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1991 Speech Communication Association Basic Course Committee Award Winning Papers


The importance of the basic course is reflected in the number of published articles focused on it. Aside from having an annually published journal (The Basic Communication Course Annual) devoted to it, articles concerning the basic course are sprinkled throughout many of the discipline's journals. However, Schneider (1991) pointed out that few studies have focused on the textbooks used. Since the textbook is generally the foundation upon which the course is built, it is an important object of study.

Although the term basic course may be used to identify a variety of courses (such as public speaking, interpersonal communication, hybrid blends of the public and interpersonal communication, or communication theory), public speaking is the most common approach (Gray, 1989; Trank & Lewis, 1991). Thus, this investigation focused on public speaking texts. The objective was to gain a clear understanding of what content is included in basic speech textbooks. This task involved examining principles in texts and finding how much book space was devoted to each principle.

This information should be valuable for instructors who teach public speaking, for administrators who supervise the course, and for writers of textbooks and accompanying materials. But most of all, this information should be of use to scholars and critics of the basic course. By examining exactly what we include in our texts, we can then evaluate the merit of each component. Through carefully examining our own practices, we can assess our basic public speaking course to improve the weaknesses and maintain the strengths.