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All students may schedule a consultation at the Center for Academic and Professional Communication (Fondren Library) to review a written, oral, or visual communication assignment. Our consultants can assist you.

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Fundamentals of Academic Communication

Here you can take a closer look at the differences between high school and college writing and learn how to assess and understand you professors expectations of you. Of course each professor is unique and it is important to meet individually with an instructor if you are unclear about his or her particular expectations.

Transitioning from high school to college writing

Understanding your academic audience


What is a discourse community? Generally speaking, it is a community centered around a specific type of language and mode of communication. For instance, when you are with your closest group of friends, you might notice that you have your own way of speaking and communicating which is very different from how you might interact with your parents, your family doctor, or your professors at Rice. Likewise, each field or academic discipline has different expectations regarding what terms to use, what subjects are important to discuss and analyze, and how papers should be organize and convey information. While strong, clear writing is important to all fields, you will find the paper expectations somewhat different depending on what discipline, professor, or audience you are writing for. Before you begin writing your paper, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who is the audience for my paper? (Math professor? Literature professor? Fellow engineering students? Professional engineers in the field?)
  • What kind of paper am I expected to write? (Literature analysis? Lab report? Sociological study?)
  • How should I best organize my ideas to conform to the specific expectations of my field or audience? (Should I state my argument first? Last? Should I start with a creative opening? Divide the paper into neat sections?)

If you are at all confused about what is expected of your paper, you should be sure to ask your instructor and find examples of similar papers people have written before.