Discourse Community Ethnography (DCE) Assignment

Discourse Community Ethnography (DCE) Assignment

Goals for this assignment:

  1. 1.      Learn and use tools for analyzing a discourse community’s practices
  2. 2.      Begin to understand empirical research (develop an understanding through observation/experimentation)
  3. 3.      Practice writing about primary research

The Task:

v  Choose a discourse community that has impacted you or interests you and find a preliminary answer to this research question: œWhat are the goals and characteristics of this discourse community? Also, conclusion effectively answers the research question œIs X a discourse community?

v  The group or organization you choose may be one that is related to your major or your field of interest.  You will need my approval if you wish to persuade me to accept another type of group.

Collect Data:

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, football plays, notes, IMs, and text messages


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Attend at least one group meeting and take field notes pertaining to communications practices as specified by Swales.

Interview at least one member of the discourse community (record and transcribe the interview) You might ask things like, œHow long have you been here? Why are you involved? What do X, Y, and Z words mean? How did you learn to write A,B, or C? How do you communicate with other people (on your team, in your restaurant, etc.)?


Use Swales to Analyze the Data:

Analyze the data you collect using the six characteristics of Swales’ discourse community.

1)      What are the shared goals of the community? Why does this group exist? What does it do?

2)      What mechanisms do members use to communicate with each other (meetings, phone calls, email, text messages, newsletters, reports, evaluation forms, etc.)?

3)      What are the purposes of each of these mechanisms of communication (i.e to improve performance, make money, grow better roses, share research, etc.)?

4)      Which of the above mechanisms of communication can be considered genres (textual responses to recurring situations that all group members recognize and understand)?

5)      What kinds of specialized language (lexis) do group members use in their conversation and in their genres (name some examplesESL, on the fly, 86, etc.)? What communicative function does this lexis serve (i.e. why say œ86 instead of œwe are out of this?)?

6)      Who are œold-timers with expertise?  Who are the newcomers with less expertise? How do newcomers learn the appropriate language, genres, and knowledge of the group?



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Write about your Findings:

  • In 4-5 pages, write about what you found in answer to the research question.
  • Begin with a short literature reviewœwe know X about discourse communitiescite Swales
  • Name a niche (œBut we don’t know Y or œNo one has looked at X)
  • Explain how you will occupy the niche
  • Describe your research methods
  • Discuss your findings in detail (Use Mirabelli  or one of the student essays as an example of how to do thisquote and paraphrase from your field notes, your interview/s, the texts we read, etc.)
    • Include many supporting details/evidence from your interviews, from your field notes, and other written materials you may collect
    • Organizes essay so that it is coherent: Use these Headings: Title, Background on topic/group, Discourse Communities/Literature Review: What is known about Discourse Communities from Swales, Methods, Results (subheadings under results: Shared Goals/Interests/Mechanisms of Communication, Purpose of Mechanisms, Genres, Lexis, Expertise), Relevance and/or Conclusion.
    • Provide appropriate in-text citations from the above sources
    • Include a correct works cited page


What will you turn in?

  • All the data that you collected, including observation/field notes, interview questions, transcriptions, and at least two text samples (from research) ALL TYPPED AND FORMATTED CORRECTLY.
  • Final Draft of your analysis/essay Including Works Cited
  • Peer Feedback if you did a peer review

SEE Rubric for Evaluation Criteria




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