This guide was created to take you along a step by step process to develop a speech. It is mainly focused on helping you brainstorm, identify, and define a topic to research.
This is a general guide, so it may vary from your classroom assignments. As always, refer to your professor and syllabus for your project requirements.
Consider these questions:
A good practice is to make a list of ideas. As an example, here is an imaginary student’s list of ideas:
Mystery/Crime Books & Television Shows
Recycling and Pollution
Parents own their own small business
Homeschooled until college
With the topics on your list, ask yourself these questions:
It is often beneficial (unless the topic is given or encouraged) to avoid heavily discussed topics. This helps to keep the speech interesting rather than giving an audience information they hear regularly.
Overused topics may include abortion, global warming, affirmative action, the death penalty, recycling, and sex and violence in the media. There is always a possibility to find an interesting angle or portion of the topic, but make sure you verify it with a professor first.
Let's take our student's list as an example. Our student might not want to write a speech on recycling, but maybe they have a a great way to reuse/remake something that is normally thrown out. This could work as a topic for a demonstration speech, though they would need to have the topic approved.
What are some other topics ideas from this list?
Mystery/Crime Books & Television Shows - How to solve mysteries (Informative Speech)
Recycling and Pollution - How to make wrappers into jewelry (Demonstration Speech)
Criminal Justice - Safety (Informative)
Knitting - History of knitting (Informative Speech)
Coffee - Fair trade? (Informative or Persuasive Speech)
Computer Science - How to code (Informative or Demonstration Speech)
Parents own their own small business - Shop small and local (Persuasive Speech)
Homeschooled until college - Should homeschooling be legal? (Persuasive Speech)
One way to develop these ideas is to make a concept map. Below is a sample of the student's concept map if they focused on knitting.
Now this particular student enjoys mysteries and crime shows, because they like to figure out who the culprit is. The student needs to write an informative speech, and decides that they could inform others on how to solve mysteries.
Since it is a very large topic, the student decides to focus on helping people solve mysteries by informing them on how to tell if someone is lying.
After narrowing the topic, evaluate your speech to see if it is a good fit for your assignment.
1. Make sure you can describe your topic clearly.
If it takes a while to explain your topic is either too complicated or too broad. Consider your time requirements and if you can adequately discuss the topic.
2. Ask yourself the purpose of the speech.
Begin to focus on what you want to say and why. Part of this will already be dictated by the type of speech you are assigned. Making a concept map can help provide you with ideas.
3. Consider your audience.
Who will hear the information? Will they have experience with the topic? What other factors will influence how they will interpret the information?
4. Discover if there is research available on the topic.
You will want to use solid, scholarly information on the topic. General information might be easy to find, but you will need facts and research to back up your claims and information.
In our example the student’s evaluation would look like this:
My Topic: Lying - How to recognize if someone is lying.
Purpose: To provide my audience with information about lying.
Audience: Professor and other college students.
Research: Yes, possibly in psychology and sociology journals.
Write out your research question or thesis statement. Underline words that you believe best represent the main ideas.
How can we determine if someone is lying to us?
Second, create a list of synonyms for each word you underlined and use these terms to search for resources.
Lying OR lie-spotting
You can add additional terms as you survey what is available:
Lying OR Deception AND workplace or business
Friendship or workplace or business
As you gather resources be sure to evaluate the resources!
Check out the Searching Strategies for Websites and Databases for more tips.
Check out the Evaluating Resources page to avoid choosing bad sources for your projects!
There are lots of reasons to provide references to the sources that you use.
Your audience may want to know how to investigate your topic further. By providing your resources you are helping others who are interested in the same topic.
You also need to credit the people who did the research you are using otherwise you will be claiming it is your own (even if unintentionally doing so). Plagiarism is a serious offense.
Here is a definition of plagiarism:
“Plagiarism is appropriating someone else's words or ideas without acknowledgment. To understand plagiarism we must consider two questions: (1) How is plagiarism like or unlike theft— (2) Why is plagiarism considered wrong; why should we acknowledge the originator of an idea.”
(Encyclopedia of Ethics. London: Routledge, 2001. Credo Reference. 17 April 2009 <http://www.credoreference.com/entry/7915618>.)
Just like in college writing, speeches should provide your audience with verbal cues to the information you have used: the SOURCE where you found your information. (This might be an interview, scholarly article, book, or website, etc.); the AUTHOR, when available, and the DATE when your source was published or accessed (for web sources and interviews).
Here are three ways to incorporate citations for your speech:
Use quotation marks to attribute words of another person on your note cards. You can express quotations in your speech in several ways.
Provide credit or citation such that the audience can trace back to the original source.
Paraphrasing the main ideas WITH correct attribution. A paraphrase will replace some of the words while keeping the main idea of the original work.
For more information on how to cite sources, see the “Citation” page in this guide.