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Discourse Community Bibliography

Aydee Carrillo

The University of Texas at El Paso

RWS 1301

Dr. Vierra

September 27, 2018




This paper has no abstract.



Discourse Community Ethnography

Using Swales, the RWS 1301 class is a discourse community.

Swales recognized the existence of specialized communities or groups within society. But these

discourse communities, which differ to speech communities, had never been defined. Until it is

understood how his definition works, there will be no difference between he communities, which

would make the RWS 1301 class no different than a Friday night bridge club. Applying Swales’

characteristics to the RWS 1301 class proves that it is a discourse community.

Literature Review

In the article, The Concept of Discourse Communities, John Swales (1990) explains the

true definition of a discourse community in which he states the use of the term “discourse

community” expresses the increasingly common assumption that discourse works within

conventions defined by communities, be they academic disciplines or social groups” and by that

he argues the difference between discourse communities and a speech community, but states that

both conditions are necessary (p. 217). To understand both of his ideas better, Swales came up

with six characteristics of a discourse community; 1.A discourse community has a broadly

agreed set of common public goals. 2. A discourse community has mechanisms of

intercommunication among its members. 3. A discourse community uses its participatory



mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback. 4. A discourse community utilizes

and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims. 5. In

addition to owning genres, a discourse community has acquired some specific lexis. And finally,

6. A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant

content and discoursal expertise. These six characteristics enhance and abroad the learning of

discourse communities for better understanding to the readers.

According to Porter (2017), The principle he expresses is intertextuality that is, the idea

that all texts contain pieces of information of other texts and that there is no text that does not

include some ideas from some other texts (p.542). This idea embodies Porter’s way of thinking,

that intertextuality exists in every piece of writing there is, that all writing and speech come from

a single network, and that intertextuality has a connection to the notion of a “discourse

communities” and its pedagogical implications for composition. It exists two types of

intertextuality according to Porter. Iterability, which is the repeatability of textual fragments.

Presupposition, which means to an assumption of a text. Finally, Porter claims that intertextuality

supports writing across the curriculum as a mechanism for introducing students to the regulating

systems of discourse communities.

According to Kain and Wardle (2002), activity theory explains how we all use

communication on an everyday basis and with that, many tools help us accomplish our goals in



communication (p. #). Many examples of the tools we use daily are computers, cellphones,

textbooks, and encyclopedias. Besides the tools, there are other aspects into an activity system

that helps us complete our objective and these are; The subject, which is the person directly

engaged. Rules, the laws. Community, the group engaged in the activity, Division of Labor,

which refers to how the work is divided, Motives the purposes and reasons, Object, the goals of

the activity, and the Outcome the final result. According to Kain and Wardle, “In addition,

researchers use activity theory to understand how historical and social forces shape the way

people participate in activities and how change affects the activities.”

Malinowitz (1996) stresses her example of a discourse community by being a witness

when her students felt powerless, due to racism by their sexual orientation (p. 6). Because the

discourse of sexual difference is deemed irrelevant by otherwise well-intentioned educators,

Malinowitz contends that gay and lesbian students feel powerless to construct their own

knowledge, to author their lives in textually authentic ways: "I am proposing quite simply that

the field of composition find out about its lesbian and gay students" (p. 6). This article is a

discourse community since there is a shared goal among the community, intercommunication

exists in the class, the professor is providing feedback, there is a genre, uses specialized

vocabulary and there is a hierarchy present.




For this research paper, interviews, surveys, and observations were used. The

observations include all the readings; Swales (1990), Porter (2017), Kain and Wardle (2002), and

Malinowitz (2006). Interviews and surveys include all the researching made for this paper.


The RWS 1301 class exhibits a common public goal. According to Swales, common

public goals are defined as the wanted outcome at the end, and in order to be called a “discourse

community”, these goals have to be shared with the people in your group (p.220). The public

goals shared in this discourse community embody such things like getting the best grades

possible in the RWS 1301 class, as well as a diploma from the University of Texas at El Paso

when we graduate and learn and educate ourselves about writing. These common public goals

benefit society, by making other students like us have goals they want to achieve as well.

The RWS 1301 class exhibits intercommunication. According to Swales, the

participatory mechanisms may vary according to the discourse community, some examples are:

meetings, telecommunications, correspondence, newsletter, conversations and so forth…(p.221).

The way we as students, portray intercommunication in this discourse community is: by asking

for feedback either to our classmates or to the professor, blackboard is also a way to exhibit

intercommunication since that is the place where we submit our assignments and they get graded



by our professor who leaves comments and feedback on them so we can correct them, finally, the

RWS 1301 class shows intercommunications by sharing their ideas among them. Porter’s idea

(2017) about intertextuality; that every piece of writing contains ideas or information of other

texts, connects to the intercommunication of the RWS 1301 class since my writing contains

feedback from my professor and classmates that makes up intertextuality in this text.

The RWS 1301 class demonstrates information and feedback through participatory

mechanism, this refers to the constant feedback that we are provided either in class or through

blackboard and that way we come up with more and more information every time. According to

Swales, the secondary purposes of the information exchange will vary according to the common

public goal (p.221). For example, people may pay an annual subscription to the Acoustical

Society of America, but if they never open any of its content they can’t say they belong to its

discourse community.

The RWS 1301 class displays a genre which is any artifact used for a discourse

community. According to Swales, these involve topics, form, function and expectations.

(p.221).Genre are how things get done when language is used to accomplish them Examples in

this course include the e-portfolio, and composition notebooks, where we take down notes about

the class.



The RWS 1301 class exhibits a specialized vocabulary. According to Swales, the

specialization may involve using lexical items known to the wider speech communities. (p.222).

The specialized vocabulary used in the discourse community of the class RWS 1301 would be

AESL or Academic English since we are learning about writing, we must use an appropriate

vocabulary for its whole purpose of the RWS 1301 class.

The RWS 1301 class expresses hierarchy. According to Swales, (p.222). The way in

which the RWS 1301 class expresses a hierarchy system would be the following: In the top of

the pyramid would go the professor along with people at that stage (PhD or bachelors) and at the

bottom would go the students and apprentices.

The literature for this paper enhanced all the ideas that were meant to be portrayed and it

did that successfully by the similitude of the examples mentioned in the readings to my



In conclusion, the RWS 1301 class in the University of Texas at El Paso is a discourse

community since it includes each of the six characteristics pronounced by John Swales (1990)

and portrays the six characteristics according to their meaning. In addition to John Swales (1990)

there were many other authors that had different theories and explanations to what a discourse

community is, and that contributed to this ethnography.






Swales, J. (1990) The Concept of Discourse Community. English in Academic and Research

Settings. Cambridge. UP. Boston.

Porter, J. (1986) Intertextuality and the Discourse Community. Rhetoric Review. Retrieved from

Malinowitz, H (1996). Lesbian and Gay Students and the Making of Discourse Communities.

Textual Orientations (Summer 1996 ed.)

Kain, D. Wardle, E. Activity theory: An Introduction for the Writing Classroom. East California:

University of Dayton.