Harris’ moves – 2 and 3


Harris (2006) suggests that there are four genre ‘moves’ in academic writing:

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

In the previous blog post, I discussed Move 1: coming to terms.  In this blog, I’ll show you Moves 2 and 3:  Forwarding and Countering.


Once academic writers are familiar with the substance of the topic at hand, they then move into a process of forwarding. Harris (2006) argues that asymmetrical conversations happen in academic writing. Academics do not write to the people they are writing about, they write to fellow readers. Forwarding is the process of recirculating, repurposing or recontextualising meaning from texts. The mechanisms for this are:

  • Illustrating – using other texts as examples to explain your point (anecdotes, data, scenarios).
  • Authorising – when you use an author to support your thinking, this is the “quick appeal to another writer as a voice of authority” (Harris, 2006, p. 44).
  • Borrowing – drawing on terms or ideas from other writers to explain your point. Here you use other texts by borrowing a term or idea to relate to your own argument.
  • Extending – when you put your own meaning on an idea drawn from another text to advance your own argument. Extending a text can be difficult. You feel you may not feel confident about extending on an authority’s ideas but this is what makes the writing your own.


The next move is countering or arguing against a text or author. This is a critical part of academic writing. It’s not enough to understand the topic and to extend on others’ ideas, academic writing always includes counter arguments. Counter arguments, however, are often not the opposite side of the debate, as Harris, 2006, p. 56) suggests: “countering looks at other views and texts not as wrong but as partial – in the sense of being both interested and incomplete” (emphasis in original). In other words, you will not need to refute an author’s argument but rather add to the conversation or perhaps take it in a new direction. The mechanisms for this are:

  • Arguing the other side – since all academic writing is centered on argument, this would mean taking another side to the one the writer is putting forward. It may even be a counter argument in this author’s own writing. This would require a justification of why the other side of the argument is worthy.
  • Uncovering or explicitly surfacing values – all writers write from a point of view or perspective which is value-laden. Some writers explicitly state their framework or theoretical stance but others do not. What is “unmarked or unquestioned” (Harris, 2006, p. 63) in the text? This is not easy to do and sometimes can only be done by comparing one reading to another.
  • Dissenting with concepts, authors, texts or issues. Harris (2006, p. 64) explains that dissenting often involves working out where there is agreement first: “There is a kind of template for many academic essays in which a writer says something like this: Until now, writers on this subject have disagreed on points a, b, and c. However, underlying this disagreement, there is a consensus of views on point d. In this essay, I will show why point d is wrong” (emphasis in original). In Education and other professional contexts, dissension can also come from experience in practice and it is especially powerful if you can provide published evidence to back up your experience. A further way of exploring dissension is to use two authors from different perspectives to show the differences between them and either align your own argument with one author or take the conversation in a different direction (Harris, 2006). Although Harris (2006) does not add this to his list, you can also pose questions as a way of dissenting.

In the next blog post, I’ll talk about Harris’ last move: Taking an approach.


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

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