In many subjects, and especially those of new or local interest, you will not find the facts gathered and assimilated for you; you must go out and gather your own straw for the making of your bricks. Such are most questions of reform or change in school or college systems, in athletics, in municipal affairs, in short, most of the questions on which the average man after he leaves college is likely to be making arguments.
To get decisive facts on such questions as these you must go, in the case of local subjects, to the newspapers, to city and town reports, or to documents issued by interested committees; for college questions you go to the presidents’ reports and to annual catalogues or catalogues of graduates, or perhaps to Graduates’ Bulletins or Weeklies; for athletic questions you go to the files of the daily newspapers, or for records to such works as the World or Tribune Almanacs; for school questions you go to school catalogues, or to school-committee reports. You will be surprised to find how little time you use to get together bodies of facts and figures that may make you, in a small way, an original authority on the subject you are discussing. It does not take long to count a few hundred names, or to run through the files of a newspaper for a week or a month; and when you have done such investigation you get a sense of surety in dealing with your subject that will strengthen your argument. Here, as in the larger discussions of later life, the readiness to take the initiative and the ingenuity in thinking of possible sources are what make you count.
Such sources you can often piece out by personal inquiry from men who are conversant with the subject—town or city officers, members of faculties, principals of schools. If you go to such people hoping that they will do your work for you, you will not be likely to get much comfort; but if you are keen about your subject yourself, and ready to work, you will often get not only valuable information and advice, but sometimes also a chance to go through unpublished records. A young man who is working hard and intelligently is apt to be an object of interest to older men who have been doing the same all their lives.
1. Name those of the sources on pages 34-36, which are available to you. Report to the class on the scope and character of each of them. (The report on different sources can be divided among the class.)
2. Name some sources for facts relating to your own school or college; to your own town or city; to your own state.