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Jamie Swaringen

Prof. Connelly
March 9, 2016
English 20
Psychology Discourse Community
There are many different discourse communities within our personal worlds. Our families
have a different discourse community than our friends, and the discourse community between
coworkers is different than the one between students. However, everyone whether they know it
or not, is involved in a discourse community of their own. Just as author John Swales suggests in
The Concept of Discourse Community. The psychology department here at Sacramento State has
its own discourse community as well. They have their own goals, forum, texts and terminology
that they share and exchange with each other. Najia Nafiz, a lecturer at Sac State, would be a
member of this community.
Nafiz has been a lecturer for a total of 3 years. She has received both her undergraduate
degree as well as her graduate degree from Sac State. In an interview, Nafiz explained how she
first did not go into college with the idea of a psychology major in mind. She first went into the
pre-med program when she started at Sac State. However, once she took her intro to psychology
course she fell in love (Nafiz). She absolutely loved psychology and everything about it. I held
an interview with Nafiz about herself, her profession, and how Swales concepts of a discourse
community relate back to her profession.
Common Public Goals

Swales defines common public goal as goals within a discourse community that all
members know about and strive to achieve (471). This is not to be confused with personal goals
that some colleagues may share. These are widely explained and known goals within a discourse
community that all members share and work together to complete thoroughly and effectively.
During our interview, I asked Nafiz what she believed the common public goals were
within her discourse community of the psychology department of Sac State. She said that she
believes that the common public goals among the faculty of the psychology department would be
the same as any other educators discourse community. The first thing she said when asked what
the common public goals were, was being ethical and responsible teachers (Nafiz). She
believes that being available and there for your students to help them succeed is one of the
biggest goals that all educators share. She also went into detail about knowing the limit of your
scope, or the limit of the knowledge you have of a certain topic (Nafiz). She explained to me
how, ethically, it wouldnt make sense to talk about something she hasnt studied or done
research in. She also explained how expanding the field by doing research and sharing that
research with students and other faculty is an important goal they all share. Overall, she says that
being ethical and responsible lecturers, researchers, and mentors would be the common public
goal that all members of the psychology department value and strive to achieve.
Information Exchange
Another aspect of a discourse community is information exchange. Swales explains that
a discourse community has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members (471). In
simpler terms, its how members of a certain discourse community transfer information to one
another. Information exchange is extremely important because without it, no one knows what is
going on within the rest of the community. Imagine if a manager of a company went to a

conference designed to help their specific branch. If the information on how to fix the branch of
the company isnt relayed to the rest of the employees, then nothing is accomplished.
The same style of thinking goes for the psychology department. If one member conducts
a study and has incredible findings, and doesnt share his findings, the research is essentially
pointless. For Nafiz in her department, she said emails are the most widely used and effective
form of communication between her and her colleagues is email. Email is so widely used in this
modern century as it is, and its so fast that information can be exchanged within a matter of
minutes. The psychology department also has meetings in which they exchange information
about the university, policy changes, and more recently the strike that is set to happen in April of
Forums are also very important to specific discourse communities. It is the third of six
characteristics of a discourse community that Swales talked about. A forum is a specific place
that members of a discourse community meet and exchange information. Forums and
information exchange go hand in hand, because in a discourse communitys forum is where they
exchange information, and every discourse community has one.
For Nafiz and her discourse community, their forum would be a conference room located
in the psychology department on campus, the third floor of Amador Hall. This is the main place
that Nafiz meets with her colleagues to talk about important issues, changes, and news happening
within their department and the university as a whole.

Different discourse communities will have different genres, or types, of writing. A

medical discourse community would not be writing the same types of work as a college level
English class. As Swales explains, A discourse community utilizes and hence possesses one or
more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims (472). He explains how each
discourse community has their own specific type of writing, and how they use their writing to
further and assist reaching their goals.
As a lecturer of psychology, Nafiz says that her personal main form of writing is lecture
slides for her classes (Nafiz). She, as well as some of her colleagues, have also written letters of
recommendation for their students, and published their own research. Some of her colleagues
have even written and published psychology textbooks for other teachers and schools. While
lecture slides, research, and textbooks are all very different forms of writing, the genre of these
all relate back to psychology and that specific discourse community.
Terminology is generally described as language or terms that are specific to a discourse
community. Every discourse community has their own terminology. Its certain terms or
vocabulary used within a discourse community or even only used in the discourse community.
Nafiz had a difficult time answering the question do you and your colleagues have any
specific terms or codes you use with each other? After a bit of thought, she said that the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) would be their own form of
codes. The DSM5 is used to diagnose patients with mental disorders (American Psychiatric
Association). Although it is effective and widely used, the DSM isnt used very frequently within
the Sac State psychology department.

In every field, there is one person that others consider an expert. Swales talks about
certain members being experts in discourse communities by saying A discourse community has
a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise
(473). An expert in a discourse community would be someone who is familiar with the previous
five characteristics of their own discourse community, as well as an expert in their particular
field. In a medical discourse community, it might be a head surgeon. Or in an academic setting,
it could be a dean or principal.
I asked Nafiz if she thought anyone would be an expert in her psychology discourse
community, and she immediately responded with the chair of the psychology department, Marya
Endriga. Nafiz believes that there are many experts within the psychology department at Sac
State, who are experts in their own fields of study, but she said that Marya Endriga would be her
own expert, seeing as Endriga has been teaching and studying psychology longer than she has
(Nafiz). She believes that seniority would almost be equal to expertise, because the longer you
have been in the department, the more you learn about psychology, the department and program
as a whole.
Along with the questions I had asked Nafiz about the 6 Swales characteristics, I decided
to ask her what she valued most about her job. She paused, and thought for a moment. She had
explained to me that when she was young, her whole family packed up and fled Afghanistan in
the middle of the night (Nafiz). Nafiz and her family are refugees that came from Afghanistan to
America when she was a little girl. With such a big thing happening so early in her life, she said

that the thing she values most about her job is that fact that she gets to teach someone something.
Being a refugee, she came to realize that material things can always be taken away from you.
Nafiz strongly believes that knowledge is an amazing thing that no one can take away from you,
and being able to expand someones knowledge is what she values most about her job.
Interviewing Najia Nafiz was a very informative experience. Being a psychology major, I
am so interested to learn everything there is to know about the department, how to be involved,
and how to get ahead. She taught me so much in such little time about this field I am entering. I
am so excited about this major, Im so lucky to have such a dedicated teacher like Nafiz to talk
with and learn from. I feel like by conducting this interview and learning about what goes on
behind the scenes of a psychology discourse community, I am much more prepared and know
more of what I am getting into by choosing this major.