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CMST 220 Public Speaking: Getting started

This guide is to help you find good topics and evidence for your Informative or Persuasive/Position speeches in CMST& 220: Public Speaking.

Starting with Your Speech Research

Use the information on this page to help you find background in reference sources like subject encyclopedia articles and overview reports. You can also use topic mapping to identify keywords and useful synonyms that can help you find relevant information quickly.

Want to learn more?

  • Check out the How to start your research tab to learn about getting started wth a topic and background sources;
  • Check out Identifying topics and keywords to see examples of identifying key terms and related ideas as keyword phrases, and how you can build those keywords info library searches.

Source: "Research is a Process" by Anna Eisen, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

This video discusses research as inquiry, specifically the importance of scholarly research, understanding the scholarly sources and vocabulary used in a field, developing research questions, and adding to the academic conversation with research and writing.

Source: "From topic to search results in two minutes! " by Holman Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Learn about strategizing keywords and how databases work when searching keywords.

From topic to search results in two minutes

Finding resources worksheet

Worksheets to help you keep track of your speech sources / topic ideas:

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Search Tips:
  • Put your topic in "quotation marks" if it is a phrase such as "American Dream"
  • Make sure the "Keyword" option in the dropdown box is selected

(click on image to enlarge)

Search GVRL by putting your topic in quotation marks if a phrase and make sure 'keyword' is selected.

Brainstorming search words (keywords)

Below is an example of narrowing a speech topic and brainstorming some keywords, beginning with the general topic of "Technology."

Keywords are single words / short phrases / proper nouns that connect to your overall topic idea, but can help you find more focused sources.


(Notice this is TOO BROAD.)

Narrower Topic

"Internet of Things" - household items that connect to the Internet

Purpose of Speech

To Inform: What types of items in the home are becoming "smart" devices

Related Keywords

automation      smoke detectors    smart speakers (Amazon Alexa)

refrigerators     thermostats           self-driving cars       smart TVs

artificial intelligence

Reference Databases (for Background)

Good Online Reference for Informative Speech Topics

Gale Virtual Reference Library: Popular Culture encyclopedia cover  Gale Virtual Reference Library: American Decades encyclopedia cover


Good Online Reference for Persuasive Speech Topics

What are keywords?

Keywords are any important words or phrases that you might use to search for more information on your topic.

Keywords can be single words, proper nouns, or short phrases ("time management"), but they should not be sentences or sentence fragments.

  • Think of the different words and phrases that people use when they discuss your topic. 

  • Consider broader and narrower words, and synonyms (words that have the same meaning). 
  • Identify keywords with a background search if you need to -find phrases that relate to your topic- or ask a librarian for help in finding words that connect to your topic.

Example Topic

"How to focus in an age of distraction?"

Mind Map (click on the image to expand):

mind map of example research question

Notice how the keywords below are individual words or short phrases (names of people, things, or events are OK!) We'll use these keywords to build our searches for more information on our "avoiding distractions" sample topic: 

  • Technology detox
  • time management techniques
    • Pomodomo technique
  • focus | distraction
    • multitasking (and effects / benefits / problems)
    • procrastination
    • Internet blocking programs
  • social media
    • Facebook
    • Twitter