Discourse Community – Community of Practice

What is a Discourse Community? – a Community of Practice?

Discourse Community or a Community of Practice may refer to a group of people who share

  1. a unique style of communication, unique methods of composing and communication
    • members of a discourse community may share a unique style of writing. They may share a common lexis, jargon, professional terms of art, grammar, and mechanics
  2. an archive, a canon, discourse conventions
    • a discourse community may share a number of attributes, including

      • They share .
  3. methods of interpretation
  4. methods for conducting research. The research methods

common methods of communication.

Discourse Community or a Community of Practitioners refers to a group of people who share common purposes/goals or interests and methods of communication (e.g., genresjargon or professional terms of artmedia/channels communicationcitation styles).

What is

For rhetors, after considerations of audience, little is more important than purpose.


  1. Purpose is also known as AimAim of Discourse, or Goal.
  2. Some people consider purpose and thesis to be synonymous terms. Others view purpose to be a broader classification of discourse and thesis to be a more specific message or argument.

Related Concepts: ThesisWriting Styles

Purpose plays a profound role in human communications:

Discourse Community or Community of Practice may refer to a group of people, an audience, who share

Examples of a discourse community include the academic disciplines — the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and the arts.

Members of discourse communities share expectations regarding how to

  1. compose texts

  2. format texts
  3. interpret texts
    Discourse communities share epistemological assumptions about the world and those assumptions, those epistemological positions, inform interpretive practices. For instance, in American politics, the republicans and the democrats have unique and contrasting ideas about how to manage the economy, social programs, taxes, government regulation–and so on.

A Discourse Community, a Community of Practitioners, shares values, beliefs, habits. They share information, data, knowledge, knowledge claims, information literacy perspectives, research methods.

Members of a Methodological Communities share research methods for developing and testing knowledge claims. They have common canonical texts (e.g., the community agrees certain texts are foundational. For instance, the Constitution of United States of America.

Just as people with similar religious beliefs, political loyalties, or cultural practices can be said to make up a community—even though they have never met—those who share similar assumptions about how to develop and test knowledge claims can be said to represent a Discourse Community or Community of Practice.

Source Etienne Wenger Trayner Communities of Practice Mindmap of Trayner <a href=httpsbloglearnletscom201111etienne wenger trayner keynote mindmap>httpsbloglearnletscom201111etienne wenger trayner keynote mindmap<a> Accessed 31520

The terms Discourse Community and Community of Practice are fairly equivalent:

  • The term Discourse Community was defined by John Sales in 1990 as “groups that have goals or purposes, and use communication to achieve these goals.”
  • The term Community of Practice was initially coined in anthropology to describe how a group of people learn from one another (Jean and Etienne Wenger (1991).

Both terms are used to describe the language practices, purposes, ideologies, learning practices, and rituals of groups of people.

Both terms are fairly elastic:

  • Discourse communities may be used, e.g., to describe Republicans or Democrats in the U.S. People who inhabit such broad communities may disagree on some things (e.g., fiscal policy), yet they still vote as a block because.


Recommenced Readings

Works Cited

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press.

Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre Analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge University Press.