James Kasakyan Midterm Revision Project

Blog » James Kasakyan Midterm Revision Project

Posted on 24 May 2013 17:46

Original Midterm Project

Clarifying misconceptions: In defense of online communities
James Kasakyan
April 12, 2013


Sociologists during the late twentieth and early twenty-first century have written at length about discourse communities—groups of individuals who share a common goal and discourse. Many of these sociolinguists, such as John Swales and Tony Mirabelli, have through research and analysis provided examples of discourse communities at work in the world (Swales examined the Hong Kong Study Circle, a discourse community of stamp collectors, while Mirabelli examined the discourse community of waiters in the United States). However, sociolinguists have refrained for the most part from examining online communities in this context. In this study I examine the online community of RealGM.com, a forum for basketball talk, and test it as a discourse community using Swales six characteristics of a discourse community as well as ponder some questions proposed by Ann Johns in her paper on discourse communities. In proving RealGM to be a discourse community I hope to prove online communities in general can be considered discourse communities. Through examination of primary documents and excerpts from the community, RealGM unquestionably withstands the tests of Swales and Johns, and can be classified accurately as a discourse community. This result opens the door for other online communities to be classified as discourse communities, dispelling the notion that solely "real world" communities can hold this distinction.


The concept of a discourse community is one widely discussed among sociolinguists like John Swales, James Gee, and Ann Johns.  Like many things in the sociolinguistic field, the exact meaning of the term discourse community is up for debate.  Gee defines a discourse as “a sort of ‘identity kit’ which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, and often write, so as to take on a particular role that others will recognize.” (Gee, 2), while Ann Johns avoids a formal definition and instead focuses on various characteristics of discourse communities: “In the term discourse communities, the focus is on texts and language, the genres and lexis that enable members throughout the world to maintain their goals, regulate their membership, and communicate efficiently with one another” (Johns, 51-2).  Swales, on the other hand, acknowledges the confusion surrounding the term, quoting Bruce Herzberg: “The idea of ‘discourse community’ is not well defined as yet, but like many imperfectly defined terms, it is suggestive, the center of a set of ideas rather than the sign of a settled notion.” (Swales, 469)  

To clarify further, Swales lists six characteristics of discourse communities (Swales, 471-73):

  1. A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals.
  2. Discourse communities have mechanisms of intercommunication among its members.
  3. Discourse communities utilize and possess one or more genres in order to communicate their aims.
  4. Discourse communities use their participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback.
  5. Discourse communities acquire and utilize a specific lexis.
  6. Discourse communities have a reasonable ratio between novices and experts.

While many scholars such as John Swales , Mary Bucholtz and Tony Mirabelli have conducted research on different types of discourse communities, few have examined the abundance of online communities that have sprung up since the inception of the Internet.  Thousands of communities whose members’ interests range from medieval poetry to online video games are in existence, and hundreds of new ones are started every day.  Unfortunately, these communities are often overlooked as discourse communities because of their association with the Internet.  Many people are under the impression that the anonymity of the Internet and the lack of restrictions it imposes cause it to be a cancerous environment for the enlightened discussions and information exchange required for a discourse community.  However, this is simply not the case.  In fact, one need only to examine these online communities to realize that they are not only suitable to be called discourse communities, but are also teeming hotbeds of discussion and information exchange.


For my case study I have examined the online community at RealGM.com. RealGM represents an extremely popular type of online community: the sports discussion community. Created in 2000, it originated as a basketball discussion website but has since expanded to include baseball, football, soccer, and hockey. It is still very active with over twenty million total posts and around ten-thousand unique posts per day. However to narrow the scope of the study I have chosen to focus solely on the original and most popular section: basketball. By using John Swales six characteristics of a discourse community I hope to prove that RealGM, and in turn online communities like it, are deserving of being labeled discourse communities.

To carry out my research I took advantage of my membership in the community and observed various sub-sections of the basketball forum. Being a member of the discourse community, it was easy for me to navigate around the website and pinpoint information I deemed important. For example, I did not need to observe RealGM for an extended period of time to search for the genres or lexis used by the community; I was unknowingly examining the community since the day I joined two years ago. In this way my research methods were similar to those of John Swales during his analysis of the Hong Kong Study Circle. Like Swales, I used my personal experience and insider knowledge to reveal information an outsider would likely miss.

To illustrate RealGM as a discourse community according to Swales criteria, I needed a way to show the characteristics were present. Like Swales and the Hong Kong Study Circle, I knew perfectly well that RealGM constituted a discourse community since I was a member of it, but I needed to prove this to others; so I turned again to Swales analysis for guidance. Following in his footsteps, I gathered excerpts and documents from the community that outsiders wouldn’t have access to. The data that follows is taken directly from the RealGM community and is not altered in any way.

Additionally, I sought to interview other members of the community for their input. I ideally wanted to speak with a moderator or administrator, since they could reveal information I as a regular member would not be privy to. Unfortunately I received only two responses: one from a member and one from a moderator. In the end no interview could be arranged.


RealGM: A common goal

Unlike many organizations and communities, RealGM does not have an explicit mission statement. However after spending less than a minute on the website, the goal becomes obvious: To discuss all things related to basketball.



From general discussion to statistical analysis to high-school basketball, RealGM covers nearly any topic a basketball enthusiast could dream of. Obviously, simply having the means for fruitful discussion is not necessarily indicative of a common public goal. As with all online communities, anyone can join, which makes it extremely difficult to ensure that every member is working toward a common goal. While other discourse communities attempt to hurdle this roadblock with membership dues or mandatory meetings, RealGM accomplishes this through its General NBA Forum Policy, which serves as a sort of contract.



By enforcing this policy, moderators and administrators can establish the goal of the community through disqualification, and rid the community of those who perform actions detrimental to the community goal. Actions like preventing new members from posting for their first 100 days or establishing a violation/warning system serve as deterrents for spammers or advertisers. In any discourse community, conduct detrimental to the community goal is unacceptable; RealGM is no different.

RealGM: Methods of intercommunication

According to Swales, discourse communities should have methods of intercommunication among their members; after all, very little can be achieved without a means of communication. This is one area where Internet communities like RealGM blow all other communities away. The Internet is based on the idea of communication, and RealGM exemplifies this to perfection. Since it is technically a forum/message board, communication is embedded in its infrastructure. Users need only to click “Create a new thread” or “Reply” to communicate with other members. In fact, it is extremely difficult to be a part of the RealGM community and not communicate with other members. The topics discussed are often very opinionated and create heated discussions that are hard to stay out of.

RealGM: Genres

Swales also points out that discourse communities possess and use different genres in order to further their common goal. In some cases, where classic or traditional genres simply don’t get the job done, the community can create its own specialized genres. This is the case for most internet communities, and RealGM is no exception. The genres on RealGM come in the form of sub-sections, threads, stickies, and posts. Each of these genres accomplishes a specific goal in addition to contributing to the common goal of discussing basketball.

Sub-sections are the largest genre and are used mainly to organize information. Since the community has such a broad goal (to discuss basketball), it is vital that the community be organized. For example, if someone wanted to talk about college basketball with other college basketball fans, it would make sense for there to be a separate section for college basketball discussion; otherwise members would be overwhelmed with thousands of posts that may or may not be relevant to them. RealGM understands this, and uses sub-sections to solve this problem.



Each section is clearly labeled and monitored by a specific set of moderators and admins to keep the general policy in effect. It is in this way that sub-sections also contribute to the common goal of discussing basketball.

Another genre utilized by the RealGM community is the thread. A thread is very much like the subject line of an email; its purpose is to inform users what is going to be discussed in the body of the message. Like emails, users can scan subject lines of threads and decide which ones they want to read, and which to skip over.



Stickies are another genre used by the RealGM community. On the surface, stickies seem very similar to threads; for example in the above picture “Race to the MVP IV”, “The OFFICIAL Rookie Impressions Thread Part IV”, “Official NBA pic/gif thread part V”, and “New General NBA Forum Policy Questions Thread” are all classified as stickies. Essentially, stickies (or stickied threads) are threads that contain important information or extremely popular discussions. Since threads are loaded on the page according to latest post time, it is easy for a thread to get “lost” or bumped off the front page. However if they contain pertinent information, such as information regarding the general policy of the website, this is unacceptable. If a thread is stickied by a moderator or administrator, it stays permanently on the top of the front page of the sub-section until it is unstickied. In the example above, in addition to the general policy being stickied, a thread discussing rookies in the NBA is also stickied. This is a hot topic that lasts the entire 82-game season, and thus it is stickied; otherwise users might lose track of it and make a new thread for every new thought they have on a rookie player.

The post is the most used genre in the RealGM community; it is like the body of an email or essay. The post is where the heart of the information and discussion is. Posts are made in threads, and in this way genres are at work inside other genres. The first post in a thread is called the original post, and usually presents information or data the user wishes to discuss. It also often contains a question that prompts other users for their input, or by the nature of the message itself provokes responses without positing any direct question. In other cases, a post may contain a poll that users can vote in and view results of.



RealGM: Lexis

In addition to possessing methods of communication and using genres, discourse communities utilize a specialized lexis, or language. Among online communities this can become quite muddy, since the Internet in general has its own lexis and unique uses of language. As more and more online communities spread membership overlaps, and terms carry over from one community to another. For example terms like btw (by the way), lol (laugh out loud), wth (what the hell), and smh (shaking my head) are all part of the lexis of the Internet, but do not belong specifically to any one community. In addition to using this pre-existing lexis, the RealGM community also has its own special lexis outsiders may not recognize.

As is the case with any discourse community, the lexis is created and shaped by the needs of the community. In the case of RealGM, this means the lexis is designed to make the discussion of basketball more efficient. Like many sports fans, members of the RealGM community are extremely interested in numbers and statistics. However, there are hundreds of different statistics that are tracked with new ones springing up at an amazing rate due to the prevalence of technology in modern basketball. Many, like Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM)—a stat designed to show an individual players overall effect on the team when he is playing—are wordy and not conducive to memorization. Thus they are shortened to make discussions more efficient. ORTG (offensive rating), DRTG (defensive rating), TS% (true shooting percentage), and FG% (field goal percentage) are just a few examples of terms that are in the lexis of RealGM members.

Other terms have more rudimentary purposes, like OP (original post/poster), OT (off-topic), GT (game thread), PG (post-game thread). These terms serve no other purpose than abridging commonly used terms to save space and time. They may seem trivial, but in a setting where literally everything must be written in words, every character counts. There are so many terms like these that it would be impossible to enumerate them here, and they are part of the reason why an outsider might feel overwhelmed or lost upon joining the community.



RealGM: Insiders vs. Outsiders

The final criteria for discourse communities that Swales describes is that there must be a reasonable ratio between experts and novices in the community, and this criteria is one of the main reasons online communities like RealGM are dismissed from the discussion. As is the case with almost any online community, anyone can join and participate. Unlike a medical society or engineering organization, a degree or expertise on the subject is not necessary to obtain membership. It is not unnatural to ask how an online community could possibly satisfy this last criterion if an internet connection is the sole requirement to join. However I would argue—and I believe Swales would agree—that receiving a degree or passing a test is not indicative of expertise when it comes to discourse communities. The key here is to make the distinction between discourse communities and other areas where the term “expert” or “expertise” is used, like in careers or fields of study. If one is to become a doctor, one must be an expert or achieve expertise in medicine. If one wants to become a writer, one must be an expert in manipulating language.

However, discourse communities are not nearly as high stakes. Oftentimes members and leaders of the community receive no financial benefit from participating, but rather do so with their free time or because of a common interest. This is the case in online communities including RealGM. While members may not be experts in the sense that they coached or played basketball at a competitive level, they most definitely have an interest in basketball and thus have experience or knowledge to bring to the table. If they had no interest in basketball, they would definitely not be interested in spending their free time discussing it with others.

Additionally, expertise in discourse communities is not exclusive to being an expert on the subject being discussed; it also entails being an expert of the discourse community and its genres and lexis. For example, a person who spent years coaching basketball or playing basketball at the high-school, college, or professional level might not be an expert in the RealGM discourse community. In fact, if this person were unfamiliar with the community goal, methods of communication, genres, and lexis, the person would actually be considered an outsider or novice. This is where the General Policy of RealGM again comes in to play. By establishing a provision which prevents new users from posting until 100 days after they join, RealGM effectively regulates the expert to novice ratio. By the time this 100 day period is over, the member is already halfway to being an expert in the community from having observed other expert members in action.

When you look more carefully at the definition of expertise pertaining to discourse communities, it becomes obvious RealGM and online communities like it are more than qualified. While members may lack knowledge that others consider a requirement for expertise in a field, they make up for it by being experts of the discourses used by the community.


Upon the testing of the RealGM community against Swales criteria for discourse communities, it is clear that RealGM can be accurately described as a discourse community. Despite being an online community, its members work toward a common goal, communicate information to each other via the forum, utilize unique genres and lexis, and possess a generally high level of expertise. There is no indication from my research that the fact that RealGM is an online community hinders its ability to perform the activities of classic discourse communities such as those described by Swales and Mirabelli. Aside from actual social contact, very little separates online communities from real-world discourse communities.

Although I have only shown one specific online community to possess the characteristics of a discourse community, I hope to open the door for other online communities to be recognized as discourse communities. My main hope was to dispel the notion that online communities cannot be considered discourse communities, and in providing a counter-example I have done so. However, I challenge any remaining skeptics to examine any active online community and perform similar tests. I guarantee that it will possess all the characteristics required of a discourse community.

Work Cited

Swales, John. "The Concept of Discourse Community." Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Boston: Cambridge UP, 1990. 21-32. Print.

Gee, James. "Literacy, discourse, and linguistics: Introduction and what is literacy?." Journal of Education, 1989. 5-25. Print.

Johns, Ann. "Discourse communities and communities of practice." Cambridge University Press. 51-70. Print.

Midterm Revision Proposal

1. Audience

The audience for my piece will be future writing for engineers students; more specifically, future students charged with completing a similar discourse community research project. There are a number of reasons these students might be interested in my piece. First, and most obvious, is the drive to complete the assignment and get a good grade. While this is an undoubtedly shallow goal in the scheme of things, it is definitely a reason a future student might seek out my piece. Secondly, the topic at hand for the project is an unfamiliar one for the students; it is quite likely the term discourse community never crossed their path until taking the course. For these students the paper, in addition to serving as a guide for how to complete the project, can help them better understand the topic they must research. Often looking at a real life example can make the difference between clarity and confusion.

2. Key Questions

Why is the methodology behind carrying out a research study on discourse communities so important?
What is the methodology behind carrying out a qualitative research study on discourse communities?
How can this methodology be applied to a specific, real-life example?

3. Writerly Challenges and Concrete Goals

First goal: Avoid tense changes and write in active voice

Whenever I look back on my pieces of writing, I notice how often I change tenses and switch sporadically between the active and passive voice. This is entirely a subconscious habit that most likely results from reading many pieces in different tenses and voices, and extrapolating a mixture of these methods into my own writing regardless of the context. Every since third or fourth grade my teachers would always write on my papers, "avoid tense changes". Now is a good time for me to write a piece where I can be more conscious of my mistakes and try to snap a bad habit. If I achieve this goal, the paper will look more professional and be clearer for the audience to understand. If I don't, I'll get another remark (this time from you) saying to avoid tense changes.

Second goal: Keep a consistent voice throughout the piece

Another thing I notice when looking back on my previous work is that I often fluctuate between a lighthearted/unprofessional voice and a businesslike/professional voice. I can only imagine how confusing this might be for a reader, who is first referred to as "you", and then is replaced later on with "the audience," or "one" (as in "one must…" as opposed to "you must"). If this type of fluctuation is not acceptable in a social context, why should it be allowed in writing? Right now I don't want to make a decision about whether I want to write in an informal or formal matter, but whatever my choice, I want to stick to it until the end. If I achieve this goal the piece will be less awkward and more coherent for my audience. If I fail, the audience might get caught up in the awkwardness of the writing and lose focus on the content.

Third goal: Reference my "extra" material throughout the piece

One thing you pointed out in my original research project was that I provided a number of examples in the form of screenshots, but did not reference or explain them in my writing. This resulted in relying on the reader to view and digest the information on their own, which can be difficult since the reader doesn't know what to look for. In my revised project, I want to discuss each example in depth and reference the examples multiple times in my actual writing. If I succeed, the screenshots will actually serve their purpose as complements to the text. If I fail, they will act as supplements that many will choose not to digest.

4. Genre Models

Genre Model

It was difficult for me to pinpoint a genre for my revised project, but I believe the "how-to" genre serves my purpose here. My piece serves as a "how-to" for future writing for engineers students who must complete a discourse community research project. This genre also makes use of a multitude of examples and explains them thoroughly, which is what I want to do through my screenshots. Since the genre is mainly written in an informal matter, it can give me an idea of what kind of voice I want to use in my piece.

Revised Midterm Project

Discourse community project: Tips and tricks for a qualitative study

You are halfway through the semester, and Andrew is laying out the rules for your second unit project, a study of discourse communities. Before this point, the chances are that you didn’t know what a discourse community was and perhaps never even heard the term used before. Now you’ve been given total freedom by Andrew to choose any community of your fancy and examine it in the context of a discourse community. If you are like me, you probably feel overwhelmed by the freedom and scope of the project; I know I did. Looking back from the perspective of someone who completed the project, I hope I can give you as much advice as possible to aid you in your own paper.

Phase 1: Choosing a community

When you are given as much freedom as Andrew gives you with this project, it can cut both ways. On the one hand, you aren’t restricted by criteria that limit your choices to topics you have no interest in researching or discussing. On the other hand, how do you know you aren’t crossing the bounds or undertaking a project that is too large or too small? The most important part of this phase is to gather as many ideas as possible. Think of all the different communities you are familiar with, and those you are unfamiliar with as well. Choosing communities you are a member of is a good start, but be careful of the effect your emotional attachment to this community might have on the research. If you can’t be unbiased when discussing the community, avoid choosing it. At the other end of the extreme, avoid choosing a community you are almost completely unfamiliar with. While you may learn a lot about the community throughout your research, carrying out the actual research will prove a difficult and time consuming task; it can be tough to gather valuable information or establish connections in the community if you are unfamiliar with its members or methods of communication. Regardless of your final decision, make sure you confer with Andrew to discuss if the project fits the scope of the assignment and is not too difficult to complete within the time constraints. Always have a second option just in case something goes wrong or you have a change of heart.

Phase 2: Entering the mindset

So once you’ve settled on a specific community you want to study—the question is, now what? Like I mentioned before, the scope of the project is huge and you have a good amount of freedom, which means it is going to be difficult to find a starting point. In my opinion, the best thing to do is to get into the discourse community mindset. By this I mean reread Swales’s paper on discourse communities, familiarize yourself with his six common characteristics of discourse communities, and start thinking about how they will—or won’t—apply to the community you choose. A good practice here is to see if you can already answer some of these questions in your head without doing any research:

1. Can I roughly state the goal of the community? That is, what is the purpose of the community? Who is benefitting from it?
2. Do I see examples of members communicating with one another, whether it is in an online setting, or at face to face meetings?
3. What kind of genres does the community use to achieve its purpose or spread its message? How are they communicating with members, and with outsiders? Is it through articles and newsletters, or emails and online forums?
4. Does the community use any type of language that is specialized or tailored specifically to their purpose? Are there any terms, titles, or acronyms that an outsider would be puzzled by if they had no previous experience with the community?
5. Are the members of the community intelligible about the things they are discussing? Are the majority of them qualified to do what they do in the community?

Besides helping you get in the mindset of researching a discourse community, these questions will help guide your research and help you decide which topics you want to devote more time to. As always, if you don’t understand or are unclear about one or more of Swales’s characteristics for discourse communities, ask Andrew for clarification. It is essential that you understand each and every one of them, since you will have to gather evidence to support their existence in your community of choice.

Phase 3: Gathering meaningful data

Now the time has arrived to start your research. This is the most critical phase of the process, and ample time should be allotted for this portion of the research. The number one rule in this stage is quantity over quality. Yes, I know that sounds shallow and it’s a rule I hate in almost all other contexts, but it is extremely important to follow it for this portion of the project. Collect everything you can about and from the community, whether it be newsletters, links to websites, screenshots of websites, physical copies of documents, or even interviews. Interviews are great resources to have for a project like this, but you may find it difficult to obtain one if you are not already familiar with the community or one of its members. You should make it a priority to obtain one, but if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, I was unable to interview any members for my project, and it turned out just fine. However, having an interview will make the next phase, analysis, so much easier. In the next section I will use examples of research I gathered for my project, which studied an online basketball community called RealGM, in order to demonstrate how to effectively analyze all the research you gather. Note that while all the data I gathered was in the form of screenshots (mainly because the community communicated exclusively online), it is better to have data in many different forms (electronic, physical, interview transcripts, etc.).

Phase 4: Analyzing your data

By this point you have piles of documents, folders full of screenshots, and transcripts from interviews. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but the point still stands: How do I turn all of this unorganized mess into meaningful writing? The best way to start is to examine what you think is your best piece of data gathered from phase three. That is, what document, screenshot, transcript, or other form of data do you think you could draw the most from? As an example, let’s look at the first document I started with in my project on the RealGM community.


When I failed to find a mission statement on the website, and found the FAQ too technical, I decided to turn to the next best place where I could find something meaningful: the general policy thread. In general, a document that places down the ground rules for the community will probably contain very valuable information for your project. After reading through the example above for the first time, I felt there was something valuable, but I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly that was. To help me focus, I looked back at the five questions I asked in phase two, and tried to see which ones this particular document answered. After some consideration, I realized that through laying down rules and establishing punishments for violations, the community was inadvertently revealing its goal to me. For example, in the screenshot above the administrator writes, “Should a thread be locked and a user ignore a moderator’s action and make a new one, they will lose their privilege to start threads on the General NBA Forum and be given a warning. If users ignore the warnings, openly complain about it on the forum instead of in private or call out moderators, they automatically get at least a read-only ban.” In this section and throughout the document, members are told what not to do and what the ramifications of not following these rules will be. I realized that behind all these rules and punishments was one main goal: Maintaining a productive environment for discussing basketball. Oftentimes this kind of deductive reasoning needs to be carried out in order to find what you are looking for in your research. In some rare cases you might stumble upon “research gold,” which in the context of discourse communities would be something like a mission statement, or page that explains terms used in the community. For most of your research, however, you will have to perform some critical reasoning. Let’s look at some more examples of how I did that with my project, which I hope will help you better understand how to accomplish this task.

This next screenshot is of the home page of RealGM.com, and at first glance does not seem to contain anything of interest to us.


However after some time I realized that these different subsections of the site served the purpose of organizing and displaying information, which happens to be the same exact purpose of a genre! For example, placing everything related to high school basketball or player comparisons in a separate section serves the same purpose as placing important information in a memo, a common genre type. Here the subsections are the genre, and relate to the memo in that they are an efficient means of transmitting the information they want to transmit. It would not make sense to place information found in a memo in a newspaper, just like it would not make sense for each subsection to be a separate website. This next screenshot is a perfect example of drawing as much as you can from something.


At first glance, it looks like this small screenshot contains nothing of interest, just like the homepage and the general policy before it. However, it actually displays four of the different characteristics Swales mentions as criteria for discourse communities. Can you name them?

On the most basic level, this screenshot displays the intercommunication among members characteristic Swales describes in his paper. In this post, a moderator is directly responding to another member by telling him he is, perhaps unknowingly, violating the rules of the forum by not using the genres correctly. This leads directly to the second characteristic of discourse communities this particular post displays, which is the common goal of the community being enforced. Although the user is not formally punished for misusing a genre, he is reprimanded and now knows in the future to post threads in the correct subsection, or genre. This all contributes to the community’s main goal of providing a productive environment for discussing basketball. The third characteristic displayed in this post is the use of genre in the community. The post specifically references a genre used by the website, specifically the “player comparison” subsection. Finally, this post also displays the community lexis in action. Now this was very difficult for me to spot, since I was a member of the forum and was familiar with the lexis, so much so that I didn’t even realize some of the terms were specialized for the community. In this example the moderator ends his post with “FYI”, an internet abbreviation for “for your information.” This next example provides some more insight as to how to spot the use of a specialized lexis in your community.


This is a screenshot of the main page of the New York Knicks basketball subsection. Once again at first glance it did not seem to tell me much, but when I went back to look at the five questions from phase two, I realized it did contain information regarding the specialized lexis of the community. One important thing to do when looking for the community lexis is to do a brain wipe of everything you know about the community. This is extremely important if the community you are researching is one that you are familiar with, or are a member of. Ask yourself, “if I had never come into contact with this community before this very moment, what terms or acronyms would I not understand?” When looking at the example above, I realized there were actually many terms being used that an outsider could possibly be confused by. For example, near the top of the page is a thread titled, “Knicks @ Heat PG Thread.” For people who are not members of the community, I realized, PG could stand for anything. However in the RealGM community PG is used to abbreviate “post-game”. In this case the thread is for discussion about the game after it has been completed. Right below that is a thread titled, “OT: Time Traveler Update.” Again, while the meaning of OT would be obvious for any member, an outsider would be clueless as to what it means. In this case it abbreviates “off-topic,” and is used to mark topics that are non-basketball related but that members still want to discuss with the community.
These are just a few examples designed to show you what kind of analysis you have to do to gather meaning from your data. Each community will be different, but the techniques of deductive reasoning and conducting “brain wipes” will help you draw out all you can from your research.

I hope that this guide will help you in completing your discourse community project and making it an enjoyable experience. If you work through each phase in order, your life during this project will be much easier and you will gather quality information and analysis. Thanks for reading, and good luck with the rest of the semester.

Revision Self-Assessment

1. Describe your process in composing this final revision project. Looking at the final product, tell the story of how this piece came into existence. Track us through all of the important stages in the development of your ideas.

At first I was completely at a loss as to how to develop my original midterm piece into a new one. I felt I had done as much as I could with the topic, and didn’t wish to pursue further research. When I met with Andrew I discussed this, and he had some great ideas about where I could take the project for my revision. In the end I decided I liked his idea of making a “how-to” guide for future students in his class. The reason this idea jumped out to me immediately was that I knew I had a lot of advice to give regarding how to go about completing the discourse community project. I felt I had a solid methodology, and I wanted to share my methods with others. I was so sold on the idea that ever since my meeting with Andrew where he proposed the idea, the goal of the project didn’t change one bit.

2. Explain the writing choices you made in this piece that were most successful. You will have to define “success” for your own particular project. What did you do to make your final product successful as a piece of writing? What productive approaches did you discover in this project that you’d want to repeat in future tasks?

When I came into the project, I had three goals which I detailed in my revision proposal. I feel that I accomplished all three—writing in the active voice, preserving tense and tone throughout the piece, and referencing my “extra” material. I made sure to re-read my sentences for passive structure, and paid careful attention to verb tenses. Although in some cases—when referencing my completed midterm, for example—I switched to the past tense, the majority of the piece stays consistently in the present tense. Additionally, I set a friendly and informal tone early on and never wavered from it. By doing this I discovered that I am much more comfortable writing in an informal tone, and I’ll keep this in mind when completing future projects. Of course, I have to keep in mind an informal tone can be inappropriate for certain topics. Aside from that, I also found it useful to break my piece into sections early on. That gave me a good idea about what to write in each section, and where to move on to the next topic instead of rambling.

3. Explain the writing choices you made in this piece that were less successful. Where did you take unproductive approaches and what repercussions did these have on your final product? What would you do differently if you had more time?

One thing that was not as successful as I wanted it to be were my references to my “extra” material. Now I mentioned before that I completed my goal regarding that, and I technically did—I referenced my screenshots multiple times in the revision. However, in doing so I was not as successful as I envisioned I would be. By this I mean I found it hard to explain what I saw in the screenshots to people who never saw them before, and I was often unsure of what exactly to point to. This led to my references being less helpful than I envisioned at the start of the project, when I felt they would be my strongest points. If I had more time, I would probably spend a larger portion of time examining all the screenshots more carefully, and pinpointing the best parts of them that I could reference in the final product.

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