Overview of Unit Three: Investigating Language Practices

In Unit Three you will continue your exploration of language and literacy by investigating how language is used in a specific academic discipline or profession. Working with two or three other classmates, you will select an academic discipline or profession to investigate (for instance, electrical engineering, exercise physiology, real estate, or basketball coaching). You will collect sample texts from members of that discipline or profession, interview members of the discipline or profession, and create a report about how members of that discipline or profession use language to communicate with each other.

An important part of this Unit is your attempt to understand how the language practices of a particular group are related to how they view their discipline or profession. For instance, two groups of students might be investigating biologists and criminal defense lawyers. Members of each discipline are likely to be interested in the use of DNA evidence during trials. Yet an investigation of the language practices of each group might reveal strong differences in the way they communicate about the issue. What would be the implications of this finding? Do lawyers and scientists use language in different ways? In what ways? And why? How do these differences shape the kind of writing they do on the job, for publication in journals, or for publication in the popular press?

In this Unit you will collect evidence of language practices (texts, interviews, articles about language practices in a given discipline), analyze that evidence, and present a group report to your class. You are expected to create a brief handout summarizing your findings. You are also expected to compile a portfolio of materials and analyses that you will submit to your instructor. Individual work will consist of analyses of the evidence you have collected, a reflection on the discipline you've investigated, and an evaluation of your work and that of the other members of your group.

Your goal in this Unit is to familiarize yourself with the language practices of a particular academic discipline or profession. Some of the skills you'll focus on in this Unit include:

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