ENG122 Public Speaking Information Literacy 2015 (1 Hour)

Instructor: Associate Prof. Mark Jackson, Reference and Online Resources Librarian


  • Define a topic for a persuasive speech
  • Gather supporting information for a persuasive speech
  • Evaluating information
  • Citing sources
Learning Outcomes:
  • You will be able to define a topic for a persuasive speech
  • You will be able to compile academic and authoritative material for a persuasive speech
  • You will be able to evaluate the information you will find
  • You will be able to cite your sources accurately 

Define a Topic

One of the challenges of writing a research paper or making a persuasive speech is choosing a topic. First, the topic should be of interest to not only yourself (which is very important) but also to your audience. For example, college students are usually concerned about their grades and how they can improve them. A persuasive speech that is entitled: 5 Effective Study Habits and Improved Grades would probably be a talk that students would have an interest in.

While your opinion is important, people have an interest in expert opinion. If we renamed our talk Harvard University’s 5 Effective Study Habits: You Can Improve Your Grades Today! Does this sound not only more interesting, but doesn’t it also appeal to the self-interest of the audience?

One important aspect of choosing a topic is to select something that is important to you. Once you have chosen a topic, you will need to refine the topic, keeping it manageable and concise enough for a three to five minute presentation. 

There are many places on the web to find topics for a persuasive presentation. Here is one site to find some good ones. Keep in mind that there are some topics that can turn an audience off or alienate them.

Gathering Data

After you have chosen a topic, it is time to gather the data that will support your argument and begin to persuade your audience. What kind of information can persuade an audience? Authoritative, accurate, and relevant information is essential to persuasion. As a foundation for a persuasive argument, statistical data is often used. What is the dimension of the problem and how does it affect people? The best source of statistical information is a government (sometimes state, often federal) entity.

For example, statistics can illustrate the impact of distracted driving. These statistics are often compiled by an agency of the Federal government. Look for the .gov domain suffix in the search results. If you find the statistical information on a .org (organization) domain, the statistics should have a citation. This is an example of government statistics for distracted driving: Example

Here is an example from an organization, note the citations indicating where the articles are from, or where the stats are from. Example

Use graphics: According to a study published in the prestigious and well-recognized New England Journal of Medicine: 

Example of chart showing texting information:

Current examples of your topic can often be found using Google News. These examples often bring home the “real life” aspects of your topic, and drive the point home in a personal way to your audience.  

Example: Man on Cell Phone -- Crash Victim to Drivers: No Cell Phone

Video can be effective, using short clips.

In addition, there are a number of resources to which the Bloomfield College Library subscribes that can be useful. These include Academic Search and ProQuest. These academic level resources will provide you with the “pros and cons” about your topic. Another excellent source of information is ProCon.org

Example from ProCon.org:

Evaluating what you find

When you are gathering your information and deciding what you will use in your persuasive speech, it is important that you evaluate the quality of what you find. While you may want to persuade your audience, you want to do so by informing and not misinforming. Cornell University has published a terrific site devoted to critically analyzing information sources, available by click here.

Citing your sources

Finally, whether you use PowerPoint slides, statistics, opinions or quotes, it is necessary and essential to quote your sources! Click here for a PDF sheet for citing sources for a speech.

This handy reference, available from The University of Southern Mississippi Speaking Center,will give you some great ideas on crafting your speech. 

Hot Paper Topics

You can find many sources for hot topics for persuasive speeches. This is a site from St. Ambrose University library that has some excellent starting points.

Would you take this test?

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Librarians mark_jackson@bloomfield.edu OR john_hinchcliffe@bloomfield.edu