Systems Thinking Vocabulary

Discourse community

A group of people that is united by the way the members communicate and the things they communicate about

Contemporary research has begun to explore how technology-mediated discourse communities form and change, as well as how they serve educational and other social functions. In this chapter, we review research on discourse communities, focusing on the various changes that mediated online environments such as social media have brought to contemporary discourse communities. (Deoksoon Kim & Oksana Vorobel )

discourse community is a group of people who share a set of discourses, understood as basic values and assumptions, and ways of communicating about those goals. Linguist John Swales defined discourse communities as “groups that have goals or purposes, and use communication to achieve these goals.” (Wikipedia)

A discourse community is a group of people who share a set of basic values and beliefs, known as discourses. Each discourse community has its own set of written or unwritten rules and uses them to pursue a common goal. Some discourse communities are more rigid than others, requiring an official membership while others are more casual. Most people move between and within discourse communities every day. Discourse communities refer to a group of people who have a broadly agreed set of common public goals and have mechanisms of intercommunication among its members. These communities use participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback between members. (Top Hat)


  • Borg, Erik. Discourse communities (ELT Journal 57:4)
  • Bizzell, P. (1992) Academic Discourse and Critical Consciousness. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Little, M., C.F.C. Jordens, and E.-J. Sayers. “Discourse Communities And The Discourse Of Experience.” Health 7.1 (2003): 73–86. Scopus®. Web. 6 Nov. 2015
  • Kehus, Marcella, Kelley Walters, and Melanie Shaw. “Definition And Genesis Of An Online Discourse Community.” International Journal of Learning 17.4 (2010)
  • Swales, John (2011). “The Concept of Discourse Community” (PDF). In Wardle, Elizabeth; Downs, Doug (eds.). Writing About Writing: A College Reader. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s. pp. 215–227. ISBN 978-1-4576-3694-3
  • Discourse Community, Lumen Learning
  • Beaufort, A. (1997). Operationalizing the concept of discourse community: A case study of one institutional site of composing. Research in the Teaching of English, 31(4), 486–529. Retrieved from


Concept Coordinates

  • People with common interests and goals in life, share a language that helps them discuss and attain these interests and goals. (SocialMettle)
  • John Swales theorized that a discourse community is a group of people that communicate for a purpose. People within a discourse community also tend to share goals or aims they wish to achieve through their communication. For example, think of a group of solicitors – they will share the same goal of catering to their clients’ needs and will communicate using legal jargon that is unlikely to be used in other aspects of their life. (StudySmarter)

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