CUNY COMPosition & Rhetoric Community

Ethnography of a Discourse Community – Collaborative Assignment Handout


For this assignment, you will work in pairs to describe and analyze a discourse community using Swales’ 6 criteria as the lens for your analysis (pp. 220-2 in WAW reader). Together, you will write an 8-10 page ethnography. Individually, you will write a 2 page process analysis essay reflecting on your collaboration.

Learning goals:
  • Students will plan and execute an effective collaboration
  • Students will identify and analyze a particular discourse community
  • Students will understand the way texts mediate activities within a community
  • Students will  interpret and apply feedback from peers and instructor

This assignment will have the following stages:

  1. Brainstorm some groups you think might be discourse communities that you participate in. Compare your list with your partner. See the affinity diagram for one possible method for brainstorming and narrowing down a topic (Ingalls 131). Pick one community and determine whether it meets Swales’ six characteristics. Try to come up with one guiding question or specific aspect of this community that you would like to explore.
  2. Write a plan for communication. How do you and your partner plan to work together on this project? Will you work in the same room at the same time, in different locations, or do you plan to work at your own pace? Agree on times / dates / places to meet to work on this assignment.
  3. Create a “to-do” list of data to collect. You’ll need two kinds:

Examples of texts that members of this community use to communicate with each other (and maybe outsiders).

Interview(s) with at least one member of this community. You’ll need to decide who you’re interviewing and develop a list of questions to ask them. These questions will needto be run by me prior to the interview.

  1. Collect texts and conduct interviews. You’ll need to record and keep notes during these interviews, and the notes and texts will be handed in with the final draft.
  2. Analysis of data (texts and interviews): what is a particularly interesting question you have about this community? You need a research question, a way in or point of attack. This question may be refined upon collection of texts / conducting interviews. Your analysis will be turned in as a written draft, and each group member will need to decide which piece they are going to tackle individually. Although the pieces of this draft will be written on your own, you should each write in the same Google Doc.
  3. Swap pieces you worked on individually with your partner. Since you’ve been working in the same doc, it will be easy to swap: simply take a close look at your partner’s work. You will offer feedback and suggestions for revision (see guide for offering useful feedback). We’re looking for feedback on content here, not correcting of typos or grammar.
  4. Revise your share of this work.
  5. You should each make one final pass at the entire document; after all, you are collectively responsible for this piece. Does it tell the story you want it to tell? Does it question or analyze the data you collected? Does it try to focus on a specific aspect of this community you found particularly interesting, or answer a question that was raised?