Conclusion, Review Questions, and Activities

This chapter addresses ethics in public speaking. As ethics is an important part of our daily lives, it also plays a significant role in any public speaking situation. This chapter defines ethics and provides guidelines for practicing ethics in public speaking and listening. An ethical public speaker considers how to be honest and avoid plagiarism by taking notes during the research process, identifying sources, and deciding when it is appropriate to cite sources. Ethical public speakers also cite sources properly by understanding how to paraphrase and directly quote sources. In addition, they know how to cite in written speech materials, during oral presentations, and on visual aids.

Ethical speakers strive to achieve responsible speech goals by promoting gender, racial, and cultural diversity, using inclusive language, refraining from using hate speech, raising social awareness about important issues when possible, and understanding the balance of free speech with responsibility to audience members. Lastly, this chapter discusses ethical listening. Listening is an important part of the public speaking situation. Ethical listeners consider their responsibilities when both listening and providing feedback to speakers. Ethical listeners should prepare to listen by removing distractions, avoiding prejudging the speaker, and listen with the whole body by giving supportive nonverbal feedback to the speaker. Ethical feedback is explanatory and descriptive. Ethical feedback can include both praise and constructive criticism. With this improved understanding of how to prepare and present a speech ethically, you can accomplish the goal of ethical public speaking. Consider ethics as you learn about the public speaking process in upcoming chapters.

Review Questions

  1. Where did ethics originate? How are ethics used in public speaking?
  2. What is plagiarism? What is the difference between global and patchwork plagiarism?
  3. What is the difference between paraphrasing and directly quoting a source?
  4. What free speech rights are granted to a speaker?
  5. Why is raising social awareness an ethical concern when preparing a speech?
  6. What are some ways to use language ethically in presentations?
  7. How is listening used in the public speaking setting? What are some guidelines for being an ethical listener?


  1. Think about your ethical standards. Create a list of sources from which your ethical behaviors have originated. Who or what has influenced your ethics?
  2. Review the NCA Credo of Ethics. How do you interpret this credo? How can you use the principles in your public speaking?
  3. Split into groups of three to five students. As a group, develop 5 example situations of unethical behavior in public speaking. Once you are finished, switch situations with a different group. Decide how you can make changes to create ethical public speaking behavior.
  4. Think about the following scenarios involving an ethical dilemma. How would you react?
    • You attend a political debate on campus. The candidate’s speech contains many ideas that you don’t agree with. How can you be an ethical listener during the speech?
    • You are preparing to give a speech on a topic and realize that you have lost the citation information for one of your important sources. You can’t seem to find this source again. What would you do to ethically prepare for the speech?
    • When practicing your speech on influential sports figures, you realize that you refer to the audience, your co-ed classmates, quite often as “you guys.” Is this ethical language use? What changes would you make?
  5. When preparing for your next speech, create an ethics journal. Write down the various ethical dilemmas as you encounter them. How did you decide what to do in these situations? What was the outcome?