They Say I Say

They say I say 4th edition is a book by authors Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. This book identifies keywords for learning. It shows students how to build their own discussions based on what others say and provides a model to help them initiate the transition.

Chapter 4 contains many new learning examples, a new chapter on posting Internet discussions, and a final chapter on creating social research. Finally, the two new readings provide relevant examples of real-life speaking movements.

The highlights

  • The book teaches you to write well. You have to understand it means entering into a conversation, summarizing what others say (“they say”), and setting up your own argument (“I say”).
  • It also demystifies the academic writings and shows students “the moves that actually matter” in any language they actually can readily apply to their own situations.
  • The book provides actual and user-friendly templates that can help writers make the moves that they talk about above in their own writings.
  • It shows that one has a doorway into entering a conversation and not just passively ingesting information when reading.
  • That it is a mode of understanding and actively engaging in dialogues and debates.

The chapters

The writers like to use the idioms and metaphors associated with academic writing to advocate their main points in the book and the chapters below.

  1. Demystifying Academic Conversation
  2. Starting with What Others Are Saying
  3. The Art of Summarizing
  4. The Art of Quoting
  5. “Yes, No, Ok, But. . . ”: Three Ways to Respond
  6. Making the distinction between What You Say from What They Say
  7. Planting a Naysayer in Your Text
  8. Saying Why It Matters
  9. Connecting the Parts

Each short chapter describes the relevant discussion actions and provides interesting and insightful examples.

The book is divided into a list of “models.” These models are a typical sentence template with some blank spaces which can be filled with actual characters.

A typical chapter example

In the “Start with the speeches of others” section, the author describes an example of where it starts with the above notion. He seems to indicate that one scholar, in particular, did a great job at that conference.

The host uses that particular researcher’s speech until many onlookers start wondering what his presence meant.

Finally, at the end of the exercise, there is a question as to why the speaker discussed the scholar’s criticisms in question. The author notes that if the audience knew these comments from the beginning, then the whole presentation would have made more sense.

The host thought everyone already knew what “they say” portion of the exercise that they concentrated on the “I say” part.

The authors note that new writers often make the same mistakes, and to help them, they provide models to help launch the writings the right way.

Templates/Models

The authors also provide a template for “Introduction to Standard Views” in this chapter. “Do as you say,” they say, “suggest or imply something,” and in the “Introduction to ongoing discussions.”

To use these models, students must complete and edit the templates to make it unique to their writings.

The models are not just a blank piece of paper where you can fill in the needed text, but they are exercises that you need to know.

The preview (oh, how to do it!) followed by the writing question (but what do I say? what do you mean) is a typical example of an exercise sentence.

Practical Tips

The book includes practical tips to help students incorporate other people’s thoughts into their words and memory.

Besides, the authors provide models that combine the language, ideas, and discussions of others differently. And point out that almost everyone can also use these for their own writings.

The authors also provide the “model index,” which line up all their template examples so a student can find the exact situation that matches the specific model that they need.

Who is the book intended for?

The authors have stated that this book is intended for student writers. Or those new writers are looking to learn how to write without having to come up with something completely original.

Let’s look at it practically; the authors have a notion that you use somebody else’s speech to create your own from there. To solidify their idea, they share many examples and templates that you can use to perfect their idea. However, at the very end of the day, these templates have a limit on how much editing you are going to do, right? 

Final Words

The book is great for formal students or just general learners; however, at the end of the day, templates and this idea can only take you so far. If you are looking to solidify your discussion skills, then you will have to take the training wheels off, and with that said. I think this book can only take you so far, and then you have to rely on your own skills.

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