Insert Catchy Title Here (Blog Post 3)

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Posted on 13 Mar 2013 01:51

Reading John Swales’s piece about discourse communities, I can see that he was able to write in such depth about communities from having the appropriate experience as a member in a few discourse communities himself. While anyone could take the initiative to write about a community, I believe the best knowledge of a community is derived from someone who knows the ins and outs of the community- a current or former member of a discourse community. In order to explain how discourse communities function and match the guidelines he set forth for communities to follow, Swales chose the Hong Kong Study Circle, a non-academic discourse community, which focuses on stamps and postal legislation of Hong Kong, a small discourse community in which he is a member himself.
This example was perfect for Swales because he already had previous knowledge about the discourse community from being involved with it; a majority of his research was already done for him. Using the six points that define a discourse community, he used examples from his stamp-focused discourse community to demonstrate how it fit all the necessary requirements for a thriving community, even if this particular one was rather small in membership and limited in literature (a bimonthly newsletter is sent out to members).
I’m not entirely sure how Swales did his research; it is clear he knows a great deal about general standards for discourse communities and about discourse communities of which he is a member. Whether he arrived at the six points that all discourse communities have by being a member and observing first or by taking notes about ideal discourse communities first and then applying his rules to all other discourse communities, I cannot say. I do know that his research regarding discourse community gave me a much better understanding of what a discourse community does and how it operates.
Swales was able to provide his readers with a wealth of information about discourse communities through his research on the subject and his participation in the HKSC discourse community, which he set forth as a model to prove his six points about discourse community. Tony Mirabelli takes a slightly different approach in his writing about the language used and interactions experienced by waiters in the food business. Mirabelli has a decent amount of authority to speak on this matter; he worked for two years at a restaurant called Lou’s for two years after graduating college, to earn money until he could find a job relating to his study.
Tony does employ the use of his own personal experiences at work to make his points about how waiters interact, take orders, and have a successful shift despite the possibilities of having angry or moody customers. Unlike Swales, Mirabelli also describes the same community via examples from his coworkers. He had an ideal group of people to work with for this job which makes his research that much more valid. He worked with a waiter John, who had been with the restaurant for about ten years, and Harvey who had worked as a waiter for thirty plus years, but was new to the restaurant just as Tony was when he was starting there.
Giving examples of many different situations a waiter may find himself in (all of which were examples John, Harvey, or he actually went through), Tony gives an idea of how knowing the literature of the job, the menu, is integral to succeeding in the community. This is different from Swales who said that the genres used in his discourse community keep the members in touch. Mirabelli makes a completely separate point of his own, stating the level of a waiter’s success lays on the waiter’s familiarity with the menu of the restaurant, which in turn allows him to make suggestions to customers and take a firmer handle of control over the interactions with customers and ordering dishes. Tony Mirabelli’s method of research worked out very well, since his past involvement in the “community” of waiters provided him with the integral insider knowledge necessary to write on the community.
Taking a look at the works composed by these two writers, I have seen that both men wrote about discourse communities or made references to discourse communities in which they had already been members or were currently still members. This point seems important to me, because in order to truly know enough about a community to write about it and critically analyze it, I feel one would have to have been exposed to it on a first-person basis at one time or another. Swales work should be beneficial to me in my prospective writing of the Catholic League, because I can apply the six necessary characteristics of a discourse community to the Catholic League and determine if this community differs in any way from the aspects Swales set forth.
While researching any discourse community could give me heaps and bounds of information about the community, I think Swales and Mirabelli’s pieces and research demonstrates that prior experience with the discourse community could prove to be a priceless source of data and examples, since the community has already interested the person enough to get involved with it in some form or another. Just as Mirabelli breaks down specific occurrences at his workplace for analyzing and/or critiquing use of language, I could analyze a Catholic League chapter meeting from an objective point of view. Swales’s and Mirabelli’s works have given me some insight as to how to approach my research of a discourse community, and I think my peers would also benefit by taking note of the research approach taken by both authors.

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