Stephanie's Midterm Proposal

Blog ยป Stephanie's Midterm Proposal

Posted on 22 Mar 2013 01:09


A discourse community is a group of people who share common interests and goals and a common use of communication. To be more specific, a discourse community follows linguist John Swales' six characteristics: has an agreed set of public goals, has means of intercommunication within members, uses its means of communication to provide information, uses one or more genres in order to further communicate its goals, has a lexis specific to the group and has its members ranked by expertise. I have decided to study the discourse community of the non-profit organization "Make the Road New York". This organization stands up for the rights of citizens in New York City so, they have centers in Staten Island, Long Island, Queens and the one I am focusing on is in Brooklyn. In this proposal I will go through the background research I have done, how I plan to complete my project, and the pros and cons of my project.

Description of the Current Situation:

I have read about the definitions of discourse communities from the linguists James Paul Gee and the aforementioned John Swales. The difference between their definitions is that Gee describes discourse communities as part of your identity, a situation where you already know what to say and do. Gee also breaks down discourses into two categories: primary and secondary discourses. The first being the discourse you first learn at home and the second being what you have learned in other familiar settings such as home or school.
I have also read about studies on unique discourse communities like food service workers from "Learning to Serve: The Language and Literacy of Food Service Workers" by Tony Mirabelli and football coaches from "Coaches Can Read, Too: An Ethnographic Study of a Football Coaching Discourse Community" by Sean Branick. I think in both of these articles the author is trying to prove that literacy and language are involved in these professions because popular assumptions say otherwise. These authors prove that these professions are in fact discourse communities that have their own genre, lexis and goals. Mirabelli and Swales studied discourse communities that they were apart of in order to give their own perspectives. Meanwhile, Branick did his research by observing the community. I will use Branick's method in my research.

Description of the Project Plan:

I plan to do my observation of the community by attending a one of the weekly meetings held. I will take notes on the lexis that is used, reference documents and take note of any written means of communication that is used (newsletter, newspaper, etc.). I will analyze it to determine how this genre improves the communication and spread of information amongst members. At the end of my observation I will interview someone who is an "expert" in the community. I will ask questions like "How long have you been involved?", " What made you want to be involved?" and
"What specific lexis is used here?'. I will record the answers on a voice recorder and on paper. Then, I will begin to use my research to write a rough draft of my project.

Review of Qualifications:

My project sufficiently meets the requirements of Swales' characteristics. My skills in note-taking will be beneficial to the project. The resources that I will have to use for this project are the articles by others who have studied discourse communities.

Discussion of costs/challenges:

The difficulties I may encounter with this project are that I am not very familiar with this community and I am an "outsider" trying to understand all the "insider" knowledge. I also have never interviewed someone and I will have to work on fully explaining each question before I ask it.

Benefits and Conclusion:

The purpose of my project is to describe how literacy and language are used in a discourse community and how it improves communication between members. From my project, people will be able to learn about a discourse community from a secondary source (me interviewing an expert). I will learn how to apply the research methods used by other scholars.

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