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COM 120: Public Discourse: Local Research

Research for Public Discourse

Welcome to your library guide to COM 120: Public Discourse! I designed this guide with your research needs in mind. On the Wider Research tab (above), you'll find recommendations for databases, websites, and other places to search for information about your problem. On this page, you'll find resources for finding information at the local level, no matter where your local level is. The rest of the guide has additional information to support your research. Spend some time exploring it!

  • Don't hesitate to ask if you've got questions! Send me an email - I enjoy helping you solve any research problems you have. We can work via email or set up a virtual or in person time to chat.
  • You can also find library and research help at the library's Information Desk or via Reference Services

If you need a refresher on using the library, consult our Library FAQs and an overview of the Library. We also have a guide on how to do research well - use it to brush up and expand your research skills! If you need help finding books, consult this guide (or ask anyone who works in the library). Finally, we also have a guide on how to cite sources.

Finding Local Information

You're investigating a problem that affects your local community. Finding local information will take some persistence and creativity. Here are things to keep in mind:

 

  • What is the local community in which my problem exists? Is your problem primarily occurring in the schools? Is it a broader issue that a neighborhood or town or suburb is discussing?
    • Define the context in which your problem exists.

 

  • Whose voices are most likely to be involved in discussing the problem? Are teachers in your local school involved? Parents? Elected officials? Clergy? Community leaders? Local health officials? Local nonprofit groups? Volunteer groups?
    • Make a list of all the potential categories of people who would be involved in the conversation about your topic.
    • Note any specific individuals and their contact information, because you may want to contact them directly as part of your research.

 

  • Whose voices aren't being included in the conversations? Are there perspectives and people who aren't popping up in the research you are exploring? Whose voices do you expect to hear but aren't? Why might this be?
    • Does this indicate that the community isn't listening to key voices?
    • Or does it indicate that you haven't gone far enough in your research?  

 

  • What tensions are you noting in the conversations? Where are you finding agreement? Disagreement? What do you make of this? How does it shape your understanding of your problem? How does the shape of the conversation influence how you're going to tell the story about your problem when you give your presentations?
    • You are doing more than proving if a problem exists or not. You are outlining the contours of a conversation about your problem in order to share the conversation with others and to propose fitting solutions.

 

  • How would evidence of the problem - or conversations about the problem - likely be communicated or shared? Once you figure this out, you'll be past the hardest part of finding local information. For example, local newspapers report on issues within your community. School boards and town or city councils publish their minutes. Schools share some local data with the state-wide department of education. Many organizations post annual reports and other information on their websites.
    • Keep in mind that some information may not be shared publicly, in which case contacting someone from your list above might be your best option for research.
    • Use the Local Information Sources box to the left for more ideas and tips!

 

  • What are the best ways to access information and evidence about the problem? Build off your brainstorming from above. See if your local paper has a website. Check your school district or local government website to find meeting minutes. If your topic is health related, see if the local hospital's website has any information. Reach out to relevant individuals in your community for both information about the problem itself and to see if they have any additional ideas about sources or people to consult. 
    • Use the Local Information Sources box to the left for more ideas and tips!

Local Information Sources

These are the kinds of organizations and groups that will have the kind of local information you're researching. Do some web searching to find them in your community (and reach out to Julie if you need ideas or get stuck).

  • Town/City Government - most towns will have a main government page where you should be able to find meeting minutes and other relevant info about how the town may/may not be addressing your problem
  • Public Library - your local library will be an excellent source for finding local information. Librarians know the communities they serve, so they will be able to point you to local resources you may not have considered. Give them a call or see if their website has an online contact form.
  • Local News Outlets - does your community have a local newspaper? What about a local television station? Check out their web pages to see if they've been discussing your problem. Consult the Newspapers tab (above) for more information.
  • School District or College - if your problem exists primarily within local schools, browse the website for the school district to see what information they have available. Do the same for any higher education institutions you are investigating - most will have links to meeting minutes, student newspapers, alumni magazines, offices & people who are involved in the problem. See the Education tab above for more information.
  • Nonprofits - are there local nonprofit groups that might be discussing your problem? Search online to locate relevant ones for your community.
  • Faith communities - to what degree are you local churches, temples and mosques involved in this problem? Are there other faith communities that might be a part of this conversation?

Research in the Town Square

from https://www.pragueexperience.com/events/easter.asp

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Julie Gilbert
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Hello! I look forward to working with you. If you have any questions about research, an assignment, or the library in general, please contact me - (jgilber2 @ gustavus.edu). You can also reach any of the reference librarians at folke @ gustavus.edu or via the Ask Us! button on the library's homepage.
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