For this assignment, choose a few terms (probably three to five, but I'm open to negotiation on this) that you think exemplify something interesting or special about your community. The terms you choose may be general Internet terms, they may be general Internet terms used in a special way in your community, or they may be terms that you think are specific to your community. Simply given the nature of online discourse I'm using "term" very loosely to include, words, phrases, acronyms, abbreviations, signals for "back channel communication," and, in some cases, emoticons, such as, :-)
1. Provide at least a few examples of the terms as they are used in context. For this, you will have to take notes or "log" examples of the terms in some fashion. An example might be:
2. Provide a short definition of each of the terms as used in your community (and elsewhere, where applicable). As we'll see, terms are defined from their use in context.
3. Check your definition against one or more online or print sources. These can include the online dictionaries/glossaries I've linked to the site, or other dictionaries/glossaries you know about. If your community has a charter, FAQ, AUP or other document with a glossary of terms, check that. If you find your term in these sources and essentially agree with the definition, fine, but explain why you agree. If you find your term but don't agree with the definition that's fine too, but explain why you think the definition doesn't fit the way the term is used within your community. If you don't find one or more terms, that's fine too, but you should write about why you think the term isn't defined in the sources you checked. For example, you may or may not find TPTB ("The Powers That Be") defined in a source, and it may be defined as referring, e.g., to forum administrators, or computer site administrators. If you are following a forum devoted to soap operas (or a particular soap opera), however, you may find that TPTB refers to the writers of shows.
4. Explain how the terms are used to fulfill social functions in your community. This later part of the assignment is closely tied into how the terms are used in context . For example, LOL might be used in your community not simply to signal amusement, it might signal sarcasm (e.g., You think it's EASY to clip cats' claws--LOL.), or it might signal encouragement (e.g., the first example of LOL might be a signal to "Sam" to keep the funny cat stories coming. The use of TPTB in the soap opera forum may signal an "us" (the fans) against "them" (the writers) attitude. Some terms may be good examples of "insider vocabulary," i.e. you have to be a part of the community to know them, and learning them is part of becoming a member of the community.
Please note: I am not defining a specific structure for this assignment beyond asking for a short introduction of your community, since I suspect, given the diversity of communities you are studying, that no single format is ideal. In other words, your paper should cover these points, but not necessarily in the order I have listed them; and you may find that you need to give more weight to some points than to others.