Imagine someone new to sports initiating a conversation with long-time sports fans: "So what do you think the Raiders will wear in their next game?” or "Was Tiger Woods’ last golf match cost-effective?" or "Which Knick do you think is the best father?" This person just isn't asking the “right” questions, hasn't got sports talk straight. It's not a matter of wardrobe or accounting or good parenting; it's plays, scores, contracts, winners. If you want to join the conversation, those are the terms. In order to be an effective participant in any discourse community, you have to use their lingo, their language game, with its own terms, values, and rules, whether the discourse community is that of your workplace, your group of friends, or your family. Just so, in academic discourse and college writing: there are terms that you must know, accept, and use.
When you begin study at Empire State College or any college, you enter an academic community that shares certain ways of thinking, valuing, speaking, and writing. In joining the conversation in your studies, you will gradually develop your ability to speak, write, and think in the discourse our community. Even at the outset, though, you need to have a working knowledge of important values, key terms, conventions, rules, forms and methods of academic discourse in order to write successfully. In addition to learning a little about the discourse before trying to write in it, you will also benefit from learning some strategies successful students use to effectively join the academic conversation in their college writing.
Have you learned that the important “rules” for academic writing are correct grammar, good writing style, clear organization, or proper documentation format? Wrong! You could write a paper exemplary in all these areas, but as important as they are, you might still fail to write a single “correct” sentence for your assigned paper. Essential “rules” for successfully participating in the discourse of the community operate at a deeper level. You will need to engage the values, vocabulary, forms, and manners of the language as well as understand your position, what you bring to the conversation, to join in effective communication and good writing.