Tag Archives: coming to terms

Harris’ moves – 1


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

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

Coming to terms

The first  move coming to terms refers to the process of reading, getting to know content, concepts and issues. When you come to terms in writing, you restate the work of another writer. The mechanisms for achieving this are: summarising, paraphrasing, quoting and writing descriptions. In making notes about a reading, you would be looking for the writer’s purpose (what they intended to do in the text), the writer’s main argument, the evidence provided for the claim and how this relates to your own argument. One misunderstanding about academic readings is that we all read and receive the same message when we can really all interpret the same article quite differently. Academic writing is often about explaining how you read a paper and what you interpret from it. Your notes need to explain what you understand from the source text, what your interpretation is and how it relates to your argument in your own writing (Harris, 2006).

Harris (2006, p. 24) argues:

“academics seldom write in an all-or-nothing mode, trying to convince readers to take one side or the other of an argument. Instead their work assumes that any perspective on an issue (and there are often more than two) will have moments of insight and blindness. A frame offers a view but also brackets something out. A point of view highlights certain aspects and obscures others. And so, in dealing with other writers, your aim should be less to prove them right or wrong, correct or mistaken, than to assess both the uses and limits of their work. That is to say, academic writing rarely involves a simple taking of sides, an attack on or a defense of set positions, but rather centers on a weighing of options, a sorting through of possibilities.”

Practical Activity

One strategy to use is to summarise a text in a paragraph, then to write another paragraph on why you think it is important and relevant to your research. Then do the same for another text on the same topic. After that, compare the two texts: what similarities are there, what differences? What sense can you make of the topic from comparing these two texts? Then add another reading into the mix and follow the same process. In this way, you begin sorting and grouping ideas and arguments.


  • Block quotes – are long quotes longer than 40 words to make a point
  • In text quotes – are part of your sentence and you incorporate the words of another author to emphasize a point.
  • Scare quotes – are quotation marks around a single word and usually indicate sarcasm or problematizing the term. For example, if I use ‘problem’, I’m indicating that I’m questioning the use of the word as it was used.

The next move is forwarding – see the next blog post.