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Writing in the Disciplines

Writing in the Disciplines is the research study of specialized literate forms and practices within academic disciplines. The kinds of texts read and written by members of disciplines, the manner and situation in which such texts are read and written, and the ways in which they carry out disciplinary projects characteristically set disciplinary writing apart from other forms of writing. Moreover, disciplines differ from one another in their writing practices, and local circumstances influence how these texts appear and how they are used in individual cases. Historically, disciplines have developed specialized vocabularies, conventions, styles, genres, criteria of judgment, uses for texts, inter-textual systems, as well as forums such as conferences and journals. These writing practices, furthermore, are embedded within the social institutions, organizations, and relationships that comprise disciplinary communities. An understanding of the varied kinds of literate practices and artifacts that are part of disciplinary life and the variables that influence these practices help us understand how disciplines produce knowledge and provide guidance for the teaching and learning of such writing.

Although disciplinary writing may often be dismissed as esoteric, arcane, jargon-ridden and irrelevant to ordinary life, it is a crucial mechanism for generating knowledge that is powerfully influential in contemporary society, and thus needs to be understood on its own terms before any critique is made of it on political, philosophical, or stylistic grounds. Further, for students entering into disciplinary practices, any knowledge we can gain about disciplinary literacy will provide both practical support for their socialization into disciplines and reflexive, critical understanding of the practices they are starting to engage in.

Because academic disciplines are highly structured social formations, readily available to researchers, Writing in the Disciplines is a major research site for the wider study of how literate practices are socially located and institutionally organized, and provides many of the cases for the understanding of Discourse Community and other literate social formations. Thus it is at the forefront of socially-oriented rhetorical research and theory.

Charles Bazerman, University of California, Santa Barbara (doc)


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