- “In our view, then, the best academic writing has one underlying feature: it is deeply engaged in some way with other people’s views” (Graff and Birkenstein 3). Identify at least two reasons engaging others’ views is important in academic writing. Quote Graff and Birkenstein as part of your response.
The first chapter of They Say, I Say explains a key quality of writing that involves placing particular interest in explaining pre-existing viewpoints on the written subject. This quality has been shown to give two important distinctions in the writing. It gives the author a clearer meaning and reason for the argument, and it provides further depth and persuasion in the argument. With the additional engagement of other views on the subject, it makes all of the arguments in the chosen value of the writing seem more important. When the reader can clearly see opposition, they can understand the importance of the literary piece. The acknowledgement of alternate viewpoints also gives the literary piece a more persuasive nature. The addition of the critical thinking involved in understanding and possibly refuting other viewpoints adds a significant depth and persuasion to any expressed value in a paper. Graff and Birkenstein explain that the writing should be have a debate level of critical thinking and response “As social beings deeply connected to others who have a stake in what we say”(14). The writer should emphasize the other viewpoints as if there was a debate to make the reader have a more emotional tie to the writing and opinions.
- In chapter 1, the authors recommend that a writer start with “what others” say. But we also know that academic writing should have an argument. This sets up a bit of a tension and “may seem to contradict the common advice that writers should lead with their own thesis or claim” (Graff and Birkenstein 21). Draw on your high school experience and the authors’ ideas to discuss at least one way to deal with this tension. If you have never attempted what the authors recommend, explain one way that your prior experience is different from their ideas. Quote Graff and Birkenstein in your response.
In my first high school, the order of events in persuasive essays typically involved a very specific formula. Always including the opposing opinion in the first main paragraph after the introduction. It was set up in a way to acknowledge the other opinions, only to immediately refute them in the paragraphs that followed. The other high schools that I attended did not have this method, but I thought that it worked better than putting the alternate opinions in the second to last paragraph. That method seemed lazy to me, so I didn’t use it. I never, however, fully started a persuasive piece with the alternative opinion. Instead I used some of the methods that Graff and Birkenstein suggested instead, such as “Start[ing] with an illustrative quotation, a revealing fact or statistic, or […] a relevant anecdote” (22). Depending on the assignment, there were other ways to lead into the important aspects of the persuasive idea. I would typically lead into the piece with background information, or some overdramatic appraisal of the situation before delving into the details.
- A key practice in chapter 3 involves avoiding quotation accidents, what Steve Benton calls “‘hit-and-run’ quotations” (qtd. in Graff and Birkenstein 45). Find a passage in chapter 3 that captures the authors’ recommendations for quoting, and relate it to something in your own high school writing experience. Be sure to set up the quote, use it, and explain it in a way that connects to your experience.
To best interpret and remember what the main advice of the chapter was, I decided on a quote that would create a strong visual in my brain. Graff and Birkenstein explained that quotes alone in an essay are very confusing and that “To adequately frame a quotation, you need to insert it into what we like to call a “quotation sandwich” (46). By which they meant that the quote needed to be placed in between an introduction to the topic, and an explanation afterwards. In high school I wasn’t necessarily taught this skill, however I tended to integrate quotes into the writing smoothly simply based on preference. I didn’t like reading pieces of writing that felt separated, so I would find ways to integrate quotes very directly into the writing.