COMM 461
Spring 2015



Speech Abstracts

You should acquire a notebook where you can keep abstracts of the speeches we read and discuss in class. I recommend a loose-leaf binder, but you may use a wire-ring notebook if you prefer. These abstracts should be very useful to you in preparing insightful observations for the class discussion and in studying for the exams. Write them with this in mind. For each speech (or other piece of public discourse) that you study in preparation for discussion this semester you should construct an abstract of 100-300 words (less than a page double-spaced word processed, although they need not be word processed). The abstract should:

  • identify the speaker, the speech, its subject matter, and its occasion including the date;
  • briefly explain the historical moment that gives rise to the need or opportunity for leadership; and
  • capture the strategies, themes, and other characteristics of the speech with which the speaker motivated public response to the moment, and why they did or did not succeed.

An abstract that is most useful to you in studying for the exam will be imprinted with the logic of our study of leadership in the 20th century. Thus, the second and third requirement above will relate to each other in a logic: The historical situation demanded [insert historical analysis] of the speaker. To meet that situation he chose [insert the strategies, themes, and characteristics of the rhetoric, one by one]. We might have expected such a choice from [the group we are studying who the speaker represents] because . . . This choice worked [or did not work] because [explanation for why it achieved public motivation].

A sample abstract

Grading Abstracts: A Bonus

Although these are primarily to prepare you for class discussions and the exams, they should also contribute to our class discussion. So, I will sweeten the grading a bit. I will select seven days at random to collect your abstracts on one of the speeches we discuss that day, will read the abstract, and assign an "S" or "U" grade. My criteria for an "S" will be:

  • does your abstract show evidence you have read the speech, and
  • does your abstract show evidence you are able to use the material from the course to study the speech.

A grade for the semester, ten percent of the total grade, will be assigned based on your total number of S's on your five best abstracts.

Miss class on a day I collect abstracts?

Please note I will accept the abstract only at the beginning of class before the discussion begins, and only from students who participate in the entirety of the discussion of the speech.