Genres of grad school

The Speech Events cabal is made up of grad students – to be specific, PhD students in a program called Educational Linguistics.

As students of educational linguistics, we like to think about genres of writing and talk (and the various ways writing & talk combine). These nameable types of events have particular forms, audiences, and purposes. Many of them will never be encountered outside of grad school: for example, The Dissertation, The Dissertation Proposal, and The Dissertation Funding Proposal. Others may become parts of our academic lives later on, but are encountered first in grad school: The Conference Talk, The Academic Paper, The Cover Letter Accompanying the Academic Paper.

We’re planning to start a series of posts describing some of these genres. But we need your help! What are some types of communicative events that you might encounter in grad school? I’ll update the list below as we come up with more:

  • the Dissertation
  • the Dissertation Proposal
  • the Dissertation Grant Proposal
  • the Academic Paper
  • the Cover Letter Accompanying the Academic Paper
  • the Cover Letter accompanying a revise and resubmit
  • the Conference Talk
  • the Review for an Academic Journal
  • the Job Talk
  • the Proposal Hearing
  • the Dissertation Defense
  • Complaining (Misery Poker)
  • the Research Elevator Speech (cocktail parties/1st-meeting-of-the-semester responses to the questions: What’s your dissertation about? What are your research interests?)
  • Emails to advisors (especially when making requests)
  • the Dissertation/Proposal offense (what your committee throws at you)


This post brought to you by procrastination related to a very grad school genre: The Field Statement. Thanks to Haley for great additions to the list.

9 thoughts on “Genres of grad school

  1. When I saw the title I instantly thought:

    And then read on & realized that’s not quite the kind of thing you mean. And I suppose that’s more of a register than a genre? At any rate it accounts for an awful lot of grad school talk…
    Next would be cocktail party or 1st-meeting-of-the-semester responses to the questions:
    What’s your dissertation about? or What are your research interests?

    ‘Would you write me (another) reference letter?’ emails to advisors. Or just emails to advisors.

    And how about the dissertation/ proposal offense (i.e. what your committee throws at you?)

  2. Thanks, Haley! Those are exactly along the lines I was thinking.

    At my undergrad, we called the kind of complaining that often happens in school “misery poker” – I guess making it a named verbal genre? Often along the lines of “Well, I know you have three term papers due next week, but I also have a revise & resubmit due and I’m organizing a conference…” So maybe that would work?

  3. The open-ended mass email initiating coordinated scheduling or brainstorming, the reply-all message with a ratified audience that includes the principal of the intended audience and also a wealth of intended overhearers (h/t Goffman), the angry “please do not reply all” or “please take me off this chain” dispreferred turn (h/t Schegloff)

  4. A non-written one I have been encountering recently: It’s the first week of class, and I haven’t seen you for a month! If we are just passing each other in the staircase, how do we figure out how long we are going to talk to each other if normally we would only say “Hi”?

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