Academic discourse refers to the particular ways of thinking about and discussing information related to a specific area of academic study. Those involved in the discourse of a particular area of study are known as a "discourse community." The academic discourse of a field of study comprises both informal and formal forms of communication.
A discourse community is comprised of people who share enough common knowledge and presuppositions to have a meaningful conversation about a given subject. For instance, someone who is part of the discourse community of linguistics will be familiar with basic linguistics jargon, the most common theories about linguistic development, and major movements related to linguistic thought. Members of the linguistics discourse community will also have similar understandings about the purpose and goals of language, which might be different than those shared by the English discourse community. The process of gaining the knowledge necessary to be part of a given academic discourse is known as discourse socialization. Discourse socialization ensures that people within a discipline do not have to state explicitly all of their assumptions about a subject or give extensive background information before beginning a conversation.
Informal academic discourse occurs through a variety of means. It may consist of conversations or emails between researchers in which they discuss current research or bounce ideas off of each other for future research. This sort of discourse often happens as a result of networking among students, professors and researchers connected with universities.
Formal academic discourse, on the other hand, is a more public form of communication. The most common type of formal discourse is through peer-reviewed journals and publications. Peer-reviewed publications are checked by editors and review committees who assess the credibility of submissions before they can become part of the discourse. These editors review and filter submissions based on what is most relevant or needed within their discipline.
Both formal and informal academic discourse can occur at academic conferences. Academicians are invited to present peer-reviewed papers at these conferences. Much informal networking and discussion also happens at conferences, providing cross-pollination of ideas between researchers within a given discipline.