Discourse is the language in which certain subjects within a particular field of study are spoken and written about. The communication used by each discourse community is familiar to all who work within each particular field of study. The professional discourse of the professional community of natural resources is scientific discourse. Scientific discourse requires fundamental knowledge of the natural sciences and the ability to apply scientific terms and ideas. Communication with others in a professional community is important for teaching and learning within natural resources. Being able to apply scientific discourse in one's career is needed to maintain credibility and to continue the learning process. Part of scientific discourse is communication with the public and making research and other information available to those who want to access it. There are guidelines for publication of writing that need to be followed. These standards of writing allow information to be uniform in appearance and maintain professional accuracy. In order to be a respected member of a professional society the proper discourse becomes an important part of language and is practiced and applied. The discourse is taught throughout a professional career and is constantly being added to throughout educational and field experiences.
Discourse can be simply defined as communication of ideas and information, but discourse should also be considered the study of how language is used to share thoughts, influence others, and to define specific ideas to create meaning. Many people understand discourse as the “unit of language organized around a particular subject matter and meaning” (The University of Chicago 2006). There are many discourses that are used by many different groups of people, and each discourse is specific to the message that needs to be conveyed. The discourse used depends on the subjects being discussed and the language, both written and spoken, that is being used. The discourse one uses in a professional community consists of the rules of language used to effectively communicate with and understand one another in each particular field of study. In order to be taken seriously as a knowledgeable person of a specific subject, the correct discourse must be learned and applied.
To be able to communicate with the people that a person needs and wants to associate with, certain rules need to be followed for effective understanding of the language. There are discourse communities that have common goals, share an understanding, and have expectations of the language that should be used by all who are a part of the community. When one is a member of a discourse community, the language used should follow the structured ideas that have previously been used for ease of communication of ideas. Writing should not take place until the proper techniques for word usage, conventions, and context are understood and practiced (RiceOWL 2005). In addition, certain topics are expected to be discussed in individual discourse communities, while other topics that are considered irrelevant or inappropriate should not be considered. A discourse community shares similar thoughts and ideas that are often comparable to other discourse communities, but knowledge of a particular discourse is key in becoming part of the community.
Different subjects require different discourses and within the natural resources profession, scientific discourse is used to communicate ideas. To write using scientific discourse, one must write and speak to fit the standards that have been set and understand the expectations required by them. To use scientific discourse, knowledge of natural sciences such as biology are essential to build familiarity of the correct terminology that should be used in order to communicate precisely. For example, understanding the classification of taxonomic terms and the correct way to use them is important to communicating within the natural sciences. Scientific names are used worldwide and are part of the discourse of every professional studying natural sciences. Scientific discourse is notable for having “discursive space, and for such things as using more nouns than verbs, using a high level of abstraction, employing technical jargons, and minimizing self-reference” (Mizrach 2008). Using the proper discourse becomes the way in which all members of the scientific discourse community learn to write and speak to one another, and this language is reflected in their work.
Through a college education, the foundation for effective professional communication is established. In the natural resources profession, the educational opportunities that are available serve as the basis for communicating throughout one's entire career. As one becomes more familiar with subjects related to ones' particular educational and personal interests, the ability to express ideas becomes easier and customary. Through employment in a natural resources related field vital knowledge is gained through experience. Much learning comes as a result from having performed many duties, and the more experiences that someone has will lead to becoming a beneficial member of society. Those with the most experience lead the way in research and conservation and provide guidance to other professionals through their actions. As a member of a professional community, the need to continue learning and keep up with current events is essential to staying knowledgeable in order to gain and maintain credibility. To stay current about policies and research, various publications related to natural resources should be read and understood, meetings and conventions of professional societies within natural resources should be attended, and associations with other professionals in the field should be made to gain experience and knowledge.
An important part of communication in science related fields is understanding the practice of scientific naming. “Taxonomy is the science and process of naming living organisms” and through this process every recognized species on earth has a scientific name that consists of two parts, the genus and species (University of Michigan 2006). The names that are assigned to each specific organism are in Latin, which is considered the international language of science. The scientific names, although confusing to the general public, are meaningful to the science professionals who study them. Often the scientific names that are given to an organism are descriptive and give clues to relationships with other related species. Fluency in scientific naming aids in effective communication around the world. The common names of organisms are often misleading and numerous and can also vary from one area of the world to another and for that reason a complete understanding of scientific naming is essential for learning and teaching others within the natural sciences.
APPLYING SCIENTIFIC DISCOURSE
In natural resources, professional societies work to serve their members and inform the public about the importance of their work. Members of these societies strive to accomplish goals and live by the mission statement of the group. These professionals actively attend conventions, workshops, and meetings to interact with other professionals who share the same interests. These members come together to discuss, analyze, and learn more about their common goals. Making the effort to attend and be proactive at these functions shows dedication and garners respect. Groups such as the Soil and Water Conservation Society, the Society of American Foresters, The Wildlife Society, and the National Park and Recreation Association have websites that make information about them very accessible to those who want to learn more. Links to publications and other educational material are provided to anyone who wants access to it.
The publication of journal articles, reports, and books is regulated by peer-review, “which ensures the quality and accuracy of these professional, researched materials” (Washington State University 2006). Through the peer-review process, written work is judged by standards already set in research, methods, presentation, and quality. In natural resources, the format for writing that should be followed by all professionals is the Council of Biology Editors style guide. This guide sets the standards for writings and provides the basis for which reviewing and editing can take place. Along with format, the style guide also shows the proper way to use tables, numbers and units, times and dates, mathematical equations, abbreviations and acronyms, and punctuation (Chamberlain 2007). Those editing the work have control over what gets published and also have the ability to maintain standards.
Another important aspect of writing and speaking in natural resources is using language in effective ways to obtain grants and other forms of funding for research, facilities, and reaching goals. Speaking and writing well reflect on one's self and one's professional community in great ways and can lead to a more productive future. Without funding further developments cannot be made and current research cannot continue to the full extent and as a result interest in the subject may be lost. Reports also need to be written to give evidence that the appropriate research took place and the results need to be clearly stated. The language used needs to be professional and clear for those in charge of distributing funds to be able to understand.
Knowing the specific discourse of a particular profession is essential to a successful career. Not being able to communicate properly and not having an understanding of the appropriate subjects does not allow for advancement in any professional community. The scientific discourse used in natural resources provides a worldwide understanding for all who practice it. It is expected that professionals have a firm grasp of the language that defines their work and they must be able to effectively use it in verbal and written communication. The need for this common understanding leads to the accomplishment of common goals for the professional community. The use of language provides a way to show others the importance of one's work and without the ability to do so, significant breakthroughs in all career fields would not receive the recognition that is deserved.
Chamberlain, M. 2007. Journal of Wildlife Management Guidelines. 28 Nov 2007:1-57.
Mizrach, S. 2008. Alternative Medicine and the Appropriation of Scientific Discourse. <http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs/altern-med.html>. Accessed 10 Feb 2008.
RiceOWL. 2005. The Rice On-line Learning Lab. Understanding your discourse community. <http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~riceowl/understanding_your_discourse_
community.htm>. Accessed 10 Feb 2008.
Society of American Foresters. 2008. About SAF. Who we are. <http://www.safnet.org/who/whoweare.cfm>. Accessed 11 Feb 2008.
Soil and Water Conservation Society. 2008. About Soil and Water Conservation Society. <http://www.swcs.org/en/about_swcs/>. Accessed 11 Feb 2008.
The University of Chicago. 2006. Discourse. <http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/discourse.htm>. Accessed 09 Feb 2008.
The Wildlife Society. 2008. The Wildlife Society's Mission. Purposes and objectives. <http://joomla.wildlife.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=106&Itemid=107>. Accessed 11 Feb 2008.
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. 2008. Animal Diversity Web. What is in a scientific name? <http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu.site/animal_names/
scientific_name.html>. Accessed 11 Feb 2008.
Washington State University. 2006. Washington State University Libraries. What is discourse? <http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/electric/trainingmods/gened300/
Academic_Disciplines/discourse.htm>. Accessed 10 Feb 2008.