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What Are the Different Types of Academic Discourse?

By Emily Daw
Updated May 23, 2024
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Academic discourse refers to the particular ways of thinking about and discussing information related to a specific area of academic study. Those involved in the discourse of a particular area of study are known as a "discourse community." The academic discourse of a field of study comprises both informal and formal forms of communication.

A discourse community is comprised of people who share enough common knowledge and presuppositions to have a meaningful conversation about a given subject. For instance, someone who is part of the discourse community of linguistics will be familiar with basic linguistics jargon, the most common theories about linguistic development, and major movements related to linguistic thought. Members of the linguistics discourse community will also have similar understandings about the purpose and goals of language, which might be different than those shared by the English discourse community. The process of gaining the knowledge necessary to be part of a given academic discourse is known as discourse socialization. Discourse socialization ensures that people within a discipline do not have to state explicitly all of their assumptions about a subject or give extensive background information before beginning a conversation.

Informal academic discourse occurs through a variety of means. It may consist of conversations or emails between researchers in which they discuss current research or bounce ideas off of each other for future research. This sort of discourse often happens as a result of networking among students, professors and researchers connected with universities.

Formal academic discourse, on the other hand, is a more public form of communication. The most common type of formal discourse is through peer-reviewed journals and publications. Peer-reviewed publications are checked by editors and review committees who assess the credibility of submissions before they can become part of the discourse. These editors review and filter submissions based on what is most relevant or needed within their discipline.

Both formal and informal academic discourse can occur at academic conferences. Academicians are invited to present peer-reviewed papers at these conferences. Much informal networking and discussion also happens at conferences, providing cross-pollination of ideas between researchers within a given discipline.

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Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Mar 26, 2014

My dad is a mathematician and he regularly has papers published in journals. Of course, he meets and converses with other academicians at the university but aside from that, that's his main academic discourse.

By discographer — On Mar 25, 2014
@stonemason-- I think that many academicians don't find the time to participate in online discussions. I think that conferences are much better because it's a formal setting and invitations are sent personally. Moreover, many conferences also include workshops and participants are encouraged or even required to participate and share their opinions and research. So I think that conferences and other official meetings are a more productive type of discourse.
By stoneMason — On Mar 25, 2014

Websites, forums and blogs are great ways for academician to discuss topics within their field informally.

Of course conversations are the best ways for academician to share their views openly, but it's not possible for academicians to meet face to face all the time. Conferences on academic topics provide opportunity for this type of discourse, but academicians should continue their discussions after conferences are over. They can do this on various academic sites, forums and blogs. This way they can keep in touch and the discourse may result in something concrete like an academic paper, blog or even an event.

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