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Genre Research Terms


Genres are typified responses to recurring social situations. Often, when we talk about genres, we include so many different kinds of written texts (this glossary of terms, a writing course syllabus and project prompts, text messages we send every day, the forms we fill out to apply to colleges and jobs), seeing them as recognizable responses to recurring situations (making a website, teaching a class, communicating with friends and family, wanting to attend college or get a job) that accomplish specific social action in the world (we learn, we teach, we feel connected, we get paid).

Genre conventions

Genre conventions refer to the characteristics of any kind of text that make it recognizable as participating in a particular genre. When we identify genre conventions, we include genre features that might be visible (length, structure, formatting, different modes in use, language use, tone, content included, citing or attributing information) and social goals that we more likely have to infer (why these elements, valued by whom, toward what purposes).

Text(s) or artifact(s)

Texts or artifacts refer to different types of written productions. We might use these terms interchangeably, and they are meant to help us think about the kinds of things we write in the world that aren’t just written documents, the kinds of things we create beyond word processing applications.

Genre research

Genre research is the practice of investigating how we learn about and understand specific genres in use in the world, including the people, tools, and recurring situations that influence how texts get produced in a genre. When we do genre research, we participate in activity like finding our own examples in a genre and analyzing what people do–and how they do it–in those examples, so that we can create recognizable, effective texts in genres that are familiar and new-to-us in current and future writing situations.

Genre analysis

Genre analysis is the practice of breaking down what we see people doing in specific texts in a genre, and it is a part of doing genre research. When we do genre analysis, we describe the relationships between visible genre features (length, structure, formatting, different modes, language use) and the social goals of those features, including their cultural-historical contexts in specific times and places.

CHAT (as genre research tool)

CHAT (cultural-historical activity theory) can be used as a genre research tool to investigate how genres are connected to the people, tools, and situations that influence texts produced in specific genres. When we use CHAT as a genre research tool, we are usually using CHAT terms to break down, name, and unpack otherwise invisible genre writing practices so that we can then more accurately describe the complex relationships between them.

Genre remediation

Genre remediation is the practice of transforming a text in one genre into a different genre. It is an activity that requires writers to mediate (change, transform) something again (re-), including altering its conventions to work toward different goals and/or in different writing situations.

Genre set

A genre set refers to all the texts or artifacts that one person uses to complete an interaction or accomplish a social goal. More often than not, other people are involved in such interactions or goals, but a genre set is all of the texts or artifacts that one person creates to participate in that interaction (all the texts you wrote to apply for college or join a group organization).

Genre system

 A genre system refers to all the genres that interact with each other in a specific writing situation. Genre systems include all the texts (created by you, created by others, those that preceded you entering the system) across genres for a specific goal (all the application forms, narratives, transcripts, letters, automated replies, emails, signatures involved to accept college admission).

Discourse communities

Discourse communities are collections of people or groups that work toward collective goals through specific genres. Often, when we talk about discourse communities, we describe their communication practices, shared knowledge and language use, and the power structures that shape community features both to people who participate within the discourse community and others.

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