ENGL 1023 S. 089 & 091
R. Lyons, Spring 2015
Major Assignment 4: Discourse/Disciplinary Analysis
Choose a discourse community (as Swales defines it) that has made an impact on you or one that interests you (one option that I strongly suggest would be choosing your proposed academic major). Then, through primary and secondary research, find a preliminary answer to this research question: "What are the goals and characteristics of this discourse community?" Write a five- or six- page report that tries to answer your research question based on careful observation of the community.
[Note: you may choose to focus on a Discourse (as Gee defines it) rather than a discourse community (a la Swales), BUT you have to get permission from me via email if you choose to go this route.]
STAGE I: Data Collection
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? What do they write? How do you know who is "in" and who is “out”?)
Collect anything people in that community read or write (their genres)—even very short things like forms, sketches, notes, IMs, and text messages.
Interview at least one member of the discourse community. Record and transcribe the interview. You might ask these questions: "How long have you been a member of this community? Why did you choose to be part of it? What do [mention words from the lexis] mean? How did you learn to write [mention particular genres]? How do you communicate with other people in [mention specific situations, settings, roles, or purposes]?”
STAGE II: Data Analysis
First, try analyzing the data you collect using the six characteristics of Swales’s discourse community [Note: if you've chosen to analyze a Discourse, base your questions off of characteristics from Gee’s article—I’ll help via email when you ask for permission]:
What are the shared goals of the community; why does this group exist and what does it do?
What mechanisms do members use to communicate with each other (meetings, phone calls, e-mail, text messages, newsletters, reports, evaluations forms, video-conferencing, published articles, etc.)?
What are the purposes of each of these mechanisms of communication (to improve performance, make money, grow better roses, share research, and so forth)?
Which of the above mechanisms of communication can be considered genres (textual responses to recurring situations that all group members and understand)?
What kinds of specialized language (what lexis) do group members use in their conversation and in their genres? Name some examples—TESOL, "on the fly,” "86," and so on. What communicative function does this lexis serve (that is, why say "86" instead of "we are out of this"?)
Who are the "old-timers" with expertise? Who are the newcomers with less expertise? How do newcomers learn the appropriate language, genres, and knowledge of the group?
Then, use Gee, Swales, Porter, and Wardle for further ideas on how to analyze your data:
Are there conflicts within the community? If so, why?
Do some participants in the community have difficulty? Why?
Who has authority here, and where does that authority come from?
What are the "modes of belonging" that newcomers are attempting to use?
What sorts of "multiliteracies" do members of this community possess?
Are members of this community stereotyped in any way in regard to their literacy knowledge? If so, why?
STAGE III: Planning and Drafting
As you develop answers to some of these questions, start setting some priorities. Given all you have learned above, what do you want to focus on in your essay? Is there something interesting regarding the goals of the community or the types of literacies in the community? What is interesting about its lexis and mediating genres?
Decide what your refined research question is and how you will answer it. You will