Tag Archives: genre moves

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.

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.