Examples

Informative Speech Thesis Statement

Informative speech generator.

ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech

Unlock the power of effective communication with informative speech thesis statement examples. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the art of crafting compelling thesis statements for informative speeches. From unraveling the intricacies of informative speech thesis statements to providing step-by-step writing strategies, you’ll gain valuable insights into captivating your audience’s attention and delivering informative speeches that leave a lasting impact. Elevate your speaking prowess with expert tips tailored to engaging and enlightening your listeners.

What is an Informative Speech Thesis Statement? – Definition

An informative speech thesis statement is a concise and focused sentence that encapsulates the main idea or central message of an informative speech. It serves as a roadmap for the audience, providing them with a clear preview of the topics, concepts, or information that will be presented in the speech. The informative speech thesis statement helps the audience understand the purpose of the speech and what they can expect to learn or gain from listening.

What is an Example of Informative Speech Thesis Statement?

Example: “In this informative speech, I will explore the history, cultural significance, and health benefits of traditional herbal remedies used by indigenous communities around the world.”

In this example, the informative speech thesis statement clearly outlines the main topics that will be covered in the speech. It indicates that the speech will delve into the history, cultural importance, and positive health effects of traditional herbal remedies within indigenous cultures globally. This thesis statement provides a roadmap for the audience, giving them a glimpse of the informative content that will follow in the speech.  In addition, you should review our  thesis statement for personal essay .

100 Informative Speech Thesis Statement Examples

Informative Speech Thesis Statement Examples

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  • Today, we’ll explore the mysterious world of the deep sea and the creatures that inhabit it.
  • The history of chocolate reveals a complex journey from Mayan rituals to modern day luxury.
  • Understanding the basics of solar energy can lead us to sustainable solutions for the future.
  • The Great Wall of China represents centuries of historical evolution, defense strategies, and cultural significance.
  • Let’s delve into the intricate world of bee communication and the role of pheromones.
  • The human brain’s plasticity offers insights into learning, memory, and recovery.
  • The art of origami goes beyond paper folding, reflecting Japanese traditions and philosophical insights.
  • Mount Everest’s geological formation, history, and climbing challenges are both captivating and daunting.
  • Sleep is a complex process that affects our mental, emotional, and physical health in surprising ways.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions showcase the genius of a Renaissance man.
  • The process of wine-making, from grape to glass, combines art and science.
  • By understanding the different waves of feminism, we can appreciate the evolution of gender rights.
  • The history of the Olympics traces the evolution of human athleticism and global unity.
  • Artificial intelligence’s rise and implications touch every facet of our modern lives.
  • Delve into the mysterious culture and rituals of the Maasai tribe in East Africa.
  • The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is a natural wonder driven by Earth’s magnetism.
  • The evolution of the internet has transformed global communication, commerce, and culture.
  • The Silk Road was more than a trade route; it was a bridge between cultures and epochs.
  • The health benefits of meditation extend beyond relaxation, influencing brain structure and function.
  • Exploring the dynamics of black holes uncovers the universe’s enigmatic phenomena.
  • The ancient pyramids of Egypt tell tales of pharaohs, engineers, and a civilization ahead of its time.
  • Yoga, beyond flexibility, promotes holistic health and spiritual growth.
  • The migration patterns of monarch butterflies are one of nature’s most astonishing journeys.
  • Unpacking the ethical implications of cloning gives insights into the future of biotechnology.
  • The life cycle of a star reveals the universe’s beauty, complexity, and constant change.
  • From farm to cup, the journey of coffee beans impacts economies, cultures, and your morning ritual.
  • The Renaissance era: an explosion of art, science, and thought that shaped the modern world.
  • The complexities of the human immune system defend us against microscopic invaders daily.
  • Antarctica’s ecosystem is a fragile balance of life, adapting to the planet’s harshest conditions.
  • The Titanic’s tragic voyage remains a lesson in hubris, safety, and fate.
  • Let’s understand the intricacies of quantum mechanics and its revolution in modern physics.
  • Delve into the world of paleontology and the mysteries of dinosaur existence.
  • Sign languages around the world are rich, diverse modes of communication beyond spoken words.
  • The world of dreams: decoding symbols, understanding stages, and their impact on our psyche.
  • The Wright brothers’ journey was a testament to innovation, persistence, and the human spirit.
  • The evolution of musical genres reflects societal changes, technological advancements, and cultural blends.
  • Samurai warriors embody the ethos, discipline, and martial traditions of feudal Japan.
  • The three states of matter offer a basic understanding of the universe’s physical essence.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our perception of the universe and our place within it.
  • Journey through the rich tapestry of African tribal cultures, traditions, and histories.
  • The concept of time travel, while popular in fiction, presents scientific and philosophical challenges.
  • Explore the world of forensic science and its pivotal role in modern criminal justice.
  • Delve into the world of cryptocurrencies, their workings, and their potential to redefine finance.
  • The linguistic diversity of the Indian subcontinent showcases a mosaic of cultures, histories, and beliefs.
  • The process of photosynthesis is nature’s way of converting light into life.
  • The mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle have intrigued scientists, historians, and travelers alike.
  • Uncover the importance and workings of vaccines in combating infectious diseases.
  • The Eiffel Tower is more than an icon; it’s a testament to engineering and cultural symbolism.
  • Delving into the myths, facts, and history of the majestic white wolves of the Arctic.
  • The cultural, economic, and culinary significance of rice in global civilizations.
  • Discover the beauty, function, and preservation of coral reefs, the oceans’ rainforests.
  • The enigma of Stonehenge reflects ancient engineering, astronomical knowledge, and cultural rituals.
  • Human memory is a complex interplay of neurons, experiences, and emotions.
  • The history of jazz music: its roots, evolution, and impact on modern music genres.
  • The incredible world of bioluminescence in deep-sea creatures.
  • The philosophy and practices of Buddhism offer a path to enlightenment and inner peace.
  • The Big Bang Theory unravels the universe’s origin, expansion, and eventual fate.
  • Examine the rich history, culture, and significance of Native American tribes.
  • The formation and importance of wetlands in maintaining global ecological balance.
  • The metamorphosis process in butterflies: a dance of genes, hormones, and time.
  • Delve into the wonders of the human genome and the secrets it holds about our evolution.
  • The history and future of space exploration: from the moon landings to Mars missions.
  • Discover the dynamic world of volcanoes, their formation, eruption, and influence on ecosystems.
  • The French Revolution: its causes, timeline, and lasting impacts on global politics.
  • Breaking down the science and art behind architectural marvels across history.
  • The multifaceted world of the Amazon rainforest: its biodiversity, tribes, and conservation challenges.
  • The principles and practices of sustainable farming in modern agriculture.
  • Decoding the mysteries of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.
  • The art of bonsai: a journey of patience, aesthetics, and nature’s miniaturization.
  • The Second World War: its origins, major events, and lasting global implications.
  • The water cycle: nature’s way of sustaining life on Earth.
  • Understanding autism: its spectrum, challenges, and societal implications.
  • The cultural, historical, and spiritual significance of the holy city of Jerusalem.
  • The physics and thrill of skydiving: conquering gravity and fear.
  • The impact of the printing press on literature, religion, and the dissemination of knowledge.
  • Delve into the intriguing world of espionage: its history, techniques, and impact on geopolitics.
  • The cinematic evolution of Hollywood: from silent films to digital masterpieces.
  • The profound impact of the Harlem Renaissance on art, literature, and black consciousness.
  • The fascinating science behind earthquakes and our quest to predict them.
  • The challenges, resilience, and beauty of life in the world’s deserts.
  • The role and significance of the United Nations in global peace and diplomacy.
  • The fashion revolutions of the 20th century and their socio-cultural impacts.
  • Journey through the intricate and diverse world of spiders.
  • The principles and history of the art of storytelling across civilizations.
  • The enigma and allure of the Mona Lisa: beyond the smile and into da Vinci’s world.
  • The magic of magnetism: its principles, applications, and mysteries.
  • The impact of social media on society: communication, psychology, and privacy concerns.
  • The mysteries and significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls in biblical research.
  • The innovations and challenges of deep-sea exploration.
  • Explore the evolution, beauty, and significance of Japanese tea ceremonies.
  • The majestic world of eagles: species, habitats, and their role in ecosystems.
  • The cultural and historical significance of ancient Greek theater.
  • Dive into the art and techniques of cinematography in filmmaking.
  • The complex history and geopolitics of the Panama Canal.
  • The practice and significance of animal migration across species and ecosystems.
  • The legacy and lessons of the Roman Empire.
  • The beauty, challenges, and adaptations of alpine flora and fauna.
  • The history, techniques, and significance of mural painting across cultures.
  • The science and wonder of rainbows: from mythologies to optics.
  • Discover the significance and celebrations of Diwali, the festival of lights.

Informative Speech Thesis Statement Examples for Introduction

An introductory informative speech thesis statement sets the stage, creating intrigue or establishing the context for the topic that follows. It lays the groundwork for what listeners can anticipate.

  • Let’s embark on a journey through the ages, exploring the timeless allure of ancient civilizations.
  • As we unravel the secrets of the universe, we begin with its most mysterious element: dark matter.
  • Today, let’s understand the fabric of our global economy and the threads that weave it together.
  • Venturing into the digital realm, we’ll discover the evolution and impact of social media on human connections.
  • Set sail with me to explore the enigmatic world of lost cities submerged beneath the seas.
  • Journeying back in time, we delve into the age of chivalry and the knights of old.
  • Let us embark on an odyssey into the intricate realm of modern art and its diverse interpretations.
  • Today, we set foot in the mesmerizing world of optical illusions and the psychology behind them.
  • Navigating through the labyrinth of the human mind, we begin with dreams and their interpretations.
  • As we chart our course today, let’s explore the unsung heroes behind history’s greatest discoveries.

Informative Speech Thesis Statement Examples for Graduation

Graduation speeches are pivotal moments, focusing on accomplishments, transition, and the journey ahead. A  concise thesis statement should resonate with the gravity of the milestone.

  • Today, we celebrate not just the culmination of years of hard work but the dawn of new beginnings.
  • Graduation is a testament to perseverance, growth, and the dreams we dared to chase.
  • We stand on the threshold of a new era, armed with knowledge, experiences, and ambitions.
  • Together, we’ve climbed mountains of challenges, and today, we pause to admire the view.
  • This graduation isn’t an endpoint but a launching pad for dreams yet to be realized.
  • Through shared challenges and achievements, we’ve woven a tapestry of memories and aspirations.
  • Today, as we close this chapter, we eagerly await the stories we’re destined to write.
  • Graduation is a reflection of past endeavors and the beacon guiding our future journeys.
  • As we don the cap and gown, we embrace the responsibilities and promises of tomorrow.
  • This ceremony is a tribute to our resilience, aspirations, and the legacy we’re beginning to build.

Informative Speech Thesis Statement Examples For Autism

Autism speeches inform and spread awareness. The thesis should be insightful, compassionate, and devoid of any stereotypes.

  • Autism, in its spectrum, paints a vivid tapestry of diverse experiences and unique strengths.
  • Delving into autism, we discover not just challenges but unparalleled potential and perspectives.
  • Unpacking the world of autism offers a glimpse into diverse minds shaping our world uniquely.
  • Autism is not a limitation but a different lens through which the world is perceived.
  • Through understanding autism, we pave the way for inclusivity, appreciation, and holistic growth.
  • Autism, in its essence, challenges societal norms, urging us to redefine success and potential.
  • Embracing the autistic community is embracing diversity, creativity, and the myriad ways of being human.
  • Navigating the realm of autism, we find tales of resilience, innovation, and boundless spirit.
  • Autism stands as a testament to human neurodiversity and the endless forms of intelligence.
  • In the heart of autism lies the profound message of acceptance, understanding, and unbridled potential.

Informative Speech Thesis Statement Examples on Depression

When discussing depression, the thesis should be sensitive, informed, and aimed at eliminating stigma while spreading awareness.

  • Depression, often silent, is a profound emotional experience that impacts countless lives globally.
  • Delving into the depths of depression, we uncover its nuances, challenges, and paths to healing.
  • Today, we shine a light on the shadows of depression, fostering understanding and empathy.
  • Depression, beyond just a mood, is a complex interplay of biology, environment, and experiences.
  • Recognizing and addressing depression is pivotal to building a compassionate and resilient society.
  • In understanding depression, we equip ourselves with tools for empathy, intervention, and support.
  • Depression, while daunting, also presents stories of strength, recovery, and hope.
  • Through the lens of depression, we see the urgent need for mental health advocacy and education.
  • Navigating the intricate world of depression helps dispel myths and foster genuine understanding.
  • As we unravel the fabric of depression, we realize its universality and the importance of collective support.

Informative Speech Thesis Statement Examples on Life

Life, in its vastness, offers endless topics. A thesis on life should be profound, insightful, and universally resonant.

  • Life, in its ebb and flow, presents a mosaic of experiences, challenges, and joys.
  • Delving into the journey of life, we find lessons in the most unexpected moments.
  • Life, with its unpredictable twists, teaches us resilience, adaptability, and the value of time.
  • Through life’s lens, we appreciate the transient beauty of moments, relationships, and dreams.
  • Life’s tapestry is woven with threads of memories, decisions, and the pursuit of purpose.
  • Navigating the terrain of life, we encounter peaks of joy and valleys of introspection.
  • Life’s rhythm is a dance of challenges met, lessons learned, and love discovered.
  • Embracing life means acknowledging its imperfections, uncertainties, and boundless potentials.
  • Life is a rich canvas, painted with choices, experiences, and the colors of emotions.
  • In the vast expanse of life, we find the significance of connections, growth, and self-awareness.

Informative Speech Thesis Statement Examples Conclusion

Conclusion thesis statements wrap up the essence of the speech, leaving listeners with poignant thoughts or a call to action.

  • As we journeyed through the annals of history, we’re reminded of the footprints we’re destined to leave.
  • Having delved deep into the human psyche, we come away enlightened, empowered, and introspective.
  • As our exploration concludes, let’s carry forward the knowledge, empathy, and drive to make a difference.
  • Wrapping up our journey, we realize that every end is but a new beginning in disguise.
  • As we draw the curtains, the lessons imbibed urge us to reflect, act, and evolve.
  • In conclusion, the tapestry we’ve woven today serves as a testament to our collective potential.
  • As our discourse comes to an end, let’s pledge to be torchbearers of change, understanding, and progress.
  • Concluding today’s journey, we’re left with insights, questions, and a renewed sense of purpose.
  • As we wrap up, the stories shared serve as beacons, illuminating our paths and choices.
  • In the final note, let’s carry the essence of today’s exploration, making it a catalyst for growth and understanding.

What is a good thesis statement for an informative essay?

A good thesis statement for an informative essay is a clear, concise declaration that presents the main point or argument of your essay. It informs the reader about the specific topic you will discuss without offering a personal opinion or taking a stance. The ideal thesis statement is:

  • Specific: It should narrow down the subject so readers understand the essay’s scope.
  • Arguable: Though it doesn’t express an opinion, it should still be something that might be disputed or clarified.
  • Clear: It should be easily understandable without any ambiguity.
  • Focused: The thesis should relate directly to the topic, ensuring it doesn’t stray into irrelevant areas.
  • Brief: While it should encapsulate your main point, it shouldn’t be excessively long.

Example: “The process of photosynthesis in plants is crucial for converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, a transformation that sustains most life forms on Earth.”

Does an informative speech need a thesis?

Yes, an informative speech does need a thesis. The thesis acts as a compass for your audience, providing them with a clear understanding of what they will learn or gain from your speech. It sets the tone, focuses the content, and provides a roadmap for listeners to follow. An informative speech thesis helps the audience:

  • Understand the Purpose: It clearly states what the speech will cover.
  • Anticipate Content: It sets expectations for the type of information they will receive.
  • Stay Engaged: By knowing the direction, listeners can follow along more easily and attentively.
  • Retain Information: With a clear foundation laid by the thesis, the audience can more easily remember key takeaways.

How do you write an Informative speech thesis statement? – Step by Step Guide

Crafting a strong and effective specific thesis statement for an informative speech is vital to convey the essence of your message clearly. Here’s a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

  • Select a Suitable Topic: Start with a subject that is engaging and you’re knowledgeable about. This will give your thesis authenticity and enthusiasm.
  • Refine Your Topic: A broad subject can be overwhelming for both the speaker and the audience. Narrow it down to a specific aspect or angle that you want to focus on.
  • Conduct Preliminary Research: Even if you’re familiar with the subject, conduct some research to ensure you have updated and factual information. This will give your thesis credibility.
  • Determine the Main Points: From your research and knowledge, deduce the primary points or messages you wish to convey to your audience.
  • Formulate a Draft Thesis: Using your main points, write a draft of your thesis statement. This doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s just a starting point.
  • Keep it Clear and Concise: Your thesis should be easily understandable. Avoid jargon and complex words unless they are crucial and you plan to explain them during your speech.
  • Ensure Objectivity: An informative thesis aims to educate, not to persuade. Keep it neutral and avoid any personal bias.
  • Test for Specificity: Your thesis should be specific enough to give your audience a clear idea of what to expect, but broad enough to encompass the main idea of your speech.
  • Seek Feedback: Share your draft thesis with friends, colleagues, or mentors. Their perspectives might offer valuable insights or point out aspects you hadn’t considered.
  • Revise and Refine: Based on feedback and further reflection, refine your thesis. Ensure it’s concise, specific, and clearly conveys the main idea of your speech.
  • Practice it Aloud: Say your thesis statement out loud a few times. This helps you ensure it flows well and can be easily understood when spoken.
  • Align with Content: As you develop the content of your speech, revisit your thesis to ensure it remains consistent with the information you’re presenting. Adjust if necessary.
  • Finalize: Once you’re satisfied, finalize your thesis statement. It should be a strong and clear representation of what your audience can expect from your speech.

Remember, your thesis is the foundation of your informative speech. It sets the stage for everything that follows, so taking the time to craft it meticulously is crucial for the effectiveness of your speech.

Tips for Writing an Informative Speech Thesis Statement

  • Stay Objective: Avoid personal biases. Your goal is to inform, not persuade.
  • Be Specific: General statements can disengage your audience. Specificity grabs attention.
  • Limit Your Scope: Don’t try to cover too much. Stick to what’s essential to avoid overwhelming your audience.
  • Prioritize Clarity: Use simple, direct language. Avoid jargon unless it’s pertinent and you plan to explain it.
  • Test It Out: Before finalizing, say your thesis out loud. This will help identify any awkward phrasings.
  • Stay Relevant: Make sure your thesis relates directly to the rest of your speech.
  • Avoid Questions: Your thesis should be a statement, not a question.
  • Revise as Needed: As you flesh out your speech, revisit your thesis to ensure it still aligns.
  • Stay Consistent: The tone and style of your thesis should match the rest of your speech.
  • Seek Inspiration: Listen to other informative speeches or read essays to see how experts craft their thesis statements.

Remember, your thesis statement is the anchor of your speech. Invest time in crafting one that is clear, compelling, and informative.  You should also take a look at our  final thesis statement .

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Text prompt

  • Instructive
  • Professional

Create an Informative Speech Thesis Statement on the history of the internet

Write an Informative Speech Thesis Statement for a talk on the evolution of human rights

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14 Crafting a Thesis Statement

Learning Objectives

  • Craft a thesis statement that is clear, concise, and declarative.
  • Narrow your topic based on your thesis statement and consider the ways that your main points will support the thesis.

Crafting a Thesis Statement

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, clearly and concisely, what you are going to talk about. A strong thesis statement will allow your reader to understand the central message of your speech. You will want to be as specific as possible. A thesis statement for informative speaking should be a declarative statement that is clear and concise; it will tell the audience what to expect in your speech. For persuasive speaking, a thesis statement should have a narrow focus and should be arguable, there must be an argument to explore within the speech. The exploration piece will come with research, but we will discuss that in the main points. For now, you will need to consider your specific purpose and how this relates directly to what you want to tell this audience. Remember, no matter if your general purpose is to inform or persuade, your thesis will be a declarative statement that reflects your purpose.

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.

Once you have chosen your topic and determined your purpose, you will need to make sure your topic is narrow. 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 seven-minute speech. While five to seven minutes may sound like a long time for 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.

Is your speech topic 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 “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.”

Is your speech’s topic 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 Women’s Equal Rights Amendment 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: Ratifying the Women’s Equal Rights Amendment as equal citizens under the United States law would protect women by requiring state and federal law to engage in equitable freedoms among the sexes.

Does the topic have 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 public speaker.

Put Your Topic into a Declarative Sentence

You wrote your general and specific purpose. Use this information to guide your thesis statement. If you wrote a clear purpose, it will be easy to turn this into a declarative statement.

General purpose: To inform

Specific purpose: To inform my audience about the lyricism of former President Barack Obama’s presentation skills.

Your thesis statement needs to be a declarative statement. This means it needs to actually state something. If a speaker says, “I am going to talk to you about the effects of social media,” this tells you nothing about the speech content. Are the effects positive? Are they negative? Are they both? We don’t know. This sentence is an announcement, not a thesis statement. A declarative statement clearly states the message of your speech.

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.” Or you could state, “Socal media has both positive and negative effects on users.”

Adding your Argument, Viewpoint, or Opinion

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, “Barack Obama’s use of lyricism in his speech, ‘A World That Stands as One,’ delivered July 2008 in Berlin demonstrates exceptional use of rhetorical strategies. 

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.

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.

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 below.

Thesis checklist questions.

Preview of Speech

The preview, as stated in the introduction portion of our readings, reminds us that we will need to let the audience know what the main points in our speech will be. You will want to follow the thesis with the preview of your speech. Your preview will allow the audience to follow your main points in a sequential manner. Spoiler alert: The preview when stated out loud will remind you of main point 1, main point 2, and main point 3 (etc. if you have more or less main points). It is a built in memory card!

For Future Reference | How to organize this in an outline |

Introduction

Attention Getter: Background information: Credibility: Thesis: Preview:

Key Takeaways

Introductions are foundational to an effective public speech.

  • A thesis statement is instrumental to a speech that is well-developed and supported.
  • Be sure that you are spending enough time brainstorming strong attention getters and considering your audience’s goal(s) for the introduction.
  • A strong thesis will allow you to follow a roadmap throughout the rest of your speech: it is worth spending the extra time to ensure you have a strong thesis statement.

Stand up, Speak out  by University of Minnesota is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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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Planning and Presenting an Informative Speech

In this guide, you can learn about the purposes and types of informative speeches, about writing and delivering informative speeches, and about the parts of informative speeches.

Purposes of Informative Speaking

Informative speaking offers you an opportunity to practice your researching, writing, organizing, and speaking skills. You will learn how to discover and present information clearly. If you take the time to thoroughly research and understand your topic, to create a clearly organized speech, and to practice an enthusiastic, dynamic style of delivery, you can be an effective "teacher" during your informative speech. Finally, you will get a chance to practice a type of speaking you will undoubtedly use later in your professional career.

The purpose of the informative speech is to provide interesting, useful, and unique information to your audience. By dedicating yourself to the goals of providing information and appealing to your audience, you can take a positive step toward succeeding in your efforts as an informative speaker.

Major Types of Informative Speeches

In this guide, we focus on informative speeches about:

These categories provide an effective method of organizing and evaluating informative speeches. Although they are not absolute, these categories provide a useful starting point for work on your speech.

In general, you will use four major types of informative speeches. While you can classify informative speeches many ways, the speech you deliver will fit into one of four major categories.

Speeches about Objects

Speeches about objects focus on things existing in the world. Objects include, among other things, people, places, animals, or products.

Because you are speaking under time constraints, you cannot discuss any topic in its entirety. Instead, limit your speech to a focused discussion of some aspect of your topic.

Some example topics for speeches about objects include: the Central Intelligence Agency, tombstones, surgical lasers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the pituitary gland, and lemmings.

To focus these topics, you could give a speech about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and efforts to conceal how he suffered from polio while he was in office. Or, a speech about tombstones could focus on the creation and original designs of grave markers.

Speeches about Processes

Speeches about processes focus on patterns of action. One type of speech about processes, the demonstration speech, teaches people "how-to" perform a process. More frequently, however, you will use process speeches to explain a process in broader terms. This way, the audience is more likely to understand the importance or the context of the process.

A speech about how milk is pasteurized would not teach the audience how to milk cows. Rather, this speech could help audience members understand the process by making explicit connections between patterns of action (the pasteurization process) and outcomes (a safe milk supply).

Other examples of speeches about processes include: how the Internet works (not "how to work the Internet"), how to construct a good informative speech, and how to research the job market. As with any speech, be sure to limit your discussion to information you can explain clearly and completely within time constraints.

Speeches about Events

Speeches about events focus on things that happened, are happening, or will happen. When speaking about an event, remember to relate the topic to your audience. A speech chronicling history is informative, but you should adapt the information to your audience and provide them with some way to use the information. As always, limit your focus to those aspects of an event that can be adequately discussed within the time limitations of your assignment.

Examples of speeches about events include: the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, Groundhog's Day, the Battle of the Bulge, the World Series, and the 2000 Presidential Elections.

Speeches about Concepts

Speeches about concepts focus on beliefs, ideas, and theories. While speeches about objects, processes, and events are fairly concrete, speeches about concepts are more abstract. Take care to be clear and understandable when creating and presenting a speech about a concept. When selecting a concept, remember you are crafting an informative speech. Often, speeches about concepts take on a persuasive tone. Focus your efforts toward providing unbiased information and refrain from making arguments. Because concepts can be vague and involved, limit your speech to aspects that can be readily explained and understood within the time limits.

Some examples of topics for concept speeches include: democracy, Taoism, principles of feminism, the philosophy of non-violent protest, and the Big Bang theory.

Strategies for Selecting a Topic

In many cases, circumstances will dictate the topic of your speech. However, if the topic has not been assigned or if you are having difficulty figuring out how to frame your topic as an informative speech,the following may be useful.

Begin by thinking of your interests. If you have always loved art, contemplate possible topics dealing with famous artists, art works, or different types of art. If you are employed, think of aspects of your job or aspects of your employer's business that would be interesting to talk about. While you cannot substitute personal experience for detailed research, your own experience can supplement your research and add vitality to your presentation. Choose one of the items below to learn more about selecting a topic.

Learn More about an Unfamiliar Topic

You may benefit more by selecting an unfamiliar topic that interests you. You can challenge yourself by choosing a topic you'd like to learn about and to help others understand it. If the Buddhist religion has always been an interesting and mysterious topic to you, research the topic and create a speech that offers an understandable introduction to the religion. Remember to adapt Buddhism to your audience and tell them why you think this information is useful to them. By taking this approach, you can learn something new and learn how to synthesize new information for your audience.

Think about Previous Classes

You might find a topic by thinking of classes you have taken. Think back to concepts covered in those classes and consider whether they would serve as unique, interesting, and enlightening topics for the informative speech. In astronomy, you learned about red giants. In history, you learned about Napoleon. In political science, you learned about The Federalist Papers. Past classes serve as rich resources for informative speech topics. If you make this choice, use your class notes and textbook as a starting point. To fully develop the content, you will need to do extensive research and perhaps even a few interviews.

Talk to Others

Topic selection does not have to be an individual effort. Spend time talking about potential topics with classmates or friends. This method can be extremely effective because other people can stimulate further ideas when you get stuck. When you use this method, always keep the basic requirements and the audience in mind. Just because you and your friend think home-brew is a great topic does not mean it will enthrall your audience or impress your instructor. While you talk with your classmates or friends, jot notes about potential topics and create a master list when you exhaust the possibilities. From this list, choose a topic with intellectual merit, originality, and potential to entertain while informing.

Framing a Thesis Statement

Once you settle on a topic, you need to frame a thesis statement. Framing a thesis statement allows you to narrow your topic, and in turns allows you to focus your research in this specific area, saving you time and trouble in the process.

Selecting a topic and focusing it into a thesis statement can be a difficult process. Fortunately, a number of useful strategies are available to you.

Thesis Statement Purpose

The thesis statement is crucial for clearly communicating your topic and purpose to the audience. Be sure to make the statement clear, concise, and easy to remember. Deliver it to the audience and use verbal and nonverbal illustrations to make it stand out.

Strategies For Framing a Thesis Statement

Focus on a specific aspect of your topic and phrase the thesis statement in one clear, concise, complete sentence, focusing on the audience. This sentence sets a goal for the speech. For example, in a speech about art, the thesis statement might be: "The purpose of this speech is to inform my audience about the early works of Vincent van Gogh." This statement establishes that the speech will inform the audience about the early works of one great artist. The thesis statement is worded conversationally and included in the delivery of the speech.

Thesis Statement and Audience

The thesis appears in the introduction of the speech so that the audience immediately realizes the speaker's topic and goal. Whatever the topic may be, you should attempt to create a clear, focused thesis statement that stands out and could be repeated by every member of your audience. It is important to refer to the audience in the thesis statement; when you look back at the thesis for direction, or when the audience hears the thesis, it should be clear that the most important goal of your speech is to inform the audience about your topic. While the focus and pressure will be on you as a speaker, you should always remember that the audience is the reason for presenting a public speech.

Avoid being too trivial or basic for the average audience member. At the same time, avoid being too technical for the average audience member. Be sure to use specific, concrete terms that clearly establish the focus of your speech.

Thesis Statement and Delivery

When creating the thesis statement, be sure to use a full sentence and frame that sentence as a statement, not as a question. The full sentence, "The purpose of this speech is to inform my audience about the early works of Vincent van Gogh," provides clear direction for the speech, whereas the fragment "van Gogh" says very little about the purpose of the speech. Similarly, the question "Who was Vincent van Gogh?" does not adequately indicate the direction the speech will take or what the speaker hopes to accomplish.

If you limit your thesis statement to one distinct aspect of the larger topic, you are more likely to be understood and to meet the time constraints.

Researching Your Topic

As you begin to work on your informative speech, you will find that you need to gather additional information. Your instructor will most likely require that you locate relevant materials in the library and cite those materials in your speech. In this section, we discuss the process of researching your topic and thesis.

Conducting research for a major informative speech can be a daunting task. In this section, we discuss a number of strategies and techniques that you can use to gather and organize source materials for your speech.

Gathering Materials

Gathering materials can be a daunting task. You may want to do some research before you choose a topic. Once you have a topic, you have many options for finding information. You can conduct interviews, write or call for information from a clearinghouse or public relations office, and consult books, magazines, journals, newspapers, television and radio programs, and government documents. The library will probably be your primary source of information. You can use many of the libraries databases or talk to a reference librarian to learn how to conduct efficient research.

Taking Notes

While doing your research, you may want to carry notecards. When you come across a useful passage, copy the source and the information onto the notecard or copy and paste the information. You should maintain a working bibliography as you research so you always know which sources you have consulted and so the process of writing citations into the speech and creating the bibliography will be easier. You'll need to determine what information-recording strategies work best for you. Talk to other students, instructors, and librarians to get tips on conducting efficient research. Spend time refining your system and you will soon be able to focus on the information instead of the record-keeping tasks.

Citing Sources Within Your Speech

Consult with your instructor to determine how much research/source information should be included in your speech. Realize that a source citation within your speech is defined as a reference to or quotation from material you have gathered during your research and an acknowledgement of the source. For example, within your speech you might say: "As John W. Bobbitt said in the December 22, 1993, edition of the Denver Post , 'Ouch!'" In this case, you have included a direct quotation and provided the source of the quotation. If you do not quote someone, you might say: "After the first week of the 1995 baseball season, attendance was down 13.5% from 1994. This statistic appeared in the May 7, 1995, edition of the Denver Post ." Whatever the case, whenever you use someone else's ideas, thoughts, or words, you must provide a source citation to give proper credit to the creator of the information. Failure to cite sources can be interpreted as plagiarism which is a serious offense. Upon review of the specific case, plagiarism can result in failure of the assignment, the course, or even dismissal from the University. Take care to cite your sources and give credit where it is due.

Creating Your Bibliography

As with all aspects of your speech, be sure to check with your instructor to get specific details about the assignment.

Generally, the bibliography includes only those sources you cited during the speech. Don't pad the bibliography with every source you read, saw on the shelf, or heard of from friends. When you create the bibliography, you should simply go through your complete sentence outline and list each source you cite. This is also a good way to check if you have included enough reference material within the speech. You will need to alphabetize the bibiography by authors last name and include the following information: author's name, article title, publication title, volume, date, page number(s). You may need to include additional information; you need to talk with your instructor to confirm the required bibliographical format.

Some Cautions

When doing research, use caution in choosing your sources. You need to determine which sources are more credible than others and attempt to use a wide variety of materials. The broader the scope of your research, the more impressive and believable your information. You should draw from different sources (e.g., a variety of magazines-- Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, National Review, Mother Jones ) as well as different types of sources (i.e., use interviews, newspapers, periodicals, and books instead of just newspapers). The greater your variety, the more apparent your hard work and effort will be. Solid research skills result in increased credibility and effectiveness for the speaker.

Structuring an Informative Speech

Typically, informative speeches have three parts:

Introduction

In this section, we discuss the three parts of an informative speech, calling attention to specific elements that can enhance the effectiveness of your speech. As a speaker, you will want to create a clear structure for your speech. In this section, you will find discussions of the major parts of the informative speech.

The introduction sets the tone of the entire speech. The introduction should be brief and to-the-point as it accomplishes these several important tasks. Typically, there are six main components of an effective introduction:

Attention Getters

Thesis statement, audience adaptation, credibility statement, transition to the body.

As in any social situation, your audience makes strong assumptions about you during the first eight or ten seconds of your speech. For this reason, you need to start solidly and launch the topic clearly. Focus your efforts on completing these tasks and moving on to the real information (the body) of the speech. Typically, there are six main components of an effective introduction. These tasks do not have to be handled in this order, but this layout often yields the best results.

The attention-getter is designed to intrigue the audience members and to motivate them to listen attentively for the next several minutes. There are infinite possibilities for attention-getting devices. Some of the more common devices include using a story, a rhetorical question, or a quotation. While any of these devices can be effective, it is important for you to spend time strategizing, creating, and practicing the attention-getter.

Most importantly, an attention-getter should create curiosity in the minds of your listeners and convince them that the speech will be interesting and useful. The wording of your attention-getter should be refined and practiced. Be sure to consider the mood/tone of your speech; determine the appropriateness of humor, emotion, aggressiveness, etc. Not only should the words get the audiences attention, but your delivery should be smooth and confident to let the audience know that you are a skilled speaker who is prepared for this speech.

The crowd was wild. The music was booming. The sun was shining. The cash registers were ringing.

This story-like re-creation of the scene at a Farm Aid concert serves to engage the audience and causes them to think about the situation you are describing. Touching stories or stories that make audience members feel involved with the topic serve as good attention-getters. You should tell a story with feeling and deliver it directly to the audience instead of reading it off your notecards.

Example Text : One dark summer night in 1849, a young woman in her 20's left Bucktown, Maryland, and followed the North Star. What was her name? Harriet Tubman. She went back some 19 times to rescue her fellow slaves. And as James Blockson relates in a 1984 issue of National Geographic , by the end of her career, she had a $40,000.00 price on her head. This was quite a compliment from her enemies (Blockson 22).

Rhetorical Question

Rhetorical questions are questions designed to arouse curiosity without requiring an answer. Either the answer will be obvious, or if it isn't apparent, the question will arouse curiosity until the presentation provides the answer.

An example of a rhetorical question to gain the audiences attention for a speech about fly-fishing is, "Have you ever stood in a freezing river at 5 o'clock in the morning by choice?"

Example Text: Have you ever heard of a railroad with no tracks, with secret stations, and whose conductors were considered criminals?

A quotation from a famous person or from an expert on your topic can gain the attention of the audience. The use of a quotation immediately launches you into the speech and focuses the audience on your topic area. If it is from a well-known source, cite the author first. If the source is obscure, begin with the quote itself.

Example Text : "No day dawns for the slave, nor is it looked for. It is all night--night forever . . . ." (Pause) This quote was taken from Jermain Loguen, a fugitive who was the son of his Tennessee master and a slave woman.

Unusual Statement

Making a statement that is unusual to the ears of your listeners is another possibility for gaining their attention.

Example Text : "Follow the drinking gourd. That's what I said, friend, follow the drinking gourd." This phrase was used by slaves as a coded message to mean the Big Dipper, which revealed the North Star, and pointed toward freedom.

You might chose to use tasteful humor which relates to the topic as an effective way to attract the audience both to you and the subject at hand.

Example Text : "I'm feeling boxed in." [PAUSE] I'm not sure, but these may have been Henry "Box" Brown's very words after being placed on his head inside a box which measured 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 1\2 feet for what seemed to him like "an hour and a half." He was shipped by Adams Express to freedom in Philadelphia (Brown 60,92; Still 10).

Shocking Statistic

Another possibility to consider is the use of a factual statistic intended to grab your listener's attention. As you research the topic you've picked, keep your eyes open for statistics that will have impact.

Example Text : Today, John Elway's talents are worth millions, but in 1840 the price of a human life, a slave, was worth $1,000.00.

Example Text : Today I'd like to tell you about the Underground Railroad.

In your introduction, you need to adapt your speech to your audience. To keep audience members interested, tell them why your topic is important to them. To accomplish this task, you need to undertake audience analysis prior to creating the speech. Figure out who your audience members are, what things are important to them, what their biases may be, and what types of subjects/issues appeal to them. In the context of this class, some of your audience analysis is provided for you--most of your listeners are college students, so it is likely that they place some value on education, most of them are probably not bathing in money, and they live in Colorado. Consider these traits when you determine how to adapt to your audience.

As you research and write your speech, take note of references to issues that should be important to your audience. Include statements about aspects of your speech that you think will be of special interest to the audience in the introduction. By accomplishing this task, you give your listeners specific things with which they can identify. Audience adaptation will be included throughout the speech, but an effective introduction requires meaningful adaptation of the topic to the audience.

You need to find ways to get the members of your audience involved early in the speech. The following are some possible options to connect your speech to your audience:

Reference to the Occasion

Consider how the occasion itself might present an opportunity to heighten audience receptivity. Remind your listeners of an important date just passed or coming soon.

Example Text : This January will mark the 130th anniversary of a "giant interracial rally" organized by William Still which helped to end streetcar segregation in the city of Philadelphia (Katz i).

Reference to the Previous Speaker

Another possibility is to refer to a previous speaker to capitalize on the good will which already has been established or to build on the information presented.

Example Text : As Alice pointed out last week in her speech on the Olympic games of the ancient world, history can provide us with fascinating lessons.

The credibility statement establishes your qualifications as a speaker. You should come up with reasons why you are someone to listen to on this topic. Why do you have special knowledge or understanding of this topic? What can the audience learn from you that they couldn't learn from someone else? Credibility statements can refer to your extensive research on a topic, your life-long interest in an issue, your personal experience with a thing, or your desire to better the lives of your listeners by sifting through the topic and providing the crucial information.

Remember that Aristotle said that credibility, or ethos, consists of good sense, goodwill, and good moral character. Create the feeling that you possess these qualities by creatively stating that you are well-educated about the topic (good sense), that you want to help each member of the audience (goodwill), and that you are a decent person who can be trusted (good moral character). Once you establish your credibility, the audience is more likely to listen to you as something of an expert and to consider what you say to be the truth. It is often effective to include further references to your credibility throughout the speech by subtly referring to the traits mentioned above.

Show your listeners that you are qualified to speak by making a specific reference to a helpful resource. This is one way to demonstrate competence.

Example Text : In doing research for this topic, I came across an account written by one of these heroes that has deepened my understanding of the institution of slavery. Frederick Douglass', My Bondage and My Freedom, is the account of a man whose master's kindness made his slavery only more unbearable.

Your listeners want to believe that you have their best interests in mind. In the case of an informative speech, it is enough to assure them that this will be an interesting speech and that you, yourself, are enthusiastic about the topic.

Example Text : I hope you'll enjoy hearing about the heroism of the Underground Railroad as much as I have enjoyed preparing for this speech.

Preview the Main Points

The preview informs the audience about the speech's main points. You should preview every main body point and identify each as a separate piece of the body. The purpose of this preview is to let the audience members prepare themselves for the flow of the speech; therefore, you should word the preview clearly and concisely. Attempt to use parallel structure for each part of the preview and avoid delving into the main point; simply tell the audience what the main point will be about in general.

Use the preview to briefly establish your structure and then move on. Let the audience get a taste of how you will divide the topic and fulfill the thesis and then move on. This important tool will reinforce the information in the minds of your listeners. Here are two examples of a preview:

Simply identify the main points of the speech. Cover them in the same order that they will appear in the body of the presentation.

For example, the preview for a speech about kites organized topically might take this form: "First, I will inform you about the invention of the kite. Then, I will explain the evolution of the kite. Third, I will introduce you to the different types of kites. Finally, I will inform you about various uses for kites." Notice that this preview avoids digressions (e.g., listing the various uses for kites); you will take care of the deeper information within the body of the speech.

Example Text : I'll tell you about motivations and means of escape employed by fugitive slaves.

Chronological

For example, the preview for a speech about the Pony Express organized chronologically might take this form: "I'll talk about the Pony Express in three parts. First, its origins, second, its heyday, and third, how it came to an end." Notice that this preview avoids digressions (e.g., listing the reasons why the Pony Express came to an end); you will cover the deeper information within the body of the speech.

Example Text : I'll talk about it in three parts. First, its origins, second, its heyday, and third, how it came to an end.

After you accomplish the first five components of the introduction, you should make a clean transition to the body of the speech. Use this transition to signal a change and prepare the audience to begin processing specific topical information. You should round out the introduction, reinforce the excitement and interest that you created in the audience during the introduction, and slide into the first main body point.

Strategic organization helps increase the clarity and effectiveness of your speech. Four key issues are discussed in this section:

Organizational Patterns

Connective devices, references to outside research.

The body contains the bulk of information in your speech and needs to be clearly organized. Without clear organization, the audience will probably forget your information, main points, perhaps even your thesis. Some simple strategies will help you create a clear, memorable speech. Below are the four key issues used in organizing a speech.

Once you settle on a topic, you should decide which aspects of that topic are of greatest importance for your speech. These aspects become your main points. While there is no rule about how many main points should appear in the body of the speech, most students go with three main points. You must have at least two main points; aside from that rule, you should select your main points based on the importance of the information and the time limitations. Be sure to include whatever information is necessary for the audience to understand your topic. Also, be sure to synthesize the information so it fits into the assigned time frame. As you choose your main points, try to give each point equal attention within the speech. If you pick three main points, each point should take up roughly one-third of the body section of your speech.

There are four basic patterns of organization for an informative speech.

  • Chronological order
  • Spatial order
  • Causal order
  • Topical order

There are four basic patterns of organization for an informative speech. You can choose any of these patterns based on which pattern serves the needs of your speech.

Chronological Order

A speech organized chronologically has main points oriented toward time. For example, a speech about the Farm Aid benefit concert could have main points organized chronologically. The first main point focuses on the creation of the event; the second main point focuses on the planning stages; the third point focuses on the actual performance/concert; and the fourth point focuses on donations and assistance that resulted from the entire process. In this format, you discuss main points in an order that could be followed on a calendar or a clock.

Spatial Order

A speech organized spatially has main points oriented toward space or a directional pattern. The Farm Aid speech's body could be organized in spatial order. The first main point discusses the New York branch of the organization; the second main point discusses the Midwest branch; the third main point discusses the California branch of Farm Aid. In this format, you discuss main points in an order that could be traced on a map.

Causal Order

A speech organized causally has main points oriented toward cause and effect. The main points of a Farm Aid speech organized causally could look like this: the first main point informs about problems on farms and the need for monetary assistance; the second main point discusses the creation and implementation of the Farm Aid program. In this format, you discuss main points in an order that alerts the audience to a problem or circumstance and then tells the audience what action resulted from the original circumstance.

Topical Order

A speech organized topically has main points organized more randomly by sub-topics. The Farm Aid speech could be organized topically: the first main point discusses Farm Aid administrators; the second main point discusses performers; the third main point discusses sponsors; the fourth main point discusses audiences. In this format, you discuss main points in a more random order that labels specific aspects of the topic and addresses them in separate categories. Most speeches that are not organized chronologically, spatially, or causally are organized topically.

Within the body of your speech, you need clear internal structure. Connectives are devices used to create a clear flow between ideas and points within the body of your speech--they serve to tie the speech together. There are four main types of connective devices:

Transitions

Internal previews, internal summaries.

Within the body of your speech, you need clear internal structure. Think of connectives as hooks and ladders for the audience to use when moving from point-to-point within the body of your speech. These devices help re-focus the minds of audience members and remind them of which main point your information is supporting. The four main types of connective devices are:

Transitions are brief statements that tell the audience to shift gears between ideas. Transitions serve as the glue that holds the speech together and allow the audience to predict where the next portion of the speech will go. For example, once you have previewed your main points and you want to move from the introduction to the body of the Farm Aid speech, you might say: "To gain an adequate understanding of the intricacies of this philanthropic group, we need to look at some specific information about Farm Aid. We'll begin by looking at the administrative branch of this massive fund-raising organization."

Internal previews are used to preview the parts of a main point. Internal previews are more focused than, but serve the same purpose as, the preview you will use in the introduction of the speech. For example, you might create an internal preview for the complex main point dealing with Farm Aid performers: "In examining the Farm Aid performers, we must acknowledge the presence of entertainers from different genres of music--country and western, rhythm and blues, rock, and pop." The internal preview provides specific information for the audience if a main point is complex or potentially confusing.

Internal summaries are the reverse of internal previews. Internal summaries restate specific parts of a main point. To internally summarize the main point dealing with Farm Aid performers, you might say: "You now know what types of people perform at the Farm Aid benefit concerts. The entertainers come from a wide range of musical genres--country and western, rhythm and blues, rock, and pop." When using both internal previews and internal summaries, be sure to stylize the language in each so you do not become redundant.

Signposts are brief statements that remind the audience where you are within the speech. If you have a long point, you may want to remind the audience of what main point you are on: "Continuing my discussion of Farm Aid performers . . . "

When organizing the body of your speech, you will integrate several references to your research. The purpose of the informative speech is to allow you and the audience to learn something new about a topic. Additionally, source citations add credibility to your ideas. If you know a lot about rock climbing and you cite several sources who confirm your knowledge, the audience is likely to see you as a credible speaker who provides ample support for ideas.

Without these references, your speech is more like a story or a chance for you to say a few things you know. To complete this assignment satisfactorily, you must use source citations. Consult your textbook and instructor for specific information on how much supporting material you should use and about the appropriate style for source citations.

While the conclusion should be brief and tight, it has a few specific tasks to accomplish:

Re-assert/Reinforce the Thesis

Review the main points, close effectively.

Take a deep breath! If you made it to the conclusion, you are on the brink of finishing. Below are the tasks you should complete in your conclusion:

When making the transition to the conclusion, attempt to make clear distinctions (verbally and nonverbally) that you are now wrapping up the information and providing final comments about the topic. Refer back to the thesis from the introduction with wording that calls the original thesis into memory. Assert that you have accomplished the goals of your thesis statement and create the feeling that audience members who actively considered your information are now equipped with an understanding of your topic. Reinforce whatever mood/tone you chose for the speech and attempt to create a big picture of the speech.

Within the conclusion, re-state the main points of the speech. Since you have used parallel wording for your main points in the introduction and body, don't break that consistency in the conclusion. Frame the review so the audience will be reminded of the preview and the developed discussion of each main point. After the review, you may want to create a statement about why those main points fulfilled the goals of the speech.

Finish strongly. When you close your speech, craft statements that reinforce the message and leave the audience with a clear feeling about what was accomplished with your speech. You might finalize the adaptation by discussing the benefits of listening to the speech and explaining what you think audience members can do with the information.

Remember to maintain an informative tone for this speech. You should not persuade about beliefs or positions; rather, you should persuade the audience that the speech was worthwhile and useful. For greatest effect, create a closing line or paragraph that is artistic and effective. Much like the attention-getter, the closing line needs to be refined and practiced. Your close should stick with the audience and leave them interested in your topic. Take time to work on writing the close well and attempt to memorize it so you can directly address the audience and leave them thinking of you as a well-prepared, confident speaker.

Outlining an Informative Speech

Two types of outlines can help you prepare to deliver your speech. The complete sentence outline provides a useful means of checking the organization and content of your speech. The speaking outline is an essential aid for delivering your speech. In this section, we discuss both types of outlines.

Two types of outlines can help you prepare to deliver your speech. The complete sentence outline provides a useful means of checking the organization and content of your speech. The speaking outline is an essential aid for delivering your speech.

The Complete Sentence Outline

A complete sentence outline may not be required for your presentation. The following information is useful, however, in helping you prepare your speech.

The complete sentence outline helps you organize your material and thoughts and it serves as an excellent copy for editing the speech. The complete sentence outline is just what it sounds like: an outline format including every complete sentence (not fragments or keywords) that will be delivered during your speech.

Writing the Outline

You should create headings for the introduction, body, and conclusion and clearly signal shifts between these main speech parts on the outline. Use standard outline format. For instance, you can use Roman numerals, letters, and numbers to label the parts of the outline. Organize the information so the major headings contain general information and the sub-headings become more specific as they descend. Think of the outline as a funnel: you should make broad, general claims at the top of each part of the outline and then tighten the information until you have exhausted the point. Do this with each section of the outline. Be sure to consult with your instructor about specific aspects of the outline and refer to your course book for further information and examples.

Using the Outline

If you use this outline as it is designed to be used, you will benefit from it. You should start the outline well before your speech day and give yourself plenty of time to revise it. Attempt to have the final, clean copies ready two or three days ahead of time, so you can spend a day or two before your speech working on delivery. Prepare the outline as if it were a final term paper.

The Speaking Outline

Depending upon the assignment and the instructor, you may use a speaking outline during your presentation. The following information will be helpful in preparing your speech through the use of a speaking outline.

This outline should be on notecards and should be a bare bones outline taken from the complete sentence outline. Think of the speaking outline as train tracks to guide you through the speech.

Many speakers find it helpful to highlight certain words/passages or to use different colors for different parts of the speech. You will probably want to write out long or cumbersome quotations along with your source citation. Many times, the hardest passages to learn are those you did not write but were spoken by someone else. Avoid the temptation to over-do the speaking outline; many speakers write too much on the cards and their grades suffer because they read from the cards.

The best strategy for becoming comfortable with a speaking outline is preparation. You should prepare well ahead of time and spend time working with the notecards and memorizing key sections of your speech (the introduction and conclusion, in particular). Try to become comfortable with the extemporaneous style of speaking. You should be able to look at a few keywords on your outline and deliver eloquent sentences because you are so familiar with your material. You should spend approximately 80% of your speech making eye-contact with your audience.

Delivering an Informative Speech

For many speakers, delivery is the most intimidating aspect of public speaking. Although there is no known cure for nervousness, you can make yourself much more comfortable by following a few basic delivery guidelines. In this section, we discuss those guidelines.

The Five-Step Method for Improving Delivery

  • Read aloud your full-sentence outline. Listen to what you are saying and adjust your language to achieve a good, clear, simple sentence structure.
  • Practice the speech repeatedly from the speaking outline. Become comfortable with your keywords to the point that what you say takes the form of an easy, natural conversation.
  • Practice the speech aloud...rehearse it until you are confident you have mastered the ideas you want to present. Do not be concerned about "getting it just right." Once you know the content, you will find the way that is most comfortable for you.
  • Practice in front of a mirror, tape record your practice, and/or present your speech to a friend. You are looking for feedback on rate of delivery, volume, pitch, non-verbal cues (gestures, card-usage, etc.), and eye-contact.
  • Do a dress rehearsal of the speech under conditions as close as possible to those of the actual speech. Practice the speech a day or two before in a classroom. Be sure to incorporate as many elements as possible in the dress rehearsal...especially visual aids.

It should be clear that coping with anxiety over delivering a speech requires significant advanced preparation. The speech needs to be completed several days beforehand so that you can effectively employ this five-step plan.

Anderson, Thad, & Ron Tajchman. (1994). Informative Speaking. Writing@CSU . Colorado State University. https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=52

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1.8: Thesis Statements

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What this handout is about

This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can discover or refine one for your draft.

Introduction

Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper .

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:.

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence somewhere in your first paragraph that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)

How do I get a thesis?

A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis,” a basic or main idea, an argument that you think you can support with evidence but that may need adjustment along the way.

Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question.
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough?

Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?

  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is, “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s o.k. to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.

Suppose you are taking a course on 19th-century America, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: Compare and contrast the reasons why the North and South fought the Civil War. You turn on the computer and type out the following:

The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some different.

This weak thesis restates the question without providing any additional information. You will expand on this new information in the body of the essay, but it is important that the reader know where you are heading. A reader of this weak thesis might think, “What reasons? How are they the same? How are they different?” Ask yourself these same questions and begin to compare Northern and Southern attitudes (perhaps you first think, “The South believed slavery was right, and the North thought slavery was wrong”). Now, push your comparison toward an interpretation—why did one side think slavery was right and the other side think it was wrong? You look again at the evidence, and you decide that you are going to argue that the North believed slavery was immoral while the South believed it upheld the Southern way of life. You write:

While both sides fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery, the North fought for moral reasons while the South fought to preserve its own institutions.

Now you have a working thesis! Included in this working thesis is a reason for the war and some idea of how the two sides disagreed over this reason. As you write the essay, you will probably begin to characterize these differences more precisely, and your working thesis may start to seem too vague. Maybe you decide that both sides fought for moral reasons, and that they just focused on different moral issues. You end up revising the working thesis into a final thesis that really captures the argument in your paper:

While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government.

Compare this to the original weak thesis. This final thesis presents a way of interpreting evidence that illuminates the significance of the question. Keep in mind that this is one of many possible interpretations of the Civil War—it is not the one and only right answer to the question . There isn’t one right answer; there are only strong and weak thesis statements and strong and weak uses of evidence.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

Why is this thesis weak? Think about what the reader would expect from the essay that follows: you will most likely provide a general, appreciative summary of Twain’s novel. The question did not ask you to summarize; it asked you to analyze. Your professor is probably not interested in your opinion of the novel; instead, she wants you to think about why it’s such a great novel— what do Huck’s adventures tell us about life, about America, about coming of age, about race relations, etc.? First, the question asks you to pick an aspect of the novel that you think is important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.

Here’s a working thesis with potential: you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation; however, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal. Your reader is intrigued, but is still thinking, “So what? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?” Perhaps you are not sure yet, either. That’s fine—begin to work on comparing scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions. Eventually you will be able to clarify for yourself, and then for the reader, why this contrast matters. After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing the original version of this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find the latest publications on this topic. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial .

Anson, Chris M. and Robert A. Schwegler. The Longman Handbook for Writers. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2000.

Hairston, Maxine and John J. Ruszkiewicz. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers. 4th ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

Lunsford, Andrea and Robert Connors. The St. Martin’s Handbook. 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

Rosen, Leonard J. and Laurence Behrens. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1997.

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4 Topic, Purpose, and Thesis

Learning objectives.

  • 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.

General Purpose

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.

To Persuade

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.

To Entertain

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

A fork in the road (a trail in the woods)

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?

Specific Purposes

Roma Street Steps

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.

Getting Specific

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

ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech

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.

Thesis Checklist

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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Introduction: The Afterlives of Ophelia

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ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech

  • Kaara L. Peterson &
  • Deanne Williams  

Part of the book series: Reproducing Shakespeare: New Studies in Adaptation and Appropriation ((RESH))

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I n the decades since Elaine Showalter’s groundbreaking essay “Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism” appeared in 1985, Shakespeare’s probably most famous — or notorious — character’s representational life has witnessed even greater expansion. 1 Building on what was already, by the mid-1980s, a substantial “afterlife” of the character, Ophelia’s name has been lent to countless more consumer products beyond those enumerated by Carol Solomon Kiefer in her catalogue for the 2001 exhibition The Myth and Madness of Ophelia and by Showalter herself, including the notable example of the Cannon Mills floral bedding named “Ophelia.” 2 Between the sheets, since the mid-1980s Ophelia has also acquired an emancipated, Western-style sex life in films by Kenneth Branagh (1996) and Michael Almereyda (2000), her on-screen romances with Hamlet elaborated in titillating bedroom scenes that reveal her liberation from early modern patriarchal constraints on virginity. Plays and novels taking a sensationalist approach to the same topic have been written in her name ( The Secret Love-Life of Ophelia ); her rather more chaste and innocent girlhood story told; her French face profiled; her neoclassical, Romantic, Victorian, expressionist, surrealist, symbolist, modernist, cubist, postmodernist iterations depicted in the plastic arts; and her avatar created by online Ophelias to fit the “sim skin” of virtual reality communities. 3

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Elaine Showalter, “Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism,” Shakespeare and the Question of Theory , ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman (New York and London: Methuen, 1985) 77–94. This version contains the original illustration plates discussed in the essay.

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Carol Solomon Kiefer, “The Myth and Madness of Ophelia,” The Myth and Madness of Ophelia (Amherst, MA: Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, 2001) 11–39, written in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name.

The production of The Secret Love-Life of Ophelia , written and directed by Steven Berkoff, came to our attention in the form of a handbill posted in Islington, London, for a performance run at the Kings Head Theatre beginning June 26, 2001. The playbill promises Hamlet and Ophelia will “play out a passionate love affair.” On the afterlife of Ophelia in fiction written for young adults, see R. S. White, “Ophelia’s Sisters” in The Impact of Feminism in Renaissance Studies , ed. Dympna Callaghan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) 93–113.

See, for instance, Johanna Drucker’s discussion of Crewdson’s image in Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005) esp. 1–5; 10–11.

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Peterson, K.L., Williams, D. (2012). Introduction: The Afterlives of Ophelia. In: Peterson, K.L., Williams, D. (eds) The Afterlife of Ophelia. Reproducing Shakespeare: New Studies in Adaptation and Appropriation. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137016461_1

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StageMilk / Monologues Unpacked / Ophelia Monologue (Act 3, Scene 1)

Ophelia Monologue Hamlet

Ophelia Monologue (Act 3, Scene 1)

Ophelia, alone on stage, grieves the loss of Hamlet’s mind and her own misfortune. Her famous monologue, a regular fixture in acting classes and drama school auditions the world over, is short but packs one hell of a punch. Contemporary portrayals of Ophelia lean into the complexity of her motives and feelings; they allow us to find deeper meaning in the words that speak to her strength of character and resolve. In this article, we’re going to break down the text so you can utilise all the richness it has to offer.

Updated 24th January, 2024.

Prior to this moment, Ophelia is taken aside by King Claudius and her father, Polonius . They order Ophelia to stop seeing Hamlet— referencing his erratic behaviour. King Claudius and Polonius then hide nearby to watch Hamlet’s reaction to being dumped. What follows is one of the most explosive scenes of the play.

Ophelia follows her instructions , but Hamlet suspects that he is being watched and all hell breaks loose. In what is essentially a public break-up scene, Hamlet dramatically and aggressively shames Ophelia by ordering her to: “get thee to a nunnery”. Ophelia is left alone to come to terms with what has just occurred.

Learn more about Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Original Text and Language Breakdown

O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown! / The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword, / Th’ expectancy and rose of the fair state, / The glass of fashion and the mould of form, / Th’ observ’d of all observers, quite, quite down! /

And I, of ladies most deject and wretched, / (F) That suck’d the honey of his music vows, / Now see that noble and most sovereign reason (F) Like sweet bells jangled out of tune and harsh, / That unmatch’d form and feature of blown youth Blasted with ecstasy. / O, woe is me T’ have seen what I have seen, see what I see. /

Thought Change: / Beat Change: Space Feminine Ending: (F)

When working on this monologue, keep in mind the following three language features. These may help you unlock some interesting ideas for your own performance:

#1 Vowel Sounds

This monologue begins with an ‘O’. The use of this sound is very prominent in the monologue, and repeated many times. An ‘O’ can be an expression of grief and loss. In language, emotion lies in the vowel sounds, whilst s ense and clarity is more often found in the consonants. “O woe is me” clearly demonstrates this repetition and the result is haunting. It tells us that the text demands of the actor a deep emotional connection and expression. The ‘O’ sound comes from deep in the body and is a very vulnerable place to explore. Lean into that. Invest in the vowels to find the emotion of the language.

#2 Feminine Endings

Pay attention to ‘feminine’ endings of lines: meaning the line ends with an extra, unstressed syllable that ‘softens’ the sound of the verse. The first line with a feminine ending stood out to me: “And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,”. A feminine ending can sometimes be an indication of where Shakespeare is asking the actor to focus their energy: by adding an extra beat to the meter, Shakespeare can let the actor know that the idea , and moment, is of great emotion or importance. If you pronounce the “ed” at the end of “wretched”, placing emphasis on this word, it not only finishes the line and thought strongly but completes the feminine ending, indicating exactly how Ophelia is feeling.

#3 Steady Meter

Third ly, and last ly , I noticed that while this is certainly a deeply emotional monologue, Shakespeare wrote it with a very steady meter. Ophelia doesn’t break out of iambic pentameter. She is still so clear and intelligent in her thought process ; it is quite remarkable. I suppose the clue here is telling the actor that, despite the presence of deep emotion, do not allow that emotion to override the clarity of the story. Ophelia is in grief, certainly, but she is still able to articulate exactly how she’s feeling and what she has witnessed . Whats more, she is facing extreme grief and distress with strength and resolve. Sadly, this also helps contrast her later descent into madness.

Unfamiliar Words & Phrases

As always, make your first step to identify and research any words you do not know. Pay particular attention to words you think  you might understand in the context—Shakespeare’s expert use of language can often infuse words or phrases with double or hidden meanings (see: Ecstasy, below).

O’erthrown : Overthrown, as in forcibly removed from power—by madness, or perhaps his sorrow.

Courtier : One who attends court, a prominent member of society.

Expectancy: Hope.

Glass: Mirror.

Form: Etiquette.

Deject: Depressed, dispirited.

Wretched: Miserable, unhappy, grieved.

Blown: Blooming, in other words; Hamlet is in the prime of his life.

Ecstasy: Madness, insanity.

For more on understanding Shakespeare’s words we recommend: Shakespeare Words and Online Etymology Dictionary

Modern Translation

A modern translation of Shakespeare’s words can go a long way in helping you decipher meaning and truth. While it’s a helpful exercise to develop your own modernised version, word by word, we’ve provided our own below:

Oh, what an incredible mind which has been overcome by madness! The perceptiveness of a courtier, courage of a soldier, and wisdom of a scholar, The hope and rose and of Denmark, The mirror on whose image people mould themselves on, The most looked up to of all those looked up to, fallen so, so far. And me, of all women, is the most depressed and grief-stricken, Who drank the sweet words of his poetic vows, Now see that this brilliant and most logical mind, Once like beautiful music is now playing chaotically and harsh, His epitome of a perfect young man in bloom, Destroyed by insanity. Oh, god pity me, To have seen what I have seen, see what I see.

Notes On Performance

In this monologue, your greatest asset is the restraint you can bring to these words. Ophelia chooses her words carefully—as shown in that steady meter that drives the piece forward—and right off the page, there is almost something formal, impersonal about the images she conjures. It’s almost a eulogy delivered at some state funeral, rather than the lamentation of her relationship lost.

And yet… this pesky ‘O’ that opens the monologue tells us that there is, indeed, a strong emotional undercurrent to her words. Ophelia is barely keeping it together: navigating the very public nature of the break-up with any small dignity she can muster. This is where restraint will serve you well: let her feel, let her process, let her mourn. But keep it together, as it seems as though grace and strength is all she has left.

More on the ‘public’ nature of this scene: let yourself be inspired and informed by the given circumstances of the piece. Where is she? How does she feel having this conversation out in the open, despite its intimacy? There’s also merit to considering whether or not Ophelia knows that she’s being watched by her father and the King. That adds extra layers of humiliation on top of everything else.

What a character. What a monologue.

Shakespeare didn’t write an inferior role for Hamlet’s female counterpart . From the language alone you can decipher how incredibly intelligent she is. In terms of dialogue, Ophelia is one of the few characters, perhaps the only one , that can match Hamlet in wit and smarts. She keeps pace with Hamlet ’s language throughout the entire ‘nunnery scene’ until Hamlet, when he runs out of argument, resorts to inferences that she is a whore, dismissing her and all women in an incredibly demeaning and humiliating way.

Ophelia is a much overlooked character because she doesn’t have the same amount of lines and scenes as some of the other ‘larger’ characters. We would argue, however, that she plays a crucial role that is integral to the story and , ultimately, the tragedy of the play. She may die half way through , but her presence is felt throughout and serves as an important motivator for the protagonist.

At the centre of the story of Hamlet and Ophelia, are two people who are, or were once, deeply in love. Ophelia is a true victim in this tragedy. Her father is murdered by the man she loves—the same man that she was forced to break up with—and her brother will also eventually be killed… Despite all this, the role of the actor is not to play the victim! Remember that even after the ‘nunnery scene’, her first thought is Hamlet; “O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown”. She truly loves him and grieves the  loss of him and his once great mind. Her strength is in her loyalty to both her father and to Hamlet, and for that she loses all. Her drowning was not an accident , but her final choice: the only perceived escape from the tragedies of circumstance that surround her.

More Hamlet Monologues

About the Author

Damien Strouthos

Damien Strouthos is an actor, writer and director. A WAAPA graduate from 2012, over the past decade he has worked professionally for Bell Shakespeare, Belvoir Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company. Some of his Film and Television credits include, I am Woman (2019), Frayed ABC (2018) and Wonderland (Channel 10 (2013)). Damien's greatest passion is the process of creating and telling stories.

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What a beautiful and thorough breakdown of this text. I was looking for some insight for a last minute audition—and this gave me so much to play with while crafting an early take. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and to share this! It has been so helpful! =]

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ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech

William Shakespeare

Ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions, ophelia quotes in hamlet.

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Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me…

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  1. How can I write a thesis statement about Ophelia's destruction by her

    Shortly after this speech, their self-serving father enters and exerts his patriarchal authority, asking Ophelia what Hamlet has said to her. Ophelia says Hamlet has lately "made many tenders/Of ...

  2. Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech

    Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech: While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government. Which outline for the rest of her speech is probably the most effective ...

  3. Informative Speech Thesis Statement

    An informative speech thesis statement conveys the main idea of your speech, providing an overview of what listeners should expect. It aims to educate, enlighten, and provide essential details on a specific topic without persuading or arguing a perspective. Today, we'll explore the mysterious world of the deep sea and the creatures that ...

  4. Crafting a Thesis Statement

    Crafting a Thesis Statement. 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 ...

  5. Thesis Statement for Speech

    A thesis statement is the speaker's whole speech condensed into one statement. It should include the overall point of the speech as well as any subpoints they intend to make. Most often, the ...

  6. Guide: Planning and Presenting an Informative Speech

    Selecting a topic and focusing it into a thesis statement can be a difficult process. Fortunately, a number of useful strategies are available to you. Thesis Statement Purpose. The thesis statement is crucial for clearly communicating your topic and purpose to the audience. Be sure to make the statement clear, concise, and easy to remember.

  7. Who is Ophelia? An examination of the Objectification and Subjectivity

    With the advent of feminist criticism in the 1970s, Ophelia. as subject gained and has continued a rise in status in scholarly inquiry. In analyzing who Ophelia is, the most obvious perspective is that of objectified female. Although Shakespeare's England was ruled by a female monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, society, as.

  8. 1.8: Thesis Statements

    A thesis statement: tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion. is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper. directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself.

  9. Topic, Purpose, and Thesis

    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 ...

  10. Introduction: The Afterlives of Ophelia

    Ophelia's afterlife has taken her, quite literally, beyond the realm of text and also even out o f the bounds of representation. "Representing Ophelia" has become an investigative act, through which artists question their relationship to mimeticism and to reality itself by invoking Ophelia's presence or absence.

  11. Hearing Ophelia: Gender and Tragic Discourse in 'Hamlet'

    Her speech is nothing ..." (v.6-7). Luce Irigaray has catalogued the different terms by which feminine subjectivity can be expressed, and these describe the modes of Ophelia's speech especially in her final scenes: "double or multiple voices, broken syntax, repetitive or cumulative rather than linear structure, open end-

  12. Ophelia Monologue (Act 3, Scene 1)

    Ophelia, alone on stage, grieves the loss of Hamlet's mind and her own misfortune. Her famous monologue, a regular fixture in acting classes and drama school auditions the world over, is short but packs one hell of a punch. Contemporary portrayals of Ophelia lean into the complexity of her motives and feelings; they allow us to find deeper meaning in the words that speak to her strength of ...

  13. Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech

    Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech: while both northerners and southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while southerners defended their own right to self-government. Which outline for the rest of her speech is probably the most effective?a. 1.

  14. Ophelia's Reflection

    interrelated hierarchies - between men and women, nobility and common people, and elite and. popular dramatic tradition. Ophelia's introduction of the ballad form into a 'high' play invites viewers to critique the. elite theatrical mode of Hamlet and to compare the values of high and low-brow art more. generally.

  15. Ophelia Character Analysis in Hamlet

    Polonius 's daughter, Laertes ' sister, and Hamlet 's lover. Along with Gertrude, Ophelia is the only other female character in the play, Ophelia's actions and trajectory are unfortunately defined by the men around her.At the start of the play, Ophelia—who has been in a relationship of undetermined seriousness with Hamlet for an unspecified amount of time—is used as a pawn in her ...

  16. Develop a Thesis Flashcards

    thesis. Your teacher has given you the assignment to deliver a 5-7 minute speech about healthy eating to a group of elementary school children. Begin your preparation by narrowing your topic and deciding on a purpose (i.e.. to persuade or to inform), then write a specific thesis statement for your speech. Example persuasive thesis: Cooking ...

  17. Which outline for the rest of her speech is probably the most effective

    Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech: While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government. Which outline for the rest of her speech is probably the most effective ...

  18. Chapter 12: Preparing and Researching Preparations Flashcards

    Which of the following statements would be classified as a thesis statement? organ donors are able to turn tragedy into a blessing by saving lives through their generous and selfless actions. In her speech on the process of producing television news, Julia references an opinion statement made by a professor from Arizona State University who ...

  19. HIS121 Module 1: Thesis Quiz Flashcards

    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Choose the best thesis from the three examples. The US confrontation with the Soviets was the key factor in Truman's decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima. The purpose of this paper is to delve into the mindset behind Truman's decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima. Many factors influenced Truman's decision to use the atomic ...

  20. Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech

    Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech: While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, [ Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government. Which outline for the rest of her speech is probably the most effective? a.

  21. COMM 124

    15 of 15. Quiz yourself with questions and answers for COMM 124 - Quiz 3, so you can be ready for test day. Explore quizzes and practice tests created by teachers and students or create one from your course material.

  22. Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech

    Ophelia has written this thesis statement for her informative speech: While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government.

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    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Hye-Seung is giving a speech on turtles, specifically on the need to protect the turtle population in the Pacific Ocean due to rising ocean temperatures. The general purpose of her speech is likely: A. entertain B. inform C. persuade D. commemorate, Omar has found that one of the best ways to come up with speech topics is to ...