In LD, research is a little different. LDers tend to focus less on having evidence to prove every point and rely more an intuition and logic. However, research is still very important.
II. The point of research
Why is it important to research and find evidence?
• Understand the topic
• Acquire evidence to prove your points
• Sound smart! :)
• Gain credibility on the topic (after all, we're just high school students…)
True 'nuff, research is an essential facet to debating tough issues. It helps us understand the topic, make our arguments stronger, and adds credibility to our statements. Yay!
III. Research, research everywhere…but where exactly?
Where do you think you might be able to find evidence? Where should you research?
• Books (Go to the library!)
• Journals: Periodicals that present articles on a particular subject which are published weekly, monthly, or quarterly. You can subscribe to these, or just find them online.
Note about Internet Research: Never cite some Joe Schmoe web site…EVER! "www.geocities.com" is BAD! Make sure your evidence is legitimate and that all Internet Think Tanks are well established. It IS the Internet, after all.
However: The Internet is a wonderful resource as it stands for locating other sources of research. For example, you can search many books, newspapers, and journals online. This is far more convenient than poring over books and magazines in a library.
Other sources that are specific to LD itself:
• Philosophers: A note on gathering evidence from philosophers. Be sure you understand the philosopher and the basis of his or her theories. In the final round at Nationals, Caleb brought up the philosopher John Rawls as a support for his value of Justice. Unfortunately for Caleb, Rawls' idea of Justice was vastly different than the one Caleb was supporting. I was able to point this out to the judges which discredited Caleb and turned his argument. Don't let this happen to you!
• History: In LD, it's fine to bring up historical examples to back up your claims.
• Common knowledge: Referencing facts that are relatively well known is also allowed in LD. There is less emphasis on having to give a source citation to prove facts, and more emphasis on the analysis and interpretation of the facts.
IV. How to research
1. Start with a search engine
There are a million and two search engines on the Internet… but only one worth using. It's name? Google.com
Google is the Best Search Engine
Darrell Ray Elmore (Staff Writer), ZDNet Developer, "Google is the Best Search Engine," March 10, 2000
Google.com is a simple search engine that seems to have a knack for filtering out all the [junk] and giving you exactly what you want.
It should be noted that there are different kinds of search engines which may also prove to be of use to you.
1. Search engines which search the whole internet. (www.google.com, www.yahoo.com)
2. Search engines which search other search engines (www.dogpile.com, www.metacrawler.com)
3. Search engines which don't actually search anything at all (www.askjeeves.com)
4. Search engines which search newspapers (www.moreover.com, www.proquest.com)
5. Search engines which search topically (agrinet.tamu.edu [searches agricultural sites])
2. Macroresearch: Goal: "To understand your topic."
- Start at Google.com
- Type in something broad: "Trade policy" "Black History Month" The topic you're researching.
- Read everything you come across
- Print articles that left pleasant tastes in your mouth
- Bookmark (add to "Favorites" folder)
3. Microresearch: Goal: "To find specific information."
- Start either at a specific policy institute that you've already stumbled across
- OR Start at Google.com
If you start at a specific policy institute (Citizens for Tougher Seatbeat Laws), read some articles and pull specific information.
If you start at Google, narrow your search terms to get to that specific information. ("trade policy" Iran "affect economy negatively") ("trade policy" "economic sanctions" Iraq humanitarian) The art of selecting the right key words takes developing, but once you have it down, it's easy to find what you need.
- Print articles that left pleasant tastes in your mouth
- Highlight the good stuff in the article, tag in the margins so you know why you highlighted it in the first place
4. Glean the good stuff: "How do I know the good stuff?!"
- Think backwards. :) Don't just think about what you're going to say…instead, think about what your opponent is going to say and then think of how you'll respond. What will you need to back up your response? And how will they likely respond? How can you respond to that? Your research tactics should have a strategic focus. Have an idea of what you're looking for and have an idea of what you want. "If you don't know what you want, you end up with a lot you don't." (Fight Club) Don't waste your time, plan ahead.
- Good sources
- Comprehensive (remember, you're going to be reading this in a debate round! If you need to read it 4 times over to understand what it means, maybe you should find something a little simpler to read in your round…)
V. Using your research
The best way to incorporate your research into your arguments is through evidence.
Definition: Evidence is expert testimony provided as grounds or backing for claims made in speeches. Comes in the form of quotations from literature, newspapers, the Internet, etc.
VII. Creating an organizational structure
After the primary discovery, how do you go about organizing your vomitous masses of research?
1. Evidence cards - 4x6 cards - easy to miss during rounds. :(
2. Notebook - evidence briefs - get too big and bulky. :(
3. Filebox - evidence briefs - great for carrying around tons of evidence! Great for organization! Easy to find evidence! :)
Preparing a card for debate:
1. Tag line: A tag line is a brief sentence that summarizes what the evidences says. When you're in a debate round, you're going to be skimming the tag lines to find the right card. They need to be short, concise, and tell the judge in about 10 words what your card says.
Author, Author Qualifications, Title of Article, Publisher, Date
The quotation should not exceed a paragraph or two. The evidence should make an argument. Informative evidence is good, but make sure you label it clearly so that you don't accidentally read it in a round. Keep the author's comments in context. Quotations that are only a sentence will rarely be useful.
After reading your card, be sure to finish it off with a concluding statement or summarization. Many times, your audience (and your opponent and critic) will tune out while you read your evidence so it's important to reiterate the main point of the card. It also is useful for explaining what exactly the evidence said. Sometimes evidence is good, but a little on the complicated side and this step is vital.
Remember: Being a good researcher requires not only FINDING evidence, but being able to use it.
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