Discipline Awareness Essay Assignment: Professional Discourse Community Analysis

Margaret J Scolaro


In this first major (two-part) paper assigned to students in all versions of English 302, students are asked to apply the six defining criteria from John Swales’ (1990) scholarly article, “The Concept of Discourse Community,” to a personal interest group to which they belong and then to a professional organization in their disciplines. The personal response is ungraded, but required for full credit on the graded professional discourse community analysis (DCA), in which students carefully and closely analyze the professional organization and Swales’ six-point definition, then write a 1,000- to 1,250-word essay, identifying examples of each Swales point in an area of the organization found on its official website: common goals, mechanisms of intercommunication within the group, the organization’s use of these participatory mechanisms to provide information and feedback to group members, the use of specific genres, “lexis” (shared vocabulary), and membership requirements for novices and experts. When explaining the genres used by the organization, students must provide three examples, one genre per paragraph, analyzing the intended audience, purpose, writing style of each genre, explaining the writing distinctions between the chosen genres and how each genre furthers the organization’s common goals. In the conclusion, students explain the benefits for professionals in their disciplines who join this organization. This assignment supports the English 302 core requirements of a discipline awareness project and rhetorical analysis. It also supports the English 302 Learning Outcomes: critical reading strategies; identify, evaluate, use research sources; and analyze rhetorical situations.

Included files: Instructor’s Notes on how to incorporate the assignment into the 302 Classroom (ScolaroInstructorsNotes), Assignment Prompt (ScolaroAssignment), and Discourse Community Analysis Essay Structure handout (ScolaroActivity).


302S, 302B, 302M, 302H, Discipline Awareness, Genre, Rhetorical analysis, Rhetorical awareness, Face to Face, Hybrid


Swales, John. "The Concept of Discourse Community.” Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge UP, 1990. Pp. 26-30


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