“They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing with Readings

Editors: Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkstein, and Russel Durst

Fourth Edition, 2018


This book utilizes sentence templates to guide students as they enter academic debates and discourses through writing. A collection of readings concludes the volume, showcasing pertinent issues in society as well as illustrating the concepts of writing outlined in the main text.

  • “They Say”
    • “The art of listening to others”
    • Source use: quoting, summarizing, understanding
    • Ex: “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 __________.”
  • “I Say”
    • Responding to sources
    • Stating the significance of the writer’s critical intervention
    • Templates on agreeing, disagreeing, or both simultaneously
  • Tying It All Together
    • Concluding, Transitioning, and Revising
    • Incorporating Voice and Using Metadiscourse
  • In Specific Academic Contexts
    • Applying the “They Say/I Say” model to the classroom, online venues, and the social sciences
  • Miscellaneous Readings
    • Topics: Cultural differences; the nature of college; industrialization and the rise of technology; gender and sexuality; the politics of food


  • Templates – useful for first-year students uninitiated in academic expectations
  • Readings offer a means for students to develop their own interests while seeing the concepts discussed in the text used by prominent scholars and writers
    • They also helpfully collect the majority of class readings in one book rather than students moving back and forth between the book and Canvas PDFs.
  • Language is fresh, accessible, and concise. It is not a dry read.


  • Templates – students may overly rely on these sample sentences if they struggle to adapt them to their own voice
  • Does not provide a conceptual overview of larger facets of writing, such as rhetorical appeals, logical fallacies, etc.
  • The structure of the book, in leading with “They Say,” could clash with a class not focusing on source use at the outset.