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Running head: THE ADVOCACY CENTER FOR THE CHILDREN OF EL PASO

DISCOURSE COMMUNITY

The Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso Discourse Community

Alejandro Solis

The University of Texas at El Paso


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THE ADVOCACY CENTER FOR THE CHILDREN OF EL PASO DISCOURSE

COMMUNITY

The Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso Discourse Community

Introduction

Educator John Swales has been one of the first to set a guide defining a discourse

community, where he believes that discourse communities will divide people into professional or

interest groups. John Swales has determined six characteristics to what a discourse community is

and what is required to not be a false representation of a discourse community. For this reason,

as child abuse is on the rise, my research and conclusion about the Advocacy Center of the

Children of El Paso was that it is a well-structured discourse community. This paper discusses

my choice of a discourse community, what a discourse community is according to educators, and

how my organization follows specific characteristics of what makes up a discourse community.

This discourse community is a haven where struggled and victimized children are helped and

taken care of. The Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso is a child-oriented facility and

advocacy center that is always striving to best protect the childs safety, health, and emotional

development (Puentes, n.d.).

Literature Review

In John Swales book, The Concept of Discourse Community, he describes of what he

believes to be a discourse community. In his article, Swales proposes six defining characteristics

that are necessary and sufficient to identify a group that makes up a discourse community.

Swales provides these six characteristics because he states in his article that, [we] need them to

clarify, for procedural purposes, what is to be understood by discourse community and, perhaps

in the present circumstances, it is better to offer a set of criteria sufficiently narrow that it will

eliminate many of the marginal, blurred and controversial contenders (Swales, 1990., p.218).
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His six characteristics of what a discourse community should be made up of are: an agreed set of

common goals, mechanisms of connection with its members, mechanisms to provide information

and feedback with the public, has genres in the communicative promotion of its goals, a specific

lexis or terminology, and finally for the discourse community to have a hierarchy of members

with discourse expertise.

Swales also goes on to describe what a discourse community is not. In his article, he

compares discourse communities to speech communities, in which many people believe they are

the same. A speech community is a community where people share a common language and

culture. On the other hand, Swales describes a discourse community as a community will attract

people through persuasion, training, and qualification. Therefore, Swales tell us in his article that

not even a tight definition of a speech community can be a discourse community because it will

not have his six characteristics that create one.

James Porter, who also wrote about discourse communities in his journal article,

Intertextuality and the Discourse Community, however has a different thought of what a

discourse community is. In Porters journal article he states, A discourse community is a

group of individuals bound by a common interest who communicate though approved channels

and whose discourse is regulated (Porter, 1986, p.38). According to Porter a discourse

community can go from being professional, public, or personal. His opinion of what a discourse

community is made up of, does not need to follow a strict set of criteria in order to be a discourse

community, unlike Swales. Porter also states, Some discourse communities are firmly

established, such as the scientific community, the medical profession, and the justice system...

(Porter, 1986, p.39). John Swales and James Porter both describe what a discourse community is,
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COMMUNITY

however both of these authors have a very different perspective on what creates and what is

required to be considered a discourse community.

Methods

When I first began my research of the Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso and

how they communicate, I first looked at their website so that I would be able to familiarize

myself with what they do and what their goals are. Since it is a website that is revolved around

an advocacy center for child abuse, I searched for ways that this community helps the children,

takes care of them, and any extra help and information provided for the children, parents, and

advocates. After I familiarized myself with how they work, I called to see if I could possibly set

up an interview with the executive director, however I had to wait a week before speaking with.

When I finally called to speak with her to set up the interview, and she began explaining the

organization to me, I decided to conduct the interview over the phone. I asked her detailed

questions on what her goals were, her methods of communication with her employees and

anyone else she needed to remain in contact with, and how she and her organization

communicated to the public. I also went in to their organization to observe how everyone from

the employees to the people seeking help, interact with each other.

Discussion

According to Swales and by following his six characteristics the Advocacy Center for

the Children of El Paso is a discourse community. First, this discourse community has an agreed

set of common goals which is mentioned on their website and as the Executive Director, Susan

Oliva, stated that their mission is [to] assist children who have been victimized by severe

physical and sexual abuse, to assist them in finding healing services. This discourse community
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not only accomplishes their goals on their own, but need the help and assistance from

professional community groups in order to fully help the children in need.

Second, Swales says that there must be mechanisms of connection with its member which

this center does have. Since the staff at this Advocacy center is very small, connection among

each other is mainly verbal and they also use methods of texting, emailing, and calling within the

organization. They also communicate, primarily over phone and email, with other people and

organizations such as pediatricians, volunteers, the El Paso Police Department, and CPS in order

for their organization to efficiently run and find the children in need.

Next, this organization provides information to the public and also receives feedback

from the public. Looking through their website it can be seen that there are plenty of ways that

the center sends information and receives feedback. They have an email address that you may

subscribe to in order to receive information and they have office and calling hours where you

may go in to ask questions if necessary. This community also has a Facebook page where they

post events and information and even accept and answer messages through Facebooks

Messenger.

The next requirement for the organization is to also have different genres in promoting

their goals. They use social media, programs, conduct special events, trainings, and they also

travel to different schools and churches in El Paso to spread the message of child abuse. As

stated by Susan Oliva, We work a lot with the schools in just letting them know to identify and

report child abuse. We work with a lot of the churches again on reporting and identifying child

abuse. They are also the only child abuse advocacy center here in El Paso, Texas. Oliva said,

we are the only ones that do what we do.


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The Advocacy Center also uses their own set of lexis. Since this discourse community is

a child abuse center many of the words they use on a regular basis are ones such as physical,

sexual, abuse, referrals, CPS, police, treatment, counseling, and court. Their lexis is used and

needed every day they are at their job, when giving presentations, and when conducting

programs and trainings.

Finally, the Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso, even low staffed, has a

hierarchy of people that go from the volunteers, Forensic Interviewer, Victims

Advocate/Scheduling Secretary, and Victims Services Liaison, up to the Executive Director.

Every one of these people is trained and has discourse expertise, including the volunteers. Susan

Oliva, the Executive Director said that they are not pediatricians or professionals to take care of

the children themselves, however their job is to find the professional help the children need. We

have a very small staff, but we utilize a lot of volunteers to assist us. We also make sure that they

are getting services provided by professionals for the counseling and also the medical. Were

making sure that they are sent to the people who specialize in abuse, in child abuse, said Susan

Oliva. They have a wide variation of different people with expertise to efficiently achieve their

goal.

Conclusion

Finally, after carefully analyzing and conducting my research about the Advocacy Center

for the Children of El Paso both inside and out of the center, I have come to the conclusion that

this organization does fit into Swales Discourse community. The Advocacy Center for the

Children of El Paso shares communication between its members, promotes their goals through

different terms of communication, has created mechanisms to provide information and receive
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feedback from the public, have their own set of terminology, and have a hierarchy of members

which in turn is all used to reach their common goal of striving to protect the best interests of the

child. They reach their common goal of securing the childs safety, health, and emotional

development through various actions. The Advocacy Center for the children of El Paso conducts

events and trainings, has a Victims Assistance program, and accepts volunteers and donations

for the children and for those who are affected by child abuse. The center reaches their common

goal through various mechanisms of communication, networking, and finally by taking action. I

would like to follow this organization now that I have seen that they are a well thought out and

action taking discourse community.


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COMMUNITY

References

Porter, J. (1986). Intertextuality and the discourse community. Rhetoric review, 5(1), 34-47

Puentes, A. (n.d.) Advocacy center for the children of El Paso. http://advocacycenterep.org/

Swales, J. (1990). The concept of discourse community. In E Wardle & D. Downs (Eds.),

Writing about writing: A college reader (p.212-227). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.