Undergraduate Discussion Project
You will select or be assigned one of the speaking
moments we study this semester to explore in more depth. There will
be from one to three students working on the unit with you.
This project will require two stages:
- Annotated Bibliography. Prepare an
annotated bibliography on the speaker, speech, and moment we will
study on your day. This should be ten to twenty sources including
some to explore the moment, some that study the speaker, and some
on the speech we will be studying. You should include research in
newspapers or magazines from the moment to understand the public perspective
of the time. You may include material from the bibliography on the
class website, but should go beyond it. Your bibliography should be
well rounded and have depth, including primary
and vetted secondary sources. Although some of your sources
may be from the internet, the internet cannot
always be relied upon for quality sources of information.
You will want to make certain that you go beyond strict reliance on
the internet. The bibliography should cite, in proper MLA or
APA format, sources you have consulted. To each should be added an
annotation. An annotation is two or three sentences that (1) describe
what is contained in the source, and (2) explain what you learned
from the source that you find important to our class discussion. Attach
a properly signed honors pledge.
You may do the bibliography individually
or in a group. All students choosing to complete the bibliography
assignment in a group are expected to work together on the assignment;
that is, you may pool your sources for the bibliography, but everyone
should read all the sources collected, and a healthy discussion
of the things found should precede your responsibilities in class.
The criteria for grading will be applied
to the bibliography so when the sources come together make certain
it measures up to expectations. Your group bibliography should
be a single document with consistent and correct style. If
you do work in groups, each person in the group should sign off
individually with an honor pledge on a bibliography submitted by
a group and will receive an identical grade with all others in the
group. Your signature on the group honor pledge indicates
that you did work as a group.
The bibliography is due on the day we discuss
your unit in the course. The bibliography will be five percent of
- Classroom discussion. Read
the material you gathered in the bibliography to prepare yourself
for class discussion. It is also a good idea for the group to get
together before the class discussion to share the knowledge they have
attained in reading the material in their bibliography. You are responsible
and will be graded on your participation in class on the day(s) when
your community is discussed. I will expect you to have comments that
go beyond the reading of the class and the lectures, comments that
show your use of the bibliography you have constructed. Your grade
on the discussion will be five percent of your final grade.
Recommendations for doing
Step 1: Planning your research strategy
Conceptualizing the Research. Remember that
your purpose is to deepen your knowledge of the speaker, the speech,
and the moment. The assignment indicates three different areas
you will need to research: "the
speaker, speech, and moment we will study on your day."
Planning your time. This is not going to be an assignment
you complete overnight. You will have read somewhere between
three and five hundred pages of material by the time you have finished.
So leave yourself plenty of time. But also, don't overestimate
what you will be able to do. Have an intelligent strategy
that allows you to do the assignment well within the time constraints
that you have.
General strategies for your reading. What sorts
of things are you going to spend your time reading?
Internet sites often give you shallow
explanations of ideas that are important to your understanding
but most such sites lack depth or full vetting for accuracy.
Learn to differentiate unvetted from vetted
sources when you access material through your computer.
Articles that appear in vetted academic journals or even some
well edited magazines have passed the scrutiny of others who
are able to judge whether they are accurate and reasonable in
the context of their historical period.
Obviously, books are longer than journal articles, so they
take longer to read. Yet, they may or may not tell you
much more than the article. For example, one can read
about Franklin Roosevelt's 1932 campaign in a journal article
or can read their book on the topic. The book will provide
you many more details and a fuller historical sweep, valuable
to a scholar reading their work. But you may not need
that additional depth. If you understand the journal article,
you may be able to make your full contribution to the discussion.
I do not discourage the reading of a book at some point in your
preparation, but deal with books intelligently.
Obviously, reading focused sections of books takes less time
but provides less depth than full books. Thus, you could
read about Roosevelt's Commonwealth Club speech in a section
of the book on his campaign, but would miss the full context
of the speech in the campaign.
Another type of book collects essays from several authors on
a particular subject. These essays function more like
journal articles than full books so they can be very useful
I would encourage you to think in terms of starting with shallower
sources, perhaps from the internet (with proper
caution), moving quickly to articles from periodicals and essays
from, or sections of, books before you take on whole books.
Thus, you will have built a kind of upside down pyramid, beginning
with shallower material and working yourself toward more depth based
on that early reading. But think through this strategy before
Identifying search terms. As you begin your
research you need to find quality sources using data bases.
The first step in this is your making a list of search terms to
put into the search engines you will use.
You should construct this list including the following:
- the speaker
- issues that the speaker addresses in the speech
- names that characterize the time period
- other names that come up in the lecture
Identify Key Databases. To complete your strategy,
you need to decide which databases to consult and/or search using
the key terms you have developed. I recommend the following:
Begin with the bibliography from the course website.
GOOGLE SCHOLAR. Be sure you use one through the university
computers so you get the linkage to the university's library
Indexes accessing reliable and disciplined sources.
Available through the RESEARCH PORT at the library's
Communication and Mass Media Complete. This
database will give you access to earlier work in communication.
America: History and Life. This is an excellent
database for the history portion of the assignment.
Academic Search Premier. While this is a
general, multidisciplinary database, its size and scope
make it worth searching for most academic subjects.
Lexis-Nexus. Particularly useful in recent times.
Non-library internet search engines
such as GOOGLE. Realize that material is placed on the internet
without regard to its reliability and without benefit of checks
for accuracy. Information you gain through this mode of
searching should be approached with due caution as unvetted
Step 2: Beginning your research
Building your Bibliography. You are now ready
to execute your strategy and begin your research.
Don't do your bibliography last, begin it now.
As you find possible sources record them in proper form in
a bibliography including information on their call number in
the library, URL, or any other information that will help you
locate them. You will save yourself time later.
Annotate as you acquire information on what the sources might
have in them.
Implement your strategy by placing your bibliography in the
order you want to look at the sources.
Locating your initial sources. You are ready
to begin looking for your initial sources.
Follow your strategy decisions above.
Keep your research balanced, looking for six or seven sources
in each category that you need to look at.
Don't expect everything you look at to be useful. When
it is not, indicate this on the bibliography entry so that you
do not go back to sources you have already seen.
Reading sources. As you read read for three
Knowledge. How is your understanding growing?
What did you learn from the source?
Specifics. What are your finding that you want
to add to the class discussion? Add these to your annotations.
Other things to read. Keep adding to your bibliography
from footnotes and references. Pay special attention to
books that might be worthwhile to spend the time on.
Step 3: Completing your research
Follow the hot trails. When you find good material,
follow up on it with other sources mentioned by the source.
Keep checking yourself for balance. Remember
the balance I am looking for in your reading:
Work through what you have gained. Look back over
your notes and summarize what you know. If you are working
with a group sit down and talk through how your work fits together.
Think about what you would like to add to the discussion.
Finalize your annotated bibliography. Select the sources
that have been most useful in each of the areas of your research
and prepare them biblioography to be handed in. Remember to prepare
it with a word processor, using proper MLA or APA form. You
will be graded on form as well as content. An "A"
bibliography will have a well balanced and sufficient choice of
sources, will have annotations that assist in your preparation for
discussion, and will follow proper form and format.
A note about types of sources
In choosing the sources for your work, there are some distinctions
that you should know. The first is the distinction between primary
and secondary sources. Primary sources are contemporary documents
that are created as a part of historical moment or by a person who is
a participant or direct observor of the historical moment. Secondary
sources provide accounts or interpretations of the moments by those
who study primary sources. Thus, the text of a speech is a primary source.
So, is the account of a speechwriter on how the speech was put together.
A newspaper or magazine from the time is also a primary source in its
role of creating the culture of the time. When it reports on the speech,
however, it is a secondary source. Primary sources are not necessarily
better than secondary sources, but they are more direct and do not have
the filtering perspective of secondary sources. Secondary sources
are necessarily better than primary sources, but they do have greater
perspective on the event particularly those that look back from a number
of years later. You want both in your bibliography.
The other important distinction is between vetted and unvetted
sources. Vetting is the process in which several people studying a subject
have the opportunity to identify the accuracy and reliability of a source,
to recommend alterations in the account, and to generally refine the
account. When you are dealing with primary evidence, unvetted sources
are superior. We generally want to encounter the moment unfiltered.
When we are dealing with secondary evidence, vetted evidence is superior.
The internet has provided greater opportunities for access unvetted
(that is, unedited) primary materials. But it poses a problem with secondary
sources because anyone can post anything on the internet without the
vetting process. In the old libraries of books and journals, there was
an established editorial process that vetted work before it was published.
That process may or may not operate on the internet; you need to determine
whether an internet site is vetted. Unvetted secondary internet sources
are considered unreliable when compared to vetted secondary sources.
Of course, when journal articles or books are presented in electronic
form after having been vetted, they are as good as vetted print sources
and easier to use. But in the internet world you cannot assume vetting
without knowing that it has occured.
A note about "the internet"
Obviously electronic access makes the gathering of information easier
for all of us. But there are some things that you have to keep
in mind when doing research through this easy method.
It is wise to differentiate between the internet -- that vast
accumulation of information that you access through GOOGLE, YAHOO,
and similar search engines -- and the less open resources of a
library that are increasingly available electronically through
your computer. Both are accessible through your computer
but they are different reservoirs of information. These reservoirs
have different gateways: GOOGLE and YAHOO versus GOOGLE SCHOLAR,
RESEARCH PORT, and the ONLINE CATALOG, the latter two found on
the university libraries' website.
Not all information available on the internet or anywhere else
is equally reliable. There are institutions and processes that
are designed and function to examine the truth, comprehensiveness,
and reliability of information. Among these institutions are those
of academic scholarship and responsible editorial scrutiny. We
say that in these instiutional processes that information is "disciplined"
or "vetted." The internet has greatly complicated our
lives with regard to such vetting. Some material found on the
internet is disciplined, but much is simply posted by someone
without benefit of the full, careful, review of disciplined research.
You must now develop your ability to differentiate between
information that has this reliability and information without
this reliability. The library door used to do that for
you; now you are on your own. You need to train yourself
to recognize the signs of this reliability. Is the material published
under the primature of a scholarly organization? Is the source
a known reliable researcher in the subject matter involved? Is
there evidence of an editorial process that would insist on the
reliability of material published? Does a website explain how
material is screened for inclusion?
The material that is generally available in the bricks and mortar
library is more reliable knowledge, disciplined by careful
review, correction, and improvement through the editorial processes
that are a part of academic life. It is this kind of disciplined
knowledge that you pay big bucks to acquire at a university.
We are in the midst of a period when the access to this information
is shifting from the bricks and mortar library to electronic access.
During this period, you will seldom be able to get the full benefit
of the library from your computer. You will need to go to
the bricks and mortar building to do some of your work.
So, I offer the following advice to you:
Start with what you can access electronically.
Differentiate in your own mind between the internet and electronically
accessible library material. Both you access electronically,
but with different levels of reliability.
Be prepared to work across the electronic/bricks and mortar threshold
of the library.
I do not expect that all your research will have to take place in the
library, but I suspect some of it will. I will not penalize you
for not entering the library. But I will penalize you for having
narrow bibliographies without depth in the areas I have asked for depth.
You may penalize yourself if you restrict yourself only to material
available on the internet or through electronic sources.
Grading the bibliography
The bibliography will be graded on the following criteria:
Comprehensiveness. Does the overall biblography treat all I asked:
the speaker, speech, and moment
we will study on your day?
Depth. Does the bibliography contain some
specific work as well as general treatments of the time, place,
Quality. Does the bibliography reflect
due attention to the vetting process? That is, is their sufficient
material that would indicate academic or carefully edited work?
Quantity. Are there sufficient entries
(at least ten to twenty) to achieve comprehensiveness? Note the
numbers are guidelines, comprehensiveness is the criterion.
Proper Form. Have you followed APA or
MLA form in citing your sources?
Annotation. Do your annotations provide
evidence that you have (a) read the material, and (b) thought
about how you might use it in class discussion.
An "A" bibliography will be superior in all regards. All
students choosing to complete the bibliography assignment in a group
will receive an identical grade with all others in the group. The bibliography
will be five percent of your grade.
Grading the class discussion
You will be graded on your participation in
class on the day(s) when your community is discussed. Criteria will
Willingness to contribute. Have you taken
the initiative to add valuable content to our class discussion?
Notice that there is no linear scale that the more you contribute
in class, the better your grade. On the other hand, I expect to
see your participating freely and voluntarily.
Depth of contribution. Do your comments
go beyond the reading of the class and the lectures? Do they show
your use of the bibliography you have constructed?
Relevance and significance of contribution.
Do your comments add important insight into the unit and the speaker
that we are studying.
An "A" contribution will add signficantly
to the quality of the learning that takes place during the contribution.
Even if your bibliography grade is a group grade, your discussion grade
will be individual. Your grade on the discussion will be five percent
of your final grade.