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Speech 1100 - Decision 2008: Rhetoric and Reason


Background Research

Doing Background Research:
The issues discussed in this year's elections are not new. So, before going to books, articles, or web sites it's a good idea to do some background research. This will give you some idea of the scope of your topic, its history, and standard theories or research. Knowing that, you will have some kind of standard with which you can evaluate the value of the sources you discover.

In background research you are looking for an explanation by an established expert in the field that is comprehensive, up-to-date, and non-biased. One of the best places to look for background information is in specialized encyclopedias. To locate specialized encyclopedias in the College of DuPage Library, you will need to know what Library of Congress call number represents your subject. For example, if you were doing a speech on a medical topic, you would want to browse the call letter "R" in the reference area; for a topic of crime you would be in the call letter "HV". The following sources are also excellent sources of background information since they are written as objective overviews.


Congress and the Nation, Reference JK 1041.C6
Elections A to Z, Reference JK 1976 .M57
Encyclopedia of Interest Groups and Lobbyists in the United States, Reference JK 1118 .N47 2000
Encyclopedia of the American Legislative System, Reference JF 501 .E53 1994
Encyclopedia of the Democratic Party, Reference JK 2352 K87 1997
Encyclopedia of the Republican Party, Reference JK 2352 K87 1997
Encyclopedia of Third Parties in America, Reference JK 2261 .E474 2000
Guide to U. S. Elections, Reference JK 1967 .C662
Special Interest Group Profiles for Students, Reference JK 1118 .S688 1999

Current Elections:

Campaign Finance Law, Reference KF 4920 .Z95 L5 2002
CQ Researcher, Reference H 35 .E352
CQ Weekly Report
Directory of Congressional Voting Scores and Interest Group Ratings, Reference JK 1051 .S555 2000
Federal Election Laws and Regulations, Reference KF 4885 .A29 F4 2004
Issues and Controversies on File, Reference HN 1 .A1 I7

Historical Elections:

America Votes, Reference JK 1967 .A8
American Presidential Campaigns and Elections, Reference JK 1965 .A57 2003
Encyclopedia of American Political History, Reference E 183 .E48 2001
National Party Conventions, 1831-2000, Reference JK 2255 .N373 2000


Books may be an appropriate source to find information on your topic. Books in the COD Library are considered reputable sources, but they may not contain the most up to date information on the topic. Use the Library Catalog to do a subject search on your topic. If you don't locate anything with a subject search, try a keyword search to look for essays or chapters in books. If you still aren't finding anything ask at the Reference Desk in person, by phone at 630-942-3364, or online.


Articles are best for the most current information. Remember that some articles may be slanted, so it's important to evaluate them against your background research. These general databases will have information about almost every topic, but some topics may be covered in greater depth in a subject specific database. You will need to have your library card to access these databases from off campus.

Academic OneFile (1980-present) 
Was Expanded Academic ASAP. Indexes over 2500 journals and magazines.
Academic Search Premier (1984-present) 
Indexes over 3,000 journals and magazines.
Communication and Mass Media Complete 
Articles and other research materials in areas related to communication and mass media. Indexing and abstracts for more than 600 journals and full text for 301 journals.
National Newspapers (Proquest)(dates vary) 
Full text of the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. These may also be searched separately.

Internet Sources

Using the Internet: Students often turn to the web as the first source for information. It may be the most convenient, but it is not always the most reliable source. Anyone can publish a web site. Each web site you find should be evaluated for accuracy, credibility, objectivity, and currency. Be especially careful when looking for information on controversial topics; many sites' sole purpose is to "sell" their position on a topic. The Library has a checklist of tips to help you evaluate sites. Some web sites you might want to consult are below. Watch for Image:NewIcon.gif new items being added.

The Issues

Almanac of Policy Issues
The Buying of the President 
From the Center for Public Integrity, "an investigation of how money shapes presidential campaigns."
Campaign 2008 
Council on Foreign Relations' analysis on the candidates positions of foreign relations.
CQ Politics 
Political news and Blogs.
A project of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health issues only.
My Election Decision 
Developed jointly by Lawrence University and University of California/Irvine. First see who you agree with on the issues, then find out more about that candidate's position. Take the opportunity to get involved in online discussions.
National Issues Forum
Public Agenda Online
Religion and Politics 2008 
From the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Science and Technology in the 2008 Presidential Election
Student Voices 
Another Annenberg Public Policy Center resource, this site provides background information and allows you to enter into a discussion with others.

Fact Checkers

FactCheck.org Annenberg Political Fact Check
"PolitiFact is a project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly to help you find the truth in the presidential campaign."

The Media and Politics

AltWeeklies.com: 2008 Presidential Campaign 
Compilation of news stories and commentary concerning the 2008 U.S. presidential election, from more than 100 alternative U.S. and Canadian newsweeklies.
Center for Digital Democracy 
How has politics been affected by new forms of media.
Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch 
Nonprofit organization that investigates public relations spin.
CIRCLE: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement 
Promotes research on the civic and political engagement of Americans between the ages of 15 and 25.
Internet's Broader Role in Campaign 2008 A report by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that shows the impact of social networking and online video sites on elections.
Pew Research Center Reports on Election '08 
Another Pew Research Center site that deals more with media impact and portrayal.
Mixed Messages: Tracking Political Advertising
Recent news on politics from a variety of trustworthy sources. Provides an opportunity to comment and see comments made by others.
Now: Adventures in Democracy 
A PBS product containing news and analysis of the 2008 presidential campaign. Checkout the Democracy Toolkit.
Real Clear Politics 
Aggregates political news from newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Content is manually chosen by the editors. Also includes speeches and transcripts.
Stanford Political Communication Lab 
Campaign ads, discussion of image based politics, and information on negative advertising.

Just for fun:

Indecision 2008 
Political news as comedy and parody.

National Candidates and Elections

All-American Presidential Forums on PBS 
A panel comprised of journalists of color moderate presidential forums on issues that affect all Americans. Video of the forums is included as well as background information.
A publication of the State Department, this is aimed at keeping Americans abroad up to date on the election.
Image:NewIcon.gifAmerican National Election Studies 
"The American National Election Studies (ANES) produces high quality data on voting, public opinion, and political participation to serve the research needs of social scientists, teachers, students, policy makers and journalists who want to better understand the theoretical and empirical foundations of national election outcomes."
CBS News
Center for Responsive Politics (Open Secrets.org)
Council on Foreign Relations
CNN Political Ticker
Congressional Quarterly Inc. has been reporting on politics since 1945.
Image:NewIcon.gifDebating Our Destiny 
Two documentaries about the last 48 years of presidential debates.
The Democratic Party
Elections 2008 
A collection of links to sites with information. From University of Michigan, so some sites refer to Michigan politics. Links to UM licensed databases will not be available to C.O.D. students, but check our Article Databases page to see if we also subscribe.
Financial Times 
The Financial Times is a British publication.
Online Newshour: Vote 2008
Open Congress 
A project of the Sunlight Foundation and PPF (Participatory Politics Foundation), both political watchdog groups.
P2008 The 2008 Presidential Campaign 
Contains links to other useful sites as well as background information and analysis.
Project Vote Smart 
One of the first political information sites on the Web.
Republican National Committee
2008 Presidential Candidates (Washington Post)
Image:NewIcon.gifVoter Turnout 
From the Brookings Institution. Analysis of voter turnout based on historical patterns.
Washington Week and National Journal
You tube videos of candidates speaking on the issues and well as individual voters speaking out on the issues.

Illinois Politics

Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability
Democratic Party of Illinois
Illinois at OpenSecrets.org
Illinois Issues
Illinois Politicians on the Issues
Illinois Public Interest Research Group
Illinois Republican Party
Institute of Government and Public Affairs
League of Women Voters of Illinois
Stateline.org: Illinois


Finding Statistics and Opinion: Speech students often use statistics as attention getters or to support arguments. Statistics may be found in books, in articles, or at reliable web sites. When using statistics it is important to keep in mind the source of the statistics. Some things to consider include: what exactly is being counted, are the statistics from a reliable group or organization, are they reasonably current, can they be verified from a second source? Some good sources for statistics are:

American Fact Finder
Finding Data on the Internet
General Statistical Sources (Columbia University)
Statistical Abstract of the United States, Reference HA 202 .U5 S93
Statistical Resources on the Web

Opinion pieces, such as editorials or polls are particularly useful for persuasive speeches. Some sources you may want to consult are:

Editorials on File, Reference D 410 .E4
The Gallup Poll 
(access to full information sometimes limited to subscription only), Reference HN 90 .P8 G35
Pew Research Center 
Well respected for polling information.
Polling Report.com (state polls are subscription only)
Puts polling information in context.
Public Agenda Online

Mock Senate Simulation

Mock Senate Simulation 
Research a particular senator and write a bill. Select party leaders and learn to strategize in a party caucus. Work in a committee, practice reciprocity, and conduct mark-up negotiations. Learn the basics of parliamentary procedure and special Senate rules. Assume the identity of the researched senator and use persuasive skills to pass the bill.

Audiovisual Aids

Locating Audiovisual Aids: Audiovisual aids can be very important visuals that help make your point. You may find illustrations, charts, or diagrams in the reference books you used for background research or in books or magazines in the Library. The Library has the necessary equipment for you to make copies or transparencies (black and white or color) or to scan pictures onto a disk.

You may also use the Library catalog to locate videos or other types of media. Just do a subject search on your topic and limit the results to the material type you are looking for.

The web is also a good place to find visual aids and there are now several search engines that make the process easier. A Google Image Search is usually very helpful.

Some other sources on the web include:

AltaVista Image Search

Citation Format

Citing Sources: The MLA format (Modern Language Association) is commonly used to create bibliographies or works cited pages. These resources may help you.

January 2008

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