So, you’ve chosen an issue that interests you, written a proposal that you think will improve the situation, and are getting ready for next week and wondering what comes next. You’d like to flesh out your ideas for your opening and summation speeches with examples and supporting information, not to mention finding all the answers to those technical questions you know will come up.  But where do you start?

Start with the answer to your original question–the one that got you interested in the first place.  Why did you decide to solve this problem the way you did?  Can you find other sources that support your solution?  Next, move on to the justification for supporting your proposal.  Who (or what) will it help, and how?  What makes it worth worrying about?   After that, consider the surrounding questions that you may have to answer.  A good way to do this is to play devil’s advocate for yourself–write down as many questions and counter-arguments as you can think of.  It’s also a good idea to run your proposal by your friends and family and see what questions and counter-arguments they come up with.  They may have a completely different take on it, and give you some valuable insight into why someone might oppose your proposal.  Write all the questions and counter-arguments down, and then find answers for them and write those down too.  It’s very handy to have a concise answer sheet to refer to when you’re up at the podium, so that you don’t forget compelling information in the heat of the moment.

When you are doing your research, make a point of using reputable sources.  Citing Wikipedia is a lot less powerful than citing an organization or publisher with established credibility (think National Enquirer vs. The New York Times–which report on the world financial situation would you be more likely to trust?). Take the extra step to find solid research on your topic.  A good jumping-off point is Google Scholar, which can help you find articles on your issue.  If you live near a university, you may be able to have guest access to their academic journal databases, which are a valuable resource.  Some public libraries (or maybe even your school library) may also offer access to these databases.  One particularly good database is JSTOR, where they have articles on a variety of topics.

Finally, how much research is enough research?  Honestly, you can never have too much research.  My first year at CONA,  one delegate went up to the podium with one of the fattest three-ring binders that I had ever seen–filled with articles and information on their proposal.  Not everyone comes with that much research,  and it certainly isn’t required (save the trees!), but I know that that delegate was ready to answer any question, big or small,  obvious or obscure–and I think that’s a pretty good feeling to have.  So do as much research as you need to feel good about presenting your proposal, and don’t worry about how much (or how little) research other people are doing.

Also, if, in the course of your research, you come across something amazing that you didn’t get to include in your submitted proposal, don’t worry, there’s still time in 1st committee for amendments 🙂

~ Sarah Gillig – College Staffer