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September 2002 - Finding Material for your Speech on the Internet

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September 2002

Finding Material for your Speech on the Internet

The Internet provides a ready and almost unlimited amount of material for speeches. The challenge is sifting through the bad to find the good. Exercise caution! Here are six things to remember when searching.

  1. Misinformation often appears. Misinformation is of five general types.
    1. Unintentional: the person who posted the information just doesn't know
    2. Hoaxes: false, deliberately deceptive information
    3. False rumors: anecdotal claims that may be partly true or completely false
    4. Junk: flotsam and jetsam of the Net
    5. Urban legends: popularly believed, but false narratives
  2. Validity of the source of information is often difficult or impossible to determine. Information is no better than its source. Sources must be both expert (competent in the subject) and trustworthy (worthy of belief). If you can't determine the author's name, position, organizational affiliation and support for the claims or assertions made, beware! Most valid sources will also tell how to contact them.
  3. Information is often outdated. While printed material such as books and magazine articles are usually dated, it's often difficult or impossible to tell when the material on the Internet was posted or updated. Dating may not be a problem if you're researching the effects of World War I, but it will be if you are planning to speak on "The most popular current urban legends."
  4. Information is often unsubstantiated. Has the writer listed sources, given available corroboration, provided documentation? Find a source that provides convincing evidence for claims made-- a source you can triangulate (find a least two other valid sources that support it)
  5. Some information is plagiarized or copied from someone else then posted on the Internet as one's own idea. In other words, you don't know its origin.
  6. Treat material from the Internet as you would material from a book or a journal article. Don't pass it off as your own and don't quote from it without giving credit where it is due.

Keep these six things in mind as you search the Internet. And good luck with your speech.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

September 2002 - Finding Material for your Speech on the Internet
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