Making Claims

GraffBirk_TheySayISay_lgThis tipsheet will help you see distinctive kinds of claims you can make. It uses the idea of “templates” — or rhetorical cues — laid out in They Say / I Say:  The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, by Gerald Graf and Cathy Birkenstein (New York:  W. W. Norton, 2006). Basically, these are phrases scholarly writers use to signal particular intellectual tasks involved in developing stances.

These may seem clunky and artificial at first, but once you know to look for them, you’ll actually see them everywhere in academic writing, and using them will start feeling natural. In addition to helping signal your claims to your reader, you can also use them as an exercise for yourself, to help you figure out what claims you might be able to make.

The examples below demonstrate types of claims you could make in your Formal Analysis (using Harris’s notions of counter, forward, and extend here).

Claims that forward another writer’s work in order to counter conventional wisdom or more obvious observations

Most viewers today would assume (or would readily see) that  ___________.  But by using Burke’s concept of ___________, an alternate meaning emerges in these images.  (Or, by analyzing for ____________, as Barnet demonstrates, we can see a different pattern.)

Like most portraits, these seem at first to _______________, but by analyzing the technique of ____________, I will explore the way they can instead be read as ________________. [Note that Burke and/or Barnet are only implicit here, but they would be cited for the ideas.]

Claims that extend another writer’s work significantly beyond their own scope

Burke argues that the technique of _________ is used in portraits normally to create the effect of _____________, but I want to go further to suggest that it can also serve the purpose of _____________, especially in cases where ___________________.

Barnet identifies ____ categories of __________________, but in these portraits, we can see yet another category emerging, one that we  might call ___________________.

Barnet only hints at the idea that ______________; an analysis of these images will reveal specifically how this can be the case.

Claims that counter another writer’s work

Burke claims that the technique of ____________ creates an effect of ___________.  But in several of these portraits, that same technique is used instead to _______________.

Barnet shows clearly that _____________, but he ignores the possibility of ___________.

Although he does not overtly argue it, Burke seems to imply that ____________.  For example, in the context of _____________, he suggests that ____________.  An analysis of ____________ in these portraits, however, will show clearly that _______________.