The introduction of “They Say, I Say” discusses Entering the Conversation Often without consciously realizing it, accomplished writers rely on a stock of established moves that are crucial for communicating sophisticated ideas. This inventory of basic moves is 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 writing. 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 writing.
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, organized ways. STATE YOUR OWN IDEAS AS A RESPONSE TO OTHERS It is important not only to express your ideas (“I say”), but to present those ideas as a response to some other person or group ("they say"). The underlying structure of effective academic writing is 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 writing is argumentative writing, and we believe that to argue well you need to do more than assert your own ideas. You need to enter a conversation, using what others say (or might say) as a launching pad or sounding board for your own ideas. For this reason, you need to write the voices of others into your text. The best academic writing has one underlying feature: it is deeply engaged in some way with other people’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