The June 2014 issue of Toastmaster magazine had an article by Margaret Montet titled Don’t Rely on the Web (Visit a library for sophisticated research tools). It’s pretty good, and well worth reading. But, since it’s just two pages long it omits some important information. In this post I will fill in the blanks, and use my location here in Boise, Idaho as an example.
START WITH YOUR PUBLIC LIBRARY
What is your first step in researching for a speech? Do you just fire up a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) and look around on the web? That approach will find you oodles of mediocre information. What you really need is less but higher quality information (from books, magazine articles, and newspaper articles). Where will you find it? Why, at your friendly local public library.
Do you already have a card for your public library? If not, go get one. The Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) at the library is your basic tool for finding books, audio CDs (recorded books), and videos. Library of Congress subject headings sometimes are not obvious to us civilians. Ask a librarian if you need help in finding the right ones. For example Carmine Gallo’s book Talk Like TED is cataloged under both “Public speaking” and “Business presentations” while Business Storytelling for Dummies is under “Communication in management” and “Business communication.” Once you have found an item like a book, you can widen the search by looking under its subject headings.
You can also use your home computer to log in at the library web site and use their set of databases that cover both magazine and newspaper articles. Most state library systems purchase access to a suite of databases for all their public libraries. Here in Idaho that collection of EBSCO Host databases is handled by Libraries Linking Idaho (LiLI). Your taxes already have paid for this, so you might as well take advantage of what you bought.
For newspapers there are Newspaper Source Plus and Regional Business News. For magazines (and newspapers and more) there are MasterFILE Premier, Business Source Premier, and Academic Search Premier.
Some libraries add other databases. Boise Public Library (but not the Ada County Library) also has Reader’s Guide Retrospective from Wilson, a database with searchable access to more than 100 years of citations (but not full text) from 523 leading U.S. magazines covering from 1890 through 1982. It is an excellent resource for historical research. The Boise Public Library also adds the expensive newspaper database from the Idaho Statesman.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO REINVENT THE WHEEL
How can you painlessly learn to use the library to research your speech? Look instead at the web site for your state university library. Every term they get a fresh batch of somewhat confused students enrolled in their introductory public speaking or communication course. So, they will have either a specific course guide, or a more general guide to communication. Just climb in their wheelbarrow and ride along.
For example, Boise State University has a guide for their Communication 101 course. Their tabbed START HERE page suggests that you first look in the Academic Search Premier database, which is from LiLI and also can be found at public libraries. In that database you can find a magazine called Vital Speeches of the Day that has both well-known and obscure examples. Boise State also has the scholarly Communication and Mass Media Complete database, which goes back about a century. Idaho State University also has a guide for their Speech/COMM 1101 course.
I suspect that Margaret Montet may have run afoul of the bureaucrats at her employer, whom she did not mention in her Toastmaster magazine article. Actually she works at the Bucks County Community College, and she even wrote one of the library guides for their Comm 110 Effective Speaking course.
An Appendix at the end of this blog post lists example guide web pages at state universities from all fifty states. Others also are useful. For example, a web page at Sacramento City College mentioned that along with the CQ Researcher library database on controversial topics there also is a web site called ProCon. A Colorado State University web page for SPCM 200 Public Speaking has a tab for Example Speeches.
LEARN HOW TO FISH FOR INFORMATION
From EBSCO Host you can do a “federated search” covering multiple databases at once. Databases like EBSCO’s Academic Search Premier have many very powerful search functions that are not at all obvious.
The Basic Search screen is shown above. (Click on the image to see a larger, clearer version). I almost always begin by checking the box under Limit your results to select Full Text. Later on I can always expand my search to include articles that only have abstracts. You can watch their two-and- a half-minute basic video tutorial.
There is a much more detailed 26-minute EBSCO Host video tutorial. Usually I prefer to use their Advanced Search option, as shown above with the pull-down menu revealed to show that I’ve entered the TI Title of an article, Taming hostile audiences.
Some other options include AU Author, SU Subject Terms, and SO source Journal Name. It also is possible to search within either AB Abstract or TX All Text. A Boolean search is built by combining a series of terms connected by AND or OR or NOT. That search finds an article by Tracy, Larry that appeared in Vital Speeches of the Day back in 2005. It also finds a similar article from the February 1990 issue of Training & Development titled Taming the Hostile Audience by Tracy, Lawrence L.
When I click on the PDF Full Text label, I can read and save that article. If I click on the title, I get an abstract showing the Subject Terms: LECTURERS, PUBLIC speaking, ORAL communication, SPEECHES, addresses, etc. I could click on any of those subject terms to widen my search. I also could click on the Authors to see if there were other articles written by Larry Tracy. (Sadly there are not).
FOR EVEN MORE DEPTH, VISIT YOUR STATE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
If you need more than your public library can offer, research your state university web site and then visit their library on a quiet weekend day (when they aren’t playing football or basketball). Take along a USB thumb drive and a note pad. Also bring coins, and dollar bills to pay for parking and copying or printing.
The mission of state universities includes serving state residents. They will have some arrangement for guests and visitors. For example, at Boise State University an Idaho resident can show a driver’s license or other photo ID at the circulation desk, and get a temporary logon good for an hour of use on one of four desktop PC guest terminals near the reference desk. You can search most of their collection of databases, and save articles on your USB thumb drive. (You can’t get to these databases remotely, since that requires a current university ID card number).
At Boise State you also can use one of the standup terminals near the reference desk to look up the location for older magazines on hard copy or microfiche. Then you can read and copy or print articles.
You probably can even get a library card and check out books. At Boise State they have a free citizen card. Elsewhere it is more common to have to join a Friend of the Library program and pay an annual fee of perhaps $ 25 to $75 (which may be waived if you are an alumnus). Compare that annual fee with the cost of purchasing even a few books, and you will find it is a bargain.
WHERE CAN I FIND EVEN MORE ABOUT RESEARCH?
Public Speaking, The ACA Open Knowledge Online Guide, has a chapter you can read on Research and Library Skills. You also could get William Badke’s book on Research Strategies (5th edition, 2014). He has a web page with a very useful list of Live Links.
Images of a public library, fishing, and a wheelbarrow all came from Wikimedia Commons.
APPENDIX: STATE UNIVERSITY WEB PAGES
ABOUT PUBLIC SPEAKING/COMMUNICATION
University of Alabama - COM 123: Public Speaking
University of Alaska, Anchorage - Communication and Speech
Arizona State University - COM 225 Public Speaking
University of Arkansas - Resources for Public Speaking
San Francisco State University - COMM 351 Public Speaking
University of Colorado, Denver: Auraria Library - Public Speaking
University of Delaware - Communication
University of Florida - Speech-Language Pathology
University of Georgia - COMM 1100: Intro to Public speaking
University of Hawaii Maui Community College - Researching Speeches
Boise State University: Communication 101
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign - Communication 101
Indiana University Bloomington - P155: Public Speaking
Iowa State University - Speech Comm 212
University of Kansas - COMS 130: Communication Studies
University of Kentucky - Communication
Louisiana State University - Communication Studies
University of Maine - Communication Studies - CMJ 103 Public Speaking
University of Maryland - Communication
University of Massachusetts, Amherst - Communication
University of Michigan - Communication Studies
University of Minnesota, Duluth - COMM 1112 Public Speaking
Mississippi State University - Communication Research Guide
University of Missouri - Communication 1200 Public Speaking
University of Montana - COMX 111: Introduction to Public Speaking
University of Nebraska, Lincoln - Communications Studies
University of Nevada, Reno - COM 101 Oral Communication
University of New Hampshire - CA 450 Introduction to Public Speaking
Rutgers University - Comm 380 Public Speaking
University of New Mexico - CJ130 Public Speaking
SUNY Albany - Communications Studies: A Guide to Reference Sources
University of North Carolina - Communications Studies
University of North Dakota - Public speaking
Kent State University - Comm 26000
University of Oklahoma - Communication
Oregon State University - Speech Communication
Temple University - Public Speaking STRC 1111
University of Rhode Island - Communication Studies
Clemson University - Communication Studies
University of South Dakota - SPCM 101 Fundamentals of Speech Communication
(This has YouTubed video tutorials for the EBSCO Communication and Mass Media Complete database).
University of Tennessee Knoxville - Communication Studies 210 Public Speaking
University of Texas - Communication Studies Research Guide
Utah State University - Public Speaking
University of Vermont - Finding and Using Primary Sources - Speeches
Prince George’s Community College - Communication/Speech
University of Washington - Communication Studies
West Virginia University - COMM 104
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee - Communication 103
University of Wyoming - COJO 1010: Public Speaking