>Next time I teach the “how to do graduate school course,” I’m thinking about assigning Graff and Birkenstein’s They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. It’s a book written with undergraduates in mind — and I’m also going to assign in my undergrad classes where I’m going to start requiring a research paper — but my graduate students need it. Many of them probably came through undergrad programs where they didn’t learn to write a research paper, and it seems a number of them haven’t figured out yet that they can use the scholarly articles they cite as ‘how-to’ models.
I say this because I’m reading the papers from my other graduate course — my seminar — and realizing that many of the students don’t know how to use secondary sources, how to integrate them into their own writing, or how to contend with them in their own papers. Some of them know how to integrate the sources grammatically and with some polish, but then the content of their papers is largely a review of the criticism and doesn’t have much of their own argument. Others seem to think secondary sources can be used as evidence. One students keeps stringing together quotes from scholarly works following assertions about the primary text and with introductory phrases such as “For example.” In other words, he’ll say something like “Fart jokes are common in medieval literature” and then follow that with, “For example, This Dude says X, That Chick says Y, and Some Other Dude agrees with them both and says X and Y.” And then he never cites any actual medieval literature! (Note: none of my students are actually writing on fart jokes in medieval literature. That’s just my silly and totally fictious example.) And often they quote huge blocks when really all they had to do was simply say something along the lines of “So-and-so also notes this.”
So next year, in addition to assigning this book, I’m going to spend some time giving them scholarly articles to read and we’re going to do rhetorical analyses of them to see how those critics made “the moves that matter.” Or something like that. I have until fall to figure it out. Any other suggestions? How did you learn to write a scholarly research paper?