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
- Why is the speaker giving this speech? Is its presentation compelled by
ritual or by circumstances, or partially by each?
- If compelled by circumstances, what are those circumstances? If compelled
by ritual, what are the demands of that ritual on the speaker?
- What elements of the situation present themselves to the speaker as necessary
to address within the speech?
- Who will be the audience for the speech? The empirical audience (those who
will actually hear the speech delivered on the day it is articulated)? The
target audience (those whom the speaker designs the speech to reach or influence)?
Make sure you account for the possibility of multiple audiences.
- How did the speaker prepare for the speech? Was it extemporaneously delivered
or written before the event?
- Who wrote the speech? Was it the speaker or someone else? Did s/he have
assistance from others?
- Were there models for the speech that the speaker read in preparing the
- On the day of the speech, what events preceded the speech? What events followed?
Strategies for Research
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.