Discourse community is a term used to refer to a group of people who exhibit a common set of characteristics in terms of their language, patterns and norms among others. Due to high level of familiarity between each other their form of communication, as well as other behaviors towards each other, becomes very specific to their circle. In this respect, their pattern of communication can be used to identify them as a group since it is similar in many ways. Current paper will discuss how chemists compile their findings, how their discourse community is important in relaying information among them and how students aspiring to be chemists will find such form of writing important (Bazerman, 1980).
The origin of the term is often associated with people living together in a particular region for an extended period of time. Before transport and communication was developed, it was difficult for people the term was developed from the term “speech community,” as it involved people with similar norms in linguistics. People had and still have to coexist together or even coevolve so that they could have be similar lexically, syntactically and phonologically. The term also involved the morphology of the people to the extent that they should have been similar in formation in terms of their body features.
Moreover, the vocal organs of a community that has coevolved are similar and it is the reason why such people are able to have similar phonology. The time that the group is together also makes their communication very unique. If such community, for instance, shares a language with another one that lives further away, there will be marked difference in the way that the two groups communicate. In an academic setting, the term discourse community is utilized to point out that different scholastic collectives record their information or findings in a typical way. The ways of recording their information are similar to a point that they can be viewed as a genre. It is very crucial in classifying academic materials and also for ease of study. The different ways exhibited in recording information are utilized to distinguish various groups.
Sometimes, such concept is utilized in helping various people understand how a given academic or professional group shares their ideas (Bazerman, 1980). Various academic/professional groups of people write differently. Furthermore, various groups also enhance the distinctness of their communication using various jargons that are specific to their field. Sentence formation in every academic field is also different. For instance, it is very common for lawyers to ensure that every statement is linked directly to the subject for clarity and no statement is left open-ended. On the other hand, artists and authors of fiction materials ensure that every character and the plot are described fully in an attempt to create a picture (in the readers mind) using words. Medical practitioners are traditionally known to use codes that are only translated by the target audience. It occurs in a way that the patient or the client will not receive more information than necessary.
How Various Academic Disciplines Write
Communicating differently, according to a person’s profession, does not begin when a person starts practicing in his or her field of activity but earlier, in the training institution. It occurs when the faction in the similar academic group starts reasoning in a similar direction; consequently, their conversation becomes similar. There is usually more than just speaking or translating each other’s codes but also a shared understanding concerning the reasoning behind the codes among others. As seen earlier, if people are brought together as a group, they exhibit similar traits and may look like a community altogether after some time. Their form of communication and the flow of ideas might starts following a similar course. For example, when it comes to expressing their ideas in writing, they may follow some unwritten norm such that an observer will notice some similarity. Despite the fact that papers, reports and findings may be written by many people, they share a significant level of similarity and can be classified as a genre (Schmidt, 1993).
Chemists, especially the ones engaged in research, form an interesting academic, as well as professional group that has a unique way of writing. Their work requires them to focus on the object and not the subject of the sentence. They also focus more on the results in their reports than their processes, while compiling the results. In their manuals they concentrate on reagents and the process.
For this reason, it is very common to note that most of the chemist reports are done in passive voice than active voices. For example, if hydrogen reacts with oxygen to form water, a scientific report will be written starting with how water was formed after hydrogen and nitrogen reacted. The same case applies when a chemist is observing a neutralization reaction or when observing a reduction-oxidation reaction (Valle, 1997). It is also a common observation that most of them do not write a long prose and summarizes their process with simple formulas.
Such group of people is sociologically oriented to communicate and act in such particular way. With time, the way they speak and write makes of them a ‘speech community’. Speech community is influenced directly by the discipline, the kind of the organization (institution) and the level of education among others (Schmidt, 1993).
How Chemists Write
Chemists in their line of work deal with results and data collections in the investigations they undertake. The results and findings need to be presented in some way and compiled to be viewed and reviewed by others. Chemists use a particular kind of discourse in the language they use to compile their data. The scientific discourse uses short and brief sentences to explain the results in a clear and concise manner. Short sentences, compared to long sentences, make the subject more easily comprehensible and less boring (Harmon et al, 2010).
Use of active or passive voice has been a debate for the longest time. It is not clear which voice should be used and which should be avoided. Active voice uses short sentences that help the results be more concise and precise to the point. Active voice is the better option for compiling results because the passive voice tends to be ambiguous. Ambiguity is not appropriate for scientific information. Results need to be clear and ambiguity is not allowed in compiling results. Active voice is clearer and more direct. It is the active voice that describes science and scientific information in the best manner.
Scientific writing involves use of equations, numbers and figures. Scientific results are best described through the equations and figures that help derive the formulae. Such equations are important for any chemist for the purposes of confirmations and reviews. The equations and figures give precise information and exact results. It is caused by the fact that the results are not usually in an attempt to prove a theory; their aim is to determine the validity of a theory. Chemists mostly seek to prove that a theory is true or that it is false (Bazerman, 1980). Equations and figures are the apparatus used to determine it. A theory is subjected to a series of equations that prove its validity. They are bound to be presented in the results so that everyone could see how the conclusion was made.
It is important for the chemical results to be correct and accurate. Chemists are able to go back to the findings at any time to show what they did to reach the specific results. It is also possible for a totally different chemist to take such finding and follow the equations and the procedure and arrive at the same results. The process of verification is very important in any scientific research. Therefore, the results need to be as accurate as possible. It is the reason why scientific writing is so important (Harmon et al, 2010).
Compiling results in an accurate manner is very necessary and hence the need for use of short sentences and equations in the results. Lack of ambiguity and clarity in the results will ensure that they are accurate. The aim of scientific writing is to ensure that the results are compiled with all accuracy to make possible future verification and reference. Scientific results are a kind of information that requires precision due to their experiential nature. Figures and charts and other visual aids are also important to make it easier to note the data and the results that would be more complex if written down. Due to the nature of scientific results of being accurate and precise, charts and figures make it much easier. Charts and other visual aids enable the chemists to read the information and process it much easier and faster than if the same information was written in an essay form. People can also see the trends from just looking at the charts and the figures (Valle, 1997).
Discourse community learning is important for aspiring chemists and scientific researchers because knowing the language used in scientific discourse will make work easier for the students to compile and present their results. They know what is required of them and are able to begin utilizing the methods in their learning. Once they are chemists, the method of writing and presenting scientific information will be second nature to them. They will not be faced with the task of compiling information in the ordinary manner and be subjected to revisions and reviews. Once a student of science knows the language expected of them in compiling scientific results and other scientific information, they will be capable of beginning at a young stage and developing the skills early enough.
Learning discourse community is also important for students of science and aspiring scientific researchers because they become able to identify themselves with already established chemists. They are able to interact well with the chemists and other professionals in their fields. The students would also be in a good position to understand scientific reports and results compiled by the professionals in their field. They also understand why the results are compiled in the way they are and be able to repeat the process themselves (Schmidt, 1993).
Importance of Learning Discourse Community
The chemists discourse community is very important because students learn the scientific language and scientific way of writing. They begin to appreciate the process of scientific research in testing hypotheses and theories and presenting them in a manner that is clear, concise and precise. Chemists share the same type of register in their written and spoken texts. Science students get acquainted better with others in their profession (Valle, 1997). It helps in interaction and sharing of information among the students and among the professionals and the qualified chemists. When people in a particular field speak the same language and use the same register, they are able to achieve better understanding among themselves and in their work, as well.
Role of Visual Displays in Chemistry
It is important to note that chemists are able to represent much information in one simple diagram, for example, graph. Thus, students aspiring to be chemists must practice how to communicate through the use of graphs and also to interpret them. For instance, instead of using several pages of written words, a chemist can use the diagram below to represent the differences between the reference value for the entire globe and averaged yearly temperature measurements.