- To understand the audience and rhetorical situations for your writing beyond this class
- To identify and analyze argumentation in forms of writing used in particular communities (discipline, profession, or more specific discourse communities)
- To understand writing as a communal process, and writers not as isolated individuals but as part of groups-working-on-common-activities/conversations (discourse communities)
Study a discourse community that you are an apprentice/novitiate member of in action. I recommend that you choose the major you have declared, or one you are interested in declaring, or academic pre-professional program, such as pre-med. (If you are a double major or if you have not yet selected a major, you should choose just one discipline to write about. The language of this assignment assumes that you will choose an academic discipline. However, you may choose a different discourse community, such as a profession or a locale, like Eugene.)
Present a short analysis of that discourse community. This analysis will have two parts corresponding to two key questions. Ask the following key questions of your chosen discourse community:
- What are the goals, purposes, and characteristics of this discourse community?
- What is the significance of the Anthropocene for this discourse community?
How you present this analysis is up to you. Feel free to get creative: a podcast, social media site, Powerpoint or Prezi presentation, a skit, etc. Or you may write up a report. It doesn’t matter, as long as you include the required information and can somehow turn it in for me to see.
Note: You may work with a partner if you want, and if someone else chooses the same discourse community as you. Before your conference with me next week, please indicate on Canvas under Discourse Community Proposal which discourse you plan to study and whether or not you would like to work in a group. I will assign any groups based on this information.
You must collect data on this discourse community in at least the three following ways:
- Observe members of the discourse community while they are engaged in a shared activity; take detailed notes (What are they doing? What kinds of things do they say or write? How do you know who is “in” and who is “out” of the community?). Your observations could come from:
- Observing a class in your major (only with instructor permission!)
- Observing a club meeting associated with your major
Ideally, this activity would not be one in which you are directly involved.
- Read and analyze one text that falls within this discipline. I suggest an academic article on a topic that interests you (or that is related to the Anthropocene!). Use the practices of charitable and critical reading we discussed earlier to read it. What marks it as belonging to this particular discourse? What is the purpose/point/argument of the text? What about it do you find helpful as a piece of writing? What about it would you want to emulate (or not) in your own writing, whether in essay 2 or as a member of this community?
- Interview at least one expert member of the discourse community. This should be a professor or graduate student/GE. (Talk to me if you believe a professional outside the academy would make more sense to interview.) Allow sufficient notice (a week?) when you ask for an interview. You might ask things like,
- How long have you been in this discipline/major? Why did you choose it?
- How would you characterize what it means to be in this discipline? How would you define the boundaries of your discipline?
- What are some of the major problems the discipline addresses? What do you see as some of the most pressing or important questions being asked in your field currently? What are some key conversations, debates, or even conflicts within the discipline?
- How do you communicate with other people in this discipline when discussing it? What modes of writing does this field use to share and/or document knowledge? Do these modes require similar or different kinds of approaches? What constitutes quality writing in the field? How would you describe the style of writing in this field? How did you learn to write this way? How has writing in this field changed or evolved recently?
- How does research most significantly benefit an undergraduate member of this discourse community (their major)? What is the primary purpose of research for undergraduates in that major? How do researchers in this field go about finding and selecting relevant sources? Are there any particular databases, journals, etc. that are particularly useful for research in this field? Is there anything else notable or interesting about research and writing conventions in this field that a student in the major should know about? (optional since our class is not a research focused class)
- You should definitely ask your interviewee about the second key question: the implications of the Anthropocene for your chosen discipline. They may not have heard of the Anthropocene; you may need to briefly explain it.
- Feel free to ask other questions to help you understand this discipline in which you are a novice member. You could ask some of the questions in the Data Analysis section, too.
Examine your data by asking questions such as the following:
- What are the shared goals of the community? Why does this group exist? What does it do?
- What mechanisms do members use to communicate with each other (i.e., academic documents, professional conferences, journals, meetings, phone calls, email, text messages, newsletters, reports, evaluation forms, etc.), and what is the purpose of each mechanism?
- What specialized language (acronyms, slang, jargon, etc.) do group members use? Why do they use it? What citation style does your discipline use (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)?
- Who are the more expert “old-timers” and the newcomers with less expertise? How do newcomers learn the appropriate language, genres, knowledge of the group and attempt to “belong”?
- Are there conflicts within the community? What are they? Why?
- Do some participants in the community have difficulty? Why?
- Who has authority here, and where does that authority come from?
- Are members of this community stereotyped? How? Why?
Planning and Writing/Presenting
Given all you’ll learn from your observations, consider what you want to focus on in your analysis. What’s interesting? What surprised you the most about your field? What “sticks out” from your findings? What seems most relevant to you as a novice member of this discourse community? Presenting such findings will be the main purpose of your analysis.
To answer the first key question, use the following parts, or make these moves:
- Give a brief description of the community you chose to analyze (which major is it? Is there a specialization within the major?)
- State the answer to the research question: What are the goals and characteristics of this community? What do they say/write/do/know/value/debate/believe/trust/assume?
- Describe your research methods. How did you get your information? Who did you interview?
- Discuss and analyze your findings in detail, quoting from your notes, interviews, and collected texts as necessary.
- By way of conclusion, explain the implications of your findings— what does it mean to know a community so closely? What difference does it make in your approach to this community? How would you adapt your writing in order to reach this particular community?
- Answer the second key question (which is a Q@I): What is the significance of the Anthropocene for this discourse community?
Feel free to nuance this question (For instance, What is the greatest significance of the Anthropocene regarding your chosen discipline?)
What does your major have to offer when it comes to addressing the challenges of the Anthropocene? How will the discipline need to change because of the reality of the Anthropocene? Your Essay 2 will consider the relationship of the Anthropocene to your chosen discipline (or a question within that discipline that pertains to the Anthropocene).
Make sure to give this analysis assignment a title. Include a Works Cited section at the end of your assignment that appropriately cites your interview, chosen text, and any other sources that you have consulted in the citation style appropriate to your field.
Necessary inclusions by which this assignment will be considered complete:
- Description and analysis of observation of community in action
- Description and analysis of text (try to answer all of the above questions for this)
- Description and analysis of expert interview
- Incorporates a discussion of the concept of Discourse (Gee) and discourse community (Swales)
- Answers the research question on the goals and characteristics of the discourse community
- Answers the question on the significance of the Anthropocene to the discourse
- Not more than 4 full pages (or equivalent)
- Works Cited
Due in class Tuesday, November 6. You will present your findings to a small group at that time and upload your presentation into Canvas as well.