Academic Discourse: An Overview

Academic Discourse

In order to understand the concept of academic discourse one, must know what the meaning academic discourse is. Discourse is a common word. The word of discourse can be interchanged with discussion or conversation in everyday speech or writing (Washington State Libraries). Discourse is a formal discussion of a subject with using speech or writing using the communication of words. Discourse is a written or spoken method of a subject which is handled or discussed at length (Washington State Libraries). The discourse between individuals needs to have some of the same characteristics. For example they need to speak the same language (Elbow). However more goes into the discourse between these individuals than just the same language. The discourse has shared assumptions and the same cultural values, even shared slang. Groups of people that share these qualities are called discourse communities (Washington State Libraries). Doctors, scientists, law officials and mechanics make up their own different discourse community. Usually to be accepted in the discourse community one will have to be able to communicate in the certain professions lingo (Elbow, 137). Discourse communities have certain lingo, norms and common understanding when communicating with in the community. This especially goes for writing.

If two articles are compared, one from the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation and an article from the International Journal of Police Science and Management, the differences can be easily depicted.


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The discourse of a journal also means how it is set up. In the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation the articles are set up in a certain way. In the top left hand corner of the article is where the type of article is shown. In the case of the Article “Scaling from field to region for wind erosion prediction using Wind Erosion Prediction System and geographical information systems” the type of article is called “Applied Research”. Right under that is the Title of the article in bold black print that is a larger font than the rest of the article. Under the title is the list of the authors, which is usually double, spaced from the title of the article. Another two spaces is the “abstract”. The “abstract” is a short summary paragraph of the article; after the “abstract” are the “key terms” of the article. Double spaced from the “key terms” is the “introduction”. The introduction’s first sentence of the article is bolded in black. The rest of the article is then broke up into “materials and method”, “results and discussions” and “summary and conclusions”. In the “methods and materials” part of the article is just the tests and materials used in the experiments. There are usually graphs and tables in the “methods and materials” too. Each of the graphs and maps are labeled, figure 1 or figure 2, it matters the orders in which they appear. Each one also has a short description of what the figure represents. The “result and discussion” part of the article just explains the results from the experiments done and discusses how the results came about. The “results and discussions” also has figures that show the results of the experiments and test. The “summary and conclusions” is the how and why bit of the paper. In this part of the article they explain why some of the results came out the way they did and then it makes conclusions from all the information of the “results” part of the article. The article always has figures that show and back up the conclusion presented. Once the “summary and conclusions” is finished the article has “acknowledgements”. The “acknowledgements” give praise to the companies and people who funded the research presented in the article. After the “acknowledgements” is the “references” in which the authors give other authors and people recognition for the ideas and information they used for the article.

In the Journal of Police Science and management set their article up a little different than that of the natural resources journal. In the top left corner of the first page the article gives the journals name and the volume of it. They center the “title” which is bolded in black and the font is larger too. Right under the “title” is the author’s names addresses and email addresses. Also there is the date in which the article was received, edited and accepted in the journal. Under this information are the “key words” of the article. After the “key words” is information on each of the authors. This information includes the author’s education, career, position and achievements. They have this information for each author. After all the information about the authors is the “abstract” which is a one paragraph quick summary of the article. In this journal the “abstract is italicized. After the “abstract is the “introduction” to the article. The rest of the paper is broken up into subtopics that is bolded in black and is in larger font so it is easy to follow. The article does have information that is presented in graphs and tables and each one is labeled in figures. Under the labels is the description of what each graph is presenting. At the end of the article is the “conclusion” in which the authors make conclusions from the information they presented in the article. The “references” is after the “conclusion”. The “references” part of the article is where the authors give recognition to the people in whom they took ideas and information from.

The information given about the two different journal articles shows that each of these discourse communities have different ways in which they convey information to their community. Each of these discourses even cite their references different. Not everyone can read an article out of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation and understand all that is said. This is because the journal in the natural resource uses vocabulary and lingo that is not commonly used or seen. Some one that would understand these articles of the natural resources will either be in this field or have some knowledge of this discourse. Even if one knows definition to certain words in the article, the words could have a different meaning in which they are commonly defined by. The article in the Journal of Police science and Management is much easier to read and follow. The article flows well, kind of like a story or explanation. This article does not split up into parts that have tests and materials. These articles in this journal usually use common vocabulary that anyone can read and won’t have to have much knowledge of the profession. This journal uses APA style to cite sources while the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation uses the style of CBE.

In conclusion discourse in the two professions use different lingo and jargon in their discussions of a subject. This is the same for any two different discourse communities. Discourse is a style of writing and conversation of a formal subject (Washington State Libraries).


Washington State University Libraries. (2006). What is Discourse? Retrieved March 8, 2008, from

Feng G. & Sharratt B. (2007). Scaling from field to region for wind erosion prediction using the Wind Erosion Prediction System and geographical information systems. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 62, 321-328.

Elbow P. (1991). Reflection on Academic Discourse: How It Relates to Freshman and Colleagues. ProQuest Education Journals, 53, 135-155.

Holgersson S. & Gottschalk P. & Dean G. (2007). Knowledge management in law enforcement: knowledge views for patrolling police officers. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 10, 1, 76-88.

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