When people are in high school the only class in which they have to do any significant amount of writing is their English class. Subsequently, the only type of paper that most people are well versed in writing when they get to college is a paper for an English class. This would be fine except for the fact that when one gets to college they are asked to write for a variety of different classes. These could range from your standard English class to a proof for a Math class to a scientific lab report for a Biology class. All of the writings for these different classes require different formats, styles, and languages. If writers do not know these different styles and languages then they will have a much more difficult time being successful in their college career. Knowing these different styles and languages will help the writer to develop a sense of their own rhetorical awareness. If they have a sense of this awareness then they will be better equipped to write to their intended audience or discourse community.
It is significant for student writers to be aware of and understand both what rhetorical awareness is and what a discourse community is because it will make their college experience easier and help them to attain better grades on papers for classes other than English. The first thing that student writers needs to be able to do in order for them to write for a discipline that they are not entirely familiar with, is to have at least a cursory knowledge of what a discourse community is, and what discourse community that they are writing for. In the hand out “Discourse Community Map” by Sylvia Morales, English Professor at Sacramento State University, a Discourse Community is defined as “a group of people who share a particular way of communicating and/or using language that follows certain rules and patterns” (1). In laymen’s terms if two people are part of the same discourse community then they will most likely think relatively alike.
They may share many of the same beliefs. They may have similar values. Also they will most assuredly be interested in many of the same things. In academia a discourse community would most often exist among people that belong to different academic disciplines. So it stands to reason that student writers needs to be able to communicate or write using the same type of language as the discourse community that they are trying to write for. For this reason it is extremely important for student writers to be able to know what a discourse community is and how it differs from the other discourse communities that it might interact with. Being able to identify a discourse community can sometimes be a daunting task. It is not always completely clear-cut. Very often it can be difficult to identify a discourse community because it may be quite similar to other discourse community. There can be small differences that make a big impact on the discourse community. In the article “Discourse Communities” by Gary D. Schmidt and William J. Vande Kopple it says, “sometimes people from different discourse communities focus on different aspects of the same object or general phenomenon” (1).
The two groups are similar in that they are focused on the same object but it is the slight differences on how they focus on the object that makes them part of a different discourse community. One of the easiest ways that a student a writer might help themselves correctly identify a discourse community would be to first ask how do certain discourse communities communicate with each other. Are they only interested in cold hard facts, or do they appreciate discussions about their opinions. Next the writer should ask himself or herself what is the main purpose of the different groups in question. Also it will be helpful to student writers to figure out what claims are these certain groups of people making. Identifying these claims will go a long way in helping the writer determine what are the core values of the different groups.
Once a student write has identified what discourse community they are dealing with, then they can begin to decide exactly what would be the best way for them to go about communicating to members of this discourse community. This would lead the writer to the next significant aspect of writing that they need to be aware of in order to have an easier time in college and achieve better scores on their various college writing assignments. Once the writer has correctly identified the discourse community that they are writing for then they need to know the best way to effectively communicate their ideas to the members of this community. This would be where rhetorical awareness comes into play. In their article “Rhetoric” Gary Schmidt and William J. Vande Kopple define rhetoric as “the art of using language to have desired effects on people” (1). For the purpose of their article they were focusing on the written word. They simplify it by saying that it is “essentially a matter of choice at all stages of the writing process—from the time when writers decide how to organize an essay to the time when they select individual words” (Schmidt et al. 1).
So rhetorical awareness is knowing how to use certain words to get a desired effect, and knowing exactly what effect that the writer is going to solicit from the reader. This is a skill that needs to be developed. It is not something that can be learned overnight. However, it is a skill that if mastered can help student writers have a much easier time in college and earn much better grades on the papers that they write. Different kinds of rhetorical awareness strategies need to be learned and implemented for all of the various types of writing that student writers have to be competent in. For instance, if a student writer were dealing with a scientific discourse community then they would most likely want to choose language and a tone that was more scientific. This would include a fair amount of technical terms and scientific jargon. They would want to discuss only the things that can be proved through research and experimentation. They might choose to insert charts or graphs to illustrate their points. Also they would most likely want to keep their writing succinct.
For example, in the article Effects of Unsaturated Free Fatty Acids on Adhesion and on Gene Expression of Extra cellular Matrix Macromolecules in Human Osteoblast-like Cell Cultures by Estella Musacchio, Giovanna Priante, Alessandro Budakovic, and Bruno Baggio, the writers use most if not all of the rhetorical choices that a reader should expect to find in a piece of writing that is extremely scientific in nature. The tone of this writing is extremely scientific, and there is a large amount of jargon. They write things such as “semi quantitative comparative kinetic RT-PCR with COLI, FN, and TGF-B specific primers was performed using G3PDH as a housekeeping gene” (Musacchio et. al 35). Now most people would not have any clue what this means, but a member of a scientific discourse community would, and they would appreciate this as a well-written sentence. This article also has multiple graphs and charts that help to illustrate the points that the writing is making. A good deal of this writing has to do with the experiments that the writer did.
This is important for people pf the scientific discourse community because it lets them know that the research was sound and it could be repeated. Also the writing in this article is succinct and to the point. Lastly, it is organized in such a way that it is easy for the reader to know what each section is pertaining to. If a student writer were producing a piece of work for a member of a scientific discourse community and they choose to implement these types of rhetorical strategies, as long as their research was sound, it should go along way in helping to insure that they received a good score on the paper. In contrast, if a student writer were producing a piece of persuasive writing then they would want to take a much different approach. They would want to use more colorful language. They would want to use words that grab the reader’s attention. They might choose to use anecdotes or first hand accounts from people that would help to illustrate the point that the writer is trying to make.
For example, in the article Invalid Corps by COL R. Gregory Lande, MC USA Retired uses many of the rhetorical choices that you often find in a well-written piece of persuasive writing. In the article the writer grabs his readers attention right from the very beginning by quoting a famous Roman statesman and philosopher. The quote that he uses is “no man can be brave ho thinks pain is the greatest evil” (Lande 525). He also uses a first hand account form a solider that shows how useful members of the Invalid Corp could be. The solider wrote in his journal about how several regiments of the Invalid Corp help to repel a desperate attack on Washington D. C. by the Confederate Army (Lande 527). If a student writer were to use the same types of rhetorical strategies then it should help them to receive a better grade on any pieces of persuasive writing that they might have to produce for any of the their college courses.
Student writers should not expect that just because they become adept at being able to identify and communicate with different discourse communities that college will be a breeze. Also they should not expect that just because they might be able to perfect the art of rhetorical awareness that they will pass every class. They should not expect this because doing well in college is about more than this. In fact, in the book Academic Writing: Genres, Samples, and Resources by Mary Kay Mulvaney and David A. Jolliffe the authors talk about how some of the biggest challenges that in coming college students have to face are learning how to budget their time and how do find an effective way to deal with stress ( ). College is one of the most fun and exciting times in a young persons life.
However college can also be one of the most challenging and stressful times in a young person life. The top things that most college students stress about are the papers that they have to write and the grades that they receive. What incoming college students writers need to realize is that there are steps that they can take form the very beginning of their college careers that will go a long way in helping them to get through college with a significantly lower amount of stress and anxiety. If incoming student writers learn to identify what discourse communities they are writing for, and if they are able to learn how to make wise rhetorical choice then they will receive better grades on their writing assignments. If they receive higher grades on their writing assignments then it stands to reason that they will receive high grades in their classes overall. If they receive higher grades in their class then their college career will go by a lot more easily.
Jolliffe, David A., and Mary K. Mulvaney. Academic Writing : Genres, Samples, and Resources. New York: Longman Group, 2004. Lande, Gregory. “Invalid Corps.” Military Medicine 173 (2008): 525-28. Morales, Sylvia E. Discourse Community Map.
Musacchio, Estella, Giovanna Priante, Alessandro Budakovic, and Bruno Baggio. “Effects of Unsaturated Free Fatty Acids on Adhesion and on Gene Expression of Extracellular Matrix Macromolecules in Human Osteoblast-like Cell Cultures.” Informa Health 2007: 34-38. Schmidt, Gary D., and William J. Vande Kopple. Communities of Discourse: The Rhetoric of Disciplines. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1993. 1. Schmidt, Gary D., and William J. Vande Kopple. Communities of Discourse: The Rhetoric of Disciplines. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1993. 1.
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