Audio Version (September 2021):
A chance to express ourselves
Our voices matter. Much of this book thus far has focused on how to summarize and evaluate other people’s arguments, but those are only first steps. Other people’s arguments help us develop our own. Writing summaries and assessments can inspire us to come up with our own original points. Academic writing gives us the chance to join a worldwide conversation about what is true on every subject under the sun.
To many, academic writing seems elitist. In the past, it certainly was controlled by the people in power in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and wealth. It amplified the voices of the elites. But it can empower any of us. Academic writing offers ways for anyone who struggles in society to find a voice.
Just as there are many ways to respond when a friend tells us something, there are many ways to respond in writing to a written argument. We don’t have to have all the answers; there are many ways to contribute without being experts. In this chapter, we lay out various options for response. By making these moves, we can help move the larger discussion toward greater insight.
Uses in college, work, and life
Many college writing assignments call for responses that go beyond agreeing or disagreeing with an argument. The response can be a place to bring in opinion and personal experience as they relate to the argument. Even if an assessment assignment doesn’t specifically ask for a recommendation, it often makes sense to add one to a conclusion. Whether we agreed or disagreed with the argument, pointing toward a next step for the larger conversation on the issue can give the essay a sense of momentum and purpose.
The response moves described in this chapter are not just for academic writing. They can also help us respond to classmates’ work in live discussions or online comments on other people’s posts. They’re key in professional settings too; we often need to respond to an argument such as a proposal, a memo, or a case study and show that we have something to add. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc all encourage responses; we read a post and then add our own comment as we react, reply, share, or retweet. Of course email, texting, messageboards, forums, blogs and some news media also invite original commentary. Practicing academic response writing, then, can enrich our repertoire of responses in everyday life.