Factual statements are those that can be verified. “A recent study confirmed that preschoolers watch an average of 28 hours of television a week,” “The Gateway Solo laptop comes with a CD-ROM drive” and “Johannes Gutenberg invented printing from movable type in the 1400’s” are all statements of fact that can be verified. One way to verify information that appears to be factual is to check it against material from another source on the same subject.
Be especially skeptical of “facts” that are asserted on the Internet. Because anyone can say virtually anything online, you need to especially vigilant. Never use any information that is not carefully documented unless you have corroborating sources.
Expert opinions are interpretations and judgments made by authorities in a particular subject area. “Watching 28 hours of television a week is far too much for young children,” “Having a CD-ROM drive in your computer is a necessity” and “The invention of printing from movable type was for all intents and purposes the start of mass communication” are all opinions based on the factual statements made previously. Whether they are expert opinions or not depends on who made the statements.
How do you tell all expert from a “quack “? First, the expert is recognized by others in his or her field. Second, the expert must be knowledgeable about the matter at hand. For instance, a history professor may qualify as an expert ill his or her field of study of Ancient Greece but not qualify as an expert in Incan history.
If you plan to use expert opinions in your speech, identify them as opinions and indicate to your audience the level of confidence that should be attached to the statement. For instance, an informative speaker may say, “The temperatures throughout the 1990’s were much higher than average. Paul Jorgenson, a space biologist, believes these higher than average temperatures represent the first stages of the greenhouse effect, but the significance of these temperatures is not completely accepted as fact.”
Although opinions cannot entirely take the place of documented facts, expert opinions can be used to interpret and give weight to the facts you have discovered.
Drawing Information from Multiple Cultural Perspectives
How facts are perceived and what opinions are held often are influenced by a person’s cultural background. Therefore, it is important to draw your information from culturally diverse perspectives by seeking sources that have differing cultural orientations and by interviewing experts with diverse cultural backgrounds. For example, when Carrie was preparing for her speech on proficiency testing in grade schools, she purposefully searched for articles written by noted Hispanic, Asian and African American, as well as European American, authors. In addition, she interviewed two local school superintendents one from an urban district and one from a suburban district. Because she consciously worked to develop diverse sources of information, Carrie felt more confident that her speech would more accurately reflect all sides of the debate on proficiency testing.
Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, an internationally renowned scholar, believes that limiting our research by only considering the viewpoints of those who are like us promotes racism that is then transmitted as we speak. The accompanying Spotlight on Scholars features his work.
Molefi Kete Asante, Professor of Africology, Temple University, on the Language of Prejudice and Racism
Molefi Kete Asante is an activist scholar who believes it is not enough to know, one must act to humanize the world. Over his career Asante has sought not only to understand what he studied, but also to use that knowledge to help people discover how to exert their power. In 1968, at the age of 26, Asante completed his Ph.D. in Speech Communication from UCLA. As a graduate student, Asante studied language and the rhetoric of agitation and in his dissertation, he analyzed the speeches of one of the most zealous agitators during the American Revolution, Samuel Adams. During the late 1960’s, however, Asante focused his attention on another revolution occurring in the United States that he found more compelling. Demonstrating his insatiable appetite for intellectual work, at the same time that he was working on his dissertation he also wrote The Rhetoric of Black Revolution, published in 1969.
As a scholar grounded in communication and the rhetoric of agitation, Asante began to notice how racism and communication were intertwined. As his thinking evolved, he began to formulate the theory that racism in our culture is embedded in our language system.
According to Asante, racism stems from a thought system that values a particular race over another. As a phenomenon of language, racism is demonstrated by what people say about others and how they justify their personal attitudes and beliefs. What Asante discovered is that our language reflects the “knowledge system” we are taught. In the United States and much of the world, this knowledge system reflected a European rather than a multicultural view of human events and achievements.
For instance, in most schools, the study of the arts or philosophy or science focuses only on the contributions made by Europeans or European Americans. As a result of the focus of these studies, we “learn” that nothing substantial or important originated from anywhere else. Thus we come to value the music, literature, rituals and values of Europeans over those of other cultural groups. Since racism comes from valuing a particular race above another, Asante reasons, it was inevitable that mono ethnic Eurocentric approaches to education would result in our developing racist thoughts and a racist language structure that reifies those thoughts.
To combat racism and racist language, Asante believes that we must first enlarge our knowledge base to accurately reflect the contributions that have been made by other racial and cultural groups. For example, the history that is taught needs to reflect the substantial contributions that Africa, China and other non European groups have made to the development of humankind. Likewise, the literature and art that is studied needs to reflect and be drawn from a body that includes the work of various racial and ethnic groups. When people learn that all racial and cultural groups have made significant contributions to the development of humankind, they will be less prone to view themselves as superior or inferior to others.
As a contribution to providing the kinds of information that we all need to learn, in 1987 Asante wrote Afrocentricity, a book that seeks to discover, understand and reclaim the contributions that many cultures, especially African cultures, have made to our common intellectual heritage. Since that time, Asante has focused his own learning and his scholarship on discovering, reclaiming and sharing the contributions of African culture and philosophy.
Asante’s influence has been widespread. He served as the first Director of Afro American Studies at UCLA, Department Head of Speech Communication at SUNY Buffalo and Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Temple University, where he established the first Ph.D. program in African American Studies. He is internationally known for his work on Afrocentricity and African culture. He has published over 30 books, edited 9 others and authored over 80 book chapters and journal articles. In the process, he has led an intellectual revolution among scholars working in numerous disciplines. Although he is noted for his scholarship, Asante says, “Working with students is the centerpiece of what I do.” He currently teaches undergraduate courses on the African American Church and 20th Century Mass Media in Black Communities and graduate courses in Ancient Egyptian Language and Culture and Egyptian Origins of Rhetoric. For a list of some of Asante’s major publications, see the References at the end of the book.
His interest in his personal African heritage has caused him to trace his family ancestry back to Ghana. Recently, in Ghana, he was “enstooled,” a ceremony that formally acknowledges a person as a member of Ghanaian royalty. At that ceremony he was given the name “Nano Okru Asantc Peasah, Kyidomhene of Tafo.”
Verbal Forms of Information
Factual information and expert opinions come in or may be presented as examples and illustrations, statistics, anecdotes and narratives, comparisons and contrasts or quotable explanations and opinions.
Examples Examples are specific instances that illustrate or explain a general factual statement. One or two short examples like the following are often enough to help make a generalization meaningful.
One way a company increases its power is to buyout another company.
Recently Kroger bought out Fred Meyer Inc. to make it the largest grocery firm in the country.
Professional billiard players practice many long hours every day. Jennifer Lee practices as much as ten hours a day when she is not in a tournament.
Examples are useful because they provide concrete detail that makes a general statement more meaningful to the audience.
Although most of the examples you find will be real, you may find hypothetical examples you can use. Hypothetical examples are those drawn from reflections about future events. They develop the idea “What if … ?” In the following excerpt, John A. Ahladas (1989) presents some hypothetical examples of what it will be like in the year 2039 if global warming continues:
In New York, workers are building levees to hold back the rising tidal waters of the Hudson River, now lined with palm trees. In Louisiana, 100,000 acres of wetland are steadily being claimed by the sea. In Kansas, farmers learn to live with drought as a way of life and struggle to eke out an existence in the increasingly dry and dusty heartland …. And reports arrive from Siberia of bumper crops of corn and wheat from a longer and warmer growing season. (p. 382)
Now let us consider guidelines for selecting and using examples. First, the examples should be clear and specific enough to create a clear picture for the audience. Consider the following generalization and support:
Generalization: Electronics is one of the few areas in which products are significantly cheaper today than they were in the 1980’s.
Supporting example: In the mid 1980’s, Motorola sold cellular phones for $5,000 each; now a person can buy a Motorola cellular phone for under $150.
With this single example, the listener has a vivid picture of tremendous difference in about a fifteen years period.
Second, the examples you use should not be misleading. If cellular phones were the only electronics product for which prices were so much less over that same period, this vivid example would be misleading and unethical. Any misuse of data is unethical, especially if the user knows better.
Good examples can give a clear, vivid picture in relatively few words. It is a good idea to follow this rule of thumb in preparing your speeches: Never let a generalization stand without at least one example.
Statistics Statistics are numerical facts. Statistical statements, such as “Only six out of every ten local citizens voted in the last election” or “The cost of living rose 0.6 percent in January of 2000,” enable you to pack a great deal of information into a small package. Statistics can provide impressive support for a point, but when they are poorly used in the speech, they may be boring and in some instances, downright deceiving. Here are some guidelines for using statistics effectively.
1. Record only statistics whose reliability you can verify. Taking statistics from only the most reliable sources and double checking any startling statistics with another source will guard against the use of faulty statistics.
2. Record only recent statistics so that your audience will not be misled. For example, if you find the statistic that only 9 of 100 members of the Senate, or 9 percent, are women (true in 1999), you would be misleading your audience if you used that statistic in a speech. If you want to make a point about the number of women in the Senate, find the most recent statistics. Check for both the year and the range of years to which the statistics apply.
3. Look for statistics that are used comparatively. By themselves, statistics are hard to interpret. When used comparatively, they have much greater impact. In a speech on chemical waste, Donald Baeder (1980) points out that chemicals are measured in parts per billion or even parts per trillion. Notice how he goes on to use comparisons to put the meaning of the statistics in perspective:
One part per billion is the equivalent of one drop one drop of vermouth in two 36,000 gallon tanks of gin and that would be a very dry martini even by San Francisco standards! One part per trillion is the equivalent of one drop in two thousand tank cars. (p. 497)
4. Do not overuse statistics. Although statistics may be an excellent way to present a great deal of material quickly, be careful not to overuse them. A few pertinent numbers are far more effective than a battery of statistics. When you believe you must use many statistics, try preparing a visual aid, perhaps a chart, to help your audience visualize them.
Anecdotes and narratives Anecdotes are brief, often amusing stories; narratives are tales, accounts, personal experiences or lengthier stories. Because holding audience interest is so important in a speech and because audience attention is likely to be captured by a story, anecdotes and narratives are worth looking for, creating and using. For a five minute speech, you have little time to tell a detailed story, so one or two anecdotes or a very short narrative would be preferable.
The key to using stories is to make sure that the point of the story states or reinforces the point you make in your speech. In his speech John Howard made a point about failure to follow guidelines (2000, p. 618).
The knight was returning to the castle after a long, hard day. His face was bruised and badly swollen. His armor was dented. The plume on his helmet was broken and his steed was limping. He was a sad sight.
The lord of the castle ran out and asked, “What hath befallen you, Sir Timothy?”
“Oh, Sire,” he said, “I have been laboring all day in your service, bloodying and pillaging your enemies to the West.”
“You’ve been doing what?” gasped the astonished nobleman. “I haven’t any enemies to the West!”
“Oh!” said Timothy. “Well, I think you do now.”
There is a moral to this little story. Enthusiasm is not enough. You need to have a sense of direction.
Good stories and narratives are often humorous, but sentimental, suspenseful and dramatic ones will work as well.
Comparisons and contrasts One of the best ways to give meaning to new ideas is through comparison and contrast. Comparisons illuminate a point by showing similarities. Although you can easily create comparisons using information you have found, you should still keep your eye open for creative comparisons developed by the authors of the books and articles you have found.
Comparisons may be literal or figurative. Literal comparisons show similarities of real things:
The walk from the lighthouse back up the hill to the parking lot is equal to walking up the stairs of a thirty story building.
Figurative comparisons express one thing in terms normally denoting another:
I always envisioned myself as a four door sedan. I didn’t know she was looking for a sports car!
Whereas comparisons show similarities, contrasts show differences. Notice how this humorous contrast dramatizes the difference between “participation” and “commitment”:
If this morning you had bacon and eggs for breakfast, I think it illustrates the difference. The eggs represented “participation” on the part of the chicken. The bacon represented “total commitment” on the part of the pig! (Durst, 1989, pp.309 to 310.)
Quotations When you find an explanation, an opinion or a brief anecdote that seems to be exactly what you are looking for, you may quote it directly in your speech. Because audiences want to listen to your ideas and arguments, however, they do not want to hear a long string of quotations. Nevertheless, a well selected quotation might be perfect in one or two key places.
Quotations can both explain and vivify. Look for quotations that make a point in a particularly clear or vivid way. For example, in his speech on “Enduring Values for a Secular Age,” Hans Becherer (2000, p. 732), Executive Officer at Deere & Company, used this Henry Ford quote to show the importance of enthusiasm to progress:
Enthusiasm is at the heart of all progress. With it, there is accomplishment. Without it, there are only alibis.
Frequently, historical or literary quotations can reinforce a point vividly. Cynthia Opheim (2000, p. 60), Chair of the Department of Political Science at Southwest Texas State University, in her speech “Making Democracy Work” quoted Mark Twain 0 the frustration of witnessing legislative decision making when she said:
There are two things you should never watch being made: sausage and legislation.
To take advantage of such opportunities, you need access to one or more of the many available books of quotations that we mentioned earlier in this chapter. Most books of quotations are organized by topic, which helps in finding a particularly appropriate quote to use in your speech.
Keep in mind that when you use a direct quotation it is necessary to credit the person who formulated it. Using any quotation or close paraphrase without crediting its source is plagiarism, an unethical act.
Recording Information and Citing Written and Electronic Sources
Whether the research materials you find are factual statements or opinions, you need to record the information accurately and keep a careful account of your sources so that they can be cited appropriately.
How should you record information you plan to use? Because you can never be sure of the final order in which it is used, it is best to record information on note cards.
In the note card method, each factual statement or expert opinion, along with bibliographical documentation, is recorded on a separate four by six inch or larger index card. Although it may seem easier to record all material from one source on a single sheet of paper (or to photocopy source material), sorting and arranging material is much easier when each item is recorded separately. On each card, indicate the topic of the recorded information, the information and the publication data. Any part of the information that is quoted directly should be enclosed with quotation marks.
Publication data differ depending on whether the information is from a book, a periodical or newspaper or a Web site. For a book, include names of authors, tide of the book, the place of publication and the publisher, the date of publication and the page or pages from which the information is taken. For a periodical or newspaper, include the name of the author (if given), the title of the article, the name of the publication, the date and the page number from which the information is taken. For online sources, include the URL for the Web site, the heading under which you found the information and the date that you accessed the site. Specifics and samples for preparing source citations (including interviews) for inclusion in the complete outline. In all cases, list source information in enough detail so that the information can be found later if needed.
The number of sources that you should use depends in part on the type of speech. For a narrative of a personal experience, you will be the main, if not the only, source. For reports and persuasive speeches, however, speakers ordinarily use several sources. For a speech on Ebola in which you plan to talk about causes, symptoms and means of transmission, you should probably have two or more note cards under each heading. Moreover, the note cards should come from at least three different sources. One source speeches often lead to plagiarism; furthermore, a one or two source speech simply does not give sufficient breadth of material. By selecting and using the information from several sources, you will accumulate enough information to enable you to develop an original approach to your topic.
Citing Sources in Speeches
In your speeches, as in any communication in which you use ideas that are not your own, you should credit your sources. Including sources not only helps the audience to evaluate the content but also adds to your credibility. In addition, citing sources will give concrete evidence of the depth of your research. Failure to cite sources, especially when you are presenting information that is meant to substantiate a controversial point, is unethical.
In a written report, ideas taken from other sources are designated by footnotes; in a speech these notations must be included within the context of your statement of the material. Your citation need not be a complete representation of all the bibliographical information.
Although you do not want to clutter your speech with bibliographical citations, make sure to mention the sources of your most important information.
Summary (Doing Research)
Effective speaking requires high quality information. You need to know where to look for information, what kind of information to look for, how to record it and how to cite sources in your speeches.
To find material, begin by exploring your own knowledge, experience and observations. Then work outward through library and electronic sources, interviewing and surveying. Look for material in books, periodicals, encyclopedias statistical sources, biographical sources, newspapers, government publications, microfilm indexes, computer databases and the Internet. By skimming material you can quickly evaluate sources to determine whether or not to read them in full.
Two major types of supporting material for speeches are factual statements and expert opinions. Factual statements report verifiable occurrences. Expert opinions are interpretations of facts made by qualified authorities. Although you will use some of your material as you find it, you may want to present the information in a different form. Depending on your topic and speech goal, you may use facts and opinions orally as examples, anecdotes, narratives, statistics, quotations, comparisons and contrasts.
A good method for recording material that you may want to use in your speech is to record each bit of data along with necessary bibliographical documentation on a separate note card. As your stack of information grows, sort the material under common headings. During the speech, cite the sources for the information.