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Posted on 22 Mar 2013 02:13

Research Proposal


The discourse community that I would like to study is the community of civil engineers in City College. The reason I would like to investigate this community is because it the community that I am now becoming a part of. It is also an interesting community to study because it is one of a kind. Nowhere else will there be a community that interacts, uses the same genre, and has the same members like the discourse community of civil engineers in City College. In my opinion a discourse community is a community that shares both Swales and Wardle’s opinions on a discourse community. My research project will prove how this community that I chose satisfies both the social qualifications Wardle discusses while also satisfying Swales qualification for a community.

Description of the current situation

The two main articles that I would like to focus on in this research paper are the articles by Swales and Wardle. In Swales piece he describes the six qualities that a discourse community must have in order to be considered a discourse community. Some of the things that qualify a community as a discourse community include shared lexis, a hierarchy of members, and different forms of communication amongst members. Wardle takes a different approach to discourse community. In her piece she describes the social aspects of being a part of a discourse community. The three steps of a discourse community are engagement, imagination and alignment. These three steps describe the interactions between a newcomer and old timers in a community. I think both of these authors have very interesting a different approaches to studying discourse community; therefore I think it will be interesting to see how the community I chose will satisfy both authors’ opinions.

Description of the project plan

The way I will conduct the research for this project will be by talking to upperclassmen and professors about specific lexis and means of communication amongst members of the community. Another interesting approach would be learning through the Civil engineering clubs how they communicate and how they help shape the overall community of civil engineers here on campus. Looking through the emails and other document distributed by the civil engineering department will give me a couple of documents to work with in order to establish which genres are used in this community. I plan to list the different things that swales require there to be in a discourse community and perhaps even making a questionnaire and talking to the professors about it to see what their opinions is. I might also give out the same questionnaire to the students to see if the ideas from the faculty’s point of view match the students’ perspective. In the second part of my paper I would like to explain how an outsider becomes an insider in this community, but are the best ways of doing it, and how they correlate to what Wardle suggests. I will my knowledge of insider/outsider for this part. And maybe ask some freshmen and some seniors about their experiences as well.

Review of qualifications

This project although requires some research should not be too complicated. As it stands, I know a fair number of upperclassmen, who if need be can circle the questioners to other friends. I also am in contact with several civil engineering professors, therefore asking them a couple of questions should not be that difficult. Also, since I am a part of this community, or trying to be anyway, it is not difficult to reach the people that I need to speak to.
Discussion of costs/challenges
I don’t think I will have too many difficulties since I already have all the resources at hand. Perhaps a difficulty I will encounter is to be able to get as many test results as I can in order to achieve maximum accuracy in my results. I will also hope that they people will be willing and helpful when I ask for their opinions.

Benefits and conclusion

I think this study will especially be valuable for freshmen coming into the civil engineering department as well as any student newly joining the discourse community of civil engineers at City College. This is because I hope that after my research I will explain how to best join this community successfully, and be a part of it. But mostly how to align a student’s goal with the community’s goals. I think I will discover both what the faculty and students think are the best and worse parts of the community. And maybe in some point in my career as a member of this community I will find a way to resolve the discrepancies between the two major bodies in this community.

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