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What the [email protected]# is Academic Discourse??. Academic Discourse:. Discourse ( Oxford English Dictionary ): Communication of thought by speech; “mutual intercourse of language”

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Academic Discourse:

  • Discourse (Oxford English Dictionary): Communication of thought by speech; “mutual intercourse of language”

  • Academic Writing (Student Guide to Writing): Writing done in university settings; usually more formal and technical than writing for newspapers or magazines; not intended for general audience but written for specialists in a field; appears in academic journal articles and books published by university presses. (14)


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Thus, academic discourse, is the (often written) communication of ideas and thoughts to others within a particular field or specialization (most often) with an aim to persuade.


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Academic Discourses

  • There is not simply one type of academic discourse – each field (i.e. English Literature), and even subfield (i.e. Postcolonial Studies) has its own specific type of discourse, with its own conventions and norms.

  • Fields can be thought of as discourse communities.

  • See examples provided from the following fields: Anthropology, Health Sciences, Theater Studies, and Economics

  • This being said, we can still look at some of the conventions that nearly all forms of academic discourse share to some degree or other…



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Structure and Organization

  • Academic articles are usually organized according to a recognizable structure.

  • Introductory paragraph(s) present the stakes of the research, along with some sort of thesis statement.

  • Supplementary body paragraphs develop the thesis by presenting and analyzing examples and evidence. The body of the article is sometimes divided into subtopics which alert the reader to the main point of that particular section.

  • Scientific articles are often organized along the following lines: introduction – methods – results (see JAMA article).


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Claims:

  • Every academic article takes a position on an issue about which there is present or potential disagreement (SGTW 134).

  • A claim asserts that something is true or a contrary claim refutes an assertion made by someone else (134).


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Some Types of Claims:

  • Claims of fact: Usually this type of claim is found in history or science, since it addresses whether something is true or not. For instance, was Genghis Khan the greatest military genius of all time? Our answer would be a claim of fact.

  • Claims of value: Found usually in philosophy, theology, ethics, or in the arts and humanities, this type of claim takes two forms: those that deal with questions of morality or ethics, and those that discuss artistic aesthetics. For instance, using the standard of military theory for a yardstick, we might ask why Genghis Khan was the greatest military genius of all time? Our answer would be a claim of value.

  • Claims of policy: Occurring usually in economics, political science education, or in some social sciences, these types of claims answer what we should do about some problem, and will use words such as "should," "must," or "ought" in the sentence. Knowing that Genghis Khan was the greatest military genius of all time, how as a nation should we use his example to improve our foreign policy?

    (From Ascending the Spiral, A w132 e-text produced by Anne Williams, Sharon Henriksen and members of the w132 faculty for the IUPUI Department of English)


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Evidence:

  • An argumentative thesis (or claim) must be supported with relevant evidence (SGTW 135).

  • The types of evidence an author chooses to use depends on the discourse community for which she is writing.

  • In general, evidence must be specific, up-to-date, relevant, and cited (136).


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Quantitative Data:

facts/statistics

definitions

numerical formulas

analysis

models

case studies

future directions

applications

graphics

Qualitative Data:

definitions

description

examples

previous studies

theories

opinions by experts

analysis

interpretations, evaluation/critique

case studies

comparison

future directions

applications

Types of Evidence:


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Language:

  • Writers make language choices in order to produce specific effects, and different choices produce different meanings and responses (SGTW 126).

  • The norms of academic discourse vary from discipline to discipline (prompt).


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Language cont.:

  • Literary critics, for example, frequently use short direct quotations from sources

  • Humanities disciplines usually pay close attention to language. How something is said is often as important as what is said

  • Scientific research articles, however, almost exclusively paraphrase the ideas and experiments of other scientists, paying close attention to the content and data collection

  • Each discipline uses a specialized vocabulary (sometimes called technical jargon)

  • Humanities writing features the use of the literary present tense

  • Scientists report findings in the past tense

  • Literary critics prefer the active voice

  • Science writers favor the passive voice

    (From Prompt)


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Some questions to ask when analyzing academic discourse:

  • Who is the intended audience of this text?

  • What is the author trying to persuade this audience of?

  • What are the stakes of this research?

  • What particular strategies (structural, argumentative, and linguistic) does the author use? Why?


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The Limits of Academic Discourse

  • Academic discourse is not always effective!

  • You are qualified to be a CRITIC of academic discourse.

  • Some things to ask yourself:

    • Is this article accessible to a wide audience, or is it only legible to a few so-called experts?

    • Is the language of the article so convoluted, technical, specialized, or boring that it ceases to make any meaning?

    • Are the strategies the authors use effective or distracting?

    • Finally, were you convinced by the authors? If not, why not?


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