Essay Sample Paper on Discourse Communities

Discourse Communities

Coined by Swales in 1990, the concept of a discourse community refers to a group of people who share information and activities for a certain purpose. The concept was developed with the idea of social groups in communities who share a common language, beliefs, and values. The term is now used to refer to a cluster of ideas. Swales proposed six defining criteria that any discourse community should meet, which are: common goals, intercommunication between its members, information, and feedback mechanism, genres in communication, specific lexis, and members with suitable qualification or expertise (Martin 41). Academic papers are researched and written for discourse communities, and as such, my choice of a discourse community will be mechanical engineers. I will use several academic mechanical engineering papers as artifacts to assist in discussing the concept.

Quite often, engineers are referred to as specialists and experts once they complete school and several projects to their name. However, my argument is that this process begins at school, specifically college where a prospective engineer is taught the basics and even publishes academic papers to share and communicate ideas. In any field, a specialist needs to be fit to correspond with other people who may not even have the same information as they do and they may impart it through ways that are formal and casual. An engineer in my case needs to have the capacity to write for a few individuals. Like every other discourse community, mechanical engineers also have their own language of communicating. In fact, communication is very essential in mechanical engineering with various genres such as journals and book publications. The community consists of academic and professional members. Academic members those studying and working at the same time while the professionals working in the industry who occasionally collaborate with academic members but are driven by different motivations. Therefore, communication in the mechanical engineering community is common for the sole purpose of sharing of knowledge – where either the professional members’ purpose is to initiate academic members to their concepts or they intend for their peers to accept their newfound ideas (Aguilar 125).

The Hindawi Publishing Corporation is a platform where mechanical engineers and other communities issue their work for publication and sharing of ideas and information with members and outsiders. Mechanical engineers are allowed to share information in the field of Advances in Materials Science and Engineering. This discourse platform contains several published works from which I used a collection of four articles to discuss the concept of discourse communities. The selected articles are A Study on Contact Fatigue Performance of Nitrided and TiN Coated Gears, Mechanical Performance Evaluation of Concrete Beams Strengthened with Carbon Fiber Materials, Mechanical Properties and Nondestructive Testing of Advanced Materials and finally Crack Detection in Single Crystalline Silicon Wafer using Laser Generated Lamb Wave.

 Other studies are written to identify the cause-effect of a certain action for instance the Study on Contact Fatigue Performance of Nitrided and Tin Coated Gears was conducted to find out the effects of using TiN coating on gear contacts. The article on Mechanical Properties and Nondestructive Testing of Advanced Materials was written with an aim of introducing new testing techniques to be used to test advanced materials. This shows that the writer’s intention was to sell a new idea and persuade the community members that there are other methods to use in testing advanced materials and they had an intention of adding new and innovative ways of improving the already existing mechanical engineering methods in place today. The article on Crack Detection in Single-Crystalline Silicon Wafer Using Laser Generated Lamb Wave on the other hand was written with the purpose of presenting a solution to a major problem that mechanical engineers have been facing.

The writers state that silicon cracks in wafer linings have been issues of concern though there are detection methods that have already been proved successful. The writers however state that the methods being used are a mismatch in the industrial field and therefore their propose method will be a solution. The above articles shows that there are unending issues and problems that mechanical engineers have to solve. Moreover, it shows that the field is broad and requires many more reports to inform, analyze, suggest, argue, and persuade other members.

Based on the articles selected, the mechanical engineers communication genre has several objectives and purposes, which may either be to bring a new concept, explain a process, and examine engineering concepts. Most publications in this community are geared towards testing mechanical engineering concepts and hence the findings are published with the aim of informing or persuading fellow members who can either buy the idea or criticize it. Engineering publications and reports are used to explain technical information to other people and to archive the repots for future use (Wickert and Lewis   114). Different reports have different purposes as earlier stated. Some reports objectives may be to introduce new concepts while others may be to explain why a certain hard ware breaks for instance one of the articles objective is to explain how to detect cracks in single-crystalline silicon using laser generated lamb wave.

Publications in the mechanical engineering community include undertaking research studies with objectives and theses. A clear thesis statement is critical in order for members and outsiders to understand the course of the published work. For instance, the collection of articles under study in this paper have a thesis that is developed and explained in the articles. The article on Crack Detection in Single-Crystalline Silicon Wafer Using Laser Generated Lamb wave for instance theses statement concludes the introduction part and states that, “If the thermoelastic regime is applied to a silicon wafer that has the comparable thickness to wavelength, lamb wave is generated. We are expected to detect the cracks in silicon wafers through analysis of this lamb wave.” This thesis is developed in the article through detailed descriptions and analysis until the authors reached a conclusion that, “Finally, we concluded that laser generated lamb wave we proposed can be used for the crack detection in silicon wafer.”

The community’s publications are open to every person including members and outsiders. The four contributions target the same audience though the audience is not specified. This is because the copy right clause to all the four contributions states that, “this is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.” The clause implies that any interested party is allowed to use the articles regardless of their profession. The context of the articles is rather complex for individuals who are not familiar with mechanical engineering concepts. Therefore, background knowledge of mechanical engineering concepts is necessary for one to understand the context. The context reveals that the collection was produced to add knowledge to the already existing knowledge on mechanical engineering. The collection as a whole has a thesis since the articles had to be approved prior to publication. A thesis is a theory put forward to be proved. The four collections have proved their premises being the reason why their articles were approved for publication. The writing style in the collection is consistent throughout with no variations in persona. This implies that the mechanical engineering fraternity’s writing style is very formal since it does not employ the aspect of using someone’s character.

Communication in very essential in the mechanical engineers’ discourse community. According to Wickert and Lewis (pp. 113) as marketers communicate their products through advertisements and media platforms, engineers communicate their products through written documents such as reports, letters, user manuals, trade publications, and e-mails. As such, ever mechanical engineers should develop the art of solving problems and technical communication skills that meet the standards of the engineering fraternity.

According to Wickert and Lewis (114-115), the structures of engineering reports vary depending on the purpose of the report. The general organization of the structure includes a cover page that indicates the title and the purpose of the report. The executive summary, which is a summary of the major points to be discussed in the report, the body of the report, contains the design, supporting decisions and technical information. Conclusion which indicates the major findings of the report and if necessary an appendices that contain any other important information whose role is to support the findings of the report.

In my case, the collection is organized in a different way as compared to the general structure proposed by Wickert and Lewis. Three of the articles structure contains an abstract that acts as the executive summary, an introduction that introduces the topic of discussion and its relevance, the body, which contains the supporting decisions and the technical information and finally the conclusion that contains the findings of the report. On the other hand, one of the articles is rather plain with no sub-titles and therefore one has to read through to figure out the structure’s organization.

The individual contributors are marked as legitimate community members by affiliation to member universities. For instance, Xu, Li, Hu and Wang the writers of the article titled A Study on Contact Fatigue Performance of Nitrided and Tin Coated Gears are students of Chongqing University of Technology under the Material Science and Engineering College Faculty. In addition, Yang, Chen, Choi the writers of the Mechanical Properties and Nondestructive Testing of Advanced Materials are affiliated to different universities and institutions with Yang being affiliated to the Ministry of Education in China, Chen being affiliated to the University of British Columbia in Canada and Choo is affiliated to the University of Washington in US. The same case applies to the other articles with all individuals being community members by the virtue of being affiliated with a university or an institution. This shows that the publisher who is Hindawi Publishing Corporation is very professional since individual members who are considered qualified to share reliable ideas and information since they are either professionals or academic students affiliated to a recognized university or institution write the work published in this website. This also shows that the mechanical engineering discourse community is serious about publications. This communicates a language of professionalism to those who aspire to join the community and to outsiders interested in using and relying on the research findings indicated in the articles.

                        Gatekeeping in the community of mechanical engineers is highly required. Gate keeping is simply the process of deciding which information will pass through to the next level and which one will not. In this collection, three of the articles were received and accepted for publication. One of the articles titled Crack Detection in Single-Crystalline Silicon Wafer Using Laser Generated Lamb Wave written by Song and Jhang was “received 19 July 2013; revised 16 November 2013; accepted 18 November 2013,” (Hindawi Publishing Corporation, par 2). The other articles were accepted after being studied and proven to have attained the standards for instance the article on A Study on Contact Fatigue Performance of Nitrided and TiN Coated Gears was “received 19 July 2013; accepted 1 September 2013,” (Hindawi Publication Corporation, par 2). This reveals that the mechanical engineering community aims at maintaining high standards in published works and is not ready to publish work that is below the bar set by previous engineers since such a situation could lead to the sharing of information that is not thoroughly researched and proved.

The journal issue does not contain advertisements or announcements. This shows that the publishers are academically oriented and focus only on publishing journals. However, a corporation that commercially publishes journals, the publisher does not focus on generating money through advertisements but rather promoting education globally. This suggest that the mechanical engineering community is also oriented towards nurturing upcoming engineers through the sharing of information and use of publishers that are geared towards raising the standards of education including mechanical engineering discipline.

The community’s articles and publications are mostly full of complex writing styles that are sometimes hard to comprehend for an individual who is not a member of the community. Some sentences from the articles contain technical jargon that can only be understood by members of the community. For instance, “there are common three fracture criteria, (stress intensity factor), integral, and Strain Energy Release Rate (SERR) in linearly elastic fracture mechanics, which are used to determine whether and when crack propagates,” is quoted in the article on the article on Mechanical Performance Evaluation of Concrete Beams Strengthened with Carbon Fiber Materials. However, the four collections of articles selected for this work have varying stylistic patterns. There is also the use of varied sentence structure, which varies depending on the organization. My observation is that the introduction part is simple for both the community’s member and outsider whereas the body is rather complex for an outsider but understandable to a member.

This writing technique is consistent in the whole collection. For instance, the article on Mechanical Properties and Nondestructive Testing of Advanced Materials begins with a simple note, which can be understood by both members and nonmembers. It begins with, “modern industry has been moving forward with unprecedented pace over past decades, while there is no doubt about the significant dedication by material science there.” This implies that the community’s language can prove to be technical and complex to outsiders. According Wickert and Lewis (113), any beginner in mechanical engineer should develop the technical communication skills in order to meet the standards of the community and the expectations set by the public.

Many individuals have referred to the technicality of engineering writing styles as the closed discourse of engineers. The rhetorical writing patterns are the writing skills that engineering students are encouraged to use. Rhetorical patterns involve organizing information in technical articles and reports. Rhetorical styles emphasis on mechanism description, process description, classification, definition, comparison and contrast, cause effect and problem solving. This is true to one of the articles in the collection. The article on Mechanical Performance Evaluation of Concrete Beams Strengthened with Carbon Fiber Materials by Ding, Huang, Zhu, Chen and Wang has employed rhetorical patterns through describing the materials and methods of the concrete beam. Defining and describing the virtual crack closure technique, comparing and contrasting different scenarios based on the main crack propagation established criteria and discussing the cause effect of the main crack propagation. However, other articles have employed few patterns as compared to the above-mentioned article.

In addition to writing styles, the articles have a clear objective tone, which reveals that their research work is not based on their personal feelings and interpretations but rather on facts and unbiased information. The article on Mechanical Performance Evaluation of Concrete Beams Strengthened with Carbon Fiber Materials tone was objective since the authors employed formulas to arrive at their conclusion rather than their own engineering interpretations. For instance, they state, “According to Figure 6, it can be seen that for a given length of crack, the ultimate load applied at the plain concrete beam can be predicated in theory. Figure 7 shows the calculated SERR for various loads at the crack length of 20 mm. The formula that calculates the ultimate load could be derived based on curve fitting.”

                        After a thorough scrutiny of the article collection and research on the basic requirements of a mechanical engineer, I have acquired valuable information on the values of the mechanical engineering discourse community. Moreover, the various elements evident in the collection are proving that the community has certain values that every member should adhere. The community has standards that new beginners are required to develop in order to be at par with the experts and members who have been in the community for many years. The community’s language is rather interesting. The use of complex and technical writing skills though challenging to new beginners is a concept that every member has to acquire and learn. Moreover, effective use or rhetorical writing patterns are also required in order to maintain the standards of the community. To maintain the high standards, I have learnt that the community uses the gate keeping method to keep away reports that are not considered credible from being published. However, the writers are allowed to revise their reports through making the necessary corrections in order for their reports to be published. This shows that the community has shared beliefs of high standard, quality, and credible work. However, reports are not required to be reliable since they are individual’s studies and the methods in place may not be viable hence, members criticize these reports or other members improve their concepts.

It is interesting, how the mechanical engineering community has developed and maintained its language of communication over the years. Its communication genres, though complex, have enabled it to maintain high standards of writing globally. As a mechanical engineer beginner, the community’s values have taught me that I have a lot to work on in terms of developing the complex and technical writing skills in place. Moreover, report writing techniques and structure organization is a requirement for a report to be published, this means that I have to further research on this. Finally, as an aspiring member of the community, high standards of publication are required and this is non-negotiable, failure to which reports will never be published until the standards are achieved.

Works Cited

Aguilar, Marta. Metadiscourse in Academic Speech: A Relevance-Theoretic Approach. Bern: Peter Lang, 2008. Print.

Jun Ding, Huang Xia, Gang Zhu, Chen Song and Wang Guochao. Mechanical Performance Evaluation of Concrete Beams Strengthened with Carbon Fiber Materials. 2013. Web. 19 May 2015. <>.

Martín-Martín, Pedro. The Rhetoric of the Abstract in English and Spanish Scientific Discourse: A Cross-Cultural Genre-Analytic Approach. Bern [u.a.: Lang, 2005. Print.

Wickert, Jonathan A, and Kemper E. Lewis. An Introduction to Mechanical Engineering. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.

Soong, Min-Kyoo and Jhang, Kyung-Young. Crack Detection in Single-Crystalline Silicon Wafer Using Laser Generated Lamb Wave. Hindawi Publishers, 2013. Print.

Xu, Hongbin, Li Hui, Hu Jianjun and Wang Song. A Study on Contact Fatigue Performance of Nitrided and TiN Coated Gears. Hindawi Publishers, 2013. Print.

Yan Yan, Chen Xing, Soo Young. Mechanical Properties and Nondestructive Testing of Advanced Materials. Hindawi publishers, 2013. Print.