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Public Speaking: Developing a Thesis Statement In a Speech
Understanding the purpose of a thesis statement in a speech
Diving headfirst into the world of public speaking, it’s essential to grasp the role of a thesis statement in your speech. Think of it as encapsulating the soul of your speech within one or two sentences.
It’s the declarative sentence that broadcasts your intent and main idea to captivate audiences from start to finish. More than just a preview, an effective thesis statement acts as a roadmap guiding listeners through your thought process.
Giving them that quick glimpse into what they can anticipate helps keep their attention locked in.
As you craft this central hub of information, understand that its purpose is not limited to informing alone—it could be meant also to persuade or entertain based on what you aim for with your general purpose statement.
This clear focus is pivotal—it shapes each aspect of your talk, easing understanding for the audience while setting basic goals for yourself throughout the speech-making journey. So whether you are rallying rapturous applause or instigating intellectual insight, remember—your thesis statement holds power like none other! Its clarity and strength can transition between being valuable sidekicks in introductions towards becoming triumphant heroes by concluding lines.
Identifying the main idea to develop a thesis statement
In crafting a compelling speech, identifying the main idea to develop a thesis statement acts as your compass. This process is a crucial step in speech preparation that steers you towards specific purpose.
Think of your central idea as the seed from which all other elements in your speech will grow.
To pinpoint it, start by brainstorming broad topics that interest or inspire you. From this list, choose one concept that stands out and begin to narrow it down into more specific points. It’s these refined ideas that form the heart of your thesis statement — essentially acting as signposts leading the audience through your narrative journey.
Crafting an effective thesis statement requires clarity and precision. This means keeping it concise without sacrificing substance—a tricky balancing act even for public speaking veterans! The payoff though? A well-developed thesis statement provides structure to amplifying your central idea and guiding listeners smoothly from point A to B.
It’s worth noting here: just like every speaker has their own unique style, there are multiple ways of structuring a thesis statement too. But no matter how you shape yours, ensuring it resonates with both your overarching message and audience tastes will help cement its effectiveness within your broader presentation context.
Analyzing the audience to tailor the thesis statement
Audience analysis is a crucial first step for every public speaker. This process involves adapting the message to meet the audience’s needs, a thoughtful approach that considers cultural diversity and ensures clear communication.
Adapting your speech to resonate with your target audience’s interests, level of understanding, attitudes and beliefs can significantly affect its impact.
Crafting an appealing thesis statement hinges on this initial stage of audience analysis. As you analyze your crowd, focus on shaping a specific purpose statement that reflects their preferences yet stays true to the objective of your speech—capturing your main idea in one or two impactful sentences.
This balancing act demands strategy; however, it isn’t impossible. Taking into account varying aspects such as culture and perceptions can help you tailor a well-received thesis statement. A strong handle on these elements allows you to select language and tones best suited for them while also reflecting the subject at hand.
Ultimately, putting yourself in their shoes helps increase message clarity which crucially leads to acceptance of both you as the speaker and your key points – all embodied within the concise presentation of your tailor-made thesis statement.
Brainstorming techniques to generate thesis statement ideas
Leveraging brainstorming techniques to generate robust thesis statement ideas is a power move in public speaking. This process taps into the GAP model, focusing on your speech’s Goals, Audience, and Parameters for seamless target alignment.
Dive into fertile fields of thought and let your creativity flow unhindered like expert David Zarefsky proposes.
Start by zeroing in on potential speech topics then nurture them with details till they blossom into fully-fledged arguments. It’s akin to turning stones into gems for the eye of your specific purpose statement.
Don’t shy away from pushing the envelope – sometimes out-of-the-box suggestions give birth to riveting speeches! Broaden your options if parameters are flexible but remember focus is key when aiming at narrow targets.
The beauty lies not just within topic generation but also formulation of captivating informative or persuasive speech thesis statements; both fruits harvested from a successful brainstorming session.
So flex those idea muscles, encourage intellectual growth and watch as vibrant themes spring forth; you’re one step closer to commanding attention!
Remember: Your thesis statement is the heartbeat of your speech – make it strong using brainstorming techniques and fuel its pulse with evidence-backed substance throughout your presentation.
Narrowing down the thesis statement to a specific topic
Crafting a compelling thesis statement for your speech requires narrowing down a broad topic to a specific focus that can be effectively covered within the given time frame. This step is crucial as it helps you maintain clarity and coherence throughout your presentation.
Start by brainstorming various ideas related to your speech topic and then analyze them critically to identify the most relevant and interesting points to discuss. Consider the specific purpose of your speech and ask yourself what key message you want to convey to your audience.
By narrowing down your thesis statement, you can ensure that you address the most important aspects of your chosen topic, while keeping it manageable and engaging for both you as the speaker and your audience.
Choosing the appropriate language and tone for the thesis statement
Crafting the appropriate language and tone for your thesis statement is a crucial step in developing a compelling speech. Your choice of language and tone can greatly impact how your audience perceives your message and whether they are engaged or not.
When choosing the language for your thesis statement, it’s important to consider the level of formality required for your speech. Are you speaking in a professional setting or a casual gathering? Adjusting your language accordingly will help you connect with your audience on their level and make them feel comfortable.
Additionally, selecting the right tone is essential to convey the purpose of your speech effectively. Are you aiming to inform, persuade, or entertain? Each objective requires a different tone: informative speeches may call for an objective and neutral tone, persuasive speeches might benefit from more assertive language, while entertaining speeches can be lighthearted and humorous.
Remember that clarity is key when crafting your thesis statement’s language. Using concise and straightforward wording will ensure that your main idea is easily understood by everyone in the audience.
By taking these factors into account – considering formality, adapting to objectives, maintaining clarity – you can create a compelling thesis statement that grabs attention from the start and sets the stage for an impactful speech.
Incorporating evidence to support the thesis statement
Incorporating evidence to support the thesis statement is a critical aspect of delivering an effective speech. As public speakers, we understand the importance of backing up our claims with relevant and credible information.
When it comes to incorporating evidence, it’s essential to select facts, examples, and opinions that directly support your thesis statement.
To ensure your evidence is relevant and reliable, consider conducting thorough research on the topic at hand. Look for trustworthy sources such as academic journals, respected publications, or experts in the field.
By choosing solid evidence that aligns with your message, you can enhance your credibility as a speaker.
When presenting your evidence in the speech itself, be sure to keep it concise and clear. Avoid overwhelming your audience with excessive details or data. Instead, focus on selecting key points that strengthen your argument while keeping their attention engaged.
Remember that different types of evidence can be utilized depending on the nature of your speech. You may include statistical data for a persuasive presentation or personal anecdotes for an informative talk.
The choice should reflect what will resonate best with your audience and effectively support your thesis statement.
By incorporating strong evidence into our speeches, we not only bolster our arguments but also build trust with our listeners who recognize us as reliable sources of information. So remember to choose wisely when including supporting material – credibility always matters when making an impact through public speaking.
Avoiding common mistakes when developing a thesis statement
Crafting an effective thesis statement is vital for public speakers to deliver a compelling and focused speech. To avoid common mistakes when developing a thesis statement , it is essential to be aware of some pitfalls that can hinder the impact of your message.
One mistake to steer clear of is having an incomplete thesis statement. Ensure that your thesis statement includes all the necessary information without leaving any key elements out. Additionally, avoid wording your thesis statement as a question as this can dilute its potency.
Another mistake to watch out for is making statements of fact without providing evidence or support. While it may seem easy to write about factual information, it’s important to remember that statements need to be proven and backed up with credible sources or examples.
To create a more persuasive argument, avoid using phrases like “I believe” or “I feel.” Instead, take a strong stance in your thesis statement that encourages support from the audience. This will enhance your credibility and make your message more impactful.
By avoiding these common mistakes when crafting your thesis statement, you can develop a clear, engaging, and purposeful one that captivates your audience’s attention and guides the direction of your speech effectively.
Key words: Avoiding common mistakes when developing a thesis statement – Crafting a thesis statement – Effective thesis statements – Public speaking skills – Errors in the thesis statement – Enhancing credibility
Revising the thesis statement to enhance clarity and coherence
Revising the thesis statement is a crucial step in developing a clear and coherent speech. The thesis statement serves as the main idea or argument that guides your entire speech, so it’s important to make sure it effectively communicates your message to the audience.
To enhance clarity and coherence in your thesis statement, start by refining and strengthening it through revision . Take into account any feedback you may have received from others or any new information you’ve gathered since initially developing the statement.
Consider if there are any additional points or evidence that could further support your main idea.
As you revise, focus on clarifying the language and tone of your thesis statement. Choose words that resonate with your audience and clearly convey your point of view. Avoid using technical jargon or overly complicated language that might confuse or alienate listeners.
Another important aspect of revising is ensuring that your thesis statement remains focused on a specific topic. Narrow down broad ideas into more manageable topics that can be explored thoroughly within the scope of your speech.
Lastly, consider incorporating evidence to support your thesis statement. This could include statistics, examples, expert opinions, or personal anecdotes – whatever helps strengthen and validate your main argument.
By carefully revising your thesis statement for clarity and coherence, you’ll ensure that it effectively conveys your message while capturing the attention and understanding of your audience at large.
Testing the thesis statement to ensure it meets the speech’s objectives.
Testing the thesis statement is a crucial step to ensure that it effectively meets the objectives of your speech. By testing the thesis statement , you can assess its clarity, relevance, and impact on your audience.
One way to test your thesis statement is to consider its purpose and intent. Does it clearly communicate what you want to achieve with your speech? Is it concise and specific enough to guide your content?.
Another important aspect of testing the thesis statement is analyzing whether it aligns with the needs and interests of your audience. Consider their background knowledge, values, and expectations.
Will they find the topic engaging? Does the thesis statement address their concerns or provide valuable insights?.
In addition to considering purpose and audience fit, incorporating supporting evidence into your speech is vital for testing the effectiveness of your thesis statement. Ensure that there is relevant material available that supports your claim.
To further enhance clarity and coherence in a tested thesis statement, revise it if necessary based on feedback from others or through self-reflection. This will help refine both language choices and overall effectiveness.
By thoroughly testing your thesis statement throughout these steps, you can confidently develop a clear message for an impactful speech that resonates with your audience’s needs while meeting all stated objectives.
1. What is a thesis statement in public speaking?
A thesis statement in public speaking is a concise and clear sentence that summarizes the main point or argument of a speech. It serves as a roadmap for the audience, guiding them through the speech and helping them understand its purpose.
2. How do I develop an effective thesis statement for a speech?
To develop an effective thesis statement for a speech, start by identifying your topic and determining what specific message you want to convey to your audience. Then, clearly state this message in one or two sentences that capture the main idea of your speech.
3. Why is it important to have a strong thesis statement in public speaking?
Having a strong thesis statement in public speaking helps you stay focused on your main argument throughout the speech and ensures that your audience understands what you are trying to communicate. It also helps establish credibility and authority as you present well-supported points related to your thesis.
4. Can my thesis statement change during my speech preparation?
Yes, it is possible for your thesis statement to evolve or change during the preparation process as you gather more information or refine your ideas. However, it’s important to ensure that any changes align with the overall purpose of your speech and still effectively guide the content and structure of your presentation.
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9.3 Putting It Together: Steps to Complete Your Introduction
- Clearly identify why an audience should listen to a speaker.
- Discuss how you can build your credibility during a speech.
- Understand how to write a clear thesis statement.
- Design an effective preview of your speech’s content for your audience.
Erin Brown-John – puzzle – CC BY-NC 2.0.
Once you have captured your audience’s attention, it’s important to make the rest of your introduction interesting, and use it to lay out the rest of the speech. In this section, we are going to explore the five remaining parts of an effective introduction: linking to your topic, reasons to listen, stating credibility, thesis statement, and preview.
Link to Topic
After the attention-getter, the second major part of an introduction is called the link to topic. The link to topic is the shortest part of an introduction and occurs when a speaker demonstrates how an attention-getting device relates to the topic of a speech. Often the attention-getter and the link to topic are very clear. For example, if you look at the attention-getting device example under historical reference above, you’ll see that the first sentence brings up the history of the Vietnam War and then shows us how that war can help us understand the Iraq War. In this case, the attention-getter clearly flows directly to the topic. However, some attention-getters need further explanation to get to the topic of the speech. For example, both of the anecdote examples (the girl falling into the manhole while texting and the boy and the filberts) need further explanation to connect clearly to the speech topic (i.e., problems of multitasking in today’s society).
Let’s look at the first anecdote example to demonstrate how we could go from the attention-getter to the topic.
In July 2009, a high school girl named Alexa Longueira was walking along a main boulevard near her home on Staten Island, New York, typing in a message on her cell phone. Not paying attention to the world around her, she took a step and fell right into an open manhole. This anecdote illustrates the problem that many people are facing in today’s world. We are so wired into our technology that we forget to see what’s going on around us—like a big hole in front of us.
In this example, the third sentence here explains that the attention-getter was an anecdote that illustrates a real issue. The fourth sentence then introduces the actual topic of the speech.
Let’s now examine how we can make the transition from the parable or fable attention-getter to the topic:
The ancient Greek writer Aesop told a fable about a boy who put his hand into a pitcher of filberts. The boy grabbed as many of the delicious nuts as he possibly could. But when he tried to pull them out, his hand wouldn’t fit through the neck of the pitcher because he was grasping so many filberts. Instead of dropping some of them so that his hand would fit, he burst into tears and cried about his predicament. The moral of the story? “Don’t try to do too much at once.” In today’s world, many of us are us are just like the boy putting his hand into the pitcher. We are constantly trying to grab so much or do so much that it prevents us from accomplishing our goals. I would like to show you three simple techniques to manage your time so that you don’t try to pull too many filberts from your pitcher.
In this example, we added three new sentences to the attention-getter to connect it to the speech topic.
Reasons to Listen
Once you have linked an attention-getter to the topic of your speech, you need to explain to your audience why your topic is important. We call this the “why should I care?” part of your speech because it tells your audience why the topic is directly important to them. Sometimes you can include the significance of your topic in the same sentence as your link to the topic, but other times you may need to spell out in one or two sentences why your specific topic is important.
People in today’s world are very busy, and they do not like their time wasted. Nothing is worse than having to sit through a speech that has nothing to do with you. Imagine sitting through a speech about a new software package you don’t own and you will never hear of again. How would you react to the speaker? Most of us would be pretty annoyed at having had our time wasted in this way. Obviously, this particular speaker didn’t do a great job of analyzing her or his audience if the audience isn’t going to use the software package—but even when speaking on a topic that is highly relevant to the audience, speakers often totally forget to explain how and why it is important.
The next part of a speech is not so much a specific “part” as an important characteristic that needs to be pervasive throughout your introduction and your entire speech. As a speaker, you want to be seen as credible (competent, trustworthy, and caring/having goodwill). As mentioned earlier in this chapter, credibility is ultimately a perception that is made by your audience. While your audience determines whether they perceive you as competent, trustworthy, and caring/having goodwill, there are some strategies you can employ to make yourself appear more credible.
First, to make yourself appear competent, you can either clearly explain to your audience why you are competent about a given subject or demonstrate your competence by showing that you have thoroughly researched a topic by including relevant references within your introduction. The first method of demonstrating competence—saying it directly—is only effective if you are actually a competent person on a given subject. If you are an undergraduate student and you are delivering a speech about the importance of string theory in physics, unless you are a prodigy of some kind, you are probably not a recognized expert on the subject. Conversely, if your number one hobby in life is collecting memorabilia about the Three Stooges, then you may be an expert about the Three Stooges. However, you would need to explain to your audience your passion for collecting Three Stooges memorabilia and how this has made you an expert on the topic.
If, on the other hand, you are not actually a recognized expert on a topic, you need to demonstrate that you have done your homework to become more knowledgeable than your audience about your topic. The easiest way to demonstrate your competence is through the use of appropriate references from leading thinkers and researchers on your topic. When you demonstrate to your audience that you have done your homework, they are more likely to view you as competent.
The second characteristic of credibility, trustworthiness, is a little more complicated than competence, for it ultimately relies on audience perceptions. One way to increase the likelihood that a speaker will be perceived as trustworthy is to use reputable sources. If you’re quoting Dr. John Smith, you need to explain who Dr. John Smith is so your audience will see the quotation as being more trustworthy. As speakers we can easily manipulate our sources into appearing more credible than they actually are, which would be unethical. When you are honest about your sources with your audience, they will trust you and your information more so than when you are ambiguous. The worst thing you can do is to out-and-out lie about information during your speech. Not only is lying highly unethical, but if you are caught lying, your audience will deem you untrustworthy and perceive everything you are saying as untrustworthy. Many speakers have attempted to lie to an audience because it will serve their own purposes or even because they believe their message is in their audience’s best interest, but lying is one of the fastest ways to turn off an audience and get them to distrust both the speaker and the message.
The third characteristic of credibility to establish during the introduction is the sense of caring/goodwill. While some unethical speakers can attempt to manipulate an audience’s perception that the speaker cares, ethical speakers truly do care about their audiences and have their audience’s best interests in mind while speaking. Often speakers must speak in front of audiences that may be hostile toward the speaker’s message. In these cases, it is very important for the speaker to explain that he or she really does believe her or his message is in the audience’s best interest. One way to show that you have your audience’s best interests in mind is to acknowledge disagreement from the start:
Today I’m going to talk about why I believe we should enforce stricter immigration laws in the United States. I realize that many of you will disagree with me on this topic. I used to believe that open immigration was a necessity for the United States to survive and thrive, but after researching this topic, I’ve changed my mind. While I may not change all of your minds today, I do ask that you listen with an open mind, set your personal feelings on this topic aside, and judge my arguments on their merits.
While clearly not all audience members will be open or receptive to opening their minds and listening to your arguments, by establishing that there is known disagreement, you are telling the audience that you understand their possible views and are not trying to attack their intellect or their opinions.
A thesis statement is a short, declarative sentence that states the purpose, intent, or main idea of a speech. A strong, clear thesis statement is very valuable within an introduction because it lays out the basic goal of the entire speech. We strongly believe that it is worthwhile to invest some time in framing and writing a good thesis statement. You may even want to write your thesis statement before you even begin conducting research for your speech. While you may end up rewriting your thesis statement later, having a clear idea of your purpose, intent, or main idea before you start searching for research will help you focus on the most appropriate material. To help us understand thesis statements, we will first explore their basic functions and then discuss how to write a thesis statement.
Basic Functions of a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement helps your audience by letting them know “in a nutshell” what you are going to talk about. With a good thesis statement you will fulfill four basic functions: you express your specific purpose, provide a way to organize your main points, make your research more effective, and enhance your delivery.
Express Your Specific Purpose
To orient your audience, you need to be as clear as possible about your meaning. A strong thesis will prepare your audience effectively for the points that will follow. Here are two examples:
- “Today, I want to discuss academic cheating.” (weak example)
- “Today, I will clarify exactly what plagiarism is and give examples of its different types so that you can see how it leads to a loss of creative learning interaction.” (strong example)
The weak statement will probably give the impression that you have no clear position about your topic because you haven’t said what that position is. Additionally, the term “academic cheating” can refer to many behaviors—acquiring test questions ahead of time, copying answers, changing grades, or allowing others to do your coursework—so the specific topic of the speech is still not clear to the audience.
The strong statement not only specifies plagiarism but also states your specific concern (loss of creative learning interaction).
Provide a Way to Organize Your Main Points
A thesis statement should appear, almost verbatim, toward the end of the introduction to a speech. A thesis statement helps the audience get ready to listen to the arrangement of points that follow. Many speakers say that if they can create a strong thesis sentence, the rest of the speech tends to develop with relative ease. On the other hand, when the thesis statement is not very clear, creating a speech is an uphill battle.
When your thesis statement is sufficiently clear and decisive, you will know where you stand about your topic and where you intend to go with your speech. Having a clear thesis statement is especially important if you know a great deal about your topic or you have strong feelings about it. If this is the case for you, you need to know exactly what you are planning on talking about in order to fit within specified time limitations. Knowing where you are and where you are going is the entire point in establishing a thesis statement; it makes your speech much easier to prepare and to present.
Let’s say you have a fairly strong thesis statement, and that you’ve already brainstormed a list of information that you know about the topic. Chances are your list is too long and has no focus. Using your thesis statement, you can select only the information that (1) is directly related to the thesis and (2) can be arranged in a sequence that will make sense to the audience and will support the thesis. In essence, a strong thesis statement helps you keep useful information and weed out less useful information.
Make Your Research More Effective
If you begin your research with only a general topic in mind, you run the risk of spending hours reading mountains of excellent literature about your topic. However, mountains of literature do not always make coherent speeches. You may have little or no idea of how to tie your research all together, or even whether you should tie it together. If, on the other hand, you conduct your research with a clear thesis statement in mind, you will be better able to zero in only on material that directly relates to your chosen thesis statement. Let’s look at an example that illustrates this point:
Many traffic accidents involve drivers older than fifty-five.
While this statement may be true, you could find industrial, medical, insurance literature that can drone on ad infinitum about the details of all such accidents in just one year. Instead, focusing your thesis statement will help you narrow the scope of information you will be searching for while gathering information. Here’s an example of a more focused thesis statement:
Three factors contribute to most accidents involving drivers over fifty-five years of age: failing eyesight, slower reflexes, and rapidly changing traffic conditions.
This framing is somewhat better. This thesis statement at least provides three possible main points and some keywords for your electronic catalog search. However, if you want your audience to understand the context of older people at the wheel, consider something like:
Mature drivers over fifty-five years of age must cope with more challenging driving conditions than existed only one generation ago: more traffic moving at higher speeds, the increased imperative for quick driving decisions, and rapidly changing ramp and cloverleaf systems. Because of these challenges, I want my audience to believe that drivers over the age of sixty-five should be required to pass a driving test every five years.
This framing of the thesis provides some interesting choices. First, several terms need to be defined, and these definitions might function surprisingly well in setting the tone of the speech. Your definitions of words like “generation,” “quick driving decisions,” and “cloverleaf systems” could jolt your audience out of assumptions they have taken for granted as truth.
Second, the framing of the thesis provides you with a way to describe the specific changes as they have occurred between, say, 1970 and 2010. How much, and in what ways, have the volume and speed of traffic changed? Why are quick decisions more critical now? What is a “cloverleaf,” and how does any driver deal cognitively with exiting in the direction seemingly opposite to the desired one? Questions like this, suggested by your own thesis statement, can lead to a strong, memorable speech.
Enhance Your Delivery
When your thesis is not clear to you, your listeners will be even more clueless than you are—but if you have a good clear thesis statement, your speech becomes clear to your listeners. When you stand in front of your audience presenting your introduction, you can vocally emphasize the essence of your speech, expressed as your thesis statement. Many speakers pause for a half second, lower their vocal pitch slightly, slow down a little, and deliberately present the thesis statement, the one sentence that encapsulates its purpose. When this is done effectively, the purpose, intent, or main idea of a speech is driven home for an audience.
How to Write a Thesis Statement
Now that we’ve looked at why a thesis statement is crucial in a speech, let’s switch gears and talk about how we go about writing a solid thesis statement. A thesis statement is related to the general and specific purposes of a speech as we discussed them in Chapter 6 “Finding a Purpose and Selecting a Topic” .
Choose Your Topic
The first step in writing a good thesis statement was originally discussed in Chapter 6 “Finding a Purpose and Selecting a Topic” when we discussed how to find topics. Once you have a general topic, you are ready to go to the second step of creating a thesis statement.
Narrow Your Topic
One of the hardest parts of writing a thesis statement is narrowing a speech from a broad topic to one that can be easily covered during a five- to ten-minute speech. While five to ten minutes may sound like a long time to new public speakers, the time flies by very quickly when you are speaking. You can easily run out of time if your topic is too broad. To ascertain if your topic is narrow enough for a specific time frame, ask yourself three questions.
First, is your thesis statement narrow or is it a broad overgeneralization of a topic? An overgeneralization occurs when we classify everyone in a specific group as having a specific characteristic. For example, a speaker’s thesis statement that “all members of the National Council of La Raza are militant” is an overgeneralization of all members of the organization. Furthermore, a speaker would have to correctly demonstrate that all members of the organization are militant for the thesis statement to be proven, which is a very difficult task since the National Council of La Raza consists of millions of Hispanic Americans. A more appropriate thesis related to this topic could be, “Since the creation of the National Council of La Raza [NCLR] in 1968, the NCLR has become increasingly militant in addressing the causes of Hispanics in the United States.”
The second question to ask yourself when narrowing a topic is whether your speech’s topic is one clear topic or multiple topics. A strong thesis statement consists of only a single topic. The following is an example of a thesis statement that contains too many topics: “Medical marijuana, prostitution, and gay marriage should all be legalized in the United States.” Not only are all three fairly broad, but you also have three completely unrelated topics thrown into a single thesis statement. Instead of a thesis statement that has multiple topics, limit yourself to only one topic. Here’s an example of a thesis statement examining only one topic: “Today we’re going to examine the legalization and regulation of the oldest profession in the state of Nevada.” In this case, we’re focusing our topic to how one state has handled the legalization and regulation of prostitution.
The last question a speaker should ask when making sure a topic is sufficiently narrow is whether the topic has direction. If your basic topic is too broad, you will never have a solid thesis statement or a coherent speech. For example, if you start off with the topic “Barack Obama is a role model for everyone,” what do you mean by this statement? Do you think President Obama is a role model because of his dedication to civic service? Do you think he’s a role model because he’s a good basketball player? Do you think he’s a good role model because he’s an excellent public speaker? When your topic is too broad, almost anything can become part of the topic. This ultimately leads to a lack of direction and coherence within the speech itself. To make a cleaner topic, a speaker needs to narrow her or his topic to one specific area. For example, you may want to examine why President Obama is a good speaker.
Put Your Topic into a Sentence
Once you’ve narrowed your topic to something that is reasonably manageable given the constraints placed on your speech, you can then formalize that topic as a complete sentence. For example, you could turn the topic of President Obama’s public speaking skills into the following sentence: “Because of his unique sense of lyricism and his well-developed presentational skills, President Barack Obama is a modern symbol of the power of public speaking.” Once you have a clear topic sentence, you can start tweaking the thesis statement to help set up the purpose of your speech.
Add Your Argument, Viewpoint, or Opinion
This function only applies if you are giving a speech to persuade. If your topic is informative, your job is to make sure that the thesis statement is nonargumentative and focuses on facts. For example, in the preceding thesis statement we have a couple of opinion-oriented terms that should be avoided for informative speeches: “unique sense,” “well-developed,” and “power.” All three of these terms are laced with an individual’s opinion, which is fine for a persuasive speech but not for an informative speech. For informative speeches, the goal of a thesis statement is to explain what the speech will be informing the audience about, not attempting to add the speaker’s opinion about the speech’s topic. For an informative speech, you could rewrite the thesis statement to read, “This speech is going to analyze Barack Obama’s use of lyricism in his speech, ‘A World That Stands as One,’ delivered July 2008 in Berlin.”
On the other hand, if your topic is persuasive, you want to make sure that your argument, viewpoint, or opinion is clearly indicated within the thesis statement. If you are going to argue that Barack Obama is a great speaker, then you should set up this argument within your thesis statement.
Use the Thesis Checklist
Once you have written a first draft of your thesis statement, you’re probably going to end up revising your thesis statement a number of times prior to delivering your actual speech. A thesis statement is something that is constantly tweaked until the speech is given. As your speech develops, often your thesis will need to be rewritten to whatever direction the speech itself has taken. We often start with a speech going in one direction, and find out through our research that we should have gone in a different direction. When you think you finally have a thesis statement that is good to go for your speech, take a second and make sure it adheres to the criteria shown in Table 9.1 “Thesis Checklist”
Table 9.1 Thesis Checklist
Preview of Speech
The final part of an introduction contains a preview of the major points to be covered within your speech. I’m sure we’ve all seen signs that have three cities listed on them with the mileage to reach each city. This mileage sign is an indication of what is to come. A preview works the same way. A preview foreshadows what the main body points will be in the speech. For example, to preview a speech on bullying in the workplace, one could say, “To understand the nature of bullying in the modern workplace, I will first define what workplace bullying is and the types of bullying, I will then discuss the common characteristics of both workplace bullies and their targets, and lastly, I will explore some possible solutions to workplace bullying.” In this case, each of the phrases mentioned in the preview would be a single distinct point made in the speech itself. In other words, the first major body point in this speech would examine what workplace bullying is and the types of bullying; the second major body point in this speech would discuss the common characteristics of both workplace bullies and their targets; and lastly, the third body point in this speech would explore some possible solutions to workplace bullying.
- Linking the attention-getter to the speech topic is essential so that you maintain audience attention and so that the relevance of the attention-getter is clear to your audience.
- Establishing how your speech topic is relevant and important shows the audience why they should listen to your speech.
- To be an effective speaker, you should convey all three components of credibility, competence, trustworthiness, and caring/goodwill, by the content and delivery of your introduction.
- A clear thesis statement is essential to provide structure for a speaker and clarity for an audience.
- An effective preview identifies the specific main points that will be present in the speech body.
- Make a list of the attention-getting devices you might use to give a speech on the importance of recycling. Which do you think would be most effective? Why?
- Create a thesis statement for a speech related to the topic of collegiate athletics. Make sure that your thesis statement is narrow enough to be adequately covered in a five- to six-minute speech.
- Discuss with a partner three possible body points you could utilize for the speech on the topic of volunteerism.
- Fill out the introduction worksheet to help work through your introduction for your next speech. Please make sure that you answer all the questions clearly and concisely.
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8 Purpose and Thesis
In this chapter . . .
As discussed in the chapter on Speaking Occasion , speechwriting begins with careful analysis of the speech occasion and its given circumstances, leading to the choice of an appropriate topic. As with essay writing, the early work of speechwriting follows familiar steps: brainstorming, research, pre-writing, thesis, and so on.
This chapter focuses on techniques that are unique to speechwriting. As a spoken form, speeches must be clear about the purpose and main idea or “takeaway.” Planned redundancy means that you will be repeating these elements several times over during the speech.
Furthermore, finding purpose and thesis are essential whether you’re preparing an outline for extemporaneous delivery or a completely written manuscript for presentation. When you know your topic, your general and specific purpose, and your thesis or central idea, you have all the elements you need to write a speech that is focused, clear, and audience friendly.
Recognizing the General Purpose
Speeches have traditionally been grouped into one of three categories according to their primary purpose: 1) to inform, 2) to persuade, or 3) to inspire, honor, or entertain. These broad goals are commonly known as the general purpose of a speech . Earlier, you learned about the actor’s tool of intention or objectives. The general purpose is like a super-objective; it defines the broadest goal of a speech. These three purposes are not necessarily exclusive to the others. A speech designed to be persuasive can also be informative and entertaining. However, a speech should have one primary goal. That is its general purpose.
Why is it helpful to talk about speeches in such broad terms? Being perfectly clear about what you want your speech to do or make happen for your audience will keep you focused. You can make a clearer distinction between whether you want your audience to leave your speech knowing more (to inform), or ready to take action (to persuade), or feeling something (to inspire)
It’s okay to use synonyms for these broad categories. Here are some of them:
- To inform could be to explain, to demonstrate, to describe, to teach.
- To persuade could be to convince, to argue, to motivate, to prove.
- To inspire might be to honor, or entertain, to celebrate, to mourn.
In summary, the first question you must ask yourself when starting to prepare a speech is, “Is the primary purpose of my speech to inform, to persuade, or to inspire?”
Articulating Specific Purpose
A specific purpose statement builds upon your general purpose and makes it specific (as the name suggests). For example, if you have been invited to give a speech about how to do something, your general purpose is “to inform.” Choosing a topic appropriate to that general purpose, you decide to speak about how to protect a personal from cyberattacks. Now you are on your way to identifying a specific purpose.
A good specific purpose statement has three elements: goal, target audience, and content.
If you think about the above as a kind of recipe, then the first two “ingredients” — your goal and your audience — should be simple. Words describing the target audience should be as specific as possible. Instead of “my peers,” you could say, for example, “students in their senior year at my university.”
The third ingredient in this recipe is content, or what we call the topic of your speech. This is where things get a bit difficult. You want your content to be specific and something that you can express succinctly in a sentence. Here are some common problems that speakers make in defining the content, and the fix:
Now you know the “recipe” for a specific purpose statement. It’s made up of T o, plus an active W ord, a specific A udience, and clearly stated C ontent. Remember this formula: T + W + A + C.
A: for a group of new students
C: the term “plagiarism”
Here are some further examples a good specific purpose statement:
- To explain to a group of first-year students how to join a school organization.
- To persuade the members of the Greek society to take a spring break trip in Daytona Beach.
- To motivate my classmates in English 101 to participate in a study abroad program.
- To convince first-year students that they need at least seven hours of sleep per night to do well in their studies.
- To inspire my Church community about the accomplishments of our pastor.
The General and Specific Purpose Statements are writing tools in the sense that they help you, as a speechwriter, clarify your ideas.
Creating a Thesis Statement
Once you are clear about your general purpose and specific purpose, you can turn your attention to crafting a thesis statement. A thesis is the central idea in an essay or a speech. In speechwriting, the thesis or central idea explains the message of the content. It’s the speech’s “takeaway.” A good thesis statement will also reveal and clarify the ideas or assertions you’ll be addressing in your speech (your main points). Consider this example:
General Purpose: To persuade. Specific Purpose: To motivate my classmates in English 101 to participate in a study abroad program. Thesis: A semester-long study abroad experience produces lifelong benefits by teaching you about another culture, developing your language skills, and enhancing your future career prospects.
The difference between a specific purpose statement and a thesis statement is clear in this example. The thesis provides the takeaway (the lifelong benefits of study abroad). It also points to the assertions that will be addressed in the speech. Like the specific purpose statement, the thesis statement is a writing tool. You’ll incorporate it into your speech, usually as part of the introduction and conclusion.
All good expository, rhetorical, and even narrative writing contains a thesis. Many students and even experienced writers struggle with formulating a thesis. We struggle when we attempt to “come up with something” before doing the necessary research and reflection. A thesis only becomes clear through the thinking and writing process. As you develop your speech content, keep asking yourself: What is important here? If the audience can remember only one thing about this topic, what do I want them to remember?
Example #2: General Purpose: To inform Specific Purpose: To demonstrate to my audience the correct method for cleaning a computer keyboard. Central Idea: Your computer keyboard needs regular cleaning to function well, and you can achieve that in four easy steps.
Example # 3 General Purpose: To Inform Specific Purpose: To describe how makeup is done for the TV show The Walking Dead . Central Idea: The wildly popular zombie show The Walking Dead achieves incredibly scary and believable makeup effects, and in the next few minutes I will tell you who does it, what they use, and how they do it.
Notice in the examples above that neither the specific purpose nor the central idea ever exceeds one sentence. If your central idea consists of more than one sentence, then you are probably including too much information.
Problems to Avoid
The first problem many students have in writing their specific purpose statement has already been mentioned: specific purpose statements sometimes try to cover far too much and are too broad. For example:
“To explain to my classmates the history of ballet.”
Aside from the fact that this subject may be difficult for everyone in your audience to relate to, it’s enough for a three-hour lecture, maybe even a whole course. You’ll probably find that your first attempt at a specific purpose statement will need refining. These examples are much more specific and much more manageable given the limited amount of time you’ll have.
- To explain to my classmates how ballet came to be performed and studied in the U.S.
- To explain to my classmates the difference between Russian and French ballet.
- To explain to my classmates how ballet originated as an art form in the Renaissance.
- To explain to my classmates the origin of the ballet dancers’ clothing.
The second problem happens when the “communication verb” in the specific purpose does not match the content; for example, persuasive content is paired with “to inform” or “to explain.” Can you find the errors in the following purpose statements?
- To inform my audience why capital punishment is unconstitutional. (This is persuasive. It can’t be informative since it’s taking a side)
- To persuade my audience about the three types of individual retirement accounts. (Even though the purpose statement says “persuade,” it isn’t persuading the audience of anything. It is informative.)
- To inform my classmates that Universal Studios is a better theme park than Six Flags over Georgia. (This is clearly an opinion; hence it is a persuasive speech and not merely informative)
The third problem exists when the content part of the specific purpose statement has two parts. One specific purpose is enough. These examples cover two different topics.
- To explain to my audience how to swing a golf club and choose the best golf shoes.
- To persuade my classmates to be involved in the Special Olympics and vote to fund better classes for the intellectually disabled.
To fix this problem of combined or hybrid purposes, you’ll need to select one of the topics in these examples and speak on that one alone.
The fourth problem with both specific purpose and central idea statements is related to formatting. There are some general guidelines that need to be followed in terms of how you write out these elements of your speech:
- Don’t write either statement as a question.
- Always use complete sentences for central idea statements and infinitive phrases (beginning with “to”) for the specific purpose statement.
- Use concrete language (“I admire Beyoncé for being a talented performer and businesswoman”) and avoid subjective or slang terms (“My speech is about why I think Beyoncé is the bomb”) or jargon and acronyms (“PLA is better than CBE for adult learners.”)
There are also problems to avoid in writing the central idea statement. As mentioned above, remember that:
- The specific purpose and central idea statements are not the same thing, although they are related.
- The central idea statement should be clear and not complicated or wordy; it should “stand out” to the audience. As you practice delivery, you should emphasize it with your voice.
- The central idea statement should not be the first thing you say but should follow the steps of a good introduction as outlined in the next chapters.
You should be aware that all aspects of your speech are constantly going to change as you move toward the moment of giving your speech. The exact wording of your central idea may change, and you can experiment with different versions for effectiveness. However, your specific purpose statement should not change unless there is a good reason to do so. There are many aspects to consider in the seemingly simple task of writing a specific purpose statement and its companion, the central idea statement. Writing good ones at the beginning will save you some trouble later in the speech preparation process.
Public Speaking as Performance Copyright © 2023 by Mechele Leon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
8.2 The Topic, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Thesis
Before any work can be done on crafting the body of your speech or presentation, you must first do some prep work—selecting a topic, formulating a general purpose, a specific purpose statement, and crafting a central idea, or thesis statement. In doing so, you lay the foundation for your speech by making important decisions about what you will speak about and for what purpose you will speak. These decisions will influence and guide the entire speechwriting process, so it is wise to think carefully and critically during these beginning stages.
Understanding the General Purpose
Before any work on a speech can be done, the speaker needs to understand the general purpose of the speech. The general purpose is what the speaker hopes to accomplish and will help guide in the selection of a topic. The instructor generally provides the general purpose for a speech, which fall into one of three categories. A general purpose to inform would mean that the speaker is teaching the audience about a topic, increasing their understanding and awareness, or providing new information about a topic the audience might already know. Informative speeches are designed to present the facts, but not give the speakers opinion or any call to action. A general purpose to persuade would mean that the speaker is choosing the side of a topic and advocating for their side or belief. The speaker is asking the audience to believe in their stance, or to take an action in support of their topic. A general purpose to entertain often entails short speeches of ceremony, where the speaker is connecting the audience to the celebration. You can see how these general purposes are very different. An informative speech is just facts, the speaker would not be able to provide an opinion or direction on what to do with the information, whereas a persuasive speech includes the speaker’s opinions and direction on what to do with the information. Before a speaker chooses a topic, they must first understand the general purpose.
Selecting a Topic
Generally, speakers focus on one or more interrelated topics—relatively broad concepts, ideas, or problems that are relevant for particular audiences. The most common way that speakers discover topics is by simply observing what is happening around them—at their school, in their local government, or around the world. Opportunities abound for those interested in engaging speech as a tool for change. Perhaps the simplest way to find a topic is to ask yourself a few questions, including:
- What important events are occurring locally, nationally and internationally?
- What do I care about most?
- Is there someone or something I can advocate for?
- What makes me angry/happy?
- What beliefs/attitudes do I want to share?
- Is there some information the audience needs to know?
Students speak about what is interesting to them and their audiences. What topics do you think are relevant today? There are other questions you might ask yourself, too, but these should lead you to at least a few topical choices. The most important work that these questions do is to locate topics within your pre-existing sphere of knowledge and interest. Topics should be ideas that interest the speaker or are part of their daily lives. In order for a topic to be effective, the speaker needs to have some credibility or connection to the topic, it would be unfair to ask the audience to donate to a cause that the speaker has never donated too. There must be a connection to the topic for the speaker to be seen as credible. David Zarefsky (2010) also identifies brainstorming as a way to develop speech topics, a strategy that can be helpful if the questions listed above did not yield an appropriate or interesting topic. Brainstorming involves looking at your daily activities to determine what you could share with an audience. Perhaps you work out regularly or eat healthy, you could explain that to an audience, or demonstrate how to dribble a basketball. If you regularly play video games you may advocate for us to take up video games or explain the history of video games. Anything that you find interesting or important might turn into a topic. Starting with a topic you are already interested in will make writing and presenting your speech a more enjoyable and meaningful experience. It means that your entire speechwriting process will focus on something you find important and that you can present this information to people who stand to benefit from your speech. At this point, it is also important to consider the audience before choosing a topic. While we might really enjoy a lot of different things that could be topics, if the audience has no connection to that topic, then it wouldn’t be meaningful for the speaker or audience. Since we always have a diverse audience, we want to make sure that everyone in the audience can gain some new information from the speech. Sometimes, a topic might be too complicated to cover in the amount of time we have to present, or involve too much information then that topic might not work for the assignment, and finally if the audience can not gain anything from a topic then it won’t work. Ultimately, when we choose a topic we want to pick something that we are familiar with and enjoy, we have credibility and that the audience could gain something from. Once you have answered these questions and narrowed your responses, you are still not done selecting your topic. For instance, you might have decided that you really care about breeds of dogs. This is a very broad topic and could easily lead to a dozen different speeches. To resolve this problem, speakers must also consider the audience to whom they will speak, the scope of their presentation, and the outcome they wish to achieve.
Formulating the Purpose Statements
By honing in on a very specific topic, you begin the work of formulating your purpose statement. In short, a purpose statement clearly states what it is you would like to achieve. Purpose statements are especially helpful for guiding you as you prepare your speech. When deciding which main points, facts, and examples to include, you should simply ask yourself whether they are relevant not only to the topic you have selected, but also whether they support the goal you outlined in your purpose statement. The general purpose statement of a speech may be to inform, to persuade, to celebrate, or to entertain. Thus, it is common to frame a specific purpose statement around one of these goals. According to O’Hair, Stewart, and Rubenstein, a specific purpose statement “expresses both the topic and the general speech purpose in action form and in terms of the specific objectives you hope to achieve” (2004). The specific purpose is a single sentence that states what the audience will gain from this speech, or what will happen at the end of the speech. The specific purpose is a combination of the general purpose and the topic and helps the speaker to focus in on what can be achieved in a short speech.
To go back to the topic of a dog breed, the general purpose might be to inform, a specific purpose might be: To inform the audience about how corgis became household pets. If the general purpose is to persuade the specific purpose might be: to persuade the audience that dog breed deemed “dangerous” should not be excluded from living in the cities. In short, the general purpose statement lays out the broader goal of the speech while the specific purpose statement describes precisely what the speech is intended to do. The specific purpose should focus on the audience and be measurable, if I were to ask the audience before I began the speech how many people know how corgis became household pets, they could raise their hand, and if I ask at the end of my speech how many people know how corgis became household pets, I should see a lot more hands. The specific purpose is the “so what” of the speech, it helps the speaker focus on the audience and take a bigger idea of a topic and narrow it down to what can be accomplished in a short amount of time.
Writing the Thesis Statement
The specific purpose statement is a tool that you will use as you write your speech, but it is unlikely that it will appear verbatim in your speech. Instead, you will want to convert the specific purpose statement into a central idea, or thesis statement that you will share with your audience. Just like in a written paper, the thesis comes in the first part of the paper, in a speech, the thesis comes within the first few sentences of the speech. The thesis must be stated and tells the audience what to expect in this speech. A thesis statement may encapsulate the main idea of a speech in just a sentence or two and be designed to give audiences a quick preview of what the entire speech will be about. The thesis statement should be a single, declarative statement followed by a separate preview statement. If you are a Harry Potter enthusiast, you may write a thesis statement (central idea) the following way using the above approach: J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella like story of a rise to fame.
Writing the Preview Statement
A preview statement (or series of statements) is a guide to your speech. This is the part of the speech that literally tells the audience exactly what main points you will cover. If you were to get on any freeway there would be a green sign on the side of the road that tells you what cities are coming up, this is what your preview statement does, it tells the audience what points will be covered in the speech. Best of all, you would know what to look for! So, if we take our J.K Rowling example, the thesis and preview would look like this: J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella like rags to riches story. First, I will tell you about J.K. Rowling’s humble beginnings. Then, I will describe her personal struggles as a single mom. Finally, I will explain how she overcame adversity and became one of the richest women in the United Kingdom.
Writing the Body of Your Speech
Once you have finished the important work of deciding what your speech will be about, as well as formulating the purpose statement and crafting the thesis, you should turn your attention to writing the body of your speech. The body of your speech consists of 3 -4 main points that support your thesis and help the audience to achieve the specific purpose. Creating main points helps to chunk the information you are sharing with your audience into easy to understand organization. Choosing your main points will help you focus in on what information you want to share with the audience in order to prove your thesis. Since we can’t tell the audience everything about our topic, we need to choose our main points to make sure we can share the most important information with our audience. All of your main points are contained in the body, and normally this section is prepared well before you ever write the introduction or conclusion. The body of your speech will consume the largest amount of time to present; and it is the opportunity for you to elaborate on your supporting evidence, such as facts, statistics, examples, and opinions that support your thesis statement and do the work you have outlined in the specific purpose statement. Combining these various elements into a cohesive and compelling speech, however, is not without its difficulties, the first of which is deciding which elements to include and how they ought to be organized to best suit your purpose.
clearly states what it is you would like to achieve
“expresses both the topic and the general speech purpose in action form and in terms of the specific objectives you hope to achieve" (O'Hair, Stewart, & Rubenstein, 2004)
single, declarative sentence that captures the essence or main point of your entire presentation
It’s About Them: Public Speaking in the 21st Century Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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Public speaking: use a thesis statement.
Posted on March 12, 2016
Rafael Baptista is the ICMA Local Government Management Fellow for Durham City/County. He is a recent graduate of the MPA program at the University of North Carolina –Chapel Hill . He serves on the ELGL Management Team and is a contributing author to Careers in Government. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Politics and Spanish from Willamette University where he was a member of the debate team. He has advanced to the elimination rounds of two collegiate national debate championships. Connect with Rafael on LinkedIn and Twitter .
Rafael Baptista is one of those rare people who actually likes public speaking, and he’s here to share his tips with ELGL, in hopes of calming your fears whether you’re speaking at a council meeting or a wedding reception.
The Importance of a Thesis Statement
In the last installment , I discussed the “tell them” approach to public speaking. Today’s installment will explain why you should make sure that your writing and public speaking includes a thesis statement. A thesis statement focuses your talk, which results in greater understanding from the audience (and that translates into less stress for you).
In this post I will first define what a thesis statement is, the importance of having a thesis statement, and how to incorporate a thesis statement into your writing and public speaking.
What is a Thesis Statement:
Very simply, your thesis statement is the main argument of your paper or speech. It tells the reader what you are trying to convince them of or explain to them. The thesis statement of this post is that you should include a thesis statement in your writing and public speaking.
The importance of a thesis statement:
A thesis statement allows a reader or listener to quickly understand what it is they should be getting from you. Much like the “tell them” approach, a thesis statement is an organizational tool. It ensures that there is no doubt about the purpose of what you are trying to communicate. It provides the audience with a clear takeaway.
But a thesis statement is also a persuasive tool. Regardless of if they leave or stop reading early or get confused later on, they will know the takeaway you provided them. This is especially important in longer presentations where a listener may lose focus.
How to incorporate it:
You should clearly state your thesis statement early in your presentation or speech. In this post, I included my thesis statement in my third sentence. Throughout your paper or speech make sure that you are consistently referencing back to your blog post both explicitly and implicitly.
In summary, this post has defined what a thesis statement is, why it is important, and how to incorporate it into your writing and public speaking. I hope you will start using thesis statements in all your public speaking and writing.
Have any questions or comments about this post? Feel free to tweet me @RafaelBaptista5 or email me . Also make sure to reach out to me with any future topic suggestions.
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4 Topic, Purpose, and Thesis
- Differentiate among the three types of general speech purposes.
- Understand the four primary constraints of topic selection.
- Demonstrate an understanding of how a topic is narrowed from a broad subject area to a manageable specific purpose.
- Integrate the seven tips for creating specific purposes.
- Understand how to develop a strong thesis and assess thesis statements.
In the 2004 Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q , the lead character sings a song about finding his purpose in life: “I don’t know how I know, but I’m gonna find my purpose. I don’t know where I’m gonna look, but I’m gonna find my purpose.” Although the song is about life in general, the lyrics are also appropriate when thinking about the purpose of your speech. You may know that you have been assigned to deliver a speech, but finding a purpose and topic seems like a formidable task. You may be asking yourself questions like, “What if the topic I pick is too common?”; “What if no one is interested in my topic?”; “What if my topic is too huge to cover in a three- to five-minute speech?”; or many others.
Finding a speech’s purpose and topic isn’t as complex or difficult as you might believe. This may be hard to accept right now but trust us. After you read this chapter, you’ll understand how to go about finding interesting topics for a variety of different types of speeches. In this chapter, we are going to explain how to identify the general purpose of a speech. We will also discuss how to select a topic, what to do if you’re just drawing a blank, and four basic questions you should ask yourself about the speech topic you ultimately select. Finally, we will explain how to use your general purpose and your chosen topic to develop the specific purpose and thesis of your speech.
What do you think of when you hear the word “purpose”? Technically speaking, a purpose is why something exists, how we use an object, or why we make something. For the purposes of public speaking, all three can be applied. For example, when we talk about a speech’s purpose, we can question why a specific speech was given, how we are supposed to use the information within a speech, and why we are personally creating a speech. For this specific chapter, we are more interested in that last aspect of the definition of the word “purpose”: why we give speeches.
Ever since scholars started writing about public speaking as a distinct phenomenon, there have been a range of different systems created to classify the types of speeches people may give. Aristotle talked about three speech purposes: deliberative (political speech), forensic (courtroom speech), and epideictic (speech of praise or blame). Cicero also talked about three purposes: judicial (courtroom speech), deliberative (political speech), and demonstrative (ceremonial speech—similar to Aristotle’s epideictic). A little more recently, St. Augustine of Hippo also wrote about three specific speech purposes: to teach (provide people with information), to delight (entertain people or show people false ideas), and to sway (persuade people to a religious ideology). All these systems of identifying public speeches have been attempts at helping people determine the general purpose of their speech. A general purpose refers to the broad goal of creating and delivering a speech.
These typologies or classification systems of public speeches serve to demonstrate that general speech purposes have remained pretty consistent throughout the history of public speaking. Modern public speaking scholars typically use a classification system for three general purposes: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain.
A general purpose refers to the broad goal of creating and delivering a speech.
The first general purpose that some people have for giving speeches is to inform. Simply put, informative speaking is about helping audience members acquire information that they do not already possess. Audience members can then use this information to understand something (e.g. a speech on a new technology or a speech on an issue of community concern) or to perform a new task or improve their skills (e.g. a speech on how to swing a golf club or a speech on how to assemble a layer cake). The most important characteristic of informative topics is that the goal is to gain knowledge. Notice that the goal is not to encourage people to use that knowledge in any specific way. When a speaker starts encouraging people to use knowledge in a specific way, they are no longer informing but instead persuading.
Informative speaking is about helping audience members acquire information that they do not already possess.
Let’s look at a real example of how an individual can accidentally go from informing to persuading. Let’s say you are assigned to inform an audience about a new vaccination program. In an informative speech, the purpose of the speech is to explain to your audience what the program is and how it works. If, however, you start encouraging your audience to participate in the vaccination program, you are no longer informing them about the program but instead persuading them to become involved in the program. One of the most common mistakes new public speaking students make is to blur the line between informing and persuading.
Why We Share Knowledge
Knowledge sharing is the process of delivering information, skills, or expertise in some form to people who could benefit from it. Every year, millions of people attend some kind of knowledge sharing conference or convention in hopes of learning new information or skills that will help them in their personal or professional lives (Atwood, 2009).
People are motivated to share their knowledge with other people for a variety of reasons (Hendriks, 1999). For some, the personal sense of achievement or responsibility drives them to share their knowledge (internal motivational factors). Others are compelled to share knowledge because of the desire for recognition or the possibility of job enhancement (external motivational factors). Knowledge sharing is an integral part of every society, so learning how to deliver informative speeches is a valuable skill.
Knowledge sharing is the process of delivering information, skills, or expertise in some form to people who could benefit from it.
Common Types of Informative Topics
O’Hair, Stewart, and Rubenstein identified six general types of informative speech topics: objects, people, events, concepts, processes, and issues (O’Hair, et al., 2007). The first type of informative speech relates to objects, which can include how objects are designed, how they function, and what they mean. For example, a student of one of our coauthors gave a speech on the design of corsets, using a mannequin to demonstrate how corsets were placed on women and the amount of force necessary to lace one up.
The second type of informative speech focuses on people. People-based speeches tend to be biography-oriented. Such topics could include recounting an individual’s achievements and explaining why he or she is important in history. Some speakers, who are famous themselves, will focus on their own lives and how various events shaped who they ultimately became. Dottie Walters noted as being the first female in the United States to run an advertising agency. In addition to her work in advertising, Dottie also spent a great deal of time as a professional speaker. She often would tell the story about her early years in advertising when she would push around a stroller with her daughter inside as she went from business to business trying to generate interest in her copywriting abilities. You don’t have to be famous, however, to give a people-based speech. Instead, you could inform your audience about a historical or contemporary hero whose achievements are not widely known.
The third type of informative speech involves explaining the significance of specific events, either historical or contemporary. For example, you could deliver a speech on a particular battle of World War II or a specific presidential administration. If you’re a history buff, event-oriented speeches may be right up your alley. There are countless historical events that many people aren’t familiar with and would find interesting. You could also inform your audience about a more recent or contemporary event. Some examples include concerts, plays, and arts festivals; athletic competitions; and natural phenomena, such as storms, eclipses, and earthquakes. The point is to make sure that an informative speech is talking about the event (who, what, when, where, and why) and not attempting to persuade people to pass judgment upon the event or its effects.
The fourth type of informative speech involves concepts, or “abstract and difficult ideas or theories” (O’Hair, et al., 2007). For example, if you want to explain a specific communication theory, E. M. Griffin provides an excellent list of communication theories on his website , http://www.afirstlook.com/main.cfm/theory_list . Whether you want to discuss theories related to business, sociology, psychology, religion, politics, art, or any other major area of study, this type of speech can be very useful in helping people to understand complex ideas.
The fifth type of informative speech involves processes. The process speech can be divided into two unique types: how-it-functions and how-to-do. The first type of process speech helps audience members understand how a specific object or system works. For example, you could explain how a bill becomes a law in the United States. There is a very specific set of steps that a bill must go through before it becomes a law, so there is a very clear process that could be explained to an audience. The how-to-do speech, on the other hand, is designed to help people come to an end result of some kind. For example, you could give a speech on how to quilt, how to change a tire, how to write a résumé, and millions of other how-to oriented topics. In our experience, the how-to speech is probably the most commonly delivered informative speech in public speaking classes.
The final type of informative speech involves issues, or “problems or matters of dispute” (O’Hair, et al., 2007). This informative speech topic is probably the most difficult for novice public speakers because it requires walking a fine line between informing and persuading. If you attempt to deliver this type of speech, remember the goal is to be balanced when discussing both sides of the issue. To see an example of how you can take a very divisive topic and make it informative, check out the series Point/Counterpoint published by Chelsea House, http://chelseahouse.infobasepublishing.com . This series of books covers everything from the pros and cons of blogging to whether the United States should have mandatory military service.
Sample: Jessy Ohl’s Informative Speech
The following text represents an informative speech prepared and delivered by an undergraduate student named Jessy Ohl. While this speech is written out as a text for purposes of analysis, in your public speaking course, you will most likely be assigned to speak from an outline or notes, not a fully written script. As you read through this sample speech, notice how Ms. Ohl uses informative strategies to present the information without trying to persuade her audience.
In 1977, a young missionary named Daniel Everett traveled deep into the jungles of Brazil to spread the word of God. However, he soon found himself working to translate the language of a remote tribe that would ultimately change his faith, lead to a new profession, and pit him in an intellectual fistfight with the world-famous linguist Noam Chomsky. As New Scientist Magazine of January 2008 explains, Everett’s research on a small group of 350 people called the Pirahã tribe has revealed a language that has experts and intellectuals deeply disturbed. While all languages are unique, experts like Noam Chomsky have argued that they all have universal similarities, such as counting, that are hard-wired into the human brain. So as National Public Radio reported on April 8, 2007, without the ability to count, conceptualize time or abstraction, or create syntax, the Pirahã have a language that by all accounts shouldn’t exist. Daniel Everett is now a professor of linguistics at Illinois State University, and he has created controversy by calling for a complete reevaluation of all linguistic theory in light of the Pirahã. Exploration of the Pirahã could bring further insight into the understanding of how people communicate and even, perhaps, what it means to be human. Which is why we must: first, examine the unique culture of the Pirahã; second, explore what makes their language so surprising; and finally, discover the implications the Pirahã have for the way we look at language and humanity. Taking a closer look at the tribe’s culture, we can identify two key components of Pirahã culture that help mold language: first, isolation; and second, emphasis on reality. First, while globalization has reached nearly every corner of the earth, it has not been able to penetrate the Pirahã natives in the slightest. As Dr. Everett told the New Yorker of April 16, 2007, no group in history has resisted change like the Pirahã. “They reject everything from outside their world” as unnecessary and silly. Distaste for all things foreign is the reason why the people have rejected technology, farming, religion, and even artwork. The lack of artwork illustrates the second vital part of Pirahã culture: an emphasis on reality. According to the India Statesman of May 22, 2006, all Pirahã understanding is based around the concept of personal experience. If something cannot be felt, touched, or experienced directly then to them, it doesn’t exist, essentially eliminating the existence of abstract thought. Since art is often a representation of reality, it has no value among the people. During his work as a missionary, Everett was amazed to find that the natives had no interest in the story of Jesus once they found out that he was dead. The Pirahã psyche is so focused on the present that the people have no collective memory, history, written documents, or creation myths. They are unable to even remember the names of dead grandparents because once something or someone cannot be experienced, they are no longer important. Since his days as a missionary, Everett remains the only Western professor able to translate Pirahã. His research has discovered many things missing with the language: words for time, direction, and color. But more importantly, Pirahã also lacks three characteristics previously thought to be essential to all languages: complexity, counting, and recursion. First, the Pirahã language seems incredibly simple. Now, this isn’t meant to imply that the people are uncivilized or stupid, but instead, they are minimalist. As I mentioned earlier, they only talk in terms of direct experience. The London Times of January 13, 2007, notes that with only eight consonants and three vowels, speakers rely on the use of tone, pitch, and humming to communicate. In fact, Pirahã almost sounds more like song than speech.
Second, Noam Chomsky’s famous universal grammar theory includes the observation that every language has a means of counting. However, as reported in the June 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine , the Pirahã only have words for “one, two, and MANY.” This demonstrates the Pirahã’s inability to conceptualize a difference between three and five or three and a thousand. Dr. Everett spent six months attempting to teach even a single Pirahã person to count to ten, but his efforts were in vain, as tribal members considered the new numbers and attempts at math “childish.” Third, and the biggest surprise for researchers, is the Pirahã’s apparent lack of recursion. Recursion is the ability to link several thoughts together. It is characterized in Christine Kenneally’s 2007 book, The Search for the Origins of Language , as the fundamental principle of all language and the source of limitless expression. Pirahã is unique since the language does not have any conjunctions or linking words. Recursion is so vital for expression that the Chicago Tribune of June 11, 2007, reports that a language without recursion is like disproving gravity. Although the Pirahã don’t care what the outside world thinks of them, their language and world view has certainly ruffled feathers. And while civilization hasn’t been able to infiltrate the Pirahã, it may ultimately be the Pirahã that teaches civilization a thing or two, which brings us to implications on the communicative, philosophical, and cultural levels. By examining the culture, language, and implications of the Pirahã tribe we are able to see how this small Brazilian village could shift the way that we think and talk about the world. Daniel Everett’s research hasn’t made him more popular with his colleagues. But his findings do show that more critical research is needed to make sure that our understanding of language is not lost in translation.
The second general purpose people can have for speaking is to persuade. In persuasive speaking , we attempt to get listeners to embrace a point of view or to adopt a behavior that they would not have done otherwise. A persuasive speech is distinguished from an informative speech by the fact that it includes a call for action for the audience to make some change in their behavior or thinking.
Why We Persuade
The reasons behind persuasive speaking fall into two main categories, which we will call “pure persuasion” and “manipulative persuasion.” Pure persuasion occurs when a speaker urges listeners to engage in a specific behavior or change a point of view because the speaker truly believes that the change is in the best interest of the audience members. For example, you may decide to give a speech on the importance of practicing good oral hygiene because you genuinely believe that oral hygiene is essential and that bad oral hygiene can lead to a range of physical, social, and psychological problems. In this case, the speaker has no ulterior or hidden motive (e.g. you are not a toothpaste salesperson).
Manipulative persuasion occurs when a speaker urges listeners to engage in a specific behavior or change a point of view by misleading them, often to fulfill an ulterior motive beyond the face value of the persuasive attempt. We call this form of persuasion manipulative because the speaker is not being honest about the real purpose of attempting to persuade the audience. Ultimately, this form of persuasion is perceived as profoundly dishonest when audience members discover the ulterior motive. For example, suppose a physician who also owns a large amount of stock in a pharmaceutical company is asked to speak before a group of other physicians about a specific disease. Instead of informing the group about the illness, the doctor spends the bulk of his time attempting to persuade the audience that the drug his company manufactures is the best treatment for that specific disease.
Obviously, the critical question for persuasion is the speaker’s intent. Is the speaker attempting to persuade the audience because of a sincere belief in the benefits of a certain behavior or point of view? Or is the speaker using all possible means—including distorting the truth—to persuade the audience because they will derive personal benefits from their adopting a specific behavior or point of view? Unless your speech assignment calls explicitly for a speech of manipulative persuasion, the usual (and ethical) understanding of a “persuasive speech” assignment is that you should use the pure form of persuasion.
Persuasive speaking attempts to get listeners to embrace a point of view or to adopt a behavior that they would not have done otherwise.
Pure persuasion occurs when a speaker urges listeners to engage in a specific behavior or change a point of view because the speaker truly believes that the change is in the best interest of the audience members.
Manipulative persuasion occurs when a speaker urges listeners to engage in a specific behavior or change a point of view by misleading them, often to fulfill an ulterior motive beyond the face value of the persuasive attempt.
Persuasion: Behavior versus Attitudes, Values, and Beliefs
Persuasion can address behaviors, observable actions on the part of listeners, and it can also address intangible thought processes in the form of attitudes, values, and beliefs.
When the speaker attempts to persuade an audience to change their behavior , or observable actions on the part of listeners. We can often observe and even measure how successful the persuasion was. For example, after a speech attempting to persuade the audience to donate money to a charity, the charity can measure how many donations were received. The following is a short list of various behavior-oriented persuasive speeches we’ve seen in our own classes: washing one’s hands frequently and using hand sanitizer, adapting one’s driving habits to improve gas mileage, using open-source software, or drinking one soft drink or soda over another. In all these cases, the goal is to make a change in the basic behavior of audience members.
The second type of persuasive topic involves a change in attitudes, values, or beliefs. An attitude is defined as an individual’s general predisposition toward something as being good or bad, right or wrong, negative or positive. If you believe that dress codes on college campuses are a good idea, you want to give a speech persuading others to adopt a positive attitude toward campus dress codes.
A speaker can also attempt to persuade listeners to change some value they hold. Value refers to an individual’s perception of the usefulness, importance, or worth of something. We can value a college education, we can value technology, and we can value freedom. Values, as a general concept, are relatively ambiguous and tend to be very lofty ideas. Ultimately, what we value in life motivates us to engage in a range of behaviors. For example, if you value protecting the environment, you may recycle more of your trash than someone who does not hold this value. If you value family history and heritage, you may be more motivated to spend time with your older relatives and ask them about their early lives than someone who does not hold this value.
Lastly, a speaker can attempt to persuade people to change their personal beliefs. Personal b eliefs are propositions or positions that an individual holds as true or false without positive knowledge or proof. Typically, beliefs are divided into two basic categories: core and dispositional. Core beliefs are beliefs that people have actively engaged in and created over the course of their lives (e.g. belief in a higher power, belief in extraterrestrial life forms). Dispositional beliefs , on the other hand, are beliefs that people have not actively engaged in; they are judgments based on related subjects, which people make when they encounter a proposition. Imagine, for example, that you were asked the question, “Can gorillas speak English?” While you may never have met a gorilla or even seen one in person, you can make instant judgments about your understanding of gorillas and fairly certainly say whether you believe that gorillas can speak English.
When it comes to persuading people to alter beliefs, persuading audiences to change core beliefs is more difficult than persuading audiences to alter dispositional beliefs. If you find a topic related to dispositional beliefs, using your speech to help listeners alter their processing of the belief is a realistic possibility. But as a novice public speaker, you are probably best advised to avoid core beliefs. Although core beliefs often appear to be more exciting and interesting than dispositional ones, you are very unlikely to alter anyone’s core beliefs in a five- to ten-minute classroom speech.
Attitude is defined as an individual’s general predisposition toward something as being good or bad, right or wrong, negative or positive.
Value refers to an individual’s perception of the usefulness, importance, or worth of something.
Core beliefs are beliefs that people have actively engaged in and created over the course of their lives (e.g. belief in a higher power, belief in extraterrestrial life forms).
Dispositional beliefs are beliefs that people have not actively engaged in; they are judgments based on related subjects, which people make when they encounter a proposition.
Sample: Jessy Ohl’s Persuasive Speech
The following speech was written and delivered by an undergraduate student named Jessy Ohl. As with our earlier example, while this speech is written out as a text for purposes of analysis, in your public speaking course, you will most likely be assigned to speak from an outline or notes, not a fully written script.
Take a few minutes and compare this persuasive speech to the informative speech Ms. Ohl presented earlier in this chapter. What similarities do you see? What differences do you see? Does this speech seek to change the audience’s behavior? Attitudes? Values? Dispositional or core beliefs? Where in the speech do you see one or more calls for action?
With a declining population of around 6,000, my home town of Denison, Iowa, was on the brink of extinction when a new industry rolled in bringing jobs and revenue. However, as the Canadian Globe and Mail of July 23, 2007, reports, the industry that saved Denison may ultimately lead to its demise. Denison is one of 110 communities across the country to be revolutionized by the production of corn ethanol. Ethanol is a high-powered alcohol, derived from plant matter, that can be used like gasoline. According to the Omaha World Herald of January 8, 2008, our reliance on foreign oil combined with global warming concerns have many holding corn ethanol as our best energy solution. But despite the good intentions of helping farmers and lowering oil consumption, corn ethanol is filled with empty promises. In fact, The Des Moines Register of March 1, 2008, concludes that when ethanol is made from corn, all of its environmental and economic benefits disappear. With oil prices at 100 dollars per barrel, our nation is in an energy crisis, and luckily, the production of ethanol can be a major help for both farmers and consumers, if done correctly. Unfortunately, the way we make ethanol—over 95% from corn—is anything but correct. Although hailed as a magic bullet, corn ethanol could be the worst agricultural catastrophe since the Dust Bowl. The serious political, environmental, and even moral implications demand that we critically rethink this so-called yellow miracle by: first, examining the problems created by corn ethanol; second, exploring why corn ethanol has gained such power; and finally, discovering solutions to prevent a corn ethanol disaster. Now, if you have heard anything about the problems of corn ethanol, it probably dealt with efficiency. As the Christian Science Monitor of November 15, 2007, notes, it takes a gallon of gasoline or more to make a gallon of ethanol. And while this is an important concern, efficiency is the least of our worries. Turning this crop into fuel creates two major problems for our society: first, environmental degradation; and second, acceleration of global famine. First, corn ethanol damages the environment as much as, if not more than, fossil fuels. The journal Ethanol and Bio-diesel News of September 2007 asserts that the production of corn ethanol is pushing natural resources to the breaking point. Since the Dust Bowl, traditional farming practices have required farmers to “rotate” crops. But with corn ethanol being so profitable, understandably, farmers have stopped rotating crops, leading to soil erosion, deforestation, and fertilizer runoff—making our soil less fertile and more toxic. And the story only gets worse once the ethanol is manufactured. According to National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation of February 10, 2008, corn ethanol emits more carbon monoxide and twice the amount of carcinogens into the air as traditional gasoline. The second problem created from corn ethanol is the acceleration of global famine. According to the US Grains Council, last year, 27 million tons of corn, traditionally used as food, was turned into ethanol, drastically increasing food prices. The March 7, 2007, issue of The Wall Street Journal explains that lower supplies of corn needed for necessities such as farm feed, corn oil, and corn syrup have increased our food costs in everything from milk to bread, eggs, and even beer as much as 25 percent. The St. Louis Post Dispatch of April 12, 2007, reports that the amount of corn used to fill one tank of gas could feed one person for an entire year. In October, Global protests over corn ethanol lead the United Nations to call its production “a crime against humanity.” If you weren’t aware of the environmental or moral impacts of corn ethanol, you’re not alone. The Financial Times of May 27, 2007, reports that the narrative surrounding corn ethanol as a homegrown fuel is so desirable that critical thinking is understandably almost nonexistent. To start thinking critically about corn ethanol, we need to examine solutions on both the federal and personal levels. First, at the federal level, our government must end the ridiculously high subsidies surrounding corn ethanol. On June 24, 2007, The Washington Post predicted that subsidies on corn ethanol would cost the federal government an extra 131 billion dollars by 2010. This isn’t to say that the federal government should abandon small farmers. Instead, let’s take the excitement around alternative fuels and direct it toward the right kinds of ethanol. The Economist of June 2, 2007, reports that other materials such as switch grass and wood chips can be used instead of corn. And on July 6, 2011, The New York Times reported on ethanol made from corn cobs, leaves, and husks, which leaves the corn kernels to be used as food. The government could use the money paid in subsidies to support this kind of responsible production of ethanol. The point is that ethanol done right can honestly help with energy independence. On the personal level, we have all participated in the most important step, which is being knowledgeable about the true face of corn ethanol. However, with big business and Washington proclaiming corn ethanol’s greatness, we need to spread the word. So please, talk to friends and family about corn ethanol while there is still time. To make this easier, visit my website, at http://www.responsibleethanol.com . Here you will find informational materials, links to your congressional representatives, and ways to invest in switch grass and wood ethanol. Today, we examined the problems of corn ethanol in America and discovered solutions to make sure that our need for energy reform doesn’t sacrifice our morality. Iowa is turning so much corn into ethanol that soon the state will have to import corn to eat. And while my hometown of Denison has gained much from corn ethanol, we all have much more to lose from it.
The final general purpose people can have for public speaking is to entertain. Whereas informative and persuasive speech making is focused on the end result of the speech process, entertainment speaking focuses on the theme and occasion of the speech. An entertaining speech can be either informative or persuasive at its root, but the context or theme of the speech requires speakers to think about the speech primarily in terms of audience enjoyment.
Why We Entertain
Entertaining speeches are very common in everyday life. The fundamental goal of an entertaining speech is audience enjoyment, which can come in a variety of forms. Entertaining speeches can be funny or serious. Overall, entertaining speeches are not designed to give an audience a deep understanding of life but instead to function as a way to divert an audience from their day-to-day lives for a short period of time. This is not to say that an entertaining speech cannot have real content that is highly informative or persuasive, but its goal is primarily about the entertaining aspects of the speech and not focused on the informative or persuasive quality of the speech.
Common Forms of Entertainment Topics
There are three basic types of entertaining speeches: the after-dinner speech, the ceremonial speech, and the inspirational speech. The after-dinner speaking is a form of speaking where a speaker takes a serious speech topic (either informative or persuasive) and injects a level of humor into the speech to make it entertaining. Some novice speakers will attempt to turn an after-dinner speech into a stand-up comedy routine, which doesn’t have the same focus (Roye, 2010). After-dinner speeches are first and foremost speeches.
A ceremonial speech is a type of entertaining speech where the specific context of the speech is the driving force of the speech. Common types of ceremonial speeches include introductions, toasts, and eulogies. In each of these cases, there are specific events that drive the speech. Maybe you’re introducing an individual who is about to receive an award, giving a toast at your best friend’s wedding, or delivering the eulogy at a relative’s funeral. In each of these cases, the speech and the purpose of the speech is determined by the context of the event and not by the desire to inform or persuade.
The final type of entertaining speech, an inspirational speech , is one where the speaker’s primary goal is to inspire her or his audience. Inspirational speeches are based on emotions with the goal to motivate listeners to alter their lives in some significant way. Florence Littauer, a famous professional speaker, delivers an emotionally charged speech titled “ Silver Boxes .” In the speech, Mrs. Littauer demonstrates how people can use positive comments to encourage others in their daily lives. The title comes from a story she tells at the beginning of the speech where she was teaching a group of children about using positive speech, and one of the children defined positive speech as giving people little silver boxes with bows on top ( http://server.firefighters.org/catalog/2009/45699.mp3 ).
Entertainment speaking is a speech for audience enjoyment.
After-dinner speaking is a form of speaking where a speaker takes a serious speech topic (either informative or persuasive) and injects a level of humor into the speech to make it entertaining.
A ceremonial speech is a type of entertaining speech where the specific context of the speech is the driving force of the speech.
An inspirational speech is one where the speaker’s primary goal is to inspire her or his audience.
Sample: Adam Fink’s Entertainment Speech
The following speech, by an undergraduate student named Adam Fink, is an entertainment speech. Specifically, this speech is a ceremonial speech given at Mr. Fink’s graduation. As with our earlier examples, while this speech is written out as a text for purposes of analysis, in your public speaking course you will most likely be assigned to speak from an outline or notes, not a fully written script. Notice that the tenor of this speech is persuasive, but it persuades in a more inspiring way than just building and proving an argument.
Good evening! I’ve spent the last few months looking over commencement speeches on YouTube. The most notable ones had eight things in common. They reflected on the past, pondered about the future. They encouraged the honorees. They all included some sort of personal story and application. They made people laugh at least fifteen times. They referred to the university as the finest university in the nation or world, and last but not least they all greeted the people in attendance. I’ll begin by doing so now. President Holst, thank you for coming. Faculty members and staff, salutations to you all. Distinguished guests, we are happy to have you. Family members and friends, we could not be here without you. Finally, ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2009, welcome to your commencement day here at Concordia University, Saint Paul, this, the finest university in the galaxy, nay, universe. Really, it’s right up there with South Harlem Institute of Technology, the School of Hard Knocks, and Harvard. Check and check! Graduates, we are not here to watch as our siblings, our parents, friends, or other family walk across this stage. We are here because today is our graduation day. I am going to go off on a tangent for a little bit. Over the past umpteen years, I have seen my fair share of graduations and ceremonies. In fact, I remember getting dragged along to my older brothers’ and sisters’ graduations, all 8,000 of them—at least it seems like there were that many now. Seriously, I have more family members than friends. I remember sitting here in these very seats, intently listening to the president and other distinguished guests speak, again saying welcome and thank you for coming. Each year, I got a little bit better at staying awake throughout the entire ceremony. Every time I would come up with something new to keep myself awake, daydreams, pinching my arms, or pulling leg hair; I was a very creative individual. I am proud to say that I have been awake for the entirety of this ceremony. I would like to personally thank my classmates and colleagues sitting around me for slapping me every time I even thought about dozing off. Personal story, check—and now, application! Graduates, don’t sleep through life. If you need a close friend or colleague to keep you awake, ask. Don’t get bored with life. In the words of one of my mentors, the Australian film director, screen writer, and producer Baz Luhrman, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Keep yourself on your toes. Stay occupied but leave room for relaxation; embrace your hobbies. Don’t get stuck in a job you hate. I am sure many of you have seen the “Did You Know?” film on YouTube. The film montages hundreds of statistics together, laying down the ground work to tell viewers that we are approaching a crossroad. The way we live is about to change dramatically. We are living in exponential times. It’s a good thing that we are exponential people.
We are at a crossing point here, now. Each of us is graduating; we are preparing to leave this place we have called home for the past few years. It’s time to move on and flourish. But let’s not leave this place for good. Let us walk away with happy memories. We have been fortunate enough to see more change in our time here than most alumni see at their alma mater in a lifetime. We have seen the destruction of Centennial, Minnesota, and Walther. Ladies, it might not mean a lot to you, but gentlemen, we had some good times there. We have seen the building and completion of the new Residence Life Center. We now see the beginnings of our very own stadium. We have seen enough offices and departments move to last any business a lifetime. Let us remember these things, the flooding of the knoll, Ultimate Frisbee beginning at ten o’clock at night, and two back-to-back Volleyball National Championship teams, with one of those championship games held where you are sitting now. I encourage all of you to walk out of this place with flashes of the old times flickering through your brains. Reflection, check! Honorees, in the words of Michael Scott, only slightly altered, “They have no idea how high [we] can fly.” Right now you are surrounded by future politicians, film critics, producers, directors, actors, actresses, church workers, artists, the teachers of tomorrow, musicians, people who will change the world. We are all held together right here and now, by a common bond of unity. We are one graduating class. In one of his speeches this year, President Barack Obama said, “Generations of Americans have connected their stories to the larger American story through service and helped move our country forward. We need that service now.” He is right. America needs selfless acts of service. Hebrews 10:23–25 reads, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Let us not leave this place as enemies but rather as friends and companions. Let us come back next fall for our first reunion, the Zero Class Reunion hosted by the wonderful and amazing workers in the alumni department. Let us go and make disciples of all nations, guided by His Word. Let us spread God’s peace, joy, and love through service to others. Congratulations, graduates! I hope to see you next homecoming. Encouragement, check!
Selecting a Topic
Wonderlane – Fork in the road, decision tree – CC BY 2.0.
One of the most common stumbling blocks for novice public speakers is selecting their first speech topic. Generally, your public speaking instructor will provide you with some fairly specific parameters to make this a little easier. You may be assigned to tell about an event that has shaped your life or to demonstrate how to do something. Whatever your parameters, at some point you as the speaker will need to settle on a specific topic. In this section, we’re going to look at some common constraints of public speaking, picking a broad topic area, and narrowing your topic.
Common Constraints of Public Speaking
When we use the word “constraint” with regard to public speaking, we are referring to any limitation or restriction you may have as a speaker. Whether in a classroom situation or the boardroom, speakers are typically given specific instructions that they must follow. These instructions constrain the speaker and limit what the speaker can say. For example, in the professional world of public speaking, speakers are often hired to speak about a specific topic (e.g. time management, customer satisfaction, or entrepreneurship). In the workplace, a supervisor may assign a subordinate to present certain information in a meeting. In these kinds of situations, when a speaker is hired or assigned to talk about a specific topic, they cannot decide to talk about something else.
Furthermore, the speaker may have been asked to speak for an hour, only to show up and find out that the event is running behind schedule, so the speech must now be made in only thirty minutes. Having prepared sixty minutes of material, the speaker now has to determine what stays in the speech and what must go. In both of these instances, the speaker is constrained as to what they can say during a speech. Typically, we refer to four primary constraints: purpose, audience, context, and time frame.
The first major constraint someone can have involves the general purpose of the speech. As mentioned earlier, there are three general purposes: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain. If you’ve been told that you will be delivering an informative speech, you are automatically constrained from delivering a speech with the purpose of persuading or entertaining. In most public speaking classes, this is the first constraint students will come in contact with because generally, teachers will tell you the exact purpose of each speech in the class.
The second major constraint that you need to consider as a speaker is the type of audience you will have. As discussed in the chapter on audience analysis, different audiences have different political, religious, and ideological leanings. As such, choosing a speech topic for an audience that has a specific mindset can be very tricky. Unfortunately, determining what topics may or may not be appropriate for a given audience is based on generalizations about specific audiences. For example, maybe you’re going to give a speech at a local meeting of Democratic leaders. You may think that all Democrats are liberal or progressive, but there are many conservative Democrats as well. If you assume that all Democrats are liberal or progressive, you may end up offending your audience by making such a generalization without knowing better. The best way to prevent yourself from picking a topic that is inappropriate for a specific audience is to know your audience, which is why we recommend conducting an audience analysis.
The third major constraint relates to the context. For speaking purposes, the context of a speech is the set of circumstances surrounding a particular speech. There are countless different contexts in which we can find ourselves speaking: a classroom in college, a religious congregation, a corporate boardroom, a retirement village, or a political convention. In each of these different contexts, the expectations for a speaker are going to be unique and different. The topics that may be appropriate in front of a religious group may not be appropriate in the corporate boardroom. Topics appropriate for the corporate boardroom may not be appropriate at a political convention.
The last, but by no means least important, major constraint that you will face is the time frame of your speech. In speeches that are under ten minutes in length, you must narrowly focus a topic on one major idea. For example, in a ten-minute speech, you could not realistically hope to discuss the entire topic of the US Social Security program. There are countless books, research articles, websites, and other forms of media on the topic of Social Security, so trying to crystallize all that information into ten minutes is just not realistic.
Instead, narrow your topic to something that is more realistically manageable within your allotted time. You might choose to inform your audience about Social Security disability benefits, using one individual disabled person as an example. Or perhaps you could speak about the career of Robert J. Myers, one of the original architects of Social Security 1 . By focusing on information that can be covered within your time frame, you are more likely to accomplish your goal at the end of the speech.
Selecting a Broad Subject Area
Once you know what the basic constraints are for your speech, you can then start thinking about picking a topic. The first aspect to consider is what subject area you are interested in examining. A subject area is a broad area of knowledge. Art, business, history, physical sciences, social sciences, humanities, and education are all examples of subject areas. When selecting a topic, start by casting a broad net because it will help you limit and weed out topics quickly.
Furthermore, each of these broad subject areas has a range of subject areas beneath it. For example, if we take the subject area “art,” we can break it down further into broad categories like art history, art galleries, and how to create art. We can further break down these broad areas into even narrower subject areas (e.g., art history includes prehistoric art, Egyptian art, Grecian art, Roman art, Middle Eastern art, medieval art, Asian art, Renaissance art, modern art). As you can see, topic selection is a narrowing process.
Narrowing Your Topic
Narrowing your topic to something manageable for the constraints of your speech is something that takes time, patience, and experience. One of the biggest mistakes that new public speakers make is not narrowing their topics sufficiently given the constraints. In the previous section, we started demonstrating how the narrowing process works, but even in those examples, we narrowed subject areas down to fairly broad areas of knowledge.
Think of narrowing as a funnel. At the top of the funnel are the broad subject areas, and your goal is to narrow your topic further and further down until just one topic can come out the other end of the funnel. The more focused your topic is, the easier your speech is to research, write, and deliver. So let’s take one of the broad areas from the art subject area and keep narrowing it down to a manageable speech topic. For this example, let’s say that your general purpose is to inform, you are delivering the speech in class to your peers, and you have five to seven minutes. Now that we have the basic constraints, let’s start narrowing our topic. The broad area we are going to narrow in this example is Middle Eastern art. When examining the category of Middle Eastern art, the first thing you’ll find is that Middle Eastern art is generally grouped into four distinct categories: Anatolian, Arabian, Mesopotamian, and Syro-Palestinian. Again, if you’re like us, until we started doing some research on the topic, we had no idea that the historic art of the Middle East was grouped into these specific categories. We’ll select Anatolian art or the art of what is now modern Turkey.
You may think that your topic is now sufficiently narrow, but even within the topic of Anatolian art, there are smaller categories: pre-Hittite, Hittite, Urartu, and Phrygian periods of art. So let’s narrow our topic again to the Phrygian period of art (1200–700 BCE). Although we have now selected a specific period of art history in Anatolia, we are still looking at a five-hundred-year period in which a great deal of art was created. One famous Phrygian king was King Midas, who according to myth was given the ears of a donkey and the power of a golden touch by the Greek gods. As such, there is an interesting array of art from the period of Midas and its Greek counterparts representing Midas. At this point, we could create a topic about how Phrygian and Grecian art differed in their portrayals of King Midas. We now have a topic that is unique, interesting, and definitely manageable in five to seven minutes. You may be wondering how we narrowed the topic down; we just started doing a little research using the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website ( http://www.metmuseum.org ).
Overall, when narrowing down your topic, you should start by asking yourself four basic questions based on the constraints discussed earlier in this section:
- Does the topic match my intended general purpose?
- Is the topic appropriate for my audience?
- Is the topic appropriate for the given speaking context?
- Can I reasonably hope to inform or persuade my audience in the time frame I have for the speech?
Andrew Sutherland – Roma Street Steps – CC BY-SA 2.0.
Once you have chosen your general purpose and your topic, it’s time to take your speech to the next phase and develop your specific purpose. A specific purpose starts with one of the three general purposes and then specifies the actual topic you have chosen and the basic objective you hope to accomplish with your speech. The specific purpose answers the who , what , when , where , and why questions for your speech.
When attempting to get at the core of your speech (the specific purpose), you need to know a few basic things about your speech. First, you need to have a general purpose. Once you know whether your goal is to inform, persuade, or entertain, picking an appropriate topic is easier. Obviously, depending on the general purpose, you will have a range of different types of topics. For example, let’s say you want to give a speech about hygiene. You could still write a speech about hygiene no matter what your general purpose is, but the specific purpose would vary depending on whether the general purpose is to inform (discussing hygiene practices around the globe), to persuade (telling people why they need to adopt a specific hygiene practice), or to entertain (explaining some of the strange and unique hygiene practices that people have used historically). Notice that in each of these cases, the general purpose alters the topic, but all three are still fundamentally about hygiene.
Now, when discussing specific purposes, we are concerned with who, what, when, where, why, and how questions for your speech. Let’s examine each of these separately. First, you want to know who is going to be in your audience. Different audiences, as discussed in the chapter on audience analysis, have differing desires, backgrounds, and needs. Keeping your audience first and foremost in your thoughts when choosing a specific purpose will increase the likelihood that your audience will find your speech meaningful.
Second is the “what” question or the basic description of your topic. When picking an effective topic, you need to make sure that the topic is appropriate for a variety of constraints or limitations within a speaking context.
Third, you need to consider when your speech will be given. Different speeches may be better at different times of the day. For example, explaining the importance of eating breakfast and providing people with cereal bars may be a great topic at 9:00 a.m. but may not have the same impact if you’re giving it at 4:00 p.m.
Fourth, you need to consider where your speech will be delivered. Are you giving a speech in front of a classroom? A church? An executive meeting? Depending on the location of your speech, different topics may or may not be appropriate.
The last question you need to answer within your speech is why. Why does your audience need to hear your speech? If your audience doesn’t care about your specific purpose, they are less likely to pay attention to your speech. If it’s a topic that’s a little more off-the-wall, you’ll really need to think about why they should care.
Once you’ve determined the who , what , when , where , and why aspects of your topic, it’s time to start creating your actual specific purpose. First, a specific purpose, in its written form, should be a short, declarative sentence that emphasizes the main topic of your speech. Let’s look at an example:
In this example, we’ve quickly narrowed a topic from a more general topic to a more specific topic. Let’s now look at that topic in terms of a general purpose and specific purpose:
For the purpose of this example, we used the same general topic area and demonstrated how you could easily turn the topic into either an informative speech or a persuasive speech. In the first example, the speaker is going to talk about the danger embedded journalists face. In this case, the speaker isn’t attempting to alter people’s ideas about embedded journalists, just make them more aware of the dangers. In the second case, the specific purpose is to persuade a group of journalism students (the audience) to avoid jobs as embedded journalists.
Your Specific Statement of Purpose
To form a clear and succinct statement of the specific purpose of your speech, start by naming your general purpose (to inform, to persuade, or to entertain). Follow this with a capsule description of your audience (my peers in class, a group of kindergarten teachers, etc.). Then complete your statement of purpose with a prepositional phrase (a phrase using “to,” “about,” “by,” or another preposition) that summarizes your topic. As an example, “My specific purpose is to persuade the students in my residence hall to protest the proposed housing cost increase” is a specific statement of purpose, while “My speech will be about why we should protest the proposed housing cost increase” is not.
Specific purposes should be statements, not questions. If you find yourself starting to phrase your specific purpose as a question, ask yourself how you can reword it as a statement. Table 6 “My Specific Purpose Is…” provides several more examples of good specific purpose statements.
Table 6 My Specific Purpose Is…
Basic Tips for Creating Specific Purposes
Now that we’ve examined what specific purposes are, we are going to focus on a series of tips to help you write specific purposes that are appropriate for a range of speeches.
Audience, Audience, Audience
First and foremost, you always need to think about your intended audience when choosing your specific purpose. In the previous section, we talked about a speech where a speaker is attempting to persuade a group of journalism students to not take jobs as embedded journalists. Would the same speech be successful, or even appropriate, if given in your public speaking class? Probably not. As a speaker, you may think your topic is great, but you always need to make sure you think about your audience when selecting your specific purpose. For this reason, when writing your specific purpose, start off your sentence by actually listing the name of your audience: a group of journalism students, the people in my congregation, my peers in class, and so on. When you place your audience first, you’re a lot more likely to have a successful speech.
Matching the Rhetorical Situation
After your audience, the second most important consideration about your specific purpose pertains to the rhetorical situation of your speech. The rhetorical situation is the set of circumstances surrounding your speech (e.g., speaker, audience, text, and context). When thinking about your specific purpose, you want to ensure that all these components go together. You want to make sure that you are the appropriate speaker for a topic, the topic is appropriate for your audience, the text of your speech is appropriate, and the speech is appropriate for the context. For example, speeches that you give in a classroom may not be appropriate in a religious context and vice versa.
Make It Clear
The specific purpose statement for any speech should be direct and not too broad, general, or vague. Consider the lack of clarity in the following specific purpose: “To persuade the students in my class to drink more.” Obviously, we have no idea what the speaker wants the audience to drink: water, milk, orange juice? Alcoholic beverages? Furthermore, we have no way to quantify or make sense of the word “more.” “More” assumes that the students are already drinking a certain amount, and the speaker wants them to increase their intake. If you want to persuade your listeners to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, you need to say so clearly in your specific purpose.
Another way in which purpose statements are sometimes unclear comes from the use of colloquial language. While we often use colloquialisms in everyday life, they are often understood only by a limited number of people. It may sound like fun to have a specific purpose like, “To persuade my audience to get jiggy,” but if you state this as your purpose, many people probably won’t know what you’re talking about at all.
Don’t Double Up
You cannot hope to solve the entire world’s problems in one speech, so don’t even try. At the same time, you also want to make sure that you stick to one specific purpose. Chances are it will be challenging enough to inform your audience about one topic or persuade them to change one behavior or opinion. Don’t put extra stress on yourself by adding topics. If you find yourself using the word “and” in your specific topic statement, you’re probably doubling up on topics.
Can I Really Do This Speech in Five to Seven Minutes?
When choosing your specific purpose, it’s important to determine whether it can be realistically covered in the amount of time you have. Time limits are among the most common constraints for students in a public speaking course. Speeches early in the term have shorter time limits, and speeches later in the term have longer time limits. To determine whether you think you can accomplish your speech’s purpose in the time slot, ask yourself how long it would take to make you an informed person on your chosen topic or to persuade you to change your behavior or attitudes.
If you cannot reasonably see yourself becoming informed or persuaded during the allotted amount of time, chances are you aren’t going to inform or persuade your audience either. The solution, of course, is to make your topic narrower so that you can fully cover a limited aspect of it.
A specific purpose starts with one of the three general purposes and then specifies the actual topic you have chosen and the basic objective you hope to accomplish with your speech.
The rhetorical situation is the set of circumstances surrounding your speech (e.g., speaker, audience, text, and context). When thinking about your specific purpose, you want to ensure that all these components go together.
Crafting and Understanding Thesis Statements for Speeches
You might be familiar with a thesis statement in writing an essay. Thesis statements are similar in speeches, but slightly different because they are only heard and not read. To help us understand thesis statements, we will first explore their basic functions and then discuss how to write a thesis statement.
Basic Functions of a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement helps your audience by letting them know what you are going to talk about “in a nutshell.” With a good thesis statement, you will fulfill four basic functions: you express your specific purpose, provide a way to organize your main points, make your research more effective, and enhance your delivery.
Express Your Specific Purpose
To orient your audience, you need to be as clear as possible about your meaning. A strong thesis will prepare your audience effectively for the points that will follow. Here are two examples:
- “Today, I want to discuss academic cheating.” (weak example)
- “Today, I will clarify what plagiarism is and give examples of its different types so that you can see how it leads to a loss of creative learning interaction.” (strong example)
The weak statement will probably give the impression that you have no clear position on your topic because you haven’t said what that position is. Additionally, the term “academic cheating” can refer to many behaviors: acquiring test questions ahead of time, copying answers, changing grades, or allowing others to do your coursework. Therefore, the specific topic of the speech is still not clear to the audience. The strong statement not only specifies plagiarism but also states your specific concern (loss of creative learning interaction).
Provide a Way to Organize Your Main Points
A thesis statement should appear, almost verbatim, toward the end of the introduction to a speech. A thesis statement helps the audience get ready to listen to the arrangement of points that follow. Many speakers say that if they can create a strong thesis sentence, the rest of the speech tends to develop with relative ease. On the other hand, when the thesis statement is not very clear, creating a speech is an uphill battle. When your thesis statement is sufficiently clear and decisive, you will know where you stand on your topic and where you intend to go with your speech. Having a clear thesis statement is especially important if you know a great deal about your topic or you have strong feelings about it. If this is the case for you, you need to know exactly what you are planning on talking about in order to fit within specified time limitations. Knowing where you are and where you are going is the entire point in establishing a thesis statement; it makes your speech much easier to prepare and to present.
Let’s say you have a reasonably strong thesis statement, and that you’ve already brainstormed a list of information that you know about the topic. Chances are your list is too long and has no focus. Using your thesis statement, you can select only the information that (1) is directly related to the thesis and (2) can be arranged in a sequence that will make sense to the audience and will support the thesis. In essence, a strong thesis statement helps you keep useful information and weed out less helpful information.
Make Your Research More Effective
If you begin your research with only a general topic in mind, you run the risk of spending hours reading mountains of excellent literature about your topic. However, mountains of research does not always make coherent speeches.
You may have little or no idea of how to tie your research together, or even whether you should tie it together. If, on the other hand, you conduct your research with a clear thesis statement in mind, you will be better able to zero in only on material that directly relates to your chosen thesis statement. Let’s look at an example that illustrates this point:
Many traffic accidents involve drivers older than fifty-five. While this statement may be true, you could find industrial, medical, insurance literature that can drone on ad infinitum about the details of all such accidents in just one year. Instead, focusing your thesis statement will help you narrow the scope of information you will be searching for while gathering information.
Here’s an example of a more focused thesis statement:
Three factors contribute to most accidents involving drivers over fifty-five years of age: failing eyesight, slower reflexes, and rapidly changing traffic conditions.
This framing is somewhat better. This thesis statement at least provides three possible main points and some keywords for your electronic catalog search. However, if you want your audience to understand the context of older people at the wheel, consider something like:
Mature drivers over fifty-five years of age must cope with more challenging driving conditions than existed only one generation ago: more traffic moving at higher speeds, the increased imperative for quick driving decisions, and rapidly changing ramp and cloverleaf systems. Because of these challenges, I want my audience to believe that drivers over the age of sixty-five should be required to pass a driving test every five years.
This framing of the thesis provides some interesting choices. First, several terms need to be defined, and these definitions might function surprisingly well in setting the tone of the speech. Your definitions of words like “generation,” “quick driving decisions,” and “cloverleaf systems” could jolt your audience out of assumptions they have taken for granted as truth.
Second, the framing of the thesis provides you with a way to describe the specific changes as they have occurred between, say, 1970 and 2010. How much, and in what ways, have the volume and speed of traffic changed? Why are quick decisions more critical now? What is a “cloverleaf,” and how does any driver deal cognitively with exiting in the direction seemingly opposite to the desired one? Questions like this, suggested by your own thesis statement, can lead to a robust and memorable speech.
Enhance Your Delivery
When your thesis is not clear to you, your listeners will be even more clueless than you are. However, if you have a good clear thesis statement, your speech becomes clear to your listeners. When you stand in front of your audience presenting your introduction, you can vocally emphasize the essence of your speech, expressed as your thesis statement.
Many speakers pause for a half second, lower their vocal pitch slightly, slow down a little, and deliberately present the thesis statement, the one sentence that encapsulates its purpose. When this is done effectively, the purpose, intent, or main idea of a speech is driven home for an audience.
How to Write a Thesis Statement
Now that we’ve looked at why a thesis statement is crucial in a speech, let’s switch gears and talk about how we go about writing a solid thesis statement.
Choose Your Topic
The first step in writing a good thesis statement is finding your topic. Once you have a general topic, you are ready to go to the second step of creating a thesis statement.
Narrow Your Topic
One of the hardest parts of writing a thesis statement is narrowing a speech from a broad topic to one that can be easily covered during a five- to ten-minute speech. While five to ten minutes may sound like a long time to new public speakers, the time flies by very quickly when you are speaking. You can run out of time if your topic is too broad. To decide if your topic is narrow enough for a specific time frame, ask yourself three questions:
First, is your thesis statement narrow or is it a broad overgeneralization of a topic? Overgeneralization occurs when we classify everyone in a specific group as having a specific characteristic. For example, a speaker’s thesis statement that “the elderly are bad drivers” is an overgeneralization of all elderly drivers. Make sure that your thesis statement is nuanced enough to accurately represent what you can support in your speech.
The second question to ask yourself when narrowing a topic is whether your speech’s topic is one clear topic or multiple topics. A strong thesis statement consists of only a single topic. The following is an example of a thesis statement that contains too many topics: “Medical marijuana and prostitution should be legalized in the United States.” Not only are both broad, but you also have two completely unrelated topics thrown into a single thesis statement. Instead of a thesis statement that has multiple topics, limit yourself to only one topic. Here’s an example of a thesis statement examining only one topic: “Today we’re going to examine the legalization and regulation of prostitution in the state of Nevada.” In this case, we’re focusing our topic on how one state has handled the legalization and regulation of prostitution.
The last question a speaker should ask when making sure a topic is sufficiently narrow is whether the topic has direction. If your basic topic is too broad, you will never have a solid thesis statement or a coherent speech. For example, if you start off with the topic “Barack Obama is a role model for everyone,” what do you mean by this statement? Do you think President Obama is a role model because of his dedication to civic service? Do you think he’s a role model because he’s a good basketball player? Do you think he’s a good role model because he’s an excellent public speaker? When your topic is too broad, almost anything can become part of the topic. This broadness ultimately leads to a lack of direction and coherence within the speech itself. To make a cleaner topic, a speaker needs to narrow their topic to one specific area. For example, you may want to examine why President Obama is a good speaker.
Put Your Topic into a Sentence
Once you’ve narrowed your topic to something that is reasonably manageable given the constraints placed on your speech, you can then formalize that topic as a complete sentence. For example, you could turn the topic of President Obama’s public speaking skills into the following sentence: “Because of his unique sense of lyricism and his well-developed presentational skills, President Barack Obama is a modern symbol of the power of public speaking.” Once you have a clear topic sentence, you can start tweaking the thesis statement to help set up the purpose of your speech. Your thesis statement should be a clear, declarative statement that sets up your speech.
Use the Thesis Checklist
Once you have written the first draft of your thesis statement, you’re probably going to end up revising your thesis statement a number of times before delivering your actual speech. A thesis statement is something that is constantly tweaked until the speech is given. As your speech develops, often your thesis will need to be rewritten to whatever direction the speech itself has taken. We often start with a speech going in one direction and find out through our research that we should have gone in a different direction. When you think you finally have a thesis statement that is good to go for your speech, take a second and make sure it adheres to the criteria shown below.
Instructions: For each of the following questions, check either “yes” or “no.” Yes No
- Does your thesis clearly reflect the topic of your speech?
- Can you adequately cover the topic indicated in your thesis within the time you have for your speech?
- Is your thesis statement simple?
- Is your thesis statement direct?
- Does your thesis statement gain an audience’s interest?
- Is your thesis statement easy to understand?
- Does your thesis statement introduce a clear argument?
- Does your thesis statement clearly indicate what your audience should know, do, think, or feel?
Scoring: For a strong thesis statement, all your answers should have been “yes.”
After reading this chapter, we hope that you now have a better understanding not only of the purpose of your speech but also of how to find a fascinating topic for yourself and your audience. We started this chapter citing lyrics from the Avenue Q song “Purpose.” While the character is trying to find his purpose in life, we hope this chapter has helped you identify your general purpose, choose a topic that will interest you and your audience, and use these to develop a specific purpose statement for your speech.
Atwood, C. G. (2009). Knowledge management basics . Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.
Hendriks, P. (1999). Why share knowledge? The influence of ICT on the motivation for knowledge sharing. Knowledge and Process Management, 6 , 91–100.
O’Hair, D., Stewart, R., & Rubenstein, H. (2007). A speaker’s guidebook: Text and reference (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.
Roye, S. (2010). Austan Goolsbee a funny stand-up comedian? Not even close… [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.realfirststeps.com/1184/austan-goolsbee-funny-standup-comedian-close
See, for example, Social Security Administration (1996). Robert J. Myers oral history interview. Retrieved from http://www.ssa.gov/history/myersorl.html
Stand up, Speak out Copyright © 2017 by Josh Miller; Marnie Lawler-Mcdonough; Megan Orcholski; Kristin Woodward; Lisa Roth; and Emily Mueller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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21 Outlining Your Informative Speech
Students will learn to outline an informative speech.
- Demonstrate an understanding of outlining.
- Create a proper outline for an informative speech.
Outlining Your Speech
Most speakers and audience members would agree that an organized speech is both easier to present as well as more persuasive. Public speaking teachers especially believe in the power of organizing your speech, which is why they encourage (and often require) that you create an outline for your speech. Outlines , or textual arrangements of all the various elements of a speech, are a very common way of organizing a speech before it is delivered. Most extemporaneous speakers keep their outlines with them during the speech as a way to ensure that they do not leave out any important elements and to keep them on track. Writing an outline is also important to the speechwriting process since doing so forces the speakers to think about the main points and sub-points, the examples they wish to include, and the ways in which these elements correspond to one another. In short, the outline functions both as an organization tool and as a reference for delivering a speech.
There are two types of outlines. The first outline you will write is called the preparation outline . Also called a working, practice, or rough outline, the preparation outline is used to work through the various components of your speech in an inventive format. Stephen E. Lucas  put it simply: “The preparation outline is just what its name implies—an outline that helps you prepare the speech” (p. 248). When writing the preparation outline, you should focus on finalizing the purpose and thesis statements, logically ordering your main points, deciding where supporting material should be included and refining the overall organizational pattern of your speech. As you write the preparation outline, you may find it necessary to rearrange your points or to add or subtract supporting material. You may also realize that some of your main points are sufficiently supported while others are lacking. The final draft of your preparation outline should include full sentences, making up a complete script of your entire speech. In most cases, however, the preparation outline is reserved for planning purposes only and is translated into a speaking outline before you deliver the speech.
OUTLINE FORMATTING GUIDE
Title: Organizing Your Public Speech
Topic: Organizing public speeches
Specific Purpose Statement: To inform listeners about the various ways in which they can organize their public speeches.
Thesis Statement: A variety of organizational styles can be used to organize public speeches.
- Attention Getter
- Topic/ Audience relevance
- Establish Your Credibility
- Central Idea/Thesis statement
- Preview Main Points
I. Main point #1
A. First sub-point
B. Second sub-point
I. Main point #2
- Provide closure
Of course, your actual outline may look different based on your content. You may have three main points or different levels of sub-points. Use this guide to help format your own content for your preparation outline.
Include the title, topic, specific purpose statement, and thesis statement at the top of the outline. These elements are helpful to you, the speechwriter, since they remind you what, specifically, you are trying to accomplish in your speech. They are also helpful to anyone reading and assessing your outline since knowing what you want to accomplish will determine how they perceive the elements included in your outline. Additionally, write out the transitional statements that you will use to alert audiences that you are moving from one point to another. These are included in parentheses between main points.
On a separate page, you should include a reference page for any outside resources you mention during the speech. These should be cited using whatever citations style your professor requires.
A speaking outline is an outline you will prepare for use when delivering the speech. The speaking outline is much more succinct than the preparation outline and includes brief phrases or words that remind the speakers of the points they need to make, plus supporting material and signposts.  The words or phrases used on the speaking outline should briefly encapsulate all of the information needed to prompt the speaker to accurately deliver the speech. Although some cases call for reading a speech verbatim from the full-sentence outline, in most cases speakers will simply refer to their speaking outline for quick reminders and to ensure that they do not omit any important information. Because it uses just words or short phrases, and not full sentences, the speaking outline can easily be transferred to index cards that can be referenced during a speech.
Using the Speaking Outline
Using a speaking outline will help you to deliver an effective speech. Under no circumstances should you ever attempt to use your preparation outline or a word for word written out speech during your speech delivery. You will end up reading a sequence of words to your audience instead of delivering your message extemporaneously.
Whether you decide to use index cards or the printed outline, here are a few tips. First, write large enough so that you do not have to bring the cards or pages close to your eyes to read them. Second, make sure you have the cards/pages in the correct order and bound together in some way so that they do not get out of order. Third, just in case the cards/pages do get out of order (this happens too often!), be sure that you number each in the top right corner so you can quickly and easily get things organized. Fourth, try not to fiddle with the cards/pages when you are speaking. It is best to lay them down if you have a podium or table in front of you. If not, practice reading from them in front of a mirror. You should be able to look down quickly, read the text, and then return to your gaze to the audience.
- Outlining our speech helps us to organize our speech content so that we can communicate it effectively to the audience.
- You will create two outlines for successful speech delivery.
- The preparation outline is intended to help you prepare your delivery.
- The speaking note outline is intended to help you deliver your speech extemporaneously.
- Lucas, Stephen E. (2004). The art of public speaking (8th edition). New York: McGraw-Hill. ↵
- Beebe, S. A. & Beebe, S. J. (2003). The public speaking handbook (5th edition). Boston: Pearson. ↵
LICENSES AND ATTRIBUTIONS
- Chapter 8 Outlining Your Speech. Authored by : Joshua Trey Barnett. Provided by : University of Indiana, Bloomington, IN. Located at : http://publicspeakingproject.org/psvirtualtext.html . Project : The Public Speaking Project. License : CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
- Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto Speaks at 2011 Michigan Municipal League Convention. Authored by : Michigan Municipal League. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/aunJMR . License : CC BY-ND: Attribution-NoDerivatives
- TAG speaks of others first. Authored by : Texas Military Forces. Located at : https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasmilitaryforces/5560449970/ . License : CC BY-ND: Attribution-NoDerivatives
Public Speaking Copyright © by Dr. Layne Goodman; Amber Green, M.A.; and Various is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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Chapter 17: Conclusion
This chapter is adapted from Stand up, Speak out: The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking , CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 .
What are the benefits of a strong conclusion?
“OK, I’m done; thank God that’s over!” Or, “Thanks. Now what? Do I just sit down?” It’s understandable to feel relief as you end your speech, but remember that as a speaker, your conclusion is the last chance you have to drive home your ideas. When you opt to end the speech with an ineffective conclusion—or no conclusion at all—your speech loses the energy you created, and the audience is left confused and disappointed. Just as a good introduction helps bring an audience into your speech’s world, and a good speech body holds the audience in that world, a good conclusion helps bring that audience back to reality. So, plan ahead to ensure that your conclusion is an effective one. While a good conclusion will not rescue a poorly prepared speech, a strong conclusion signals to your listeners that the speech is over and helps them remember your topic. Now, let’s examine the functions fulfilled by a speech conclusion.
Signals the End
The first function of a good conclusion is to signal the speech’s end. You may be thinking that telling an audience that you’re about to stop speaking is a “no brainer,” but many speakers really don’t prepare their audience to conclude. When a speaker just suddenly stops speaking, the audience is left confused and disappointed. Instead, make sure that you leave your audience knowledgeable and satisfied.
Aids Audience’s Memory
The second function of a good conclusion stems from some very interesting research reported by the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in his 1885 book Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology (Ebbinghaus, 1885). Ebbinghaus proposed that humans remember information in a linear fashion, which he calls the serial position effect. He found that an individual’s ability to remember information in a list, such as a grocery list, a chores list, or a to-do list depends on the item’s location on the list. Specifically, he found that items toward the list’s beginning and items toward the list’s end tended to have the highest recall rates. In Ebbinghaus’ serial position effect, he calls information at the list’s beginning—primacy, and information at the list’s end—recency, and shows that information in these positions are easier to recall than information in the list’s middle.
So, what does this serial position effect have to do with speech conclusions? A lot! Ray Ehrensberger wanted to test Ebbinghaus’ serial position effect in public speaking. Ehrensberger created an experiment that rearranged a speech topic’s order to determine the audience’s information recall (Ehrensberger, 1945). Ehrensberger’s study reaffirmed primacy and recency’s importance when listening to speeches. In fact, Ehrensberger found that the information delivered during a speech conclusion—recency, had the highest recall level overall.
What should I include in a strong conclusion?
A strong conclusion restates the thesis, reviews the main points, and uses a concluding device.
Restate the Thesis
The first step in a powerful conclusion is to restate your thesis statement. When you restate the thesis statement as you conclude, you’re re-emphasizing your speech’s overarching main idea. For example, suppose your thesis statement is, “I will analyze how Barack Obama uses lyricism in his July 2008 speech, ‘A World That Stands as One.’” At the conclusion, restate the thesis in this fashion: “In the past few minutes, I have analyzed how Barack Obama uses lyricism in his July 2008 speech, ‘A World That Stands as One.’” Notice the shift in tense: the statement has gone from the future tense—this is what I will speak about, to the past tense—this is what I have spoken about. Restating the thesis in your conclusion reminds the audience of your speech’s major purpose or goal, helping them to better remember it.
Review the Main Points
The second step in a powerful conclusion is to review the main points after restating the speech’s thesis. A big differences between written and oral communication is oral communication’s need to repeat. So, you increase the likelihood that the audience retains your main points after the speech is over when you do the following: preview your main points in the introduction, effectively discuss and make transitions to your main points during the speech’s body, and finally, review your main points in the conclusion,
In a speech’s introduction, deliver a preview of the main body points, and in the conclusion, deliver a review . Let’s look at a sample preview:
To understand the gender and communication field, I will first differentiate between the terms biological sex and gender. I will then explain gender research in communication’s history. Lastly, I will examine some important findings related to gender and communication.
In this preview, you have three clear main points. Let’s see how you can review them at your speech’s conclusion:
Today, we have differentiated between the terms biological sex and gender, examined gender research in communication’s history, and analyzed some topic research findings.
In the past few minutes, I have explained the difference between the terms biological sex and gender, discussed the communication field’s rise in gender research, and examined some groundbreaking topic studies.
Notice that both conclusions review the main points originally set forth. Both variations are equally effective main point reviews, but you might like the linguistic turn of one over the other. Remember, while there is a lot of science to help us understand public speaking, there’s a lot of art as well, so you are always encouraged to choose the wording that you think is most effective for your audience.
The final step in a powerful conclusion is to employ a concluding device. A concluding device is essentially the final thought you want to impart to your audience when you stop speaking. It also provides a definitive sense of closure to your speech. Just as a gymnast dismounting the parallel bars or balance beam wants to stick the landing and avoid taking two or three additional steps, a speaker wants to stick their speech ending with a concluding device instead of with, “Well, umm, I guess I’m done.” Miller observed that speakers tend to use one of ten concluding devices when ending a speech (Miller, 1946). Let’s examine these ten concluding devices.
Conclude with a Challenge
The first way to conclude a speech is with a challenge. A challenge is a call to engage in some kind of activity that requires a contest or special effort. In a speech on fund raising’s necessity, conclude by challenging the audience to raise 10 percent more than their original projections. Audience members are being asked to go out of their way to do something different that involves their effort.
Conclude with a Quotation
The second way to conclude a speech is by reciting a quotation relevant to the speech topic. When using a quotation, think about whether your goal is to end on a persuasive note or an informative note. Some quotations will have a clear call-to-action, while other quotations summarize or provoke thought. For example, let’s say you are delivering an informative speech about dissident writers in the former Soviet Union. End by citing this quotation from Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “A great writer is, so to speak, a second government in his country. And for that reason, no regime has ever loved great writers” (Solzhenitsyn, 1964). Notice that this quotation underscores the writers-as-dissidents idea, but it doesn’t ask listeners to put forth effort to engage in any specific thought process or behavior. If, on the other hand, you are delivering a persuasive speech urging your audience to participate in a very risky political demonstration, use this quotation from Martin Luther King Jr.: “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live” (King, 1963). In this case, the quotation leaves the audience with these messages: that great risks are worth taking, that they make our lives worthwhile, and that the right thing to do is to take that great risk.
Conclude with a Summary
The third way to conclude a speech is to end with a summary. To do this, the speaker simply elongates the main point’s review. While this may not be the most exciting concluding device, it can be useful for information that is highly technical or complex or for speeches that last longer than thirty minutes. Typically, for short speeches, such as student-given speeches, avoid this summary device.
Conclude by Visualizing the Future
The fourth way to conclude a speech is to visualize the future. This device helps your audience imagine the future that you believe can occur. For example, if you are giving a speech on developing video games for learning, conclude by inviting your audience to visualize a future classroom where video games are perceived as true learning tools and how those tools are used. More often, speakers use future visualization to depict how society would be , or how an individual listener’s life would be different, if the speaker’s persuasive attempts work. For example, if in your speech you propose that hiring more public-school reading specialists will solve illiteracy, ask your audience to imagine a world without illiteracy. In using this visual, your goal is to persuade your audience to adopt your view point. By showing that your future vision is a positive one, this conclusion further persuades your audience to help create this future.
Conclude with an Appeal-for-Action
The fifth way to conclude a speech, and probably the most common persuasive device, is the appeal-for-action or the call-to-action. In essence, the appeal-for-action occurs when a speaker asks her or his audience to engage in a specific behavior or to change their thinking. When a speaker concludes by asking the audience “to do” or “to think” in a specific manner, the speaker wants to see an actual change. Whether the speaker appeals for people to eat more fruit, buy a car, vote for a candidate, oppose the death penalty, or sing more in the shower, the speaker is asking the audience to engage in action.
One specific appeal type is the immediate call-to-action. Whereas some appeals ask for people to engage in future behavior, the immediate call-to-action asks people to engage in behavior right now . If a speaker wants to see a new traffic light placed at a dangerous intersection, he or she may conclude by asking all the audience members to sign a digital petition right then and there, using a computer the speaker has made available. Here are more immediate call-to-action examples:
- In a speech on eating more vegetables, pass out raw veggies and dip at the speech conclusion.
- In a speech on petitioning a lawmaker for a new law, provide audience members with a prewritten email they can send to the lawmaker.
- In a speech on hand sanitizer’s importance, pass out little hand sanitizer bottles and show audience members how to correctly apply the sanitizer.
- In a speech on charity donations, send a box around the room asking for donations.
These are just a few different examples we’ve actually seen students use to elicit an immediate change in behavior. The immediate call-to-action may not lead to long-term change, but can be very effective at increasing the likelihood that an audience will change behavior in the short term.
Conclude by Inspiration
The sixth way to conclude a speech is to inspire someone. By definition, the word inspire means to affect or arouse someone. Both affect and arouse have strong emotional connotations. The ultimate goal of employing an inspirational concluding device is similar to an appeal-for-action, but the ultimate goal is more lofty or ambiguous—the goal is to stir someone’s emotions in a specific manner. Maybe a speaker is giving an informative speech on domestic violence’s prevalence in our society today. That speaker could end the speech by reading Paulette Kelly’s powerful poem, “I Got Flowers Today,” which is a poem that evokes strong emotions because it’s about an abuse victim who receives flowers from her abuser every time she is victimized. The poem ends by saying, “I got flowers today… / Today was a special day—it was the day of my funeral / Last night he killed me” (Kelly, 1994).
Conclude with Advice
The seventh way to conclude a speech is to end with your advice. This concluding device is one that should be used primarily by speakers who are recognized as expert authorities on a given subject. Advice is essentially a speaker’s opinion about what should or should not be done. The problem with opinions is that everyone has one; and one person’s opinion is not necessarily any more correct than another’s. There must be a really good reason your opinion—and therefore your advice—should matter to your audience. If, for example, you are a nuclear physics expert, conclude an energy speech by giving advice about nuclear energy’s benefits.
Conclude by Proposing a Solution
The eighth way to conclude a speech is to offer a powerful solution to the problem discussed within your speech. For example, perhaps you have been discussing the problems associated with art education’s disappearance in the United States. Propose a solution to create more community-based art experiences for school children as a way to fill this gap. Although this can be an effective conclusion, consider discussing the solution in more depth as a stand-alone main point within the speech’s body so that you can address your audience’s concerns about the proposed solution.
Conclude with a Question
The nineth way to conclude a speech is to ask a rhetorical question that forces the audience to ponder an idea. Maybe you are giving a speech on the environment’s importance, so you end the speech by saying, “Think about your children’s future. What kind of world do you want them raised in? A world that is clean, vibrant, and beautiful—or one that is filled with smog, pollution, filth, and disease?” Notice that you aren’t actually asking the audience to verbally or nonverbally answer the question—the question’s goal is to force the audience into thinking about what kind of world they want for their children.
Conclude with a Reference to Your Audience
The tenth way to conclude a speech is to refer to your audience. As discussed by Miller (1946), this concluding device is useful when a speaker attempts to answer a basic question for the audience, such as, “What’s in it for me?” The goal of this concluding device is to spell out the direct benefits a behavior or thought-change has for audience members. For example, a speaker talking about stress reduction techniques concludes by clearly listing all the physical health benefits that stress reduction offers, such as improved reflexes, improved immune system, improved hearing, and lowered blood pressure. In this case, the speaker is clearly spelling out why audience members should care—so what? What’s in it for me!
Ebbinghaus, H. (1885). Memory: A contribution to experimental psychology [Online version]. Retrieved from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Ebbinghaus/index.htm .
Ehrensberger, R. (1945). An experimental study of the relative effectiveness of certain forms of emphasis in public speaking. Speech Monographs , 12, 94–111. doi: 10.1080/03637754509390108.
Kelly, P. (1994). I got flowers today. In C. J. Palmer & J. Palmer, Fire from within. Painted Post, NY: Creative Arts & Science Enterprises.
King, M. L. (1963, June 23). Speech in Detroit. Cited in Bartlett, J., & Kaplan, J. (Eds.), Bartlett’s familiar quotations (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., p. 760.
Miller, E. (1946). Speech introductions and conclusions. Quarterly Journal of Speech , 32, 181–183.
Solzhenitsyn, A. (1964). The first circle . New York: Harper & Row. Cited in Bartlett, J., & Kaplan, J. (Eds.), Bartlett’s familiar quotations (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., p. 746.
University of Minnesota. (2011). Stand up, Speak out: The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking . University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing. https://open.lib.umn.edu/publicspeaking/ . CC BY-SA 4.0.
Public Speaking Copyright © 2022 by Sarah Billington and Shirene McKay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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Writing a Thesis Statement – Template & Examples
Amanda Green was born in a small town in the west of Scotland, where everyone knows everyone. I joined the Toastmasters 15 years ago, and I served in nearly every office in the club since then. I love helping others gain confidence and skills they can apply in every day life.
The thesis statement aims to inform your readers what your essay or speech will cover. It provides contexts and limitations on your topic.
Your thesis statement can make or break your essay. Even though it’s only one to two sentences short, it’s still the most challenging part of your paper to write. Follow these templates and examples when writing your thesis statement.
What Is a Thesis Statement?
Whether in high school or college, you’ve probably heard of the term thesis statement when writing school essays. A thesis statement is a single idea found in the introductory paragraph of every piece.
As the secret to a strong essay outline, this statement sums up the central idea of your essay. It informs the reader how you will analyze, argue, or describe a subject matter. It also directly answers the question, “What is your paper all about?”
A weak thesis statement won’t be able to tell the reader what to expect from your paper. The thesis statement is also different from the topic sentence, which is a sentence summing up every body paragraph.
Why Your Essay Needs a Thesis Statement
It would help if you spent extra time writing an effective thesis statement in your essays so that the readers will know its scope. The thesis also informs the readers of your ideas on your paper, especially if you’re writing academic papers like analytical or argumentative essays.
A clear thesis statement will make the audience understand your stance if you’re writing about a debatable topic. It will ensure that your relevant evidence is related to the paper and that your ideas can be tested.
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Where to Put the Thesis Statement
Thesis statements usually appear at the end of the essay introduction and before the body paragraphs.
Thesis statements are usually generated once you’ve decided on the type of essay you’re making, whether it’s an informative or argumentative essay. It would help if you also decided on the topic of your entire paper before writing the direct statement.
Tips for Writing a Thesis Statement
Consider these tips and examples when writing a thesis statement for your essay.
Determine the Type of Paper You’re Writing
Different types of papers require different methods for writing a thesis statement. Once you understand the formula, you’ll develop a strong thesis that can be supported by substantial evidence.
An argumentative thesis statement should state the position you argue for or against with all the key points. Here are some argumentative thesis statement examples.
- The war on drugs has more disadvantages than advantages because it leads to the criminalization of drug users, mandatory sentencing, and excessive imprisonment levels that directly impact the poor.
- The federal government should regulate the size of chips and sodas because of the health effects of junk food.
Meanwhile, an expository paper aims to explain. That means there should be no opinion or persuasion in this sentence. Take a look at these expository thesis statement examples.
- The government allots most of its budget to the military rather than the education system or food security.
- The rate of suicide is higher among men than women.
An analytical essay focuses on exploring a concept in-depth. That means the thesis statement may serve as a summary of your analysis. Here are some analytical thesis statement examples.
- The implications of Olivia Wilde’s movie, Don’t Worry Darling, contributes to notions of liberal feminism.
- In modern times, Korean music is heavily influencing the consumption of Filipinos.
Ask a Question
Don’t forget to ask a question whenever you write a thesis statement for your paper. If the professor assigns a topic to you, the assignment question may serve as a guide to your thesis. But if they haven’t assigned a topic, you should think about what you want to discuss and turn it into an interrogative statement.
Here are a few quick sample questions based on the types of thesis statements you will produce.
- Argumentative thesis question: Should cigarettes and other tobacco products be outlawed?
- Expository thesis question: What are the health effects of a lack of sleep?
- Analytical thesis question: How are Virginia Woolf’s works relevant to modern times?
Below is a sample thesis statement for the analytical thesis question.
- Virginia Woolf’s novels and essays have shaped women’s writing, artistic theory, and the politics of power.
As you can see, a single sentence could answer the question and produce a thesis statement. However, this answer may still be tentative. It should only guide your research process first. Along the way, your analysis and writing structure may still change.
Decide on an Answer You Can Defend or Explain
After conducting enough research on your thesis statement, it’s time to finalize your answer. Will your strong thesis statement be supported by richer ideas and evidence throughout the paper?
Importantly, your statement should definitely be something that a reader could disagree with, even if it’s an expository essay.
For example, it’s not enough to say that “Access to foreign countries has a huge effect on our culture” since the statement is too obvious. Instead, ask yourself why or how it has a huge effect. Think of a position that your readers could rationally disagree with or dispute.
Here is an example to show you what I mean.
“Access to foreign countries has enabled cultural changes by bringing people of different backgrounds and traditions together.”
Here are other examples of argumentative and analytical thesis statements.
- Argumentative: COVID-19 vaccinations should be mandatory.
- Analytical: A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghihara is an unrealistic representation of mental health struggles.
Refine Your Thesis Statement
Thesis statements are clear and concise, at most two sentences. However, they should be specific enough to summarize the key arguments of your paper and answer the essay question.
From your initial answer, you need to make some expansions that will include every point in your body paragraphs. Below is an example of an incomplete argumentative thesis statement with main points.
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
- COVID-19 vaccines will reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
Once everything is set, it’s time to refine your thesis statement. Your goal is to write your main point and supporting details in one to two sentences. Below is an example.
- COVID-19 vaccinations should be mandatory because they are safe and effective and can help reduce hospitalizations and deaths caused by COVID-19.
Here’s another example of a complete thesis statement.
- The benefits of internet use among adolescents outweigh the downsides: It allows them to easily access information, develop their identities through self-expression, and hone critical thinking skills.
If you find this step challenging, you can hire professional essay writers to generate a thesis statement and outline for your essay needs.
Check if Your Thesis Statement Is Strong
Whether you’re writing an essay about politics or cinema, you need to maintain a solid thesis statement. Here are some questions to ask when checking your thesis.
Was I Able to Answer the Question?
As you already know, the question depends on the type of paper you’re writing. Your answer should be a clear and concise 1-2 sentence statement. Try changing the wording if the question prompt isn’t phrased as a question.
Have I Shared an Opinion That Others Might Oppose?
Your argumentative thesis statement should not merely state facts that people already know. Remember that you’re not writing a summary, so make your thesis as opinionated as possible.
Beyond being debatable, you should also have a convincing thesis statement. This is especially important if you’re writing persuasive essays.
Is It Specific Enough?
Being specific is critical to producing a solid statement. Make sure it does not contain general words like good or successful . Once your argument is strong, the process of writing essays will be much easier.
Does the Entire Essay Support the Thesis?
An ineffective thesis statement does not support the next couple of paragraphs of the entire essay. Therefore, if you say that low-income students and student-athletes should receive more assistance in terms of their crippling student debt, then your empirical evidence should support it in your argumentative paper.
The Backbone of Your Essay Is Your Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is a declarative statement that expresses your paper’s position or main topic. It fulfills the several roles of your paper, whether it’s a research paper, an essay for coursework, or a speech.
Make sure to place your thesis statement at the end of your introduction before your first body paragraph.
More Thesis Statement Examples
- Incorrect: People should eat healthily.
- Correct: Americans should start eating a balanced diet because it keeps their body healthy and prevents the risk of stroke.
- Incorrect: Everyone should stop smoking because it is bad for our health.
- Correct: Individuals must stop smoking because it causes cancer, lung disease, and diabetes.
- Incorrect: Listening to music can make people feel relaxed.
- Correct: Listening to music relieves stress as the brain synchronizes to the beat and causes alpha brainwaves.
Thesis Statement Template
Use these templates for your essays when writing a thesis statement.
Comparison/Contrast Thesis Statement Templates
- The similarities between ____________ and ____________ are [striking, pronounced], and they ____________ [deserve, merit] [thorough, rigorous, meticulous] [investigation, scrutiny, examination].
- [Despite, despite bearing, although they bear] some [superficial, minor] similarities, the differences between ____________ and ____________ are [clear, striking, remarkable, pronounced].
- While some differences between ____________ and ____________ are [evident, obvious, noticeable], the similarities are ____________.
Proposition Thesis Statement Templates
- The [belief, thought, notion, idea, proposition] that ____________ is ____________ is [an interesting, a fascinating, a thought-provoking, a provocative] one, and one that I believe in.
- ____________ is true because of ____________.
Informative Thesis Statement Template
- The ____________ is characterized by ____________, ____________, and ____________.
- An analysis of ____________ reveals that ____________.
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Module 13: Ethics in Public Speaking
In January, 2012, an Australian politician, Anthony Albanese, presented a speech to the National Press Club. Several people criticized this speech, saying that he stole lines from Michael Douglas’s character (the U.S. President) in the movie The American President . Several specific lines from Albanese’s speech did seem to mirror Douglas’s monologue, with only the names changed. The Liberal Party federal director, Brian Loughnane, claimed that this shows Albanese is “unoriginal and devoid of ideas.” Others stated that he should be embarrassed and should apologize to the Parliament. 
What do you think about Albanese’s speech? Was this a simple mishap? A funny prank? Something more serious? What do you think this says about Albanese’s character? His reputation as a politician? Assessing your attitudes and values toward this situation is the same as considering how ethics play a role in public speaking.
Ethical public speaking is not a one-time event. It does not just occur when you stand to give a 5-minute presentation to your classmates or co-workers. Ethical public speaking is a process. This process begins when you begin brainstorming the topic of your speech. Every time you plan to speak to an audience—whether it is at a formal speaking event or an impromptu pitch at your workplace—you have ethical responsibilities to fulfill. The two most important aspects in ethical communication include your ability to remain honest while avoiding plagiarism and to set and meet responsible speech goals.
Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people. – Spencer Johnson
Be Honest and Avoid P lagiarism
Credible public speakers are open and honest with their audiences. Honesty includes telling your audience why you’re speaking (thesis statement) and what you’ll address throughout your speech (preview). For instance, one example of dishonest speech is when a vacation destination offers “complimentary tours and sessions” which are really opportunities for a sales person to pitch a timeshare to unsuspecting tourists. In addition to being clear about the speech goal, honest speakers are clear with audience members when providing supporting information.
One example of dishonest public communication occurs in the music industry where many cases of illegal melody lifting exist. For example, a famous Beach Boys song titled Surfin’ USA is actually a note-for-note rendition of a 1958 Chuck Berry song. Though it may be common, the practice of not properly crediting an author for his or her work is unethical. Other examples of deceitful communication include political speeches that intentionally mislead the public. For instance, a former White House press aide, Scott McClellan, claims that President Bush misled the American people about reasons for the Iraqi war. McClellan claims that the President had manipulated sources in order to gain support for the war. Such claims can be damaging to one’s reputation. Thus, responsible public speakers must actively avoid plagiarism and remain committed to honesty and integrity at all costs.
Mimi & Eunice, “Thief” by Nina Paley. CC-BY-SA .
Identify Your Sources
The first step of ethical speech preparation is to take notes as you research your speech topic. Careful notes will help you remember where you learned your information. Recalling your sources is important because it enables speaker honesty. Passing off another’s work as your own or neglecting to cite the source for your information is considered plagiarism . This unethical act can result in several consequences, ranging from a loss in credibility to academic expulsion or job loss. Even with these potential consequences, plagiarism is unfortunately common. In a national survey, 87 percent of students claimed that their peers plagiarized from the Internet at least some of the time.  This statistic does not take into account whether or not the plagiarism was intentional, occurring when the writer or speaker knowingly presented information as his or her own; or unintentional, occurring when careless citing leads to information being uncredited or miscredited. However, it is important to note that being unaware of how to credit sources should not be an excuse for unintentional plagiarism. In other words, speakers are held accountable for intentional and unintentional plagiarism. The remainder of this section discusses how to ensure proper credit is given when preparing and presenting a speech.
A liar should have a good memory. – Quintilian
There are three distinct types of plagiarism—global, patchwork, and incremental plagiarism.  Global plagiarism , the most obvious form of plagiarism, transpires when a speaker presents a speech that is not his or her own work. For example, if a student finds a speech on the Internet or borrows a former speech from a roommate and recites that speech verbatim, global plagiarism has occurred. Global plagiarism is the most obvious type of theft. However, other forms of plagiarism are less obvious but still represent dishonest public speaking.
If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. – Mark Twain
“Rainbow Dahlia quilt” by Holice E. Turnbow. CC-BY-SA .
Sometimes a student neglects to cite a source simply because she or he forgot where the idea was first learned. Shi explains that many students struggle with plagiarism because they’ve reviewed multiple texts and changed wording so that ideas eventually feel like their own. Students engage in “‘patchwriting’ by copying from a source text and then deleting or changing a few words and altering the sentence structures.”  Patchwork plagiarism is plagiarism that occurs when one “patches” together bits and pieces from one or more sources and represents the end result as his or her own. Michael O’Neill also coined the term “paraplaging”  to explain how an author simply uses partial text of sources with partial original writing. An example of patchwork plagiarism is if you create a speech by pasting together parts of another speech or author’s work. Read the following hypothetical scenario to get a better understanding of subtle plagiarism.
Three months ago, Carley was talking to her coworkers about expanding their company’s client base. Carley reported some of the ideas she’d been pondering with Stephen and Juan. The three employees shared ideas and provided constructive criticism in order to perfect each notion, and then mentioned they’d revisit the conversation over lunch sometime soon. A week later, Carley shared one of her ideas during the company’s Monday morning staff meeting. Carley came up with the idea, but Stephen and Juan helped her think through some of the logistics of bringing in more clients. Her peers’ input was key to making Carley’s client-building idea work. When Carley pitched her idea at the company staff meeting, she didn’t mention Stephen or Juan. She shared her idea with senior management and then waited for feedback.
Did Carley behave unethically? Some would say: “No!” since she shared her own idea. Did Carley speak honestly? Perhaps not because she didn’t account for how her idea took shape— with the help of Stephen and Juan. This scenario is an example of how complicated honesty becomes when speaking to an audience.
The third type of plagiarism is incremental plagiarism, or when most of the speech is the speaker’s original work, but quotes or other information have been used without being cited. Incremental plagiarism can occur if, for example, you provide a statistic to support your claim, but do not provide the source for that statistic. Another example would be if a student included a direct quote from former president Ronald Reagan without letting the audience know that those were Reagan’s exact words. Understanding the different types of plagiarism is the first step in ensuring that you prepare an honest speech.
Decide When to Cite
When speaking publicly you must orally cite all information that isn’t general knowledge. For example, if your speech claims that the sun is a star, you do not have to cite that information since it’s general knowledge. If your speech claims that the sun’s temperature is 15.6 million Kelvin,  then you should cite that source aloud. Ethical speakers are not required to cite commonly known information (e.g., skin is the largest human organ; Barack Obama was elected President of the U.S. in 2008). However, any information that isn’t general knowledge must be orally cited during a speech. The same is true in the text of a speech outline: cite all non-general information.
The OWL, an online writing lab at Purdue University, provides an excellent guide for when you need to cite information (see Table 3.1). Understanding when to include source material is the first step in being able to ethically cite sources. The next step in this process is to determine how to appropriately cite sources orally and in written materials.
Cite Sources Properly
You’ve learned the importance of citing sources. Now that you know why written and oral citations are important to the ethical process of public speaking, let’s focus on how to cite supporting speech material. Studies show that oftentimes students do not cite a source because they’re unsure of how or when to cite a reference. Shi’s study describes some typical responses for why students did not cite sources, such as “I couldn’t remember where I learned the information,” or “I had already cited that author and didn’t want the audience to think all of my information was from some outside source.” Though these rationales are understandable, they are not ethical.
Understand Paraphrasing and D irect Quotations
Next, it is important to understand the process for paraphrasing and directly quoting sources in order to support your speech claims. First, what is the difference between paraphrasing and directly quoting a source? If you research and learn information from a source—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for instance— and then share that information in your own words; you don’t use quotation marks; but you do credit the CDC as your source. This is known as a paraphrase —a sentence or string of sentences that shares learned information in your own words. A direct quote is any sentence or string of sentences that conveys an author’s idea word-for-word. According to the APA (American Psychological Association), when writing speech content, you must include quotation marks around an author’s work when you use his or her keywords, phrases, or sentences. This would be relevant for a speech outline, a handout, or a visual aid. It is also important to specify a direct quote when you are orally citing during your speech. This indicates to the audience that you are using the original author’s exact words. While it is acceptable to use the phrases “begin quote” and “end quote” to indicate this to your audience, such phrases can be distracting to the audience. One way to clearly and concisely indicate a direct quote is to take a purposeful pause right before and after the quoted material. This differentiates between your words and the source material’s words. See Table 3.2 for examples of how to paraphrase and directly quote an author, both in written speech materials and for an oral citation.
Develop Accurate Citations
Ethical speakers share source information with the audience. On written materials, such as handouts or speech outlines, citations are handled much like they would be in any essay. In addition to written citations, oral citations provide source information to audience members who may not see your written speech. In all citations, enough information should be given so that the audience can easily find the source.
You may choose to briefly describe the author before citing him or her to lend credibility to your supporting information. Writing style guidebooks, such as APA or MLA (Modern Language Association), teach that a source’s credentials are not necessary in the text of your paper. We can interpret that the same is true for providing oral citations in a speech–the author’s occupation, the source website, or the journal name are not required but may be helpful verbal cues to explain the legitimacy of your chosen source. You should provide enough information so that an audience member can locate the source. For instance, it might be useful to describe the doctor as a leading pediatrician–after which you would state the doctor’s last name, year of publication, and the quote or paraphrase. To orally paraphrase a Langer quote (see example poster in Figure 3.1), you might say to your audience:
I really agree with Langer (1989), who wrote in her book Mindfulness, that our world is constructed from the categories we build in our mind. I find that I interpret the world based on my initial understanding of things and have to mindfully force myself to question the categories and biases I’ve formally created in my head.
Note, the Langer paraphrase provides the author’s last name, year of publication, and the title of the book should an audience member want to find the orally cited source.
Ethical speakers provide written, oral, and visual citations. Visual aids, discussed in Chapter 13, include posters, objects, models, PowerPoints, and handouts. Visual aids are used to enhance your speech message. Visual aids, just like speech content, must be displayed ethically for the audience. In other words, if you use a poster to display a famous quote, then you should cite the author on your poster (see Figure 3.1). Similarly, you should cite sources on your PowerPoint throughout the presentation . It is not sufficient to include a “Sources” or “References” slide at the end of your PowerPoint because that does not accurately link each author to his or her work. Instead, ethical presenters provide an author reference on the slide in which the cited content is shown (see Figure 3.2).
Speakers should also carefully select and correctly cite images displayed in their visual aid. Images should be relevant to the keywords used on your PowerPoint slide. In other words, captions are not necessary because the image can stand alone; images you display should obviously correlate with your speech content (a caption is typically used because the picture needs explanation). In other words, the presence of a caption typically means your image does not directly correspond with the verbal speech material. Images should support, not distract, from the verbal or visual message. Hence, there is no need for blinking, rotating, or otherwise distracting visual aids.  Images should be simple and relevant. All pictures should be cited, unless the presenter uses a personal, clipart, or purchased stock image. To cite an image, simply include the credit (or web link) to that picture; note, however, the font size of the link should be reduced so that it is visible to the audience without distracting from the content in your visual aid. Seeing an image link should not be distracting to audience members.
“Question copyright” by Ttog~commonswiki. CC-BY-SA .
It’s also important to understand how copyright law might affect what and how you include information in your speech and on your visual aid. The fair use provision allows for copyrighted information to be shared if it is used for educational benefits, news reporting, research, and in other situations. Nolo explains, “In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and ‘transformative’ purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.”  In order to determine if the use of content falls under the fair use provision, there are four factors to consider:
- How will this be used?
- What is to be used?
- How much will be used?
- What effect does this have? 
You can find more about these four factors at the U.S. Copyright website .
Ethical citing includes crediting authors in the text of your written speech materials, acknowledging authors aloud during your speech, and citing images and sources on your visual aid. However, ethics in public speaking encompass more than crediting source material. It’s also necessary to strive for responsible speech goals.
Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar. – David Herbert Lawrence
Set Responsible Speech Goals
Jensen coined the term “rightsabilities” to explain how a communicator must balance tensions between speaker rights and responsibility to others. Ensuring that you have responsible speech goals is one way to achieve ethical communication in public speaking. There are several speech goals that support this mission. This section will focus on five goals: 1) promote diversity, 2) use inclusive language, 3) avoid hate speech, 4) raise social awareness, and 5) employ respectful free speech.
“U.S. Air Force” by Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown. Public domain.
One important responsibility speakers have is fostering diversity, or an appreciation for differences among individuals and groups. Diversity in public speaking is important when considering both your audience and your speech content. Promoting diversity allows audience members who may be different from the speaker to feel included and can present a perspective to which audience members had not previously been exposed. Speakers may choose a speech topic that introduces a multicultural issue to the audience or can promote diversity by choosing language and visual aids that relate to and support listeners of different backgrounds. Because of the diversity present in our lives, it is necessary to consider how speakers can promote diversity.
One simple way of promoting diversity is to use both sexes in your hypothetical examples and to include co-cultural groups when creating a hypothetical situation. For example, you can use names that represent both sexes and that also stem from different cultural backgrounds. In the story about Carley and her co-workers, her co-workers were deliberately given male names so that both sexes were represented. Ethical speakers also encourage diversity in races, socioeconomic status, and other demographics. These choices promote diversity. In addition, ethical speakers can strive to break stereotypes. For instance, if you’re telling a hypothetical story about a top surgeon in the nation, why not make the specialized surgeon a female from a rural area? Or make the hypothetical secretary a man named Frank? You could also include a picture in your visual aid of the female surgeon or the male secretary at work. Ethical speakers should not assume that a nurse is female or that a firefighter is male. Sexist language can alienate your audience from your discussion. 
Another way that sexist language occurs in speeches is when certain statements or ideas are directed at a particular sex. For example, the “Selecting a Florist” speech described at the beginning of this chapter may be considered sexist by many audience members. Another example is the following statement, which implies only males might be interested in learning how to fix a car: “I think that fixing a car is one of the most important things you can learn how to do. Am I right, guys?” Promoting diversity is related to using inclusive language, discussed in the following sections.
Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism. – Oprah Winfrey
Use Inclusive Language
Avoiding sexist language is one way to use inclusive language. Another important way for speakers to develop responsible language is to use inclusionary pronouns and phrases. For example, novice speakers might tell their audience: “One way for you to get involved in the city’s Clean Community Program is to pick up trash on your street once a month.” Instead, an effective public speaker could exclaim: “One way for all of us to get involved in our local communities is by picking up trash on a regular basis.” This latter statement is an example of “we” language —pronouns and phrases that unite the speaker to the audience. “We” language (instead of “I” or “You” language) is a simple way to build a connection between the speaker, speech content, and audience. This is especially important during a persuasive speech as “we” language establishes trust, rapport, and goodwill between the speaker and the audience. Take, for example, the following listener relevance statements in a persuasive speech about volunteering:
“You” language: You may say that you’re too busy to volunteer, but I don’t agree. I’m here to tell you that you should be volunteering in your community.
“We” language: As college students, we all get busy in our daily lives and sometimes helpful acts such as volunteering aren’t priorities in our schedules. Let’s explore how we can be more active volunteers in our community.
In this exchange, the “you” language sets the speaker apart from the audience and could make listeners defensive about their time and lack of volunteering. On the other hand, the “we” language connects the speaker to the audience and lets the audience know that the speaker understands and has some ideas for how to fix the problem. This promotes a feeling of inclusiveness, one of the responsible speech goals.
Avoid Hate Speech
Another key aspect of ethical speaking is to develop an awareness of spoken words and the power of words. The NCA Credo of Ethical Communication highlights the importance of this awareness: “We condemn communication that degrades individuals and humanity through distortion, intimidation, coercion, and violence, and through the expression of intolerance and hatred.”  Words can be powerful—both in helping you achieve your speech goal and in affecting your audience in significant ways. It is essential that public speakers refrain from hate or sexist language. Hate speech, according to Verderber, Sellnow, and Verderber, “is the use of words and phrases not only to demean another person or group but also to express hatred and prejudice.”  Hate language isolates a particular person or group in a derogatory manner. Michael Richards, famous for the role of Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld , came under fire for his hate speech during a comedy routine in 2006. Richards used several racial epithets and directed his hate language towards African-Americans and Mexicans.  Richards apologized for his outbursts, but the damage to his reputation and career was irrevocable. Likewise, using hate speech in any public speaking situation can alienate your audience and take away your credibility, leading to more serious implications for your grade, your job, or other serious outcomes. It is your responsibility as the speaker to be aware of sensitive material and be able to navigate language choices to avoid offending your audience.
No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world. – Robin Williams
Raise Social Awareness
Speakers should consider it their ethical responsibility to educate listeners by introducing ideas of racial, gender, or cultural diversity, but also by raising social awareness , or the recognition of important issues that affect societies. Raising social awareness is a task for ethical speakers because educating peers on important causes empowers others to make a positive change in the world. Many times when you present a speech, you have the opportunity to raise awareness about growing social issues. For example, if you’re asked to present an informative speech to your classmates, you could tell them about your school’s athletic tradition or you could discuss Peace One Day —a campaign that promotes a single day of worldwide cease-fire, allowing crucial food and medicine supplies to be shipped into warzone areas.  If your assignment is to present a persuasive speech, you could look at the assignment as an opportunity to convince your classmates to (a) stop texting while they drive, (b) participate in a program that supports US troops by writing personal letters to deployed soldiers or (c) buy a pair of TOMS (tomsshoes.com) and find other ways to provide basic needs to impoverished families around the world. Of course, those are just a few ideas for how an informative or persuasive speech can be used to raise awareness about current social issues. It is your responsibility, as a person and speaker, to share information that provides knowledge or activates your audience toward the common good. 
“Raising John T. Williams Memorial Totem Pole” by Joe Mabel. CC-BY-SA .
One way to be successful in attaining your speech goal while also remaining ethical is to consider your audience’s moral base. Moon identifies a principle that allows the speaker to justify his or her perspective by finding common moral ground with the audience.  This illustrates to the audience that you have goodwill but allows you to still use your moral base as a guide for responsible speech use. For example, even though you are a vegetarian and believe that killing animals for food is murder, you know that the majority of your audience does not feel the same way. Rather than focusing on this argument, you decide to use Moon’s principle and focus on animal cruelty. By highlighting the inhumane ways that animals are raised for food, you appeal to the audience’s moral frame that abusing animals is wrong—something that you and your audience can both agree upon.
If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die. – Maya Angelou
Employ Respectful Free Speech
We live in a nation that values freedom of speech. Of course, due to the First Amendment, you have the right and ability to voice your opinions and values to an audience. However, that freedom of speech must be balanced with your responsibility as a speaker to respect your audience. Offending or degrading the values of your audience members will not inform or persuade them. For example, let’s say you want to give a persuasive speech on why abortion is morally wrong. It’s your right to voice that opinion. Nevertheless, it’s important that you build your case without offending your audience members— since you don’t know everyone’s history or stance on the subject. Showing disturbing pictures on your visual aid may not “make your point” in the way you intended. Instead, these pictures may send audience members into an emotional tailspin (making it difficult for them to hear your persuasive points because of their own psychological noise). Freedom of speech is a beautiful American value, but ethical speakers must learn to balance their speech freedom with their obligation to respect each audience member.
Fortunately for serious minds, a bias recognized is a bias sterilized. – Benjamin Haydon
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- Image of boy with book. Authored by : cybrarian77. Located at : https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybrarian77/6284177707/in/photostream/ . License : CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial
- Chapter 3 Ethical Speaking. Authored by : Alyssa Millner and Rachel Price. Provided by : King College and University of Kentucky. Located at : http://publicspeakingproject.org/psvirtualtext.html . Project : Public Speaking Project. License : CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
- ME 109 Thief. Authored by : Nina Paley. Located at : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ME_109_Thief.png . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
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- F-15 pilots Elmendorf. Authored by : Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown. Provided by : US Air Force. Located at : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:F-15_pilots_Elmendorf.jpg . License : Public Domain: No Known Copyright
The public weighs in on whether Wayne National Forest should change its name: Read their comments
- Published: Nov. 21, 2023, 1:32 p.m.
A sign outside of the Wayne National Forest headquarters is posted in Nelsonville, Ohio on Tuesday, August 29, 2023. A vigorous debate is under way over a U.S. Forest Service proposal to rename the 250,000-acre Wayne National Forest after Ohio's state tree, the buckeye. (AP Photo/Patrick Orsagos) AP
- Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com
WASHINGTON, D. C. - Wayne National Forest received just over 1,200 public comments after it proposed renaming the 244,000-acre forest in the Appalachian foothills at the behest of Native American tribes whom the park’s namesake, Gen. Anthony Wayne, helped remove from Ohio more than 200 years ago.
The Forest Service said Wayne’s “complicated legacy includes leading a violent campaign against the Indigenous peoples of Ohio that resulted in their removal from their homelands,” and described the current forest name as “offensive because of this history of violence.”
It said the tribes suggested the Buckeye National Forest name, since the buckeye is both Ohio’s state tree and the state’s nickname. Other names floated for the forest include “Ohio National Forest” and “Koteewa National Forest.”
The National Forest Service released the public comments to reporters on Monday with commenters’ names intact but their contact information redacted. It hasn’t yet announced whether it will go through with the name change. A Forest Service representative said that after reviewing public input, it will make a recommendation to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has authority to change the name.
Plenty of people weighed in on either side. A cursory review of the commentary indicated roughly equal numbers of advocates and detractors.
Enthusiastic backers of the August renaming proposal, such as Bill Dingus of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said calling it Buckeye National Forest would give it more of a national identity and move the buckeye tree, named by Native Americans, to “real stature in Ohio.”
On the other side, a comment made public this week, urged the park service to “leave history alone.” Her fully capitalized message continued: “STOP CAVING TO THE VILE LEFTIST AGENDA TO DESTROY AMERICA BY REMOVING LANDMARKS, STATUES, AND RENAMING ANYTHING CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS OR GROUPS ARE ‘OFFENDED’ BY!!!!!”
Ohio politicians including U.S. Sen. JD Vance, a Cincinnati Republican, sent letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Serve objecting to the change.
”Just as the United States would not exist without George Washington, Ohio would not exist without Anthony Wayne,” Vance’s letter said. “Unfortunately, I am left to conclude that the USDA possesses such a low opinion of Ohioans that you believe us incapable of appreciating the complexities of American history.”
Wayne served as a general in the Revolutionary War and participated in the Constitutional Convention. His nickname was “Mad Anthony Wayne ” either because of his bold military tactics, or his hot temper and penchant for “off-color language.” He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army by President George Washington and dispatched to subdue tribes who lived in Ohio.
“Wayne’s legacy is really dependent on who you’re talking to and the context in which you’re discussing him,” said John Bickers, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University who is a member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and whose doctoral thesis was about the history of the Miami people following the Treaty of Greenville.
“If you’re talking about the (American) Revolution, he was a war hero. He served with the patriots ... He fought the British. From that perspective, that legacy is patriotic,” Bickers previously told cleveland.com . “From a (Miami) perspective and for indigenous peoples in Ohio, his legacy was one of violence and destruction. He led U.S. forces into invading our homelands. He burned our villages to the ground, killed Miami people, and that’s how he’s remembered in our community.
Here’s a pared down sampling of public comments the Forest Service received about the proposal:
“Ohio should not have a park with a name that brings violence to mind. We wouldn’t name a park Hitler or Pol Pot. Mad Anthony Wayne does not fit in that category of villains, but you see the point.”
“As a descendant of General Anthony Wayne, I fully support this name change. It is embarrassing and appalling to honor someone who so violently removed the Indigenous peoples of Ohio. Thank you for your consideration.”
“I had no idea who the park was named after until a few months ago, I looked it up out of curiosity. I was appalled at what I found. Anthony Wayne was a proud slaveholder, owning more the 50 human beings. His actions during the Northwest Indian War were genocidal, actively pushing forward an ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people who lived here. Ohio is a state of freedom, our borders represent liberty from the evils of the slave-holding South, a that Anthony Wayne eagerly participated in. There is no good reason we should name anything after someone so bigoted and hateful.”
“Please Change the Name!!! Honoring someone who committed the genocide of my indigenous ‘ancestors us akin to naming a park after Hitler!! This is disgusting and utterly insulting to Our history.”
“I, and my household, would LOVE to see the name changed to something appropriate that does not glorify a murderous, racist man. We spend a lot of time in Wayne NF - hiking, camping, etc. While most people probably don’t even know who the forest is named for it would be a wonderful thing for Ohio to do to make a stand for inclusive and non-racist space.”
“We strongly support the re-naming of our national forest to something friendly and inclusive such as the Buckeye National Forest. We would also support naming the forest for the original people who inhabited the area and stewarded the land for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers.”
“What Anthony Wayne did was an important piece of our history. It deserves a place in our history books and archives. But what we did as a country to our indigenous peoples was horrible. He was a major part of the problem with this dark chapter in our nation’s development. I see no need to attach this honor to his name. In fact, I think that we as a country should get away from naming buildings and parks and such after people. It’s just not necessary.”
“I love the name Buckeye National Forest. The buckeye tree actually represents our state, not a slave holding genocidal Pennsylvanian. Wayne must go.”
“National Forest named after a scorched Earth ethnic cleanser of Indigenous tribes?! Yikes! Horrendous! Incredibly offensive! We owe it to the Native American people of the Ohio Valley and their ancestors this justifiable and long-overdue name change. Be it, “Koteewa,” “Ohio,” or “Buckeye,” .. I, for one, am all for the proposed change. It is the LEAST to be done, so long after unspeakable violence on tribal people, on THEIR land. Equity, inclusion, respect.”
Change it to something other than Buckeye National Forest:
“I think that ‘Koteewa National Forest’ would be more appropriate, speaking to the role of fire in the regeneration of the Wayne and honoring the Natives that cared for this region before European colonization. ‘Ohio National Forest’ could be replaced by ‘Good River National Forest’ or ‘Oyo National Forest’, as the origin of the name Ohio came from the Iroqouis word Oyo meaning good/great/beautiful river (depending on translation). Finally, I believe that if the name was changed to an English word for a tree, I believe that it should be named ‘White Oak National Forest’”
“Why not show our current residents and forefathers a little dignity and change the name to Black Diamond Forest in honor of all the wonderful people who dedicated their lives to this Appalachian region of coal mining?”
“Please do not rename the Wayne NF as the Buckeye NF. The name Buckeye is so overused in the state of Ohio and is tied tightly to the land grant university OSU. I believe the name would lead to confusion about the ownership, accessibility, and history of the NF. Someone might wonder, is the Buckeye NF part of OSU? ... I believe either Ohio or Koteewa is a more appropriate choice to honor the first forest dwellers in the region.”
“Let’s be ‘real’ buckeyes, and call the park ‘THE Ohio National Park.’”
“Why not give the forest the name of a local area Indian tribe such as Wyandotte, Shawnee, or name it after a local leader like Tecumseh? Buckeye National Forest is just too generic as so many things in Ohio have the name Buckeye.”
“I suggest the name Tecumseh National Forest since Tecumseh is popular, somewhat known and he was born in Ohio. If Tecumseh was venerated enough to be honored by the parents of William Tecumseh Sherman, then he’s good enough for me.”
“Just add JOHN and call it John Wayne National Forest.”
Don’t change the name:
“Erasing Anthony Wayne from the national forest is like removing Thomas Jefferson from Mount Rushmore. Please quit trying to whitewash our history.”
“I am of indigenous descent, but when is this nonsense going to stop? We cannot, nor should we try to rewrite offensive history. We should be more focused on making this a better planet for the future. With that being said, I have two huge questions concerning a name change. How many signs, publications, buildings, employee name badges, uniforms, etc. are affected by a name change and what is the overall cost of changing all these things to a new name? This isn’t like tearing down a statue and sending it to a scrap yard. I have a suggestion if a name change is an absolute must. Change the name to Way National Forest, buy a couple cases of paint to cover up the NE and call it a day. The money this is going to cost the taxpayers could be used for something more life changing for the people.”
“I live in an area where the Indians massacred nearly 800 soldiers in a battle in the late 1700′s. That’s why Anthony Wayne came here to take on the Indians. Lots of wrongs happened on both sides. I’m for keeping Wayne National Forest.”
“I grew up in Ohio and visit often. General Wayne is a major figure in the State’s history. A minority of residents and Washington bureaucrats should not be erasing history. However, if that is your intent, you should start with erasing the name, Democrat Party, the Party of Slavery, the KKK, re-segregation of the federal government, eugenics, confiscatory taxes and now, Marxist authoritarianism.”
“Anthony Wayne was doing the bidding of the federal government. If we wish to evacuate the state of Ohio and return it to the Native Americans, then fine. Every advanced civilization in human history displaces the less advanced civilization, generally by force. Let’s not forget, the amount of torture Native Americans favored in killing their enemies - not a nice way to die.”
“Against these name changes because of so called political correctness. Maybe we should change America to something else since it was Vespucci and everybody knows how ruthless those Italian explorers were. Maybe we should find his ancestors and sue them. An argument can be made that we can never name anything after any mortal man or woman because if we look deep enough all the good they do is always overshadowed by something.”
“I fought in two wars for our freedom, just to come home and see all of my pain and suffering being thrown down the drain by liberal tree hugging panty wastes... they have already took away names of sports teams, holidays, statues, highways, and parks. do we want everything in this country to be totally bland? and if i hear one more place called BUCKEYE, i am gonna drive off a cliff!!!!”
“It’s time to take a stand against wokeism. Stop genuflecting before it. If you polled Ohioans I’m sure that the majority would object to this proposal. Shawnees butchered white settlers, yet I take no offense of the naming of Shawnee state forest.”
“I am a proud to have been born and raised in Ohio. I currently live in the Ohio area. I visited Wayne Forrest and really enjoy it. Please consider not changing this name of the forest and stripping at us of our Ohio history. I also have Native American heritage and I’m not offended by the current name! Please quit destroying our heritage!”
“Changing the name of Anthony Wayne National Forest is quite a waste of time and resources, very irresponsible. And I’d argue not inclusive at all, for you do not include when you cancel anyone. Trying to bury history and forget someone’s legacy is a cowardly act.”
Sabrina Eaton writes about the federal government and politics in Washington, D.C., for cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.