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This article needs additional citations for verification. This article’s tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. See Wikipedia’s guide to writing better articles for suggestions. Academic writing is conducted in several sets of forms and genres, normally in an impersonal and dispassionate tone, targeted for a critical and informed audience, based on closely investigated knowledge, and intended to reinforce or challenge concepts or arguments. This article provides a short summary of the full spectrum of critical and academic writing and lists the genres of academic writing. It does cover the variety of critical approaches that can be applied when one writes about a subject. A discourse community is essentially a group of people that shares mutual interests and beliefs.
People are generally involved in a variety of discourse communities within their private, social, and professional lives. The concept of a discourse community is vital to academic writers across nearly all disciplines, for the academic writer’s purpose is to influence a discourse community to think differently. At the same time the discourse community does not expect to see any writing that appears too foreign. Constraints are the discourse community’s written and unwritten conventions about what a writer can say and how he or she can say it. They define what is an acceptable argument.
In order for a writer to become familiar with some of the constraints of the discourse community they are writing for, a useful tool for the academic writer is to analyze prior work from the discourse community. The writer should look at the textual ‘moves’ in these papers, focusing on how they are constructed. Each of the ‘moves’ listed above are constructed differently depending on the discourse community the writer is in. For example, the way a claim is made in a high school paper would look very different from the way a claim is made in a college composition class. Writers should also be aware of other ways in which the discourse community shapes their writing. Other functions of the discourse community include determining what makes a novel argument and what a ‘fact’ is. The following sections elaborate on these functions.
It is important for any writer to distinguish between what is accepted as ‘fact’ and what is accepted as ‘opinion’. Wikipedia’s article Fact misguides writers in their interpretation of what a fact actually is. But this is not how writers think of facts. Facts can be thought of merely as claims. The audience can be thought of as a discourse community, and a fact can suddenly change to become an opinion if stated in a different discourse community. This is how writers within discourse communities manage to present new ideas to their communities. Across discourse communities, what is considered factual may fluctuate across each community.