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What it Says/What it Does

Author: Susan Oaks

What it Says/What it Does. Authored by: Susan Oaks. Project: Introduction to College Reading & Writing. License: CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial

Just as the SQ3R approach integrates many aspects of reading, working with, and understanding a text, What it Says/What it Does is an approach that integrates paraphrasing and summarizing, multiple aspects of analyzing arguments, and evaluating researched sources.

Although What is Says/What it Does is a simple graphic to implement, it’s based on careful reading, critical thinking, and text analysis. It’s an especially useful approach for a text that offers an argument, and/or for a relatively sophisticated text, as it helps you think through how the text “works.” In effect, it helps you understand the text by getting you to consider an author’s intentions behind their words.

How to Implement What it Says/What it Does

  • Create a table with two columns, and/or take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Label one column “What it says” and the other “What it does.”

  • Read the article or portion of text, and select sentences, short passages, and/or paragraphs that develop the meaning that you think the author intends – sentences or short passages that are important to the author’s argument.
  • In the left-hand column, summarize those selections. Summaries can be very brief. You may want to group a series of very short or related paragraphs into one summary entry into the What it Says column. If you do that, make sure to identify exactly which paragraphs you’re grouping (e.g., para. 1-3)
  • In the right-hand column, explain what the function of the paragraph is and how the author presents the information in that paragraph. How does the author use point of view, language and tone, inference, types of evidence, persuasive techniques, arguments, etc. to achieve the purpose of the paragraph? These are called rhetorical devices, “any language that helps an author or speaker achieve a particular purpose.” [1]

What “What it Does” Does

The What is Does column, where you evaluate rhetorical devices and determine how the author creates meaning, helps you analyze the function of each paragraph or selected piece of text. It helps you identify rhetorical devices that an author relies on. It helps you understand how an author develops an argument, if the purpose of the text is to persuade. It helps you evaluate the logical soundness of the argument, and decide whether you can accept the meaning that the author intends. Finally, it adds to your own toolkit as a writer, since it enables you to see how an author consciously chooses words, information, and strategies to create meaning.

Example of What it Says/What it Does

This example is based on the article “Forget Shorter Showers” that has been the basis for the TRY IT exercises in the Evaluating a Text section of this site. A What it Says/What it Does approach for the first 3 paragraphs might look like this:

DMU Timestamp: January 18, 2023 05:00

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