“Talking the Talk”: A Case Study in Teaching about Jargon in an Undergraduate Writing-Intensive Anthropology Course

  • Shan-Estelle Brown Assistant Professor Co-Coordinator, Global Health Minor Department of Anthropology Rollins College 1000 Holt Ave Box 2761 Winter Park, FL 32789
Keywords: writing, student writers, undergraduate, pedagogy, jargon, discipline-specific terminology


Jargon is frequently considered a “bad” word in the realm of professional writing. Most books on technical writing devote only a small section to explaining the use of technical language with a stern caveat discouraging its use. However, proper use of discipline-specific terms implies membership into a club of professionals who correctly “talk the talk” with each other in their writing. For novice student writers who are just beginning to hone their skills writing in a specific discipline, how can they learn to emulate the writing of professionals?

In this paper, I argue that effective use of discipline-specific vocabulary is not discussed often enough pedagogically and that this skill is an important vehicle to professionalize students so that they become more confident writers of anthropology. This paper outlines techniques used in a writing-intensive introductory anthropology course and seeks to raise more dialogue about writing pedagogy in anthropology.