Chapter 7 Researching Your Speech

Libraries and Librarians Are Our Friends

If you hear the word “research” and get a little queasy inside, you’re hardly alone. Many people dread the idea of having to research something, whether for a speech or a paper. However, there are amazing people who are like wizards of information called librarians, and they live in a mystical place of knowledge called the library. OK, so maybe they’re not wizards and libraries aren’t mystical, but librarians and libraries are definitely a good speaker’s best friend. Whether you are dealing with a librarian at a public library or an academic library, librarians have many tricks and shortcuts up their sleeves to make hunting for information easier and faster.George, M. W. (2008). The elements of library research: What every student needs to know. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. You may find it odd that we decided to start a chapter on research discussing librarians, but we strongly believe that interacting with librarians and using libraries effectively is the first step to good research.

To help make your interactions with research librarians more fulfilling, we sent out an e-mail to research librarians who belong to the American Library Association asking them for tips on working with a research librarian. Thankfully, the research librarians were very willing to help us help you. Listed below are some of the top tips we received from research librarians (in no particular order)Author Note: We wish to thank the numerous reference librarians who went out of their way to help us develop our top eighteen tips to working with reference librarians. We opted to keep their comments anonymous, but we want to thank them here.

  • Debra Rollins, Louisiana State University-Alexandria
  • William Badke, Trinity Western University
  • Ingrid Hendrix, University of New Mexico
  • Ward Price, Ivy Tech Community College, Northeast
  • Tracy L. Stout, Missouri State University
  • Sandra J. Ley, Pima Community College
  • Annie Smith, Utah Valley University Library
  • Sharlee Jeser-Skaggs, Richland College Library
  • Leslie N. Todd, University of the Incarnate Word
  • Susan G Ryberg, Mount Olive College
  • Kathleen A. Hana, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis University Library
  • Red Wassenich, Austin Community College
  • Elizabeth Kettell, University of Rochester Medical Center

  1. Your librarian is just as knowledgeable about information resources and the research process as your professor is about his or her discipline. Collaborate with your librarian so that you can benefit from his or her knowledge.
  2. Try to learn from the librarian so that you can increase your research skills. You’ll need these skills as you advance in your academic coursework, and you’ll rely on these skills when you’re in the workplace.
  3. When we are in our offices, we aren’t on reference desk duty. Whether an office door is open or closed, please knock first and wait to be invited in. With that said, if we are at the reference desk, we are there to help you. Please ask! You aren’t interrupting. Helping students does not bother us. It is our job and profession, and we like doing it.
  4. I’m here to teach you, not go to bat for you. Please don’t expect me to write a note to your instructor because the materials (reference, reserve, or whatever) weren’t available.
  5. Please, please, please don’t interrupt me when I am working with another student. This happens regularly and we work on a first-come, first-serve basis. Wait your turn.
  6. If we help you find sources, please take a look at them, so we will be more likely to want to help you in the future.
  7. Research is a process, not an event. If you haven’t allocated enough time for your project, the librarian can’t bail you out at the very last minute
  8. Don’t expect the librarian to do the work that you should be doing. It is your project and your grade. The librarian can lead you to the resources, but you have to select the best sources for your particular project. This takes time and effort on your part.
  9. Reference librarians are professional searchers who went to graduate school to learn how to do research. Reference librarians are here to help no matter how stupid a student thinks her or his question is.
  10. Good research takes time and, while there are shortcuts, students should still expect to spend some time with a librarian and to trawl through the sources they find.
  11. Students should also know that we ask questions like, “Where have you looked so far?” and “Have you had a library workshop before?” for a reason. It may sound like we’re deferring the question, but what we’re trying to do is gauge how much experience the student has with research and to avoid going over the same ground twice.
  12. Students should approach a librarian sooner rather than later. If a student isn’t finding what they need within fifteen minutes or so, they need to come find a librarian. Getting help early will save the student a lot of time and energy.
  13. If you don’t have a well-defined topic to research, or if you don’t know what information resources you’re hoping to find, come to the reference desk with a copy of your class assignment. The librarian will be glad to help you to select a topic that’s suitable for your assignment and to help you access the resources you need. Having at least a general topic in mind and knowing what the assignment entails (peer-reviewed only, three different types of sources, etc.) helps immensely.
  14. Most academic librarians are willing to schedule in-depth research consultations with students. If you feel you’ll need more time and attention than you might normally receive at the reference desk or if you’re shy about discussing your research interest in a public area, ask the librarian for an appointment.
  15. Students, if they know their topic, should be as specific as possible in what they ask for. Students who are struggling with identifying a narrow topic should seek help from either their professors or librarians. We can’t help you find sources if your topic isn’t really very clear.
  16. Students need to learn that many questions do not have ready-made or one-stop answers. Students need to understand that an interface with a reference librarian is a dialog and part of a recursive, repetitive process. They need to make time for this process and assume an active role in the exchange.
  17. Students should understand that information can come in a variety of formats. If a student asks for a “book about” something without providing any other details about the information needed, that student could come away empty handed. Instead, students should get in the habit of asking for “information about” something first.
  18. “Gee thanks!” every now and then will win every librarian’s heart!

7.1 What Is Research?

Learning Objectives

  1. Explain why research is fun and useful.
  2. Differentiate between primary and secondary research.

Say it with me: “Research is fun!” OK, now we know that some of you just looked at that sentence and totally disagree, but we’re here to tell you that research is fun. Now, this doesn’t mean that research is easy. In fact, research can be quite difficult and time consuming, but it’s most definitely fun. Let us explain why. First, when conducting research you get to ask questions and actually find answers. If you have ever wondered what the best strategies are when being interviewed for a job, research will tell you. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to be a NASCAR driver, an astronaut, a marine biologist, or a university professor, once again, research is one of the easiest ways to find answers to questions you’re interested in knowing. Second, research can open a world you never knew existed. We often find ideas we had never considered and learn facts we never knew when we go through the research process. Lastly, research can lead you to new ideas and activities. Maybe you want to learn how to compose music, draw, learn a foreign language, or write a screenplay; research is always the best step toward learning anything.

For the purposes of this book, we define researchThe scholarly investigation into a topic in order to discover, revise, or report facts, theories, and applications. as scholarly investigation into a topic in order to discover, revise, or report facts, theories, and applications. Now you’ll notice that there are three distinct parts of research: discovering, revising, and reporting. The first type of research is when people conduct some kind of study and find something completely new. For example, in 1928 Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin. Before this discovery, there were no antibiotics and simple infections killed people regularly. In this case, Fleming conducted research and discovered something not known to scientists before that time.

The second type of research occurs when people revise existing facts, theories, and applications. The bulk of the work of modern scientists is not really in discovering new things, but rather trying to improve older discoveries. For example, to improve upon the work of Fleming’s first antibiotic, a group of Croatian researchers created azithromycin. Today azithromycin is licensed by Pfizer Inc. under the name Zithromax. In essence, the Croatian scientists built on the work of Fleming and ultimately revised our ability to treat infectious diseases. Today, azithromycin is one of the most prescribed antibiotics in the world.

The last part of research is called the reporting function of research. This is the phase when you accumulate information about a topic and report that information to others. For example, in the previous two paragraphs, we conducted research on the history of antibiotics and provided you with that information. We did not discover anything, nor did we revise anything; we are just reporting the research.

In addition to the three functions of research, there are also three end results that researchers strive toward: facts, theories, and applications. First, a factA truth that is arrived at through the scientific process. is a truth that is arrived at through the scientific process. For example, in the world of psychology, it is a fact that the human brain influences human behavior. Centuries ago, people believed that human behavior was a result of various combinations of black and yellow biles running through our bodies. However, research failed to find support for this idea, whereas research increasingly found support for the connection between the brain and behavior. Facts are difficult to attain—it can take generations of research before a theory gains acceptance as a scientific fact.

Second, researchers conduct research to understand, contradict, or support theories. A theoryA proposed explanation for a phenomenon that can be scientifically tested. is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon that can be tested scientifically. Scientists work with theories for a very long time, testing them under a variety of conditions attempting to replicate earlier findings or to identify conditions under which earlier findings do not hold true. For example, one theory that often surprises people is the universal theory of gravity. Many people believe that our understanding of gravity is set in stone, and much of physics relies on the assumption that gravity exists, but gravity is not a fact. The fact that the theory of gravity explains is that if I hold my keys out and let go, they will fall to the floor. Physicists are still debating how gravity actually functions and speculating about other explanations for why my keys will fall to the floor. So from a researcher’s perspective, very few things are scientific facts.

Lastly, researchers often look for new applications for something that already exists. For example, botulism was at one point a dreaded bacterium that plagued the US food supply and led to many deaths. In the 1980s, an ophthalmologist named Allan Scott started using a version of botulism to treat muscle spasms in a drug called onabotulinumtoxinA—better known by the brand name Botox.Williamson, B. (2011, July 12). The wonders and dangers of Botox. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Adelaide. Retrieved July 14, 2011, from Richard Clark, a plastic surgeon, reported in a 1989 article that the drug also had the side effect of decreasing wrinkles.Clark, R. P., & Berris, C. E. (1989, August). Botulinum toxin: A treatment for facial asymmetry caused by facial nerve paralysis. Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, 84(2), 353–355. From deadly bacteria to medical cure to one of the most commonly used cosmetic drugs in the world, the history of Botox has been a constant stream of new applications.

Primary Research

Research generally falls into one of two categories: primary and secondary. Primary researchResearch carried out to discover or revise facts, theories, and applications that is reported by the person(s) conducting the research. is carried out to discover or revise facts, theories, and applications and is reported by the person conducting the research. Primary research can be considered an active form of research because the researcher is actually conducting the research for the purpose of creating new knowledge. For the purposes of your speech, you may utilize two basic categories of primary research: surveys and interviews.

Surveys You Conduct

The first type of primary research you might conduct is a survey. A survey is a collection of facts, figures, or opinions gathered from participants used to indicate how everyone within a target group may respond. Maybe you’re going to be speaking before a board of education about its plans to build a new library, so you create a survey and distribute it to all your neighbors seeking their feedback on the project. During your speech, you could then discuss your survey and the results you found.

Depending on the amount of time you have and the funding available, there are a number of different ways you could survey people. The most expensive method of surveying is sending surveys through the postal system. Unfortunately, most people do not respond to surveys they receive through the mail, so the number of completed surveys you get back tends to be very low (often under 20 percent).

To make surveying cheaper, many people prefer to use the Internet or to approach people face-to-face and ask them to participate. Internet surveying can be very useful and cheap, but you’ll still have the same problem mail surveys do—getting people to fill out your survey. Face-to-face surveying, on the other hand, is time consuming but generally results in a higher number of completed surveys.

Ultimately, when determining whether you should conduct a survey, Wrench, Thomas-Maddox, Richmond, and McCroskey suggest that you ask yourself four basic questions.Wrench, J. S., Thomas-Maddox, C., Richmond, V. P., & McCroskey, J. C. (2008). Quantitative methods for communication researchers: A hands on approach. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. First, “Do you know what you want to ask?” Surveys, by their very nature, are concrete—once you’ve handed it to one person, you need to hand out the same form to every person to be able to compare results. If you’re not sure what questions need to be asked, then a survey is not appropriate. Second, “Do you really need to collect data?” Often you can find information in textbooks, scholarly articles, magazines, and other places. If the information already exists, then why are you duplicating the information? Third, “Do your participants know the information you want to find out, or if they do know, will they tell you?” One of the biggest mistakes novice survey researchers make is to ask questions that their participants can’t or won’t answer. Asking a young child for her or his parents’ gross income doesn’t make sense, but then neither does asking an adult how many times they’ve been to see a physician in the past ten years. The flip side to this question is, “Will your participants tell you?” If the information could be potentially damaging, people are more likely to either lie on a survey or leave the question blank.

The last question is, “Is your goal generalizable?” GeneralizabilitySurveying a small sample with the intent of it representing a larger population. occurs when we attempt to survey a small number of people in the hopes of representing a much larger group of people. For example, maybe you want to find out how people in your community feel about a new swimming pool. The whole community may contain one thousand families, but it would be impractical to try to survey all those families, so you decide to survey two hundred families instead. The ultimate question for researchers is whether those two hundred families can be generalized to the one thousand families. The number may be large enough (as opposed to surveying, say, twenty families), but if the two hundred families you survey only represent the rich part of town, then your sample (the two hundred families) is not generalizable to the entire population (one thousand families).

Interviews You Conduct

The second type of primary research you might conduct is an interview. An interview is a conversation in which the interviewer asks a series of questions aimed at learning facts, figures, or opinions from one or more respondents. As with a survey, an interviewer generally has a list of prepared questions to ask; but unlike a survey, an interview allows for follow-up questions that can aid in understanding why a respondent gave a certain answer. Sometimes interviews are conducted on a one-on-one basis, but other times interviews are conducted with a larger group, which is commonly referred to as a focus group.

One-on-one interviews enable an interviewer to receive information about a given topic with little or no interference from others. Focus groups are good for eliciting information, but they are also good for seeing how groups of people interact and perceive topics. Often information that is elicited in a one-on-one interview is different from the information gained from a group of people interacting.

If you’re preparing for a speech on implementing project management skills for student organizations, you may want to interview a handful of student organization leaders for their input. You may also want to get a group of students who have led successful projects for their student organizations and see what they did right. You could also get a group of students who have had bad project outcomes and try to understand what went wrong. Ultimately, you could use all this information not only to help you understand the needs student organizations have concerning project management but also to provide support for the recommendations you make during your speech.

Secondary Research

Secondary researchResearch carried out to discover or revise facts, theories, and applications that is reported by someone not involved in conducting the actual research. is carried out to discover or revise facts, theories, and applications—similar to primary research—but it is reported by someone not involved in conducting the actual research. Most of what we consider “research” falls into the category of secondary research. If you’ve ever written a paper for one of your classes and had to cite sources, then you’ve conducted secondary research. Secondary research is when you report the results of someone else’s primary research. If you read an academic article about an experiment that a group of researchers conducted and then tell your audience about that study, you are delivering information secondhand to your audience. You as the speaker did not conduct the study, so you are reporting what someone else has written.

One place where secondary research can get people into trouble is when they attempt to use someone else’s secondary research. In a book titled Unleashing the Power of PR: A Contrarian’s Guide to Marketing and Communication, Mark Weiner cites research conducted by the investment firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson Partners.Weiner, M. (2006). Unleashing the power of PR: A contrarian’s guide to marketing and communication. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass and the International Association of Business Communicators. It might be tempting to leave out Weiner’s book and just cite the Veronis Suhler Stevenson Partners’ research instead. While this may be easier, it’s not exactly ethical. Mark Weiner spent time conducting research and locating primary research; when you steal one of his sources, it’s like you’re stealing part of the work he’s done. Your secondary research should still be your research. If you haven’t laid eyes on the original study (e.g., Veronis Suhler Stevenson Partners’ study), you shouldn’t give your audience the impression that you have. An exception to this rule is if you are citing a translation of something originally written in a foreign language—and in that case, you still need to mention that you’re using a translation and not the original.

Aside from the ethics of telling your audience where you got your information, you need to be aware that published sources sometimes make mistakes when citing information, so you could find yourself incorrectly providing information based on a mistake in Weiner’s book. Think of it like the old game of “Telephone,” in which you tell one person a phrase, that person turns to the next person and repeats the phrase, and by the time thirty people have completed the process, the final phrase doesn’t remotely resemble the original. When people pass information along without verifying it themselves, there is always an increased likelihood of error.

Key Takeaways

  • Research is a fascinating and fun process because it allows us to find answers to questions, it exposes us to new ideas, and it can lead us to pursue new activities.
  • Primary and secondary sources are quite common in research literature. Primary research is where the author has conducted the research him or herself and secondary research is when an author reports on research conducted by others.


  1. Make a list of research projects you have conducted in your academic career. Did your research help revise facts, theories, or applications?
  2. With a group of classmates, identify when it is better to use primary research and when it is better to use secondary research.

7.2 Developing a Research Strategy

Learning Objectives

  1. Differentiate between research time and speech preparation time.
  2. Understand how to establish research needs before beginning research.
  3. Explain the difference between academic and nonacademic sources.
  4. Identify appropriate nonacademic sources (e.g., books, special-interest periodicals, newspapers and blogs, and websites).
  5. Identify appropriate academic sources (e.g., scholarly books, scholarly articles, computerized databases, and scholarly information on the web).
  6. Evaluate George’s (2008) six questions to analyze sources.

In the previous section we discussed what research was and the difference between primary and secondary research. In this section, we are going to explore how to develop a research strategy. Think of a research strategy as your personal map. The end destination is the actual speech, and along the way, there are various steps you need to complete to reach your destination: the speech. From the day you receive your speech assignment, the more clearly you map out the steps you need to take leading up to the date when you will give the speech, the easier your speech development process will be. In the rest of this section, we are going to discuss time management, determining your research needs, finding your sources, and evaluating your sources.

Alloting Time

First and foremost, when starting a new project, no matter how big or small, it is important to seriously consider how much time that project is going to take. To help us discuss the issue of time with regard to preparing your speech, we’re going to examine what the Project Management Institute refers to as the project life cycleThe phases that connect the beginning of a project to its end., or “the phases that connect the beginning of a project to its end.”Project Management Institute. (2004). A guide to the project management body of knowledge: PMBOK® guide (3rd ed.). Newton Square, PA: Author, p. 19. Often in a public speaking class, the time you have is fairly concrete. You may have two or three weeks between speeches in a semester course or one to two weeks in a quarter course. In either case, from the moment your instructor gives you the assigned speech, the proverbial clock is ticking. With each passing day, you are losing precious time in your speech preparation process. Now, we realize that as a college student you probably have many things vying for your time in life: school, family, jobs, friends, or dating partners. For this reason, you need to really think through how much time it’s going to take you to complete your preparation in terms of both research and speech preparation.

Research Time

The first step that takes a good chunk of your time is researching your speech. Whether you are conducting primary research or relying on secondary research sources, you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time researching.

As Howard and Taggart point out in their book Research Matters, research is not just a one-and-done task.Howard, R. M., & Taggart, A. R. (2010). Research matters. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 102–103. As you develop your speech, you may realize that you want to address a question or issue that didn’t occur to you during your first round of research, or that you’re missing a key piece of information to support one of your points. For these reasons, it’s always wise to allow extra time for targeted research later in your schedule.

You also need to take into account the possibility of meeting with a research librarian. Although research librarians have many useful tips and tricks, they have schedules just like anyone else. If you know you are going to need to speak with a librarian, try to set up an appointment ahead of time for the date when you think you’ll have your questions organized, and be ready to meet.

A good rule of thumb is to devote no more than one-third of your speech preparation time to research (e.g., if you have three weeks before your speech date, your research should be done by the end of the first week). If you are not careful, you could easily end up spending all your time on research and waiting until the last minute to actually prepare your speech, which is highly inadvisable.

Speech Preparation Time

The second task in speech preparation is to sit down and actually develop your speech. During this time period, you will use the information you collected during your research to fully flesh out your ideas into a complete speech. You may be making arguments using the research or creating visual aids. Whatever you need to complete during this time period, you need to give yourself ample time to actually prepare your speech. One common rule of thumb is one day of speech preparation per one minute of actual speaking time.

By allowing yourself enough time to prepare your speech, you’re also buffering yourself against a variety of things that can go wrong both in life and with your speech. Let’s face it, life happens. Often events completely outside our control happen, and these events could negatively impact our ability to prepare a good speech. When you give yourself a little time buffer, you’re already insulated from the possible negative effects on your speech if something goes wrong.

The last part of speech preparation is practice. Although some try to say that practice makes perfect, we realize that perfection is never realistic because no one is perfect. We prefer this mantra: “Practice makes permanent.”

And by “practice,” we mean actual rehearsals in which you deliver your speech out loud. Speakers who only script out their speeches or only think through them often forget their thoughts when they stand in front of an audience. Research has shown that when individuals practice, their speech performance in front of an audience is more closely aligned with their practice than people who just think about their speeches. In essence, you need to allow yourself to become comfortable not only with the text of the speech but also with the nonverbal delivery of the speech, so giving yourself plenty of speech preparation time also gives you more practice time. We will discuss speech development and practice further in other chapters.

Determining Your Needs

When starting your research, you want to start by asking yourself what you think you need. Obviously, you’ll need to have a good idea about what your topic is before just randomly looking at information in a library or online. Your instructor may provide some very specific guidance for the type of information he or she wants to see in your speech, so that’s a good place to start determining your basic needs.

Once you have a general idea of your basic needs, you can start to ask yourself a series of simple questions:

  1. What do I, personally, know about my topic?
  2. Do I have any clear gaps in my knowledge of my topic?
  3. Do I need to conduct primary research for my speech?
  4. What type of secondary research do I need?

    1. Do I need research related to facts?
    2. Do I need research related to theories?
    3. Do I need research related to applications?

The clearer you are about the type of research you need at the onset of the research process, the easier it will be to locate specific information.

Finding Resources

Once you have a general idea about the basic needs you have for your research, it’s time to start tracking down your secondary sources. Thankfully, we live in a world that is swimming with information. Back in the decades when the authors of this textbook first started researching, we all had to go to a library and search through a physical card catalog to find books. If you wanted to research a topic in magazine or journal articles, you had to look up key terms in a giant book, printed annually, known as an index of periodicals. Researchers could literally spend hours in the library and find just one or two sources that were applicable to their topic.

Today, on the other hand, information is quite literally at our fingertips. Not only is information generally more accessible, it is also considerably easier to access. In fact, we have the opposite problem from a couple of decades ago—we have too much information at our fingertips. In addition, we now have to be more skeptical about where that information is coming from. In this section we’re going to discuss how to find information in both nonacademic and academic sources.

Nonacademic Information Sources

Nonacademic information sources are sometimes also called popular press information sources; their primary purpose is to be read by the general public. Most nonacademic information sources are written at a sixth- to eighth-grade reading level, so they are very accessible. Although the information often contained in these sources is often quite limited, the advantage of using nonacademic sources is that they appeal to a broad, general audience.


The first source we have for finding secondary information is books. Now, the authors of your text are admitted bibliophiles—we love books. Fiction, nonfiction, it doesn’t really matter, we just love books. And, thankfully, we live in a world where books abound and reading has never been easier. Unless your topic is very cutting-edge, chances are someone has written a book about your topic at some point in history.

Historically, the original purpose of libraries was to house manuscripts that were copied by hand and stored in library collections. After Gutenberg created the printing press, we had the ability to mass produce writing, and the handwritten manuscript gave way to the printed manuscript. In today’s modern era, we are seeing another change where printed manuscript is now giving way, to some extent, to the electronic manuscript.’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iPad, and Sony’s e-Ink-based readers are examples of the new hardware enabling people to take entire libraries of information with them wherever they go. We now can carry the amount of information that used to be housed in the greatest historic libraries in the palms of our hands. When you sit back and really think about it, that’s pretty darn cool!

In today’s world, there are three basic types of libraries you should be aware of: physical library, physical/electronic library, and e-online library. The physical library is a library that exists only in the physical world. Many small community or county library collections are available only if you physically go into the library and check out a book. We highly recommend doing this at some point. Libraries today generally model the US Library of Congress’s card catalog system. As such, most library layouts are similar. This familiar layout makes it much easier to find information if you are using multiple libraries. Furthermore, because the Library of Congress catalogs information by type, if you find one book that is useful for you, it’s very likely that surrounding books on the same shelf will also be useful. When people don’t take the time to physically browse in a library, they often miss out on some great information.

The second type of library is the library that has both physical and electronic components. Most college and university libraries have both the physical stacks (where the books are located) and electronic databases containing e-books. The two largest e-book databases are ebrary ( and NetLibrary ( Although these library collections are generally cost-prohibitive for an individual, more and more academic institutions are subscribing to them. Some libraries are also making portions of their collections available online for free: Harvard University’s Digital Collections (, New York Public Library’s E-book Collection (, The British Library’s Online Gallery (, and the US Library of Congress (

One of the greatest advantages to using libraries for finding books is that you can search not only their books, but often a wide network of other academic institutions’ books as well. Furthermore, in today’s world, we have one of the greatest online card catalogs ever created—and it wasn’t created for libraries at all! Retail bookseller sites like can be a great source for finding books that may be applicable to your topic, and the best part is, you don’t actually need to purchase the book if you use your library, because your library may actually own a copy of a book you find on a bookseller site. You can pick a topic and then search for that topic on a bookseller site. If you find a book that you think may be appropriate, plug that book’s title into your school’s electronic library catalog. If your library owns the book, you can go to the library and pick it up today.

If your library doesn’t own it, do you still have an option other than buying the book? Yes: interlibrary loans. An interlibrary loanThe process where librarians are able to search other libraries in an attempt to see if they possess the book a researcher is trying to find and then have the external library loan the book to the researcher’s library. is a process where librarians are able to search other libraries to locate the book a researcher is trying to find. If another library has that book, then the library asks to borrow it for a short period of time. Depending on how easy a book is to find, your library could receive it in a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Keep in mind that interlibrary loans take time, so do not expect to get a book at the last minute. The more lead time you provide a librarian to find a book you are looking for, the greater the likelihood that the book will be sent through the mail to your library on time.

The final type of library is a relatively new one, the library that exists only online. With the influx of computer technology, we have started to create vast stores of digitized content from around the world. These online libraries contain full-text documents free of charge to everyone. Some online libraries we recommend are Project Gutenberg (, Google Books (, Read Print (, Open Library (, and Get Free e-Books ( This is a short list of just a handful of the libraries that are now offering free e-content.

General-Interest Periodicals

The second category of information you may seek out includes general-interest periodicalsMagazines and newsletters that are published on a fairly systematic basis that appeal to a broad range of readers (e.g., The New Yorker, People, Reader’s Digest, Parade, and The Saturday Evening Post).. These are magazines and newsletters published on a fairly systematic basis. Some popular magazines in this category include The New Yorker, People, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Smithsonian, and The Saturday Evening Post. These magazines are considered “general interest” because most people in the United States could pick up a copy of these magazines and find them interesting and topical.

Special-Interest Periodicals

Special-interest periodicalsMagazines and newsletters that are published on a fairly systematic basis that appeal to a narrow range of readers (e.g., Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg’s Business Week, Gentleman’s Quarterly, Vogue, Popular Science, and Home and Garden). are magazines and newsletters that are published for a narrower audience. In a 2005 article, Business Wire noted that in the United States there are over ten thousand different magazines published annually, but only two thousand of those magazines have significant circulation. Total number of magazines published in the US is greater than 10,000 but only about 2,000 have significant circulation. (2005, September 21). Business Wire. Retrieved from Some more widely known special-interest periodicals are Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg’s Business Week, Gentleman’s Quarterly, Vogue, Popular Science, and House and Garden. But for every major magazine, there are a great many other lesser-known magazines like American Coin Op Magazine, Varmint Hunter, Shark Diver Magazine, Pet Product News International, Water Garden News, to name just a few.

Newspapers and Blogs

Another major source of nonacademic information is newspapers and blogs. Thankfully, we live in a society that has a free press. We’ve opted to include both newspapers and blogs in this category. A few blogs (e.g., The Huffington Post, Talkingpoints Memo, News Max, The Daily Beast, Salon) function similarly to traditional newspapers. Furthermore, in the past few years we’ve lost many traditional newspapers around the United States; cities that used to have four or five daily papers may now only have one or two.

According to, the top ten newspapers in the United States are USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Post, Long Island Newsday, and the Houston Chronicle. Most colleges and universities subscribe to a number of these newspapers in paper form or have access to them electronically. Furthermore, LexisNexis, a database many colleges and universities subscribe to, has access to full text newspaper articles from these newspapers and many more around the world.

In addition to traditional newspapers, blogs are becoming a mainstay of information in today’s society. In fact, since the dawn of the twenty-first century many major news stories have been broken by professional bloggers rather than traditional newspaper reporters.Ochman, B. L. (2007, June 29). The top 10 news stories broken by bloggers. TechNewsWorld. [Web log post]. Retrieved July 14, 2011, from Although anyone can create a blog, there are many reputable blog sites that are run by professional journalists. As such, blogs can be a great source of information. However, as with all information on the Internet, you often have to wade through a lot of junk to find useful, accurate information.

We do not personally endorse any blogs, but according to, the top ten most commonly read blogs in the world are as follows:

  1. The Huffington Post (
  2. Gizmodo (
  3. TechCrunch (
  4. The Corner (
  5. Mashable! (
  6. Engadget (
  7. Boing Boing (
  8. Gawker (
  9. The Daily Beast (
  10. TMZ (


Another type of source that you may encounter is the encyclopedia. EncyclopediasInformation sources that provide short, very general information about a topic. are information sources that provide short, very general information about a topic. Encyclopedias are available in both print and electronic formats, and their content can range from eclectic and general (e.g., Encyclopædia Britannica) to the very specific (e.g., Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture, or Encyclopedia of Afterlife Beliefs and Phenomena). It is important to keep in mind that encyclopedias are designed to give only brief, fairly superficial summaries of a topic area. Thus they may be useful for finding out what something is if it is referenced in another source, but they are generally not a useful source for your actual speech. In fact, many instructors do not allow students to use encyclopedias as sources for their speeches for this very reason.

One of the most popular online encyclopedic sources is Wikipedia. Like other encyclopedias, it can be useful for finding out basic information (e.g., what baseball teams did Catfish Hunter play for?) but will not give you the depth of information you need for a speech. Also keep in mind that Wikipedia, unlike the general and specialized encyclopedias available through your library, can be edited by anyone and therefore often contains content errors and biased information. If you are a fan of The Colbert Report, you probably know that host Stephen Colbert has, on several occasions, asked viewers to change Wikipedia content to reflect his views of the world. This is just one example of why one should always be careful of information on the web, but this advice is even more important when considering group-edited sites such as Wikipedia.


Websites are the last major source of nonacademic information. In the twenty-first century we live in a world where there is a considerable amount of information readily available at our fingertips. Unfortunately, you can spend hours and hours searching for information and never quite find what you’re looking for if you don’t devise an Internet search strategy. First, you need to select a good search engine to help you find appropriate information. Table 7.1 "Search Engines" contains a list of common search engines and the types of information they are useful for finding.

Table 7.1 Search Engines General search engines Searches US government websites Searches only trustworthy medical websites Largest search engine for medical related research Comparison shopping search engine Provides statistics about the US population Searches for art-related information Searches for job postings across job search websites

Academic Information Sources

After nonacademic sources, the second major source for finding information comes from academics. The main difference between academic or scholarly information and the information you get from the popular press is oversight. In the nonacademic world, the primary gatekeeper of information is the editor, who may or may not be a content expert. In academia, we have established a way to perform a series of checks to ensure that the information is accurate and follows agreed-upon academic standards. For example, this book, or portions of this book, were read by dozens of academics who provided feedback. Having this extra step in the writing process is time consuming, but it provides an extra level of confidence in the relevance and accuracy of the information. In this section, we will discuss scholarly books and articles, computerized databases, and finding scholarly information on the web.

Scholarly Books

College and university libraries are filled with books written by academics. According to the Text and Academic Authors Association (, there are two types of scholarly books: textbooks and academic books. TextbooksBooks that are written about a segment of content within a field of academics study and are written for specific academic levels (i.e., K–12, undergraduate, graduate, etc.). are books that are written about a segment of content within a field of academic study and are written for undergraduate or graduate student audiences. These books tend to be very specifically focused. Take this book, for instance. We are not trying to introduce you to the entire world of human communication, just one small aspect of it: public speaking. Textbooks tend to be written at a fairly easy reading level and are designed to transfer information in a manner that mirrors classroom teaching to some extent. Also, textbooks are secondary sources of information. They are designed to survey the research available in a particular field rather than to present new research.

Academic booksBooks that are primarily written for other academics for informational and research purposes. are books that are primarily written for other academics for informational and research purposes. Generally speaking, when instructors ask for you to find scholarly books, they are referring to academic books. Thankfully, there are hundreds of thousands of academic books published on almost every topic you can imagine. In the field of communication, there are a handful of major publishers who publish academic books: SAGE (, Routledge (, Jossey-Bass (, Pfeiffer (, the American Psychological Association (, and the National Communication Association (, among others. In addition to the major publishers who publish academic books, there are also many university presses who publish academic books: SUNY Press (, Oxford University Press (, University of South Carolina Press (, Baylor University Press (, University of Illinois Press (, and the University of Alabama Press ( are just a few of them.

Scholarly Articles

Because most academic writing comes in the form of scholarly articles or journal articles, that is the best place for finding academic research on a given topic. Every academic subfield has its own journals, so you should never have a problem finding the best and most recent research on a topic. However, scholarly articles are written for a scholarly audience, so reading scholarly articles takes more time than if you were to read a magazine article in the popular press. It’s also helpful to realize that there may be parts of the article you simply do not have the background knowledge to understand, and there is nothing wrong with that. Many research studies are conducted by quantitative researchers who rely on statistics to examine phenomena. Unless you have training in understanding the statistics, it is difficult to interpret the statistical information that appears in these articles. Instead, focus on the beginning part of the article where the author(s) will discuss previous research (secondary research), and then focus at the end of the article, where the author(s) explain what was found in their research (primary research).

Computerized Databases

Finding academic research is easier today than it ever has been in the past because of large computer databases containing research. Here’s how these databases work. A database company signs contracts with publishers to gain the right to store the publishers’ content electronically. The database companies then create thematic databases containing publications related to general areas of knowledge (business, communication, psychology, medicine, etc.). The database companies then sell subscriptions to these databases to libraries.

The largest of these database companies is a group called EBSCO Publishing, which runs both EBSCO Host (an e-journal provider) and NetLibrary (a large e-book library) ( Some of the more popular databases that EBSCO provides to colleges and universities are: Academic Search Complete, Business Source Complete, Communication and Mass Media Complete, Education Research Complete, Humanities International Complete, Philosopher’s Index, Political Science Complete, PsycArticles, and Vocational and Career Collection. Academic Search Complete is the broadest of all the databases and casts a fairly wide net across numerous fields. Information that you find using databases can contain both nonacademic and academic information, so EBSCO Host has built in a number of filtering options to help you limit the types of information available.

We strongly recommend checking out your library’s website to see what databases they have available and if they have any online tutorials for finding sources using the databases to which your library subscribes.

Scholarly Information on the Web

In addition to the subscription databases that exist on the web, there are also a number of great sources for scholarly information on the web. As mentioned earlier, however, finding scholarly information on the web poses a problem because anyone can post information on the web. Fortunately, there are a number of great websites that attempt to help filter this information for us.

Table 7.2 Scholarly Information on the Web

Website Type of Information The Directory of Open Access Journals is an online database of all freely available academic journals online. Google Scholar attempts to filter out nonacademic information. Unfortunately, it tends to return a large number of for-pay site results. Communication Institute for Online Scholarship is a clearinghouse for online communication scholarship. This site contains full-text journals and books. This is an open access site devoted to making physical science research accessible. BioMed Central provides open-access medical research. The E-print Network provides access to a range of scholarly research that interests people working for the Department of Energy. This site provides the public with free access to medical journals. This is the link to Stanford University’s free, full-text science archives. This is the Public Library of Science’s journal for biology. Scrius is a search engine designed to allow researchers to search for journal content, scientists’ homepages, courseware, and preprint material. The Internet Public Library provides subject guides, reference works, and a number of databases. The WWW Virtual Library provides annotated lists of websites compiled by scholars in specific areas.

Tips for Finding Information Sources

Now that we’ve given you plenty of different places to start looking for research, we need to help you sort through the research. In this section, we’re going to provide a series of tips that should make this process easier and help you find appropriate information quickly. And here is our first tip: We cannot recommend Mary George’s book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know more highly. Honestly, we wish this book had been around when we were just learning how to research.

Create a Research Log

Nothing is more disheartening than when you find yourself at 1:00 a.m. asking, “Haven’t I already read this?” We’ve all learned the tough lessons of research, and this is one that keeps coming back to bite us in the backside if we’re not careful. According to a very useful book called The Elements of Library Research by M. W. George, a research logA step-by-step account of the process of identifying, obtaining, and evaluating sources for a specific project. is a “step-by-step account of the process of identifying, obtaining, and evaluating sources for a specific project, similar to a lab note-book in an experimental setting.”George, M. W. (2008). The elements of library research: What every student needs to know. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p. 183. In essence, George believes that keeping a log of what you’ve done is very helpful because it can help you keep track of what you’ve read thus far. You can use a good old-fashioned notebook, or if you carry around your laptop or netbook with you, you can always keep it digitally. While there are expensive programs like Microsoft Office OneNote that can be used for note keeping, there are also a number of free tools that could be adapted as well. The websites in Table 7.3 "Note-Taking Help" will help you find templates and tools for electronic note taking.

Table 7.3 Note-Taking Help

Website Type of Information
Templates Word Document template created by the University of Lethbridge RTF file template created by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Word Document template created by Tarleton State University Word Document template created by the University of Vermont Word Document template created by the University of Nevada
Software Packages Microsoft Office OneNote comes with MS Office Professional or is free to try for thirty days. It is also available for forty-five dollars for students through an academic discount program. There is a free app version available for the iPhone or iPad. Evernote has both a free version and a subscription version and is similar to MS OneNote. You can also get this one for your smart phone, iPad, or home computer (PC or MAC) and easily sync files between all of your electronic devices. This is an online, web-based note-taking system that has no cost. This is good note-taking software, but it currently costs $34.95 for a single-user subscription. If you’re more of a visual organizer, The Brain offers a free program for visually organizing information. You can also purchase more expensive packages as necessary.

Start with Background Information

It’s not unusual for students to try to jump right into the meat of a topic, only to find out that there is a lot of technical language they just don’t understand. For this reason, you may want to start your research with sources written for the general public. Generally, these lower-level sources are great for background information on a topic and are helpful when trying to learn the basic vocabulary of a subject area.

Search Your Library’s Computers

Once you’ve started getting a general grasp of the broad content area you want to investigate, it’s time to sit down and see what your school’s library has to offer. If you do not have much experience in using your library’s website, see if the website contains an online tutorial. Most schools offer online tutorials to show students the resources that students can access. If your school doesn’t have an online tutorial, you may want to call your library and schedule an appointment with a research librarian to learn how to use the school’s computers. Also, if you tell your librarian that you want to learn how to use the library, he or she may be able to direct you to online resources that you may have missed.

Try to search as many different databases as possible. Look for relevant books, e-books, newspaper articles, magazine articles, journal articles, and media files. Modern college and university libraries have a ton of sources, and one search may not find everything you are looking for on the first pass. Furthermore, don’t forget to think about synonyms for topics. The more synonyms you can generate for your topic, the better you’ll be at finding information.

Learn to Skim

If you sit down and try to completely read every article or book you find, it will take you a very long time to get through all the information. Start by reading the introductory paragraphs. Generally, the first few paragraphs will give you a good idea about the overall topic. If you’re reading a research article, start by reading the abstract. If the first few paragraphs or abstract don’t sound like they’re applicable, there’s a good chance the source won’t be useful for you. Second, look for highlighted, italicized, or bulleted information. Generally, authors use highlighting, italics, and bullets to separate information to make it jump out for readers. Third, look for tables, charts, graphs, and figures. All these forms are separated from the text to make the information more easily understandable for a reader, so seeing if the content is relevant is a way to see if it helps you. Fourth, look at headings and subheadings. Headings and subheadings show you how an author has grouped information into meaningful segments. If you read the headings and subheadings and nothing jumps out as relevant, that’s another indication that there may not be anything useful in that source. Lastly, take good notes while you’re skimming. One way to take good notes is to attach a sticky note to each source. If you find relevant information, write that information on the sticky note along with the page number. If you don’t find useful information in a source, just write “nothing” on the sticky note and move on to the next source. This way when you need to sort through your information, you’ll be able to quickly see what information was useful and locate the information. Other people prefer to create a series of note cards to help them organize their information. Whatever works best for you is what you should use.

Read Bibliographies/Reference Pages

After you’ve finished reading useful sources, see who those sources cited on their bibliographies or reference pages. We call this method backtrackingThe process where a researcher uses a printed bibliography or reference page to find other useful research materials and then finds those cited materials and reads them for herself or himself.. Often the sources cited by others can lead us to even better sources than the ones we found initially.

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As we said earlier in this chapter, reference librarians are your friends. They won’t do your work for you, but they are more than willing to help if you ask.

Evaluating Resources

The final step in research occurs once you’ve found resources relevant to your topic: evaluating the quality of those resources. Below is a list of six questions to ask yourself about the sources you’ve collected; these are drawn from the book The Elements of Library Research by M. W. George.George, M. W. (2008). The elements of library research: What every student needs to know. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

What Is the Date of Publication?

The first question you need to ask yourself is the date of the source’s publication. Although there may be classic studies that you want to cite in your speech, generally, the more recent the information, the better your presentation will be. As an example, if you want to talk about the current state of women’s education in the United States, relying on information from the 1950s that debated whether “coeds” should attend class along with male students is clearly not appropriate. Instead you’d want to use information published within the past five to ten years.

Who Is the Author?

The next question you want to ask yourself is about the author. Who is the author? What are her or his credentials? Does he or she work for a corporation, college, or university? Is a political or commercial agenda apparent in the writing? The more information we can learn about an author, the better our understanding and treatment of that author’s work will be. Furthermore, if we know that an author is clearly biased in a specific manner, ethically we must tell our audience members. If we pretend an author is unbiased when we know better, we are essentially lying to our audience.

Who Is the Publisher?

In addition to knowing who the author is, we also want to know who the publisher is. While there are many mainstream publishers and academic press publishers, there are also many fringe publishers. For example, maybe you’re reading a research report published by the Cato Institute. While the Cato Institute may sound like a regular publisher, it is actually a libertarian think tank ( As such, you can be sure that the information in its publications will have a specific political bias. While the person writing the research report may be an upstanding author with numerous credits, the Cato Institute only publishes reports that adhere to its political philosophy. Generally, a cursory examination of a publisher’s website is a good indication of the specific political bias. Most websites will have an “About” section or an “FAQ” section that will explain who the publisher is.

Is It Academic or Nonacademic?

The next question you want to ask yourself is whether the information comes from an academic or a nonacademic source. Because of the enhanced scrutiny academic sources go through, we argue that you can generally rely more on the information contained in academic sources than nonacademic sources. One very notorious example of the difference between academic versus nonacademic information can be seen in the problem of popular-culture author John Gray, author of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. Gray, who received a PhD via a correspondence program from Columbia Pacific University in 1982, has written numerous books on the topic of men and women. Unfortunately, the academic research on the subject of sex and gender differences is often very much at odds with Gray’s writing. For a great critique of Gray’s writings, check out Julia Wood’s article in the Southern Communication Journal.Wood, J. T. (2002). A critical response to John Gray’s Mars and Venus portrayals of men and women. Southern Communication Journal, 67, 201–210. Ultimately, we strongly believe that using academic publications is always in your best interest because they generally contain the most reliable information.

What Is the Quality of the Bibliography/Reference Page?

Another great indicator of a well-thought-out and researched source is the quality of its bibliography or reference page. If you look at a source’s bibliography or reference page and it has only a couple of citations, then you can assume that either the information was not properly cited or it was largely made up by someone. Even popular-press books can contain great bibliographies and reference pages, so checking them out is a great way to see if an author has done her or his homework prior to writing a text. As noted above, it is also an excellent way to find additional resources on a topic.

Do People Cite the Work?

The last question to ask about a source is, “Are other people actively citing the work?” One way to find out whether a given source is widely accepted is to see if numerous people are citing it. If you find an article that has been cited by many other authors, then clearly the work has been viewed as credible and useful. If you’re doing research and you keep running across the same source over and over again, that is an indication that it’s an important study that you should probably take a look at. Many colleges and universities also subscribe to Science Citation Index (SCI), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), or the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), which are run through Institute for Scientific Information’s Web of Knowledge database service ( All these databases help you find out where information has been cited by other researchers.

Key Takeaways

  • In conducting research for a speech, commit adequate time and plan your schedule. Consider both the research time, or time spent gathering information, and the preparation time needed to organize and practice your speech.
  • Get a general idea of your research needs even before going to the library so that you can take the most advantage of the library’s resources and librarians’ help.
  • We live in a world dominated by information, but some information is filtered and some is not. It’s important to know the difference between academic and nonacademic sources.
  • Nonacademic sources are a good place to gain general knowledge of a topic; these include books, general or special-interest periodicals, newspapers and blogs, and websites.
  • Academic sources offer more specialized, higher-level information; they include books, articles, computer databases, and web resources.
  • A fundamental responsibility is to evaluate the sources you choose to use in order to ensure that you are presenting accurate and up-to-date information in your speech.


  1. Find an academic and a nonacademic source about the same topic. How is the writing style different? How useful is the content in each source? Which source has more authority? Why?
  2. Download one of the freeware software packages for creating a research log for one of your speech preparations. Do you like using the software? Is the software cumbersome or helpful? Would you use the software for organizing other speeches or other research projects? Why?
  3. Find a politically oriented website and analyze the material using George’s six questions for evaluating sources.George, M. W. (2008). The elements of library research: What every student needs to know. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. What does your analysis say about the material on the website?

7.3 Citing Sources

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand what style is.
  2. Know which academic disciplines you are more likely to use, American Psychological Association (APA) versus Modern Language Association (MLA) style.
  3. Cite sources using the sixth edition of the American Psychological Association’s Style Manual.
  4. Cite sources using the seventh edition of the Modern Language Association’s Style Manual.
  5. Explain the steps for citing sources within a speech.
  6. Differentiate between direct quotations and paraphrases of information within a speech.
  7. Understand how to use sources ethically in a speech.
  8. Explain twelve strategies for avoiding plagiarism.

By this point you’re probably exhausted after looking at countless sources, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. Most public speaking teachers will require you to turn in either a bibliography or a reference page with your speeches. In this section, we’re going to explore how to properly cite your sources for a Modern Language Association (MLA) list of works cited or an American Psychological Association (APA) reference list. We’re also going to discuss plagiarism and how to avoid it.

Why Citing Is Important

Citing is important because it enables readers to see where you found information cited within a speech, article, or book. Furthermore, not citing information properly is considered plagiarism, so ethically we want to make sure that we give credit to the authors we use in a speech. While there are numerous citation styles to choose from, the two most common style choices for public speaking are APA and MLA.

APA versus MLA Source Citations

StyleThose components or features of a literary composition or oral presentation that have to do with the form of expression rather than the content expressed (e.g., language, punctuation, parenthetical citations, and endnotes). refers to those components or features of a literary composition or oral presentation that have to do with the form of expression rather than the content expressed (e.g., language, punctuation, parenthetical citations, and endnotes). The APA and the MLA have created the two most commonly used style guides in academia today. Generally speaking, scholars in the various social science fields (e.g., psychology, human communication, business) are more likely to use APA styleForm of style agreed upon by the American Psychological Association and is commonly used by social scientists., and scholars in the various humanities fields (e.g., English, philosophy, rhetoric) are more likely to use MLA styleForm of style agreed upon by the Modern Language Association and is commonly used by scholars in the humanities.. The two styles are quite different from each other, so learning them does take time.

APA Citations

The first common reference style your teacher may ask for is APA. As of July 2009, the American Psychological Association published the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association ( Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. See also American Psychological Association. (2010). Concise rules of APA Style: The official pocket style guide from the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. The sixth edition provides considerable guidance on working with and citing Internet sources. Table 7.4 "APA Sixth Edition Citations" provides a list of common citation examples that you may need for your speech.

Table 7.4 APA Sixth Edition Citations

Research Article in a Journal—One Author Harmon, M. D. (2006). Affluenza: A world values test. The International Communication Gazette, 68, 119–130. doi: 10.1177/1748048506062228
Research Article in a Journal—Two to Five Authors Hoffner, C., & Levine, K. J. (2005). Enjoyment of mediated fright and violence: A meta-analysis. Media Psychology, 7, 207–237. doi: 10.1207/S1532785XMEP0702_5
Book Eysenck, H. J. (1982). Personality, genetics, and behavior: Selected papers. New York, NY: Praeger Publishers.
Book with 6 or More Authors Huston, A. C., Donnerstein, E., Fairchild, H., Feshbach, N. D., Katz, P. A., Murray, J. P.,…Zuckerman, D. (1992). Big world, small screen: The role of television in American society. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Chapter in an Edited Book Tamobrini, R. (1991). Responding to horror: Determinants of exposure and appeal. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Responding to the screen: Reception and reaction processes (pp. 305–329). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Newspaper Article Thomason, D. (2010, March 31). Dry weather leads to burn ban. The Sentinel Record, p. A1.
Magazine Article Finney, J. (2010, March–April). The new “new deal”: How to communicate a changed employee value proposition to a skeptical audience—and realign employees within the organization. Communication World, 27(2), 27–30.
Preprint Version of an Article Laudel, G., & Gläser, J. (in press). Tensions between evaluations and communication practices. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management. Retrieved from
Blog Wrench, J. S. (2009, June 3). AMA’s managerial competency model [Web log post]. Retrieved from
Wikipedia Organizational Communication. (2009, July 11). [Wiki entry]. Retrieved from
Vlog Wrench, J. S. (2009, May 15). Instructional communication [Video file]. Retrieved from
Discussion Board Wrench, J. S. (2009, May 21). NCA’s i-tunes project [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from
E-mail List McAllister, M. (2009, June 19). New listserv: Critical approaches to ads/consumer culture & media studies [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from
Podcast Wrench, J. S. (Producer). (2009, July 9). Workplace bullying [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from
Electronic-Only Book Richmond, V. P., Wrench, J. S., & Gorham, J. (2009). Communication, affect, and learning in the classroom (3rd ed.). Retrieved from
Electronic-Only Journal Article Molyneaux, H., O’Donnell, S., Gibson, K., & Singer, J. (2008). Exploring the gender divide on YouTube: An analysis of the creation and reception of vlogs. American Communication Journal, 10(1). Retrieved from
Electronic Version of a Printed Book Wood, A. F., & Smith, M. J. (2004). Online communication: Linking technology, identity & culture (2nd ed.). Retrieved from
Online Magazine Levine, T. (2009, June). To catch a liar. Communication Currents, 4(3). Retrieved from
Online Newspaper Clifford, S. (2009, June 1). Online, “a reason to keep going.” The New York Times. Retrieved from
Entry in an Online Reference Work Viswanth, K. (2008). Health communication. In W. Donsbach (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of communication. Retrieved from doi: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x
Entry in an Online Reference Work, No Author Communication. (n.d.). In Random House dictionary (9th ed.). Retrieved from
E-Reader Device Lutgen-Sandvik, P., & Davenport Sypher, B. (2009). Destructive organizational communication: Processes, consequences, & constructive ways of organizing. [Kindle version]. Retrieved from

MLA Citations

The second common reference style your teacher may ask for is MLA. In March 2009, the Modern Language Association published the seventh edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research PapersModern Language Association. (2009). MLA handbook for writers of research papers (7th ed.). New York, NY: Modern Language Association. ( The seventh edition provides considerable guidance for citing online sources and new media such as graphic narratives. Table 7.5 "MLA Seventh Edition Citations" provides a list of common citations you may need for your speech.

Table 7.5 MLA Seventh Edition Citations

Research Article in a Journal—One Author Harmon, Mark D. “Affluenza: A World Values Test.” The International Communication Gazette 68 (2006): 119–130. Print.
Research Article in a Journal—Two to Four Authors Hoffner, Cynthia A., and Kenneth J. Levine, “Enjoyment of Mediated Fright and Violence: A Meta-analysis.” Media Psychology 7 (2005): 207–237. Print.
Book Eysenck, Hans J. Personality, Genetics, and Behavior: Selected Papers. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1982. Print.
Book with Four or More Authors Huston, Aletha C., et al., Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society. Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska P, 1992. Print.
Chapter in an Edited Book Tamobrini, Ron. “Responding to Horror: Determinants of Exposure and Appeal.” Responding to the Screen: Reception and Reaction Processes. Eds. Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1991. 305–329. Print.
Newspaper Article Thomason, Dan. “Dry Weather Leads to Burn Ban.” The Sentinel Record 31 Mar. 2010: A1. Print.
Magazine Article Finney, John. “The New ‘New Deal’: How to Communicate a Changed Employee Value Proposition to a Skeptical Audience—And Realign Employees Within the Organization.” Communication World Mar.–Apr. 2010: 27–30. Print.
Preprint Version of an Article Grit Laudel’s Website. 15 July 2009. Pre-print version of Laudel, Grit and Gläser, Joken. “Tensions Between Evaluations and Communication Practices.” Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management.
Blog Wrench, Jason S. “ AMA’s Managerial Competency Model.” Workplace Learning and Performance Network Blog., 3 Jun. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Wikipedia “Organizational Communication.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Vlog Wrench, Jason S. “Instructional Communication.” The Learning Journal Videos., 15 May 2009. Web. 1 Aug. 2009.
Discussion Board Wrench, Jason S. “NCA’s i-Tunes Project.” National Communication Association LinkedIn Group. Web. 1 August 2009.
E-mail List McAllister, Matt. “New Listerv: Critical Approaches to Ads/Consumer Culture & Media Studies.” Online posting. 19 June 2009. CRTNet. Web. 1 August 2009. 〈〉
Podcast “Workplace Bullying.” Narr. Wrench, Jason S. and P. Lutgen-Sandvik., 9 July 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Electronic-Only Book Richmond, Virginia P., Jason S. Wrench, and Joan Gorham. Communication, Affect, and Learning in the Classroom. 3rd ed. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Electronic-Only Journal Article Molyneaux, Heather, Susan O’Donnell, Kerri Gibson, and Janice Singer. “Exploring the Gender Divide on YouTube: An Analysis of the Creation and Reception of Vlogs.” American Communication Journal 10.1 (2008): n.pag. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Electronic Version of a Printed Book Wood, Andrew F., and Matthew. J. Smith. Online Communication: Linking Technology, Identity & Culture. 2nd ed. 2005. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Online Magazine Levine, Timothy. “To Catch a Liar.” Communication Currents. N.p. June 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Online Newspaper Clifford, Stephanie. “Online, ‘A Reason to Keep Going.’” The New York Times. 1 Jun. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Entry in an Online Reference Work Viswanth, K. “Health Communication.” The International Encyclopedia of Communication. 2008. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Entry in an Online Reference Work, No Author “Communication.” Random House Dictionary Online. 9th ed. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
E-Reader Device Lutgen-Sandvik, Pamela, and Beverly Davenport Sypher. Destructive Organizational Communication: Processes, Consequences, & Constructive Ways of Organizing. New York: Routledge, 2009. Kindle.

Citing Sources in a Speech

Once you have decided what sources best help you explain important terms and ideas in your speech or help you build your arguments, it’s time to place them into your speech. In this section, we’re going to quickly talk about using your research effectively within your speeches. Citing sources within a speech is a three-step process: set up the citation, give the citation, and explain the citation.

First, you want to set up your audience for the citation. The setup is one or two sentences that are general statements that lead to the specific information you are going to discuss from your source. Here’s an example: “Workplace bullying is becoming an increasing problem for US organizations.” Notice that this statement doesn’t provide a specific citation yet, but the statement introduces the basic topic.

Second, you want to deliver the source; whether it is a direct quotation or a paraphrase of information from a source doesn’t matter at this point. A direct quotationCiting the actual words from a source with no changes. is when you cite the actual words from a source with no changes. To paraphraseTaking the central idea or theme from another speaker or author and adapting it in one’s own words. is to take a source’s basic idea and condense it using your own words. Here’s an example of both:

Direct Quotation In a 2009 report titled Bullying: Getting Away With It, the Workplace Bullying Institute wrote, “Doing nothing to the bully (ensuring impunity) was the most common employer tactic (54%).”
Paraphrase According to a 2009 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute titled Bullying: Getting Away With It, when employees reported bullying, 54 percent of employers did nothing at all.

You’ll notice that in both of these cases, we started by citing the author of the study—in this case, the Workplace Bullying Institute. We then provided the title of the study. You could also provide the name of the article, book, podcast, movie, or other source. In the direct quotation example, we took information right from the report. In the second example, we summarized the same information.Workplace Bullying Institute. (2009). Bullying: Getting away with it WBI Labor Day Study—September, 2009. Retrieved July 14, 2011, from

Let’s look at another example of direct quotations and paraphrases, this time using a person, rather than an institution, as the author.

Direct Quotation In her book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know, Mary George, senior reference librarian at Princeton University’s library, defines insight as something that “occurs at an unpredictable point in the research process and leads to the formulation of a thesis statement and argument. Also called an ‘Aha’ moment or focus.”
Paraphrase In her book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know, Mary George, senior reference librarian at Princeton University’s library, tells us that insight is likely to come unexpectedly during the research process; it will be an “aha!” moment when we suddenly have a clear vision of the point we want to make.

Notice that the same basic pattern for citing sources was followed in both cases.

The final step in correct source citation within a speech is the explanation. One of the biggest mistakes of novice public speakers (and research writers) is that they include a source citation and then do nothing with the citation at all. Instead, take the time to explain the quotation or paraphrase to put into the context of your speech. Do not let your audience draw their own conclusions about the quotation or paraphrase. Instead, help them make the connections you want them to make. Here are two examples using the examples above:

Bullying Example Clearly, organizations need to be held accountable for investigating bullying allegations. If organizations will not voluntarily improve their handling of this problem, the legal system may be required to step in and enforce sanctions for bullying, much as it has done with sexual harassment.
Aha! Example As many of us know, reaching that “aha!” moment does not always come quickly, but there are definitely some strategies one can take to help speed up this process.

Notice how in both of our explanations we took the source’s information and then added to the information to direct it for our specific purpose. In the case of the bullying citation, we then propose that businesses should either adopt workplace bullying guidelines or face legal intervention. In the case of the “aha!” example, we turn the quotation into a section on helping people find their thesis or topic. In both cases, we were able to use the information to further our speech.

Using Sources Ethically

The last section of this chapter is about using sources in an ethical manner. Whether you are using primary or secondary research, there are five basic ethical issues you need to consider.

Avoid Plagiarism

First, and foremost, if the idea isn’t yours, you need to cite where the information came from during your speech. Having the citation listed on a bibliography or reference page is only half of the correct citation. You must provide correct citations for all your sources within the speech as well. In a very helpful book called Avoiding Plagiarism: A Student Guide to Writing Your Own Work, Menager-Beeley and Paulos provide a list of twelve strategies for avoiding plagiarism:Menager-Beeley, R., & Paulos, L. (2009). Understanding plagiarism: A student guide to writing your own work. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, pp. 5–8.

  1. Do your own work, and use your own words. One of the goals of a public speaking class is to develop skills that you’ll use in the world outside academia. When you are in the workplace and the “real world,” you’ll be expected to think for yourself, so you might as well start learning this skill now.
  2. Allow yourself enough time to research the assignment. One of the most commonly cited excuses students give for plagiarism is that they didn’t have enough time to do the research. In this chapter, we’ve stressed the necessity of giving yourself plenty of time. The more complete your research strategy is from the very beginning, the more successful your research endeavors will be in the long run. Remember, not having adequate time to prepare is no excuse for plagiarism.
  3. Keep careful track of your sources. A common mistake that people can make is that they forget where information came from when they start creating the speech itself. Chances are you’re going to look at dozens of sources when preparing your speech, and it is very easy to suddenly find yourself believing that a piece of information is “common knowledge” and not citing that information within a speech. When you keep track of your sources, you’re less likely to inadvertently lose sources and not cite them correctly.
  4. Take careful notes. However you decide to keep track of the information you collect (old-fashioned pen and notebook or a computer software program), the more careful your note-taking is, the less likely you’ll find yourself inadvertently not citing information or citing the information incorrectly. It doesn’t matter what method you choose for taking research notes, but whatever you do, you need to be systematic to avoid plagiarizing.
  5. Assemble your thoughts, and make it clear who is speaking. When creating your speech, you need to make sure that you clearly differentiate your voice in the speech from the voice of specific authors of the sources you quote. The easiest way to do this is to set up a direct quotation or a paraphrase, as we’ve described in the preceding sections. Remember, audience members cannot see where the quotation marks are located within your speech text, so you need to clearly articulate with words and vocal tone when you are using someone else’s ideas within your speech.
  6. If you use an idea, a quotation, paraphrase, or summary, then credit the source. We can’t reiterate it enough: if it is not your idea, you need to tell your audience where the information came from. Giving credit is especially important when your speech includes a statistic, an original theory, or a fact that is not common knowledge.
  7. Learn how to cite sources correctly both in the body of your paper and in your List of Works Cited (Reference Page). Most public speaking teachers will require that you turn in either a bibliography or reference page on the day you deliver a speech. Many students make the mistake of thinking that the bibliography or reference page is all they need to cite information, and then they don’t cite any of the material within the speech itself. A bibliography or reference page enables a reader or listener to find those sources after the fact, but you must also correctly cite those sources within the speech itself; otherwise, you are plagiarizing.
  8. Quote accurately and sparingly. A public speech should be based on factual information and references, but it shouldn’t be a string of direct quotations strung together. Experts recommend that no more than 10 percent of a paper or speech be direct quotations.Menager-Beeley, R., & Paulos, L. (2009). Understanding plagiarism: A student guide to writing your own work. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. When selecting direct quotations, always ask yourself if the material could be paraphrased in a manner that would make it clearer for your audience. If the author wrote a sentence in a way that is just perfect, and you don’t want to tamper with it, then by all means directly quote the sentence. But if you’re just quoting because it’s easier than putting the ideas into your own words, this is not a legitimate reason for including direct quotations.
  9. Paraphrase carefully. Modifying an author’s words in this way is not simply a matter of replacing some of the words with synonyms. Instead, as Howard and Taggart explain in Research Matters, “paraphrasing force[s] you to understand your sources and to capture their meaning accurately in original words and sentences.”Howard, R. M., & Taggart, A. R. (2010). Research matters. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, p. 131. Incorrect paraphrasing is one of the most common forms of inadvertent plagiarism by students. First and foremost, paraphrasing is putting the author’s argument, intent, or ideas into your own words.
  10. Do not patchwrite (patchspeak). Menager-Beeley and Paulos define patchwriting as consisting “of mixing several references together and arranging paraphrases and quotations to constitute much of the paper. In essence, the student has assembled others’ work with a bit of embroidery here and there but with little original thinking or expression.”Menager-Beeley, R., & Paulos, L. (2009). Understanding plagiarism: A student guide to writing your own work. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, pp. 7–8. Just as students can patchwrite, they can also engage in patchspeaking. In patchspeaking, students rely completely on taking quotations and paraphrases and weaving them together in a manner that is devoid of the student’s original thinking.
  11. Summarize, don’t auto-summarize. Some students have learned that most word processing features have an auto-summary function. The auto-summary function will take a ten-page document and summarize the information into a short paragraph. When someone uses the auto-summary function, the words that remain in the summary are still those of the original author, so this is not an ethical form of paraphrasing.
  12. Do not rework another student’s paper (speech) or buy paper mill papers (speech mill speeches). In today’s Internet environment, there are a number of storehouses of student speeches on the Internet. Some of these speeches are freely available, while other websites charge money for getting access to one of their canned speeches. Whether you use a speech that is freely available or pay money for a speech, you are engaging in plagiarism. This is also true if the main substance of your speech was copied from a web page. Any time you try to present someone else’s ideas as your own during a speech, you are plagiarizing.

Avoid Academic Fraud

While there are numerous websites where you can download free speeches for your class, this is tantamount to fraud. If you didn’t do the research and write your own speech, then you are fraudulently trying to pass off someone else’s work as your own. In addition to being unethical, many institutions have student codes that forbid such activity. Penalties for academic fraud can be as severe as suspension or expulsion from your institution.

Don’t Mislead Your Audience

If you know a source is clearly biased, and you don’t spell this out for your audience, then you are purposefully trying to mislead or manipulate your audience. Instead, if the information may be biased, tell your audience that the information may be biased and allow your audience to decide whether to accept or disregard the information.

Give Author Credentials

You should always provide the author’s credentials. In a world where anyone can say anything and have it published on the Internet or even publish it in a book, we have to be skeptical of the information we see and hear. For this reason, it’s very important to provide your audience with background about the credentials of the authors you cite.

Use Primary Research Ethically

Lastly, if you are using primary research within your speech, you need to use it ethically as well. For example, if you tell your survey participants that the research is anonymous or confidential, then you need to make sure that you maintain their anonymity or confidentiality when you present those results. Furthermore, you also need to be respectful if someone says something is “off the record” during an interview. We must always maintain the privacy and confidentiality of participants during primary research, unless we have their express permission to reveal their names or other identifying information.

Key Takeaways

  • Style focuses on the components of your speech that make up the form of your expression rather than your content.
  • Social science disciplines, such as psychology, human communication, and business, typically use APA style, while humanities disciplines, such as English, philosophy, and rhetoric, typically use MLA style.
  • The APA sixth edition and the MLA seventh edition are the most current style guides and the tables presented in this chapter provide specific examples of common citations for each of these styles.
  • Citing sources within your speech is a three-step process: set up the citation, provide the cited information, and interpret the information within the context of your speech.
  • A direct quotation is any time you utilize another individual’s words in a format that resembles the way they were originally said or written. On the other hand, a paraphrase is when you take someone’s ideas and restate them using your own words to convey the intended meaning.
  • Ethically using sources means avoiding plagiarism, not engaging in academic fraud, making sure not to mislead your audience, providing credentials for your sources so the audience can make judgments about the material, and using primary research in ways that protect the identity of participants.
  • Plagiarism is a huge problem and creeps its way into student writing and oral presentations. As ethical communicators, we must always give credit for the information we convey in our writing and our speeches.


  1. List what you think are the benefits of APA style and the benefits of MLA style. Why do you think some people prefer APA style over MLA style or vice versa?
  2. Find a direct quotation within a magazine article. Paraphrase that direct quotation. Then attempt to paraphrase the entire article as well. How would you cite each of these orally within the body of your speech?
  3. Which of Menager-Beeley and Paulos (2009) twelve strategies for avoiding plagiarism do you think you need the most help with right now? Why? What can you do to overcome and avoid that pitfall?

7.4 Chapter Exercises

Speaking Ethically

Jonathan sat staring at his computer screen. The previous two days had been the most disastrous weekend of his entire life. First, his girlfriend broke up with him on Friday and informed him that she was dating his best friend behind his back. Then he got a phone call from his mother informing him that his childhood dog had been hit by a car. And if that wasn’t enough, his car died on the way to work, and since it was his third unexcused absence from work, he was fired.

In the midst of all these crises, Jonathan was supposed to be preparing his persuasive speech for his public speaking class. Admittedly, Jonathan had had the two weeks prior to work on the speech, but he had not gotten around to it and thought he could pull it together over the weekend. Now at 1:00 a.m. on Monday morning, he finally got a chance to sit down at his computer to prepare the speech he was giving in nine and a half hours.

His topic was prison reform. He searched through a number of websites and finally found one that seemed really relevant. As he read through the first paragraph, he thought to himself, this is exactly what I want to say. After two paragraphs the information just stopped, and the website asked him to pay $29.95 for the rest of the speech. Without even realizing it, Jonathan had found a speech mill website. Jonathan found himself reaching for his wallet thinking, well it says what I want it to say, so why not?

  1. If you were a student in Jonathan’s class and he confided in you that he had used a speech mill for his speech, how would you react?
  2. If you were Jonathan, what ethical choices could you have made?
  3. Is it ever ethical to use a speech written by a speech mill?

End-of-Chapter Assessment

  1. Which of the following is not a recommendation for using research librarians provided by the members of the American Library Association?

    1. Be willing to do your own work.
    2. Academic librarians are willing to schedule in-depth research consultations with students.
    3. You don’t need to bring a copy of the assignment when meeting with a librarian.
    4. Good research takes time.
    5. Students need to learn that many questions do not have ready-made or one-stop answers.
  2. Samantha has handed out a survey to her peers on their perceptions of birth control. During her speech, Samantha explains the results from her survey. What type of research has Samantha utilized in her speech?

    1. primary
    2. secondary
    3. recency
    4. qualitative
    5. critical
  3. Michael is giving a speech on dogs and picks up a copy of Pet Fancy magazine at his local bookstore. What type of source has Michael selected?

    1. general-interest periodical
    2. special-interest periodical
    3. Academic journal
    4. nonacademic literature supplement
    5. gender-based interest periodical
  4. Jose is having problems finding sources related to his topic. He found one academic journal article that was really useful. He decides to read the references listed on the reference page of the article. He finds a couple that sound really promising so he goes to the library and finds those articles. What process has Jose engaged in?

    1. primary literature search
    2. secondary literature search
    3. backtracking
    4. source evaluation
    5. reference extending
  5. What are the components or features of a literary composition or oral presentation that have to do with the form of expression rather than the content expressed (e.g., language, punctuation, parenthetical citations, and endnotes)?

    1. citation functions
    2. referencing functions
    3. grammatical parameters
    4. communicative techniques
    5. style

Answer Key

  1. c
  2. a
  3. b
  4. c
  5. e