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Communication Studies: Getting Started: Types of Speeches

Choosing a Topic

The first step in beginning your research is to select a topic. Based on the time length of your speech and assignment criteria, choose a topic or issue you can clearly present.  Browse the list of topics available on EBSCO's Points of View database for some ideas.  Or, check out some of the links to websites pertaining to current events/issues.

Informative Speeches

An informative speech gives unbiased, factual information on a topic, person, event, or concept. The goal is to educate the audience without an opinion, judgment, or intent to change the audience's attitude. The informative speech should enlighten listeners on a subject that is non-controversial. Types of informative speeches include:

  • Demonstrating to an audience how to do something such as changing a tire, or attaching a file to an email.
  • Describing a particular activity, object, person, or place. Examples would be a piece of artwork, the Great Wall of China, or First Lady Michelle Obama.
  • Concept speeches focus on a belief, idea, or theory. Examples include:  Christianity, the Big Bang Theory, or non-violent protesting.

Persuasive Speeches

A persuasive speech proposes to change a person's beliefs or actions on a particular issue. The presenter takes a side and gives his/her opinion on why something is good/bad, right/wrong, moral/immoral, or justified/unjustified. The topics tend to be debatable and the speech itself should have a convincing tone. While the objective is to sway your audience, it is important to have factual evidence to support your argument. Common examples of persuasive public speaking include:

  • A politician running for office or re-election
  • A lawyer or prosecutor trying to influence a jury
  • A doctor persuading a patient to stop smoking
  • A salesclerk encouraging a customer to open a credit card

Watch Out for Logical Fallacies in Your Argument

Watch out for logical fallacies in developing your argument:

  • ad hominem argument = attacking an opponent rather than their argument
  • bandwagoning = using popular opinion as evidence
  • begging the question = using circular reasoning
  • either-or fallacy = the argument is structured as having either one answer or another
  • hasty generalization = taking one instance as a general pattern
  • non sequitur = aka: it does not follow; your conclusions are not connected to the reasoning
  • red herring fallacy = using irrelevant info in the argument 
  • slippery slope = arriving at a truth by supposing a series of possible events

"Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies" poster

A full-sized poster of different logical fallacies can be accessed here.