Collaborating on unfinished research through presentation questions

A few weeks ago, I returned from the Second Symposium on Applied Rhetoric. I had the honor of being on the planning committee for the Symposium, so I had the distinct pleasure of loving every minute of this thing I’d helped create and also slightly worrying every minute that something was going to go wrong. But lo! Nothing went wrong. Everything was great.

The Symposium on Applied Rhetoric (and its parent, uh, “thing,” The Applied Rhetoric Collaborative) is a little group of scholars that is interested in how rhetoric gets things done in the world. There’s a big focus on analysis of public rhetoric, service learning, and other types of research on how rhetoric influences and impacts the world at large.

It’s a hands-on conference in more than just topics–one of my favorite parts of the symposium is that it encourages people to bring incomplete projects, half-thoughts, and other imperfect ideas to workshop. Ending with “and then I don’t know where this goes next” is what we like to hear–because we can give constructive feedback and ideas about where it could go! The community is rigorous and engaged but also aware that each of us will have unfinished ideas at some point–so while there were moments of debate and questioning, there weren’t any gotcha questions. It was a collaborative experience, as the “organization” title suggests.

This aspect of the symposium made it the most fun I’ve ever had at a conference; instead of asking questions to poke holes or clarify, I was able to ask questions that might directly help a future draft of the paper. That’s fun! Contributing and collaborating on research, even in little ways, is so much fun.

We’ll be having our third symposium in June of 2020; if you’re interested in hearing more about the symposium or the collaborative, you can email me (, ping me on Twitter, or contact me some other way. I’d love to talk more about it. In my next blog post, I’ll talk about what I presented at ARC.