Discourse Community Paper


A discourse community paper may be
different than a typical research paper many students may be used to. The typical argument research paper asks the writer to take a position usually considered “pro” or “con” and find
support for one “side” or the other. Most issues, however, are not merely to
extreme sides, but are comprised of a spectrum of viewpoints. While the issue
itself the what may be important to understand, it is also crucial to
understand the WHO – those communities who contribute to the conversation on the
topic and therefore shape the likelihood of how we address and resolve the
concern. For example, in a paper about obesity we may find out a great deal of
information to help us better understand the topic itself – the WHAT – including how
body mass index and waist size are used by physicians to determine obesity; who,
and how many, are affected by obesity in the US; as well as other information
such as possible causes and varied ways to avoid obesity. As we seek to learn
more about the topic, we start to ask why it is debated and who is in debate about
it. This debate may focus on why obesity remains a problem or how we can decrease negative effects resulting from it. In a discourse analysis paper it is important
to look at which communities are involved in the conversation regarding
these issues. Discourse communities are groups who
communicate regarding a particular issue, topic, or idea; each community may work in a particular
field that has some relation to the topic or have a particular experience or
expertise with the topic; they may hold in common certain goals,
aims, or other aspirations; and they typically contribute this information
through particular means – certain genres and using language or method of
communication that is typical for them and their audience. So for instance,
biologists and physicians may share their perspectives on causes and ways to
address obesity. They may use scientific and medical
terminology that are not generally familiar to the public but that provide
useful methods for them to communicate to each other easily, effectively, and
precisely. Politicians and others within government may focus on laws governing
the use of trans fats or requiring calories to be posted at fast food
establishments; while they may use scientific data in
support, their language about those may be more familiar to others who create
and read laws, and their communication may appear in government publications
and trade journals. Patients and activists, on the other hand,
may speak more colloquially about their personal experiences. Their mode of communication may be
narrative and full of details about their experiences dealing with obesity. They may seek to include examples they
can inspire the general public to better understand their day-to-day lives. Unique backgrounds different types of
language and different means of communication typify these different
communities. It is important to note that within each
of these groups views may also vary, so not all patients
or lawmakers may see eye-to-eye though they may still use their particular
groups’ language and means of communication to provide these
perspectives. In a discourse community analysis we
forefront the information about WHO it is that is speaking about this topic
with the WHAT fading to the background. This allows us to better see how the
communication by these groups are affecting the controversy. As well, how
facts are interpreted, by whom, and why these groups communicate may
significantly affect the management and outcome of the issue. Once we identify the communities, we can begin to analyze the relevance, reliability, and credibility of the views
through their support. We may find that some communities
support their view through research, while others use historical comparisons.
Some may provide what appear to be logical or common sense ideas either
textually or visually. How believable and accessible this support is may affect
how much weight or power the information has within the conversation as a whole.
We can find these perspectives and conversations in multiple locations ,each
of which can affect how the information is perceived and what weight it is given.
Research articles or government data may appear in peer reviewed journals or
government reports and may provide information crucial to the conversation,
but these sources may not be viewed or understood by the greater public.
Interviews, opinion pieces, or satiric articles may appear in more widely
circulated sources, such as TV or radio interviews, blog,s or in online forums. A
tweet promoting an unsubstantiated rumor may be more well-known than a ten-year
research study. The genre and location of a source may be important factors to
consider in determining how the views noted there affect the conversation. Additionally we need to consider the
purpose for which perspectives are being shared. Are such views provided for
informational and analytic purposes? If so, we may view them as being more
objective than those provided to persuade or to entertain. Similarly, information aimed at
prevention or critique may be based on a more limited range of support or at
least may be viewed that way. Since every text is different it is
important to consider purpose alongside other factors such as the kind of
support provided and the community providing the information. By
understanding and considering not only the WHAT but focusing on and analyzing the WHO
and all the variables attached to that concept, we can better appreciate the
significance of not just what is at stake, but how the rhetoric surrounding a
controversy affects our understanding of the topic, and therefore the challenge of
resolving the concerns about it as well.