revised discourse community - Mahiman Pathak`s English Portfolio

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Mahiman Pathak
Professor Dearing
English 106
22 October 2013
Discourse Community
I am a member on Purdue Student Union Board (PSUB) on the homecoming committee.
I believe that PSUB is a discourse community because it fits all of Swales’ characteristics for a
discourse community. PSUB has a structure, a lexis, a purpose, and a certain genre used to get
things done. What the PSUB does is plan events throughout the year in the Purdue Memorial
Union (PMU). The organization organizes and funds a lot of activities for students on weekends
and during holidays and other Purdue events.
To research PSUB, I used both primary and secondary research methods. I interviewed
three people that I thought would be appropriate to interview, I did a personal observation by
going to the PSUB office in the PMU, and I used the PSUB website to help me gain background
information. I interviewed Justin Felton, the President of PSUB, Luke Browner, the Vice
President of Administration and Finance, and Melanie Martin, the Director of Homecoming
Committee. I chose to interview these people because they seemed like very dependable sources
to help my research. They hold important positions on PSUB and have been a part of PSUB for a
long time. I used my personal observation to see what happens at the PSUB office. I did my
research to see if PSUB had the characteristics of a discourse community given by John Swales
in his text, “The Concept of Discourse Community.” I decided to especially pay attention to four
of the characteristics which include the structure, the lexis, the purpose, and the medium used by
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Swales describes the structure of a discourse community to contain “a threshold levels of
members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise” (473). This pretty
much means that there must be a certain structure to a discourse community in levels of
expertise. I interviewed Martin about the structure of PSUB. She said the structure of PSUB
The Advisor, there are three Graduate Students who are the Advisors. Then come the
Board of Directors (BoD). There are eleven members who are the on the BoD. They go in
this order: the President, Vice President of Personnel, Vice President of Administration
and Finance, Vice President of Marketing and Campus Relations, and then come the 7
Directors of the 7 committees. Then there are Project Leaders and General Members.
This clearly shows that PSUB follows a certain structure of membership. It starts out with the
advisors who have the highest level of expertise and go down to the general members who are
mostly new members and those who aren’t too involved with PSUB. As I was observing the
office, I saw a lot of the general members look up to the Project Leaders and Directors. They
didn’t know everything about a certain topic. I even saw a Director asking the Advisors for help
with how to get in contact with a new organization. The Director and Advisor then went in the
Advisor’s room and figured out the problem.
In his work, Swales says that “a discourse community has acquired some specific lexis”
(473). In my interview with Felton, he said that PSUB has a small lexis. He said that some of the
words that are often used in the office are PSUB, PL (project leader), creative marketing,
crescent signs, KOCO (Kick-off Cookout), and event reports. He included, “other than these few
words, we just use normal vocabulary (Felton).” PSUB does have a lexis but it is not too big. It
just uses regular everyday English with some specific words. While observing, I too didn’t hear
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many words that I wouldn’t know. I did hear the terms crescent signs and workshop being used a
lot. A crescent sign is what PSUB uses to market its events. They are displayed on almost all of
the entrances to the PMU. They are very big and are meant to get the attention of students.
Workshop is what PSUB uses to work on the crescent signs and is a storage space. It is located in
the basement of the Union and PSUB uses the space to work on a lot of the things they use
during the event.
In addition, Swales states that “a discourse community utilizes and hence possesses one
or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims” (472). When I interviewed my
interviewees, they all said various things about the genres that PSUB uses hence, showing that
PSUB possesses and utilizes more than one genres. PSUB uses social media to market about its
events. The group also uses other marketing tactics such as chalking, handing out flyers, and
posting posters all over campus. PSUB definitely uses the genres towards its aims.
The fourth characteristic that Swales says is that “a discourse community has a broadly
agreed set of common public goals” (471). When asked about the goals of PSUB, Browner said,
“The main purpose of PSUB is to hold alcohol-free events on campus, ranging from concerts and
speakers to arts and crafts.” These events that are put up by PSUB mostly take place on
weekends and are an alternative options for students. This is the main goal that PSUB hopes to
achieve during all of its events.
There were two other characteristics described by Swales. They stated that there must a
way for a discourse community to intercommunicate within itself. PSUB uses various methods
such as emails and using the Directors of each committee to give the general members
information during the committee meetings. The other characteristic was that a discourse
community uses its participatory mechanisms to provide feedback. This fits PSUB well. PSUB
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does provide feedback to the members about events and to anyone else interested. Directors
usually have a way to tally the feedback and provide it during weekly meetings.
After researching these four key characteristics about PSUB, I can gladly say that PSUB
is a discourse community. PSUB has a structure, a lexis, a clear purpose that is followed my all
of its members and a more than one genre that it uses. PSUB represents the characteristics very
well and that’s what makes it a discourse community.
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Works Cited
Browner, Luke. Personal Interview. 26 Oct. 2013
Felton, Justin. Personal Interview. 28 Oct. 2013
Martin, Melanie. Personal Interview. 21 Oct. 2013
“Purdue Student Union Board.” Personal Observation. 28 Oct. 2013
Swales, John. “The Concept of Discourse Community.” Writing About Writing: A College
Reader. Ed. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011.
466-479. Print.
“Purdue Student Union Board, Purdue Memorial Union.” Purdue Student Union Board, Purdue
Memorial Union. Housing and Food Services. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
“Purdue Student Union Board.” Purdue Student Union Board. Web. 29 Oct. 2013
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