Discourse Community Analysis Annotated Bibliography

As we’ve been discussing, we are all part of multiple discourse communities – groups constituted by shared goals and means of communication. For this assignment you will identify and analyze a discourse community of your choice. This community could be one that you’re a member of, or one to which you’re an outsider. It could be an academic or non-academic community. For example, you may choose to look at an academic journal or a collection of essays on the body and disability, or the inspiration boards on Pinterest; a tattoo community blog; online message boards dedicated to CrossFit and/or weight loss programs; or even gay dating sites that use discourse to communicate HIV status.

As a whole, this assignment requires you to understand and apply the concepts of a discourse community, to conduct inquiry-driven research on a community, and to consider the role of rhetoric in discourse, all while strengthening your writing. It ultimately places you in the role of both researcher and scholar. Unlike some of the other assignments you may have done in the past, you may be the very first person to conduct this particular research! Enjoy the process of discovery.

Now that your research is completed, you will write an essay (at least 1000 words) that explains how your chosen texts represent or give voice to the discourse community. Consider these key invention questions, which can propel and frame your essay:

  • How do these texts embody or represent the discourse community?
  • What rhetorical patterns or trends do you notice? How do the texts rely on similar argumentative support strategies? What ethical or emotional appeals do the texts share? What specialized jargon and stylistic patterns seem consistent or most relied upon?
  • What unstated assumptions seem to be operating in the arguments? (This one can be tricky because you have to read between the lines).
  • How well defined is the community? What are its borders? Where does it stop and start?
  • Does the community have an expressed identity? What is its ethos?
  • Does the community have an explicit antagonist or opposing force? If so, how is that expressed in the texts?
  • How does publication – or genre – figure into the community, if at all? What are the accepted forums for discourse in this community?
  • Enter into the realm of theorizing: how do these texts help us to understand or even rethink the entire idea of a discourse community? What do they suggest about the function of language for an expressed and shared identity? As you consider this, return to our class readings (e.g. Harris and Swales) and discussion to draw on any relevant passages or claims.

Even though you’ll be using a relatively informal tone for this essay, please use MLA style to cite and document passages and ideas taken from class readings and your discourse community sources. Remember, you’ll want to cite your source in both a Works Cited page and through In-Text Citations. For additional help with this, see the Purdue Owl website (Links to an external site.).

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