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Attributions are important elements of public speaking

July 1, 2011

I am teaching two sections of public speaking in both summer intensive terms at East Miss. Community College — Golden Triangle. On the first day of class, I write on the board my definition of public speaking — the act and art of using a correctly constructed speaking outline to tell information that you have researched, written, and rehearsed while making long intervals of eye contact with your audience.  
I underscore that anytime the speaker gives information that is not his or her own, he or she must tell the source of the information as part of the beginning of the sentence in which the information is used to avoid plagiarism. The audience should hear source citations throughout the presentation, just as they are worded in the speaker’s outline. Part of this week’s Vaughan’s Vocabulary pertains to three types of source attributions.
1. attribution (aeh-truh-BYU-shun):
a. the ascribing of a work, as of literature or art, to an author or artist
b. a commendation of a work
c. a criticism of a work
d. all of the above
2. I learned from the book Catherine the Great by Henri Troyat that her parents were hoping for a son when the future Catherine II was born at Stettin. The preceding is a
a. primary attribution.
b. secondary attribution.
c. tertiary attribution.
d. plagiarized statement.

 3. Troyat points out that her father’s remoteness and her mother’s coldness exacerbated her hunger for love. This is a    
a. primary attribution.
b. secondary attribution.
c. tertiary attribution.
d. quotation.

 4. I also learned from Troyat’s Catherine the Great that she began to write the first version of her memoirs, in French, at the age of 42 on April 21, 1771. This is 
a. a primary attribution.
b. a secondary attribution.
c. a tertiary attribution.
d. common knowledge.
Let’s see how you did. No. 1 is A. No. 2 is A. A primary attribution is where the speaker gives the full title of the work and the full name of the author. No. 3 is B. A secondary attribution is when a speaker cites a source for the second time. I ask my students to give the author’s last name in a secondary attribution. No. 4 is C. A tertiary attribution is when a speaker cites the same source for the third time. In this type of attribution the author’s last name and title of work are given.
I stress that the presentations we do in public speaking are research speeches, requiring the student to choose an appropriate topic and find at least four reputable sources.
Last week’s mystery word is putto (PEW-toe).
This week’s mystery word to solve is a noun from the French language. I recently used this word at the end of a public speaking class. I said, “I haven’t left this room in more than two hours; I’m getting ______.” The word’s last syllable has the “wee” sound.

Contact Don R. Vaughan, Ph.D. at or (662) 243-2629.

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