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