Researching the Speaking Situation


Your task in this project is to set the specific scene for this speech. For example, as we proceed from a general knowledge of the United States at the time of the speech toward the specific moment when Jefferson begins his speech, you take over from the historians. You may want to coordinate things with the historical context group to make sure you each understand that line.


Reid and Klumpp, pp. 7-8, 10-13; 17-18.
Lloyd Bitzer, "The Rhetorical Situation," Philosophy and Rhetoric 1 (1968): 1-14.

Questions to Ask

Strategies for Research

  1. I would start by reading some online accounts of the speech. Using your search engine, just put in the name of the speech, the name of the speaker, and perhaps the occasion. Surf through the results. Note differences in what you read. If you come up with texts of the speech, look at differences in those texts. Remember, however, that these are not well vetted information, so don't be surprised if you find they are exaggerated or even untrue.
  2. Remaining at that general level, pick up an American history textbook. Any text will do. Using the index see whether their is any information on the speech. It is a good idea if in doing this step everyone in the group takes different texts. Some will pay off, some will not.
  3. Now you need to look for more specific information on this speech. Use search engines including "Google Scholar," "Academic Search Premier," and "Communication and Mass Media Complete." Create a bibliography and split the task among the group.
  4. Now come together as a group and assess. Use the questions above as a query guide. Can you answer them? Are the answers well established and agreed upon by historians. Spread your work out into additional bibliography at this point and use indexes and search to find answers to these questions.
  5. Now sit down as a group and share your findings. If you find that there are holes in your research, return to the library with specific assignments.

Preparing Your Oral Report

You will have fifteen minutes to present your findings. As a group, decide what things are important to report to the members of the class. Your effort must familiarize the class with the important elements of the specific context of this speech that we must account for. Formulate the important things into a report. Decide how you will present it orally. Time the presentation. You will be on the clock. Check with the criteria for the oral report to make certain you have planned a satisfactory presentation.

Preparing Your Bibliography

Select the 10-20 sources that when combined into a full bibliography meet the criteria specified for the assignment. You do not report all sources you consulted but select those when taken together best reflect your oral report. Remember, judging the sufficiency of your bibliography does not involve counting but meeting these criteria. Review the annotations to make certain they reflect the required information for each source. Then execute the honors pledge and hand it in.