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Speech Research Basics: Persuasive Speech

Step-by-step guidance for students tasked with writing and delivering speeches.

Persuasive Speech

For your persuasive speech you'll need to use evidence (sources) and good reasons to convince others to agree with your point of view on a particular subject. Specifically you'll need to:

  • Take a position on a specific topic.
  • Present an argument of one viewpoint or perspective.
  • Convince others to believe that viewpoint and share your opinion on the topic.

Follow the steps below to create a great persuasive speech!


Step One: Choose a Meaningful, Appropriate Topic

topic selection guidelinesCarefully review your assignment and then choose a meaningful topic that satisfies your instructor's requirements. Librarians are happy to help you brainstorm potential topics and/or point you toward databases providing topic ideas. Bring your assignment description (and outline template) with you when you visit the Research Help Desk.


How to Generate Topic Ideas

generating topic ideas

Databases to Help You Get Ideas

If you can't think of any ideas, you can browse through these databases.

Step Two: Do Some Preliminary Reading

Do some background reading to get more acquainted with your topic and help figure out the story you want to tell in your speech. Preliminary reading is a great help in developing your main points, as well as identifying useful search terms for future database searching.

The point is not to start gathering your actual sources -- though you may very well find some along the way -- but to get comfortable with your topic by consulting engaging, easy to understand sources.

Preliminary Reading to Evaluate & Refine Topics click picture to access research guide


Databases for Preliminary (or Background) Reading

Step Three: Sketch out the Story You Want to Tell

Your professor will provide samples of organizational pattern(s) appropriate for various types of speeches. For instance, some speeches lend themselves to a chronological order, where others work well as a cause-effect presentation, and so on. As you do your background reading, pay attention to how the sources you find organize information on your topic. What works for you? Will it work for your audience? Decide upon your organization and begin to sketch out the story you want to tell.

After you land on an effective organization pattern, your job is to find the best sources possible to help you tell that story in a compelling -- and credible -- way. As you begin to gather the best sources, be sure to pay attention to the number and type of sources required by your professor. 

Create Research Questions to Sketch Out Your StoryGuide Your Research

Research is all about exploration. Sometimes we are exploring ideas, sometimes we are exploring current issues, sometimes we are exploring the lives of people or the repercussions of events.  Asking questions is the key to this exploration. In short, research questions drive your search for information you need to tell your story.

Now that you've done your background reading, write down a list of questions that piqued your interest, confused you, or seem foundational to telling your story. Use these questions to create search terms to help you find relevant information, to keep you focused on the information you need in order to answer or understand your research questions and to know if the information you find will actually help you develop your speech.

Remember that the information you find is the evidence you will use to support the points you make in your speech, so it needs to speak directly to the points you are making. It must be relevant and not random.

To learn all about how to develop research questions and to see some examples, check out our research guide entitled, Develop Research Questions.

Step Four: Find Your Sources

Dig Deeper

Now that you've done your background reading and have a pretty thorough overview of your topic, you know what story you want to tell, and you have an idea of how you want to organize your points, it's time to dig deeper into your topic and find the evidence to support the points you want to make in your speech.

The MJC Library & Learning Center subscribes to roughly 100 databases. Listed below are some of our most popular databases; MJC research librarians are happy to point you toward the best database(s) for your given topic. A complete list of MJC Databases can be found under Articles and Databases on the MJC Library & Learning Center home page. 

Databases for Current Events, Controversial Issues, Persuasive Speeches
Databases for All Topics

You can also search Google to find information on the Web for your speech.

Google Web Search

Step Five: Evaluate ALL Sources Before Use

Finding information is these days is easy. Your job is to find reliable information. You can use the CRAAP Test to evaluate your sources. 

CRAAP Test criteria


For more in-depth information about the evaluating sources, follow the links below

Step Six: Cite Your Sources Appropriately

Your citation style will affect your paper in three places:

  • The General Format (How the paper looks)
  • The Bibliography (List of all sources used)
  • In-Text Citations (Use of sources within the paper)


Citing Your Sources: How Citation Style Affects Your Work


Choose Your Style

Click on the appropriate link below to learn how to format your paper and cite your sources according to a particular style.

Librarians Are Here to Help You

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  • 209-575-6230 (East Campus) or
  • 209-575-6949 (West Campus)

Text: (209) 710-5270

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