Discourse communities as a subject is a broad concept defined by various people in their writings to come up with good definitions on the same. Others, however, have developed and established ideas mounted on the existing definitions as a way of improving the definition and the understanding of a discourse community. Latest research provides a sensible and an analyzed more of a definition than a description, to be the section or group of people with the same characteristics and have a common way of communication, style and identity among them. These groups may involve workmates within a certain field of work, students within schools, people in a certain region and also age mates with the same characteristics. Swales is among the scholars with big research about the subject discourse communities, whereby his research yielded some features used together to describe discourse communities. He suggests that the six characteristics he came up with are the necessity in identifying a certain group as a discourse community. This paper has a primary objective of analyzing the nature of civil engineering as a discourse community. More so, it aims to find out the literacy practices used in the community together with the concepts and rhetorical terms the community uses.

The Context

Engineering is a broad discipline all over the world being divided into different parts having whole different kinds of practices. Civil engineering itself is a complex sector of the engineering department and just like anyone else in any other field of work; engineers in this department identify themselves to a discourse community. Any civil engineer has the same qualities that made them qualified and enrolled in the field, to begin with. Being in the category, each engineer has to adopt the way of living of the engineers, how they think and more so the way they communicate not only within themselves but also to other people in other lines of professionalisms.

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Civil engineering as a discourse community has an identifiable differences from the other engineering majors including, mechanical and electrical. This is because there are various characteristics involved in each discourse, not practiced in the other one whatsoever. The differences begin as early as the community chooses civil engineering as a major in their studies. Engineers in this community involve themselves with designing, construction, and maintenance of structures, across big and small scales.

The major involves a lot of measurements and shapes in anticipation of the final project represented in paperwork as drafts and guidelines. Due to the nature of the work involved, the community develops the certain way of communicating, right from student level up to the working level. There are various terms commonly used to express information including the S.I units for the measurements depending on the nature of the work and the materials used like beams and pillars for certain structures. The engineers also have a different dressing code for their job, as their work revolves around regions that are fond of dangerous objects and tools. As Swales describes in his six characteristics that identify a community as a discourse community, , civil engineering language revolve around names that are compliant with the tools they use and the way certain works are supposed to be done referred to as project proposals written under memos in order for everyone to have read them and prepare appropriately. When putting together, all this make a sensible language that can only be understood by the members of the community only. The community also has a way of communicating to the public, mostly the people who are the beneficiaries of the projects under their work. Here the language has to be broken down into simple and easily understood terms by other discourse communities who have no training or experience in civil engineering.

Any discourse community depends heavily on the operations and conducts involved among the members, to come up with a system of communicating and delivering information. Technical reports are delivered to the discourse community as way of informing the members on all the progress of the projects .The civil engineering discourse community majors its answers and expressions to the other communities, based on the nature of the work being done at the very moment, either on building structures or the transportation sector. Swales describes this as a characteristic of identifying a discourse community since the information acquired in from the community is the exact base of providing the feedback to the public through simplified answers that everybody can understand. The engineers are trained for this other than just the main body of their professionalism thereby connecting the results of their actions to the rest of the communities all over the world.

According to Swales, all the discourse communities have levels considered as thresholds, whereby the members have a higher content and level of expertise. For them to be recognized, they have to undergo a series of training and posses greater experience than the rest of the community members, and as a result, they are given professional names to help identify them in the communities. In civil engineering, these expertise are referred to as the senior engineers and with them come the commands to the rest of the community, as they are considered highly experienced and with a higher level of judgment concerning as far as civil engineering is concerned.

Also to the acquired genres used in their communication, the community also owns different specific lexis, as a component of identifying a discourse community explained by Swales. This helps the community establish a specific answer to each and every problem. Lexis to the civil engineer involves more of formulas which are categorical according to every work they get involved to. Different projects have different methods which are strictly only used by the civil engineering community. These techniques also give them the exact way of communicating the results to the public face ensuring that every detail is correct estimation and accuracy.

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The Reflection

As a critical reflection, I learned that it is essential for a discourse community to have an effective communication not only among the community members but also to the rest of the other discourse communities. I learned that even though some discourse communities are similar in some way, a critical analysis of the same projects have very big differences involved. I also learned that ideas and characters of particular discourse communities begin way early in their area of professionalism; In this case, the civil engineering discourse community starts their characteristics as early as in their studies. The new knowledge acquired from this assignment is helpful as it enables individuals to understand the basic structure of every discourse community thereby making it simple to examine them. Moreover, this knowledge will help me identify new ideas to be used in other courses I pursue, since I now understand that every issue critically examined can provide accurate and precise feedback.

The consequential reflection of this assignment is broadly based. The materials used, specifically from Swales ideology has convinced me that writing on specific issues build with time and precision, upon improving the existing ideas, not necessarily adding the new ones. Being involved in this assignment has influenced the understanding of writing. Swales tools in the description of the discourse community were very helpful in this assignment. The tools were useful as they provide guidelines in which discourse communities are based upon.

As a collaborative reflection from the assignment, I interacted with most of my classmates while conducting the task to share ideas and concepts involved in discourse markets. During the interactions, I learned that people have different ways of understanding, in the case of discourse communities different people had different views and definitions which made it even difficult to come to an agreement with the actual meaning of discourse communities. The interactions with my fellows influenced their interpretation and understanding as they finally adopted my way of thinking towards the assignment.


Everyone belongs to a discourse community in one way or another, through school, work and also age brackets. Different discourse communities have different characters that are unique to their communities, but they can relate to the other discourse communities through communication techniques. Although discourse community has different definitions and understanding, Swales developed characteristics that when put together define a discourse community in general. Civil engineering as a discourse community is a complicated major but connects well among the community members and also with the public. Engineers in this discourse community can tell whether a person belongs to their community or not, just by observation of various specific details which are unique.