Using Testimony



Expert vs. Peer Testimony

There are two types of testimony: expert testimony and peer testimony.

Learning Objectives

Differentiate between expert testimony and peer testimony

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A testimony is an assertion made by someone who has experience or knowledge of a particular matter.
  • Expert testimony is testimony given by a person who is considered an expert by virtue of education, training, certification, skills, and/or experience in a particular matter.
  • Peer testimony is given by a person who does not have expertise in a particular matter.

Key Terms

  • testimony: An assertion made by someone who has knowledge or experience in a particular matter.
  • Expert testimony: Testimony given by a person who is considered an expert by virtue of education, training, certification, skills, and/or experience in a particular matter.
  • Peer testimony: Testimony given by a person who does not have expertise in a particular matter.

Introduction

A testimony is an assertion made by someone who has knowledge or experience in a particular matter.

Testimony is used in various contexts for a wide range of purposes. For example, in the law, testimony is a form of evidence  that is obtained from a witness who makes a solemn statement or declaration of fact.

There are two major types of testimony: peer testimony and expert testimony.

Expert Testimony

Expert testimony, as the name suggests, is testimony given by a person who is considered an expert by virtue of education, training, certification, skills, and/or experience in a particular matter. Because experts have knowledge beyond that of a typical person, expert testimony carries considerable weight. Though an expert is an authority in a particular subject, his or her testimony can certainly be called into question by other facts, evidence, or experts.

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Providing Testimony: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. provides testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on counter-ISIL operations and Middle East strategy.

Peer Testimony

Peer testimony, unlike expert testimony, is given by a person who does not have expertise in the subject in question. As a result, those who provide peer testimony are sometimes referred to as “anti-authorities.”

A person who provides peer testimony might not have expertise in a particular area, but he or she likely has personal experience with the issue at hand. Though peer testimony can easily be challenged, it can still be a powerful tool in persuading an audience, particularly when delivered or provided by a well-liked celebrity.

Questions to Consider Before Using Testimony

Before incorporating testimony, ask yourself:

  • Are you quoting the testimony accurately?
  • Is the testimony biased? In what way?
  • Is the person providing the testimony competent and/or well respected?
  • Is the testimony current?
  • How will your audience respond to the testimony?

How to Incorporate Expert Testimony

Expert testimony can be incorporated after introducing a point of your argument.

Learning Objectives

State why it is beneficial to incorporate expert testimony into a speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Expert testimony should be incorporated to support, defend, or explain the main point or subpoint of a speech.
  • Limiting your main points, subpoints, and support points to three or four points each improves the ability for your speech to communicate with the audience.
  • Noticing how professionals use the testimony of experts can provide creative examples for how to incorporate expert testimony into a speech.

Key Terms

  • expert: A person with extensive knowledge or ability in a given subject.
  • TED: Technology Entertainment Design, a series of global conferences.

Introduction

Once you have found experts to support your ideas, you may wonder how to incorporate their testimony into your speech. The following will give you an idea of how to incorporate expert testimony in order to support your argument and improve your speech.

What the Body of Your Speech Should Include

The body of your speech should help you elaborate and develop your main objectives clearly by using main points, subpoints, and support for your sub points. To ensure that your speech clearly communicates with your audience, try to limit both your main points and subpoints to three or four points each;this applies to your supporting points, as well. Expert testimony is considered supporting point; it is used to support the main and subpoints of your speech.

When a claim or point is made during a speech, the audience initially may be reluctant to concede or agree to the validity of the point. Often this is because the audience does not initially accept the speaker as a trustworthy authority. By incorporating expert testimony, the speaker is able to bolster their own authority to speak on the topic.

Therefore, expert testimony is commonly introduced after a claim is made. For example, if a speech makes the claim, “Manufacturing jobs have been in decline since the 1970s,” it should be followed up with expert testimony to support that claim. This testimony could take a variety of forms, such as government employment statistics or a historian who has written on a particular sector of the manufacturing industry. No matter the particular form of expert testimony, it is incorporated following a claim to defend and support that claim, thus bolstering the authority of the speaker.

Example of Incorporating Expert Testimony

Search for and watch a TED talk by Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. Notice how Schwartz references expert testimony in the course of his speech to justify his point to the audience.

Barry Schwartz during a TED talk.

Barry Schwartz: Incorporating testimony from experts supports and clarifies claims made during a speech.

Schwartz begins by showing the job description of a hospital janitor, noting that the tasks do not require interaction with other people. However, Schwartz introduces the expert testimony of actual hospital janitors as a way to complicate the apparent solo nature of janitorial work. Schwartz personalizes the experts with proper names, “Mike,” “Sharleene,” and “Luke,” and uses their testimony to demonstrate that despite the job description, janitors take social interaction to be an important part of their job.

In this instance, Schwartz incorporates the expert testimony of actual janitors as a both a foil and a support. The testimony shows that in fact janitorial work does include interaction with other people, thus foiling the initial presentation of janitorial work as solitary. In addition, Schwartz uses the testimony of these experts to show that they embody the characteristics of wisdom that Schwartz will describe in the remainder of the speech.