Swales and Branick

Blog » Swales and Branick

Posted on 13 Mar 2013 01:11

I noticed quite a few similarities in comparing the articles written by Swales and Branick on the topic of discourse communities. In fact, Branick even applies Swales’s six characteristics of discourse communities to his own research on football coaching as a discourse community, creating a very interesting dynamic between the two documents.

In Swales’s document “The Concept of Discourse Community”, Swales attempts to define what characteristics embody a discourse community. Swales claims that discourse communities have a common set of goals, a method of group communication, methods of providing feedback, specific genres used to communicate efficiently, a specific lexus (unique terminology), and certain number of group insiders that are experts in the particular area of focus of the group. In order to demonstrate how his concept of a discourse community can apply to even obscure and non speech-oriented groups, Swales analyzes his experience as a member of the Hong Kong Study circle, a group focused on fostering interest in the knowledge of the stamps of Hong Kong and their functions. This particular group with which he was involved was composed of members from all around the world who will most likely never see each other in real life. However, the group communicates with each other through a bi-monthly journal and newsletter, has varying degrees of involvement among its members and uses group specific terminology. Thus, Swales shows that even this unconventional group covers all of the aspects that constitute a functioning discourse community.

Sean Branick, in his article “Coaches Can Read Too: An Ethnographic Study of a Football Coaching Discourse Community”, attempts to show that football coaching in itself is actually a functioning discourse community using the guidelines outlined by Swales as a reference point to prove his claim. In order to provide evidence for his claims, Branick recorded football coaches at the University of Dayton during their pregame speeches and interviewed those coaches afterwards. Branick claims that these methods allowed him to get a direct look into the thought processes of the coaches and understand what they intend to do. Branick ultimately found that coaches share a common goal of wanting their players to perform at the highest possible levels, establishing the first criteria of a discourse community. Coaches also have methods of communicating and providing feedback with players, utilize specific genres such as the playbook, and also are able to read not only the player, but also the game itself, showing that coaches need to engage in multiple literacies. Using examples from his research, Branick is able to successfully show that football coaching is indeed a discourse community as defined by Swales.

I feel that it was beneficial for Branick to base his evaluation of coaching as discourse community on the ideas set forth by Swales. I for one find Swales’s ideas very compelling and intend to analyze the discourse community that I will ultimately choose for my midterm project using Swales’s model as a reference. I also noticed that in their methods of analysis, both writers chose to analyze communities with which they were individually involved. Swales was a member of the HKSC and Branick had been a football player throughout high school. Also, in his methods, Branick chooses to engage himself with the discourse community by getting into the minds of the coaches by interviewing them after pregame speeches. I feel that this personal interaction with the discourse community really allows him understand what goes into coaching and ultimately enables him to prove his point in the end. This tactic of personal interaction and experience in the discourse community of my choice could prove to be very fruitful in my midterm project.

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