Learning the dance steps in academic/research writing


The people who conduct research on academic writing refer to consistent patterns in writing as ‘genre moves’.  These are really like steps in a dance.  Everyone does them in a particular order and that forms the pattern.  Joseph Harris (2006) wrote a book called ‘Rewriting: How to do things with texts’ where he outlines four common moves/steps in academic writing. To me, just knowing that there are patterns or moves helps me to see what I’m doing in my writing.  It gives me an element of control.  The four moves are

  • forwarding
  • countering
  • coming to terms
  • taking an approach

Over the next four blog posts, I’ll take you through his four moves, step by step.  While these moves are not always the same in every piece of writing (unlike dance steps in a set dance), they will help you to analyse your own writing and to see if you are stuck in one move.  Harris’ moves are widely known and there is a fair amount of literature on them if you are interested in researching this further.

Harris, J. (2006). Rewriting: How to do things with texts. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.


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