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Speech Research: Choose a topic

How to find information for speeches and the library assignment.

Know your assignment

  • When is the speech to be given?
  • What is the general purpose of the speech? (see below)
  • How many minutes should your speech be?
  • How many quotes and sources are required?
  • What documents are required for turning in with the speech?

Your instructor is the best person to answer these questions.

Topic summary information at the start of the Library Assignment

Do not try to fill in the information at the start of the library assignment until you have finished researching your topic,  because topic ideas usually change as you learn more about your topic. You may decide to focus your topic more, or broaden it, or select a related topic, depending upon the information available on your topic. Here are the blanks at the start of the assignment and a little explanation:

  • Topic -- a brief topic statement.  
  • Purpose --depends on the type of speech you are working on: 
    • to inform the class about ... (whatever it is)
    • OR to persuade the class to ... (believe in, take action about ... whatever it is).
  • List three main points --the main ideas you plan to cover.
  • Give the thesis statement --the main idea you plan to convey. Put your speech topic in the form of a question. The thesis statement is a one-sentence answer to that question.
  • What is the link between the audience and the topic?  Why should your topic be of interest your audience? How can they relate to the topic?

Tips for choosing a speech topic

View a tutorial: Developing a topic.

Basic Guidelines: (To access any of the library databases from off campus, login with your

  • For informational speeches, choose a topic you know something about, based on personal experience or choose a topic you would like to learn more about. Create a personal inventory of your interests, what you do for fun (hobbies, talents, skills, travels, etc.), as suggested in your text, page 78. Or try the clustering technique in your text, page 78.
  • Use a broad-topic reference database such as Credo Reference for topic ideas. You'll be searching in over 600 different subject encyclopedias and dictionaries) Type in a topic keyword. If you get too many articles, click "advanced search" on the purple menu. Check the box that says "Search only within headings." Type search terms and click search. Articles provide background information on topics and ideas about what aspects to cover. There are many dictionary entries to define terms and get correct spellings.
  • Idea Generator - Web site that provides thousands of ideas for research paper and speech topics organized by broad topics such as Arts & Humanities, Business, Health Sciences, etc.
  • For persuasive speeches, choose a topic about which you have an interest or opinion. The library database Opposing Viewpoints in Context is a great place to browse for a topic and get background information. Click “Browse Issues” on the top menu bar for their full list of issues (over 300). Click an issue and read the introductory paragraphs.

Know the general purpose of your speech

In speech classes, the general purpose of a speech is assigned by instructors. These are the three most assigned types: 

1. Informative speeches - present the most interesting facts about a topic in a logical order. Leave any persuasive aspects for the persuasive speech.

2. Persuasive speeches - inform about a current issue, provide background, and give the most important reasons why the audience should believe something or take some kind of action.

3. Process speeches - describe how to do something usually describing a set of steps in a process. This type of speech is usually assigned at the beginning of the course.