Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

COM 120: Public Discourse: Start

Hello from your friendly librarian!

Welcome to your library guide to COM 120: Public Discourse!

This course will require you to identify a problem in your community, determine who are the stakeholders -- who deeply cares about this problem? -- and locate information about this problem so that you can make the case for a solution.

Because each of your projects will be unique, and will depend on you finding local sources of information about your problem, I cannot stress enough the importance of scheduling an individual research consultation with me or another librarian.

We are here to help you, so please take advantage of our expertise.

Brainstorming Questions for Today

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.

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. Also note any specific individuals and their contact information, because you may want to contact them directly as part of your research.

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.

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.

Questions for Later

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? It could indicate that the community isn't listening to key voices. It could also indicate that you haven't gone far enough in your research - the information could exist but you maybe haven't found it yet. This is a great time to reassess your research approach and discuss issues with your course professor or with me.

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? Remember, 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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License