The definition of a discourse community is as yet undefined; it does however require a set of specific characteristics, which allow the term to be narrowed until the point when many competing notions are eliminated. It is more a set of ideas, relating to the world of research and academic writing. There are many uncertainties surrounding the qualities and characteristics of a discourse community, many of which rise from a lack of definition. The following research is aimed at reducing confusion by identifying complex ideas and breaking them down. The information provided has been obtained through various sources of conflicting views, further illustrating the complexity of the topic. Many school settings are considered discourse communities, fitting each of the six characteristics.
The six defining characteristics of a discourse community require a set of common goals, there must also be mechanisms of communication within the community as well as feedback among members. Genre is the fourth characteristic, describing the various methods of output. Similarly, lexis is required, a set language with exclusive terms and expressions. Finally, a discourse community must have a threshold level of membership; there must be a steady flow of changing memberships including the transfer of knowledge between novices and experts. It is this transfer of knowledge that allows the community to grow, novice members become experts creating room for more novice members. From the outside it appears that an English major studying at the university level may belong to an academic discourse community, having met the criteria. However upon further inspection, one notices that each characteristic can be molded to fit any community. The vagueness of the characteristics allows them to be malleable.
The community I have chosen to examine is the aforementioned, English department under the Arts program at university level. It resembles many other degree programs at university, having regular classes and tests of acquired knowledge. Once penetrated, however, one can find that some of the traits grouping them together are in fact the same traits distinguishing them from each other. It depends on the level of penetration.
Within the community I have chosen, there seems to be a great deal of essay writing. This is the most common genre found in use. The student is assigned a detailed topic and is expected to complete the necessary research in order to compile a coherent and thought provoking argument. There is a required structure for the essay, as well as criteria that must be included. Students, also known as `novices', then present their arguments to the professor or teaching assistant, also known as the experts, for evaluation. This is a suitable way for students to express the knowledge they have acquired throughout lessons, as it allows them to be creative. This also provides a chance for students to demonstrate the effectiveness with which they are able to...