A discourse community is essentially a group of people that shares mutual interests and beliefs. People are generally involved in a variety of discourse communities within their private, social, and professional lives.
Some discourse communities are very formal with well established boundaries, while others may have a more loose construction with greater freedom. Additionally, discourse communities have approved channels of communication in which members write or speak through.
These channels can be a web page, a journal, a blog, or any other medium people use to communicate through. Examples of discourse communities may include but certainly not limited to:. At the same time the discourse community does not expect to see any writing that appears too foreign.
For this reason the academic writer must follow the constraints see article section below set by the discourse community so his or her ideas earn approval and respect. They define what is an acceptable argument. Each discourse community expects to see a writer construct his or her argument using their conventional style of language and vocabulary, and they expect a writer to use the established intertext within the discourse community as the building blocks for his or her argument.
In order for a writer to become familiar with some of the constraints of the discourse community they are writing for, a useful tool for the academic writer is to analyze prior work from the discourse community.
Across most discourses communities, writers will:. For example, the way a claim is made in a high school paper would look very different from the way a claim is made in a college composition class. Porter Contrary to some beliefs, this is by no means plagiarism.
Writers should also be aware of other ways in which the discourse community shapes their writing. The following sections elaborate on these functions. The article states that "A fact derived from the Latin factum, see below is something that has really occurred or is actually the case". But this is not how writers think of facts. Writing professionals hold that, "In a rhetorical argument, a fact is a claim that an audience will accept as being true without requiring proof".
The audience can be thought of as a discourse community, and a fact can suddenly change to become an opinion if stated in a different discourse community. This is how writers within discourse communities manage to present new ideas to their communities. Therefore, knowing the intended discourse community is a very important part of writing. Across discourse communities, what is considered factual may fluctuate across each community. You, like most people, would probably classify the statement "the Earth is round" as a "fact.
Within discourse communities, writers build on top of the ideas established by previous writers. But this is simply not the case. Discourse communities introduce new ideas and claims, and from these, writers expand on them. James Porter, a scholar of Rhetoric at Indiana University, uses The Declaration of Independence as an example to illustrate this point.
Porter points out that Jefferson merely pulled the phrase "That all men are created equal" straight from his commonplace book he made as a boy. Jefferson wrote this great work by weaving together the intertext of his discourse community. As Greene describes in his article, "Argument as Conversation", academic writing can be thought of metaphorically as a conversation between those in the discourse community.
Just like in a conversation when you listen to the ideas of the others who are involved and formulate your own opinion on the topic, a writer may be reading a paper done by another writer in the discourse community and from this paper, the scholar may obtain inspiration to expand the claims expressed in the paper or address them from other angles.
Good academic writers know the importance of researching previous work from within the discourse community and using this work to build their own claims.
By taking these ideas and expanding upon them or applying them in a new way, a writer is able to make their novel argument. Intertextuality is the combining of past writings into original, new pieces of text. The term intertextuality was coined in by Julia Kristeva. All texts are necessarily related to prior texts through a network of links, writers often unwittingly make use of what has previously been written and thus some degree of borrowing is inevitable.
This generally occurs within a specific discourse community. Factoring in intertextuality, the goal of academic writing is not simply creating new ideas, but to offer a new perspective and link between already established ideas.
This is why gathering background information and having past knowledge is so important in academic writing. A common metaphor used to describe academic writing is "entering the conversation", a conversation that began long before you got there and will continue long after you leave.
A quote from Kenneth Burke encapsulates this metaphor:. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about.
In fact the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar.
However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress. Intertextuality plays into this because without it there would be no conversations, just hundreds of thousands of writings not connected or able to build on each other.
The listening until you can join the conversation can be seen as doing research. All of the research you read, is built on research instead of self-knowledge. The convenient work conditions where you can manage the workload yourself makes it a great opportunity to work at a comfortable pace. Imagine no daunting tasks and toxic bosses.
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