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Purdue Discourse Communities and Organizations

Resources to assist in exploring discourse communities and organizations at Purdue.


This research guide has been created for students taking ENGL 106 or other courses with a focus on Purdue discourse communities or Purdue organizations. Check out the tabs near the top of the page for links to resources that may be useful for completing assignments.

Since most of the organizations or communities at Purdue are local organizations or relatively small communities, you may have to use local sources to uncover information about them, and depending upon their size and composition, there may not be a great deal of formal information available about them. 

One of the best ways to find information may be to contact someone from the organization or discourse community and simply ask for more information.  There may well be private mailing lists,  listservs, or webpages for the organization  that will provide information on goals, context, structure, etc.  Be sure to ask a member of the organization/community about how information is communicated amongst members.

If you cannot find enough information on the local community or organization for your needs, even after consulting a member, consider broadening your topic to include the history, purpose, and structure of that type of organization or community nationally or at other universities.

Definition: "Discourse Community"

Used like SPEECH COMMUNITY to emphasise that individual language use is embedded in social relations and is regulated by conventions specific to particular groups or communities. However, it is often distinguished from ‘speech community’ on the grounds that speech communities are sociolinguistic groupings with communicative needs such as socialisation and group solidarity, whereas discourse communities are groupings based on common interests. ‘Discourse community’ is also often used to signal a focus on written rather than spoken texts, such as the writing of the academic discourse community or the reading of magazines by adolescents. An influential model of the defining characteristics of a discourse community was developed by Swales (1990), who lists the following characteristics.

A discourse community:

  • has a broadly agreed set of common public goals;

  • has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members;

  • uses its participatory mechanisms to provide information and feedback;

  • utilises and hence possesses one or more GENRES in the communicative furtherance of its aims;

  • has acquired some specific LEXIS;

  • has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise (25-7).

A principal criticism of the term discourse community, as of speech community and another related term, COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE, is the implied homogeneous, often idealised, nature of the community and its associated language practices.

In A Dictionary of Sociolinguistics. Retrieved from