Having interned at the DOJ as a speechwriting intern, one of my biggest tasks was to conduct research for upcoming speeches. It was my job to organize all of that research so it was readily accessible and citable. I face a similar problem now, with my topic being limited to trade, I can use any research methods I want. There is no limitation as to what data I want to use.
In my first week interning the internship, I also had to go through the previous 3 months worth of speeches and had to organize stats/data that was already written about. It was my job to organize that and to research/cite that data (which I compiled into an over 50-page research document searchable by terms and statistics, already cited in the proper format – DOJ document so I couldn’t take it with me). It included in-depth numbers from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, statistics from academic journals, stories about those murdered in violent crimes.
It was good data – but data that was hard to organize and find.
This presented a relatively new problem for me in my writing: finding/organizing research that was meant to advance a predisposed argument, and not using the research to develop my argument.
I realized that this is the basis for all political writing. You search for the numbers that support what you already think. You look for emotional stories to give it weight and meaning. In academics, it’s flipped.
This was relatively new for me. How was I supposed to know what type of number or story would fit in a speech? How did I know if it would give the “weight” that we needed it to or if it fit the broader narrative?
I am again faced with this problem in the early stages of my project as I begin to search for data to base my speeches off of. But now, I have the underlying experience – the “gut feeling” – to tell if a statistic will work, or if it will help advance the message. I often struggle when there is no specific direction; with my project I can take the speeches on trade to any argument I want, but what data do I want to use?