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In Defense of Not Having a Data Set: A Call for Argument


Vanessa B. Beasley is an associate professor of communication studies at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on presidential rhetoric.


Instead of supporting the use of one standardized data set as proposed by Coe and Neumann, this response argues that scholars should continue to be required to construct arguments and offer justifications for what they are examining when they say they are analyzing presidential discourse, regardless of methodology. Two reasons are offered for this position. First, presidential communication is inherently difficult to define and/or delimit. Second, scholars of presidential discourse should be wary of the possible creation of a new “canon” within their object of study. The response concludes by suggesting that even if Coe and Neumann's argument is persuasive to readers, we should be careful about promoting one data set over other possibilities. Our individual research questions should set the parameters for the data sets we use, and scholarship on presidential discourse only benefits from continued argumentation about what it is, why it matters, and how it might be best understood.