This is from a research paper I wrote for English 302 in the spring. It was for the linguistics unit of the class, and I opted to write about John Searle's classification of speech acts, and how they are used in online spaces. Passive voice/transitive verbs will be bolded and in green, abstract subjects will be bolded and in blue, and linking verbs will be bolded and in red. I've decided not to include the introduction in this excerpt, because I feel that the actual “meat” of the paper (if you will) is more overblown and lardy. (Also, even though it was not one of the requirements, I will be highlighting prepositional phrases in yellow.) (Another side note: apologies for the formatting being a total mess, I had to re-download this from Google because I lost the original, and this is what I got.)
The main question that was to be answered in this paper was the question of which speech acts
in particular are used to respond to inflammatory posts or comments in an online setting. My theory
uses John Searle's classification of speech acts, wherein he states that there are five different
illocutionary speech acts: assertives; directives; commissives; expressives; and declarations (Searle
1975). I theorized that assertives would be used most often in responding to these kinds of posts or
comments, with the rationale being that assertives are used to “commit a speaker to the truth of an
expressed proposition” (Searle 1975), and, in niche settings, people are eager to identify with the group
of which the niche consists (?), or the group that is challenging the niche group. In feminist settings, and
particularly in settings where “men's rights” activists (hereafter referred to as “MRAs”) are the majority
population, gender is obviously the biggest distinction between these two groups of people. Age and
social standing appear to be of no consequence in these arguments, possibly because this information is
not readily available to other parties, which correlates with the anonymity provided by the internet.
Additionally, previous research suggests that feminist forums are particularly vulnerable, as “they must
balance inclusive ideals against the need for protection and safety, a tension that can be exploited by
disruptive elements to generate intragroup conflict” (Herring et al. 2011).
To find my data, I exclusively observed online sources, as they were more than appropriate for
the kind of information I was trying to glean. I had initially intended to find my information through
blogs that are of a feminist/womanist bent, but discovered that the vast majority of well-
known, “mainstream” feminist blogs have a policy of deleting any trolling or off-topic arguments in the
comments. This made it relatively hard to find data on these sites, as the majority of the speech
examined fell under their description of trolling, even if it may not have been considered trolling in
other forums. For this reason, I then narrowed my horizons to Reddit, where comments and posts in
the “subreddits” are stated to be similarly moderated, but in reality, are not. I then further narrowed my
sample area to one post on Reddit in the “r/MensRights” group that received over 1,500 comments
from MRAs, feminists, anti-feminists, and many participants who represented various other groups.
(Worth noting is that the original poster identifies as atheist, so atheists were significantly represented
in the group, though this had no bearing on the arguments or speech acts used.)
Rewrite: In this paper, the main question I strove to answer was: Which speech acts are found in responses to inflammatory online materials? To answer this, I used John Searle's classification of speech acts, which includes five illocutionary speech acts: assertives; directives; commissives; expressives; and declarations (Searle 1975). I figured that assertives would appear most often, as they "commit a speaker to the truth of an expressed proposition” (Searle 1975). In feminist settings, especially when "men's rights" activists are significantly present, gender is obviously the main distinction between the sparring parties. Age and social standing do not appear to matter, possibly because this information is not necessarily publicly shown. This correlates with the anonymity provided by the internet. Also, research suggests the vulnerability of feminist forums, who "must balance inclusive ideals against the need for protection and safety, a tension that can be exploited by disruptive elements to generate intragroup conflict” (Herring et al. 2011).
For this data, I only observed online sources. I had wanted to find the data on feminist blogs, but the majority of "mainstream" ones generally delete off-topic arguments or "trolling" in the comments. Because of this, I could not find sufficient data on these sites, and moved my sights to Reddit, where comments/posts on "subreddits" are frequently unmoderated. Finally, I narrowed my sample area to a post with over 1,500 comments from many participants who represented many groups.
Original: 425 words
Rewrite: 232 words