When we consider that there is a lot of variability in acceptable discourses in the research articles even within a single discipline and that many of the conventions of publishing are not clearly defined, we begin to realize that the notion of legitimate peripheral participation explains well how we become insiders in our disciplinary communities of practice. According to this notion, developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991), it is not formal study of rules but actually practicing the relevant discourse of the community one wishes to join that leads to one’s insider professional status. Think about it-we can’t get an authoritative manual where we can read about the “correct” ways to compose a cover letter accompanying the paper, interpret the editor’s
decision letter and the reviewers’ commentary that follow the refereeing process, or write the “follow-up” cover letter after revising and proofreading the original manuscript. Whereas I call them paratextual conventions (Canagarajah, 2002), as they are treated as marginal to the more central construction of research articles, Swales (1996) was more suggestive in calling them “occluded genres.” Then consider questions relating to the research article (RA) as a genre: Is the disciplinary discourse of teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) closer to that of the social sciences, humanities, or the “hard” sciences? Is there a preferred style for our RAs (i.e., do we really adopt the Introduction-Methodology-Results-Discussion structure of the empirical sciences? How far do we diverge from it?). It is true then that it is by engaging in writing with our disciplinary communities that we learn these unwritten rules of publishing and the contingent nature of discourses. This is how we learn, for example, the inner secrets of how one should write for which journal. All that Lave and Wenger (1991) require for one to become an insider in the disciplinary community is to be a potential legitimate member of the community; enjoy the possibility of finding the practices and products of the community transparent; have a certain amount of peripherality which gives sufficient detachment and necessary freedom to approximate the established practices of the insiders; and, above all, keep practicing the discourses of the community in engagement with others.