"The Need for Research," Revisited

Matthew Brigham


In 1915, in the premiere issue of the newly formed Quarterly Journal of Public Speaking, James Winans issued a bold and challenging call to his new colleagues. In particular, he argued that these public speaking teachers, newly organized in their own disciplinary matrix, needed to prioritize research in their professional identities, even with the demands of pedagogy and other responsibilities. Adapting his call to 2015, I argue that it is now debate professionals, whose identities are often envisioned as coaches and teachers, who need to embrace the call to engage in scholarly research. I explore two sets of metaphors, one ecological (whether debate and the communication discipline are envisioned as representing a symbiotic, parasitic, or nonrelational interaction), and one based on time (was debate scholarship merely a part of the initial, less sophisticated version of the discipline, and now that it has matured, such work is no longer necessary or helpful, or does it still have a vital role to play). Ultimately, I suggest that a symbiotic approach, driven by debate professionals engaging in significant scholarly research and production, is best, both for debate programs, and for academic institutions and society writ large. The 100 year anniversary thus offers the opportunity to appraise where (and who) we were, are, and aspire to be.

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