Reflections from “They Say/I Say” by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstien (Part 1)


The most important takeaways from Part 1 of this book are as follows:

  • When writing any persuasive or rhetorical piece, you must be able to express your ideas (What “I Say”) as a response to what someone else or a group of people have said (What “They Say”).
  • To do the above, summarization is key. ONLY copying directly what another author says in Quotes does NOT create a good summary of their arguments. Nor does it benefit you because over quoting makes it seem like you do not possess any arguments yourself.
  • Quoting becomes similar to an art form. Furthermore, creating art is a process follows a series of steps similar to quoting.
    • Choosing what to quote carefully
      • Does it relate to what you are saying?
      • Does it support, or contradict you?
    • Surrounding each Quote with a contextual FRAME
      • Explain who said what.
      • What the quote means in relation to what you have said.
      • Make a “quotation sandwich”:
        1. Introduction,
        2. Quote,
        3. and Analysis.


Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. “They say / I say”: the moves that matter in academic writing. W.W. Norton & Company, 2017


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