereas some are

convinced that , others maintain that .

The political writer Thomas Frank uses a variation on this move.

That we are a nation divided is an almost universal lament of this bitter election year. However, the exact property that divides us—elemental though it is said to be—remains a matter of some controversy.

Thomas Frank, “American Psyche”

keep what “they say” in view

We can’t urge you too strongly to keep in mind what “they say” as you move through the rest of your text. After summarizing the ideas you are responding to at the outset, it’s very impor- tant to continue to keep those ideas in view. Readers won’t be able to follow your unfolding response, much less any compli- cations you may offer, unless you keep reminding them what claims you are responding to. In other words, even when presenting your own claims, you should keep returning to the motivating “they say.” The longer and more complicated your text, the greater the chance that readers will forget what ideas originally moti- vated it—no matter how clearly you lay them out at the beginning. At strategic moments throughout your text, we recommend that you include what we call “return sentences.” Here is an example.

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j In conclusion, then, as I suggested earlier, defenders of

can’t have it both ways. Their assertion that

is contradicted by their claim that .

We ourselves use such return sentences at every opportunity in this book to remind you of the view of writing that our book questions—that good writing means making true or smart or logical statements about a given subject with little or no refer- ence to what others say about it. By reminding readers of the ideas you’re responding to, return sentences ensure that your text maintains a sense of mission and urgency from start to finish. In short, they help ensure that your argument is a genuine response to others’ views rather than just a set of observations about a given subject. The difference is huge. To be responsive to others and the conver- sation you’re entering, you need to start with what others are saying and continue keeping it in the reader’s view.

Exercises

1. The following is a list of arguments that lack a “they say”— any sense of who needs to hear these claims, who might think otherwise. Like the speaker in the cartoon on page 4 who declares that The Sopranos presents complex characters, these one-sided arguments fail to explain what view they are responding to—what view, in effect, they are trying to correct, add to, qualify, complicate, and so forth. Your job in this exercise is to provide each argument with such a counterview. Feel free to use any of the templates in this chapter that you find helpful.

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a. Our experiments suggest that there are dangerous levels of chemical X in the Ohio groundwater.

b. Material forces drive history. c. Proponents of Freudian psychology question standard

notions of “rationality.” d. Male students often dominate class discussions. e. The film is about the problems of romantic relationships. f. I’m afraid that templates like the ones in this book will

stifle my creativity.

2. Below is a template that we derived from the opening of David Zinczenko’s “Don’t Blame the Eater” (p. 462). Use the template to structure a passage on a topic of your own choosing. Your first step here should be to find an idea that you support that others not only disagree with but actually find laughable (or, as Zinczenko puts it, worthy of a Jay Leno monologue). You might write about one of the topics listed in the previous exercise (the environment, gender relations, the meaning of a book or movie) or any other topic that interests you.

If ever there was an idea custom-made for a Jay Leno monologue,

this was it: . Isn’t that like ? Whatever hap-

pened to ?

I happen to sympathize with , though, perhaps

because .

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TWO

“her point is”

The Art of Summarizing

H

If it is true, as we claim in this book, that to argue persuasively you need to be in dialogue with others, then sum- marizing others’ arguments is central to your arsenal of basic moves. Because writers who make strong claims need to map their claims relative to those of other people, it is important to know how to summarize effectively what those other people say. (We’re using the word “summarizing” here to refer to any information from others that you present in your own words, including that which you paraphrase.) Many writers shy away from summarizing—perhaps because they don’t want to take the trouble to go back to the text in question and wrestle with what it says, or because they fear that devoting too much time to other people’s ideas will take away from their own. When assigned to write a response to an article, such writers might offer their own views on the article’s topic while hardly mentioning what the article itself argues or says. At the opposite extreme are those who do nothing but summarize. Lacking confidence, perhaps, in their own ideas, these writers so overload their texts with summaries of others’ ideas that their own voice gets lost. And since these summaries are not animated

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by the writers’ own interests, they often read like mere lists of things that X thinks or Y says—with no clear focus. As a general rule, a good summary requires balancing what the original author is saying with the writer’s own focus. Generally speaking, a summary must at once be true to what the original author says while also emphasizing those aspects of what the author says that interest you, the writer. Strik- ing this delicate balance can be tricky, since it means facing two ways at once: both outward (toward the author being summarized) and inward (toward yourself). Ultimately, it means being respectful of others but simultaneously structuring how you summarize them in light of your own text’s central argument.

on the one hand, put yourself in their shoes

To write a really good summary, you must be able to suspend your own beliefs for a time and put yourself in the shoes of someone else. This means playing what the writing theorist Peter Elbow calls the “believing game,” in which you try to inhabit the world- view of those whose conversation you are joining—and whom you are perhaps even disagreeing with—and try to see their argument from their perspective. This ability to temporarily suspend one’s own convictions is a hallmark of good actors, who must convinc- ingly “become” characters whom in real life they may detest. As a writer, when you play the believing game well, readers should not be able to tell whether you agree or disagree with the ideas you are summarizing. If, as a writer, you cannot or will not suspend your own beliefs in this way, you are likely to produce summaries that are

See how Nicholas Carr summarizes the mission of Google on p. 323, ¶24.

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so obviously biased that they undermine your credibility with readers. Consider the following summary.

David Zinczenko’s article, “Don’t Blame the Eater,” is nothing more than an angry rant in which he accuses the fast-food com- panies of an evil conspiracy to make people fat. I disagree because these companies have to make money. . . .

If you review what Zinczenko actually says (pp. 462–64), you should immediately see that this summary amounts to an unfair distortion. While Zinczenko does argue that the practices of the fast-food industry have the effect of making people fat, his tone is never “angry,” and he never goes so far as to suggest that the fast-food industry conspires to make people fat with deliberately evil intent. Another tell-tale sign of this writer’s failure to give Zinczenko a fair hearing is the hasty way he abandons the sum- mary after only one sentence and rushes on to his own response. So eager is this writer to disagree that he not only caricatures what Zinczenko says but also gives the article a hasty, super- ficial reading. Granted, there are many writing situations in which, because of matters of proportion, a one- or two-sentence summary is precisely what you want. Indeed, as writing profes- sor Karen Lunsford (whose own research focuses on argument theory) points out, it is standard in the natural and social sci- ences to summarize the work of others quickly, in one pithy sentence or phrase, as in the following example.

Several studies (Crackle, 2012; Pop, 2007; Snap, 2006) suggest that these policies are harmless; moreover, other studies (Dick, 2011; Harry, 2007; Tom, 2005) argue that they even have benefits.

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But if your assignment is to respond in writing to a single author like Zinczenko, you will need to tell your readers enough about his or her argument so they can assess its merits on their own, independent of you. When a writer fails to provide enough summary or to engage in a rigorous or serious enough summary, he or she often falls prey to what we call “the closest cliché syndrome,” in which what gets summarized is not the view the author in question has actually expressed but a familiar cliché that the writer mistakes for the author’s view (sometimes because the writer believes it and mistakenly assumes the author must too). So, for example, Martin Luther King Jr.’s passionate defense of civil disobedi- ence in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” might be summarized not as the defense of political protest that it actually is but as a plea for everyone to “just get along.” Similarly, Zinczenko’s critique of the fast-food industry might be summarized as a call for overweight people to take responsibility for their weight. Whenever you enter into a conversation with others in your writing, then, it is extremely important that you go back to what those others have said, that you study it very closely, and that you not confuse it with something you already believe. A writer who fails to do this ends up essentially conversing with imaginary others who are really only the products of his or her own biases and preconceptions.

on the other hand, know where you are going

Even as writing an effective summary requires you to temporar- ily adopt the worldview of another, it does not mean ignoring

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your own view altogether. Paradoxically, at the same time that summarizing another text requires you to represent fairly what it says, it also requires that your own response exert a quiet influence. A good summary, in other words, has a focus or spin that allows the summary to fit with your own agenda while still being true to the text you are summarizing. Thus if you are writing in response to the essay by Zinczenko, you should be able to see that an essay on the fast-food industry in general will call for a very different summary than will an essay on parenting, corporate regulation, or warning labels. If you want your essay to encompass all three topics, you’ll need to subordinate these three issues to one of Zinczenko’s general claims and then make sure this general claim directly sets up your own argument. For example, suppose you want to argue that it is parents, not fast-food companies, who are to blame for children’s obesity. To set up this argument, you will probably want to compose a summary that highlights what Zinczenko says about the fast- food industry and parents. Consider this sample.

In his article “Don’t Blame the Eater,” David Zinczenko blames the fast-food industry for fueling today’s so-called obesity epidemic, not only by failing to provide adequate warning labels on its high-calorie foods but also by filling the nutritional void in chil- dren’s lives left by their overtaxed working parents. With many parents working long hours and unable to supervise what their children eat, Zinczenko claims, children today are easily victimized by the low-cost, calorie-laden foods that the fast-food chains are all too eager to supply. When he was a young boy, for instance, and his single mother was away at work, he ate at Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and other chains on a regular basis, and ended up overweight. Zinczenko’s hope is that with the new spate of lawsuits against

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the food industry, other children with working parents will have healthier choices available to them, and that they will not, like him, become obese. In my view, however, it is the parents, and not the food chains, who are responsible for their children’s obesity. While it is true that many of today’s parents work long hours, there are still several things that parents can do to guarantee that their children eat healthy foods. . . .

The summary in the first paragraph succeeds because it points in two directions at once—both toward Zinczenko’s own text and toward the second paragraph, where the writer begins to establish her own argument. The opening sentence gives a sense of Zinczenko’s general argument (that the fast-food chains are to blame for obesity), including his two main supporting claims (about warning labels and parents), but it ends with an empha- sis on the writer’s main concern: parental responsibility. In this way, the summary does justice to Zinczenko’s arguments while also setting up the ensuing critique. This advice—to summarize authors in light of your own arguments—may seem painfully obvious. But writers often summarize a given author on one issue even though their text actually focuses on another. To avoid this problem, you need to make sure that your “they say” and “I say” are well matched. In fact, aligning what they say with what you say is a good thing to work on when revising what you’ve written. Often writers who summarize without regard to their own interests fall prey to what might be called “list summaries,” summaries that simply inventory the original author’s various points but fail to focus those points around any larger overall claim. If you’ve ever heard a talk in which the points were con- nected only by words like “and then,” “also,” and “in addition,”

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you know how such lists can put listeners to sleep—as shown in the figure above. A typical list summary sounds like this.

The author says many different things about his subject. First he says. . . . Then he makes the point that. . . . In addition he says. . . . And then he writes. . . . Also he shows that. . . . And then he says. . . .

It may be boring list summaries like this that give summaries in general a bad name and even prompt some instructors to discourage their students from summarizing at all. In conclusion, writing a good summary means not just repre- senting an author’s view accurately, but doing so in a way that fits your own composition’s larger agenda. On the one hand, it means playing Peter Elbow’s believing game and doing jus- tice to the source; if the summary ignores or misrepresents the

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source, its bias and unfairness will show. On the other hand, even as it does justice to the source, a summary has to have a slant or spin that prepares the way for your own claims. Once a summary enters your text, you should think of it as joint property—reflecting both the source you are summarizing and your own views.

summarizing satirically

Thus far in this chapter we have argued that, as a general rule, good summaries require a balance between what someone else has said and your own interests as a writer. Now, however, we want to address one exception to this rule: the satiric summary, in which a writer deliberately gives his or her own spin to some- one else’s argument in order to reveal a glaring shortcoming in it. Despite our previous comments that well-crafted summaries generally strike a balance between heeding what someone else has said and your own independent interests, the satiric mode can at times be a very effective form of critique because it lets the summarized argument condemn itself without overt edito- rializing by you, the writer. If you’ve ever watched The Daily Show, you’ll recall that it often merely summarizes silly things political leaders have said or done, letting their words or actions undermine themselves. Consider another example. In September 2001, then- President George W. Bush in a speech to Congress urged the nation’s “continued participation and confidence in the American economy” as a means of recovering from the terror- ist attacks of 9/11. The journalist Allan Sloan criticized this proposal simply by summarizing it, observing that the president

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had equated “patriotism with shopping. Maxing out your credit cards at the mall wasn’t self indulgence, it was a way to get back at Osama bin Laden.” Sloan’s summary leaves no doubt where he stands—he considers Bush’s proposal ridiculous, or at least too simple.

use signal verbs that fit the action

In introducing summaries, try to avoid bland formulas like “she says,” or “they believe.” Though language like this is sometimes serviceable enough, it often fails to reflect accurately what’s been said. In some cases, “he says” may even drain the passion out of the ideas you’re summarizing. We suspect that the habit of ignoring the action in what we summarize stems from the mistaken belief we mentioned earlier that writing is about playing it safe and not making waves, a matter of piling up truths and bits of knowledge rather than a dynamic process of doing things to and with other people. People who wouldn’t hesitate to say “X totally misrepresented,” “attacked,” or “loved” something when chatting with friends will in their writing often opt for far tamer and even less accu- rate phrases like “X said.” But the authors you summarize at the college level seldom simply “say” or “discuss” things; they “urge,” “emphasize,” and “complain about” them. David Zinczenko, for example, doesn’t just say that fast-food companies contribute to obesity; he complains or protests that they do; he challenges, chastises, and indicts those companies. The Declaration of Independence doesn’t just talk about the treatment of the colonies by the British; it protests against it. To do justice to the authors you cite,

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we recommend that when summarizing—or when introducing a quotation—you use vivid and precise signal verbs as often as possible. Though “he says” or “she believes” will sometimes be the most appropriate language for the occasion, your text will often be more accurate and lively if you tailor your verbs to suit the precise actions you’re describing.

templates for introducing summaries and quotations

j She advocates a radical revision of the juvenile justice system.

j They celebrate the fact that .

j , he admits.

verbs for introducing summaries and quotations

verbs for making a claim

argue insist assert observe believe remind us claim report emphasize suggest

verbs for expressing agreement

acknowledge endorse admire extol agree praise

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verbs for expressing agreement

celebrate the fact that reaffirm corroborate support do not deny verify

verbs for questioning or disagreeing

complain qualify complicate question contend refute contradict reject deny renounce deplore the tendency to repudiate

verbs for making recommendations

advocate implore call for plead demand recommend encourage urge exhort warn

Exercises

1. To get a feel for Peter Elbow’s “believing game,” write a sum- mary of some belief that you strongly disagree with. Then write a summary of the position that you actually hold on this topic. Give both summaries to a classmate or two, and see if they can tell which position you endorse. If you’ve succeeded, they won’t be able to tell.

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2. Write two different summaries of David Zinczenko’s “Don’t Blame the Eater” (pp. 462–64). Write the first one for an essay arguing that, contrary to what Zinczenko claims, there are inexpensive and convenient alternatives to fast-food restaurants. Write the second for an essay that questions whether being overweight is a genuine medical problem rather than a problem of cultural stereotypes. Compare your two summaries: though they are about the same article, they should look very different.

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THREE

“as he himself puts it”

The Art of Quoting

H

A key premise of this book is that to launch an effective argument you need to write the arguments of others into your text. One of the best ways to do so is by not only summarizing what “they say,” as suggested in Chapter 2, but by quoting their exact words. Quoting someone else’s words gives a tremendous amount of credibility to your summary and helps ensure that it is fair and accurate. In a sense, then, quotations function as a kind of proof of evidence, saying to readers: “Look, I’m not just making this up. She makes this claim and here it is in her exact words.” Yet many writers make a host of mistakes when it comes to quoting, not the least of which is the failure to quote enough in the first place, if at all. Some writers quote too little— perhaps because they don’t want to bother going back to the original text and looking up the author’s exact words, or because they think they can reconstruct the author’s ideas from memory. At the opposite extreme are writers who so overquote that they end up with texts that are short on commentary of their own—maybe because they lack confidence in their abil- ity to comment on the quotations, or because they don’t fully

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understand what they’ve quoted and therefore have trouble explaining what the quotations mean. But the main problem with quoting arises when writers assume that quotations speak for themselves. Because the meaning of a quotation is obvious to them, many writers assume that this meaning will also be obvious to their readers, when often it is not. Writers who make this mistake think that their job is done when they’ve chosen a quotation and inserted it into their text. They draft an essay, slap in a few quotations, and whammo, they’re done. Such writers fail to see that quoting means more than sim- ply enclosing what “they say” in quotation marks. In a way, quotations are orphans: words that have been taken from their original contexts and that need to be integrated into their new textual surroundings. This chapter offers two key ways to produce this sort of integration: (1) by choosing quotations wisely, with an eye to how well they support a particular part of your text, and (2) by surrounding every major quotation with a frame explain- ing whose words they are, what the quotation means, and how the quotation relates to your own text. The point we want to emphasize is that quoting what “they say” must always be con- nected with what you say.

quote relevant passages

Before you can select appropriate quotations, you need to have a sense of what you want to do with them—that is, how they will support your text at the particular point where you insert them. Be careful not to select quotations just for the sake of

See how one author connects what “they say” to what he wants to say, pp. 401, 403, ¶7–8.

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demonstrating that you’ve read the author’s work; you need to make sure they support your own argument. However, finding relevant quotations is not always easy. In fact, sometimes quotations that were initially relevant to your argument, or to a key point in it, become less so as your text changes during the process of writing and revising. Given the evolving and messy nature of writing, you may sometimes think that you’ve found the perfect quotation to support your argu- ment, only to discover later on, as your text develops, that your focus has changed and the quotation no longer works. It can be somewhat misleading, then, to speak of finding your thesis and finding relevant quotations as two separate steps, one coming after the other. When you’re deeply engaged in the writing and revising process, there is usually a great deal of back-and-forth between your argument and any quotations you select.

frame every quotation

Finding relevant quotations is only part of your job; you also need to present them in a way that makes their relevance and meaning clear to your readers. Since quotations do not speak for themselves, you need to build a frame around them in which you do that speaking for them. Quotations that are inserted into a text without such a frame are sometimes called “dangling” quotations for the way they’re left dangling without any explanation. One teacher we’ve worked with, Steve Benton, calls these “hit-and-run” quotations, likening them to car accidents in which the driver speeds away and avoids taking responsibility for the dent in your fender or the smashed taillights, as in the figure that follows.

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Here’s a typical hit-and-run quotation by a writer respond- ing to an essay by the feminist philosopher Susan Bordo, who laments that media pressures on young women to diet are spreading to previously isolated regions of the world like the Fiji islands.

Susan Bordo writes about women and dieting. “Fiji is just one example. Until television was introduced in 1995, the islands had no reported cases of eating disorders. In 1998, three years after programs from the United States and Britain began broadcasting there, 62 percent of the girls surveyed reported dieting.” I think Bordo is right. Another point Bordo makes is that. . . .

Since this writer fails to introduce the quotation ade- quately or explain why he finds it worth quoting, read- ers will have a hard time reconstructing what Bordo argued. Besides neglecting to say who Bordo is or even that the quoted words are hers, the writer does not explain how her words connect with anything he is saying or even what she says that he thinks is so “right.” He simply abandons the quotation in his haste to zoom on to another point.

See how Anne-Marie Slaughter introduces a long quote on p. 682, ¶13.

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To adequately frame a quotation, you need to insert it into what we like to call a “quotation sandwich,” with the statement introducing it serving as the top slice of bread and the explana- tion following it serving as the bottom slice. The introductory or lead-in claims should explain who is speaking and set up what the quotation says; the follow-up statements should explain why you consider the quotation to be important and what you take it to say.

templates for introducing quotations

j X states, “not all steroids should be banned from sports.”

j As the prominent philosopher X puts it, “ .”

j According to X, “ .”

j X himself writes, “ .”

j In her book, , X maintains that “ .”

j Writing in the journal Commentary, X complains that “ .”

j In X’s view, “ .”

j X agrees when she writes, “ .”

j X disagrees when he writes, “ .”

j X complicates matters further when she writes, “ .”

templates for explaining quotations

The one piece of advice about quoting that our students say they find most helpful is to get in the habit of following every

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major quotation by explaining what it means, using a template like one of the ones below.

j Basically, X is warning that the proposed solution will only make

the problem worse.

j In other words, X believes .

j In making this comment, X urges us to .

j X is corroborating the age-old adage that .

j X’s point is that .

j The essence of X’s argument is that .

When offering such explanations, it is important to use lan- guage that accurately reflects the spirit of the quoted passage. It is quite serviceable to write “Bordo states” or “asserts” in introducing the quotation about Fiji. But given the fact that Bordo is clearly alarmed by the extension of the media’s reach to Fiji, it is far more accurate to use language that reflects her alarm: “Bordo is alarmed that” or “is disturbed by” or “complains.” Consider, for example, how the earlier passage on Bordo might be revised using some of these moves.

The feminist philosopher Susan Bordo deplores Western media’s obsession with female thinness and dieting. Her basic complaint is that increasing numbers of women across the globe are being led to see themselves as fat and in need of a diet. Citing the islands of Fiji as a case in point, Bordo notes that “until television was introduced in 1995, the islands had no reported cases of eating disorders. In 1998, three years after programs from the United States and Britain

See pp. 39–40 for a list of action verbs for summarizing what others say.

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began broadcasting there, 62 percent of the girls surveyed reported dieting” (149–50). Bordo’s point is that the Western cult of dieting is spreading even to remote places across the globe. Ultimately, Bordo complains, the culture of dieting will find you, regardless of where you live. Bordo’s observations ring true to me because, now that I think about it, many women I know, regardless of where they are from, worry about their weight. . . .

This framing of the quotation not only better integrates Bordo’s words into the writer’s text, but also serves to demonstrate the writer’s interpretation of what Bordo is saying. While “the femi- nist philosopher” and “Bordo notes” provide information that readers need to know, the sentences that follow the quotation build a bridge between Bordo’s words and those of the writer. The reference to 62 percent of Fijian girls dieting is no longer an inert statistic (as it was in the flawed passage presented earlier) but a quantitative example of how “the Western cult of dieting is spreading . . . across the globe.” Just as impor- tant, these sentences explain what Bordo is saying in the writ- er’s own words—and thereby make clear that the quotation is being used purposefully to set up the writer’s own argument and has not been stuck in just for padding the essay or the works-cited list.

blend the author’s words with your own

The above framing material also works well because it accu- rately represents Bordo’s words while giving those words the writer’s own spin. Notice how the passage refers several times

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to the key concept of dieting, and how it echoes Bordo’s refer- ences to “television” and to U.S. and British “broadcasting” by referring to “culture,” which is further specified as “Western.” Instead of simply repeating Bordo word for word, the follow-up sentences echo just enough of her language while still moving the discussion in the writer’s own direction. In effect, the fram- ing creates a kind of hybrid mix of Bordo’s words and those of the writer.

can you overanalyze a quotation?

But is it possible to overexplain a quotation? And how do you know when you’ve explained a quotation thoroughly enough? After all, not all quotations require the same amount of explan- atory framing, and there are no hard-and-fast rules for knowing how much explanation any quotation needs. As a general rule, the most explanatory framing is needed for quotations that may be hard for readers to process: quotations that are long and complex, that are filled with details or jargon, or that contain hidden complexities. And yet, though the particular situation usually dictates when and how much to explain a quotation, we will still offer one piece of advice: when in doubt, go for it. It is better to risk being overly explicit about what you take a quotation to mean than to leave the quotation dangling and your readers in doubt. Indeed, we encourage you to provide such explanatory framing even when writing to an audience that you know to be familiar with the author being quoted and able to interpret your quotations on their own. Even in such cases, readers need to see how you inter- pret the quotation, since words—especially those of controversial figures—can be interpreted in various ways and used to support

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different, sometimes opposing, agendas. Your readers need to see what you make of the material you’ve quoted, if only to be sure that your reading of the material and theirs is on the same page.

how not to introduce quotations

We want to conclude this chapter by surveying some ways not to introduce quotations. Although some writers do so, you should not introduce quotations by saying something like “Orwell asserts an idea that” or “A quote by Shakespeare says.” Introductory phrases like these are both redundant and mislead- ing. In the first example, you could write either “Orwell asserts that” or “Orwell’s assertion is that,” rather than redundantly combining the two. The second example misleads readers, since it is the writer who is doing the quoting, not Shakespeare (as “a quote by Shakespeare” implies). The templates in this book will help you avoid such mis- takes. Once you have mastered templates like “as X puts it,” or “in X’s own words,” you probably won’t even have to think about them—and will be free to focus on the challenging ideas that templates help you frame.

Exercises

1. Find a published piece of writing that quotes something that “they say.” How has the writer integrated the quotation into his or her own text? How has he or she introduced the quota- tion, and what, if anything, has the writer said to explain it and tie it to his or her own text? Based on what you’ve read in this chapter, are there any changes you would suggest?

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2. Look at something you have written for one of your classes. Have you quoted any sources? If so, how have you integrated the quotation into your own text? How have you introduced it? Explained what it means? Indicated how it relates to your text? If you haven’t done all these things, revise your text to do so, perhaps using the Templates for Introducing Quotations (p. 46) and Explaining Quotations (pp. 46–47). If you’ve not written anything with quotations, try revising some academic text you’ve written to do so.

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2 H

“I SAY”

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FOUR

“yes / no / okay, but”

Three Ways to Respond

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The first three chapters of this book discuss the “they say” stage of writing, in which you devote your attention to the views of some other person or group. In this chapter we move to the “I say” stage, in which you offer your own argument as a response to what “they” have said. Moving to the “I say” stage can be daunting in academia, where it often may seem that you need to be an expert in a field to have an argument at all. Many students have told us that they have trouble entering some of the high-powered conversations that take place in college or graduate school because they do not know enough about the topic at hand, or because, they say, they simply are not “smart enough.” Yet often these same students, when given a chance to study in depth the contribution that some scholar has made in a given field, will turn around and say things like “I can see where she is coming from, how she makes her case by building on what other scholars have said. Perhaps had I studied the situation longer I could have come up with a similar argument.” What these students came to realize is that good arguments are based not on knowledge that only a special class of experts has access to, but on everyday habits

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of mind that can be isolated, identified, and used by almost anyone. Though there’s certainly no substitute for expertise and for knowing as much as possible about one’s topic, the arguments that finally win the day are built, as the title of this chapter suggests, on some very basic rhetorical patterns that most of us use on a daily basis. There are a great many ways to respond to others’ ideas, but this chapter concentrates on the three most common and recognizable ways: agreeing, disagreeing, or some combination of both. Although each way of responding is open to endless variation, we focus on these three because readers come to any text needing to learn fairly quickly where the writer stands, and they do this by placing the writer on a mental map consisting of a few familiar options: the writer agrees with those he or she is responding to, disagrees with them, or presents some combination of both agreeing and disagreeing. When writers take too long to declare their position relative to views they’ve summarized or quoted, readers get frustrated, wondering, “Is this guy agreeing or disagreeing? Is he for what this other person has said, against it, or what?” For this reason, this chapter’s advice applies to reading as well as to writing. Especially with difficult texts, you need not only to find the position the writer is responding to—the “they say”—but also to determine whether the writer is agreeing with it, challenging it, or some mixture of the two.

only three ways to respond?

Perhaps you’ll worry that fitting your own response into one of these three categories will force you to oversimplify your argu- ment or lessen its complexity, subtlety, or originality. This is

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