Capstone: Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea

Your instructor will assign a number of speeches for you to prepare and deliver throughout this course.  The speech preparation process is similar for all types of speeches.  In this activity, you are required to choose a topic for your current speech assignment, following the guidelines given to you by your instructor.

Step 1: Understand the requirements of the assignment from your instructor.  For example, requirements for a speech might look like this:  “This speech is an Informative Speech with a length of no less than three minutes and no more than five minutes.  It should not be a “How To” speech but should be focused on informing the audience about something interesting, new, or different that has the potential to impact the audience.  You must have at least three sources in your speech.  Presentation aids are optional. Your speech must have an introduction, a central idea, a preview, three major body areas, a review, and a conclusion.”

Step 2: Brainstorm topics and decide what you will speak about.  Do you like science? Are you interested in gaming? What are your hobbies? Once you know the requirements for the speech, think about what you like and know and what the audience might be interested in.  If you’re interested in science, for example, and the speech requirements are to inform the audience about something “interesting, new, or different,” you need to think about possible topics and brainstorm what might be a good topic choice.

For this example, we’ll say that climate change is something you are concerned about and want to focus on for your speech.  However, “climate change” itself is very broad as a topic.  How do you narrow it down?  Are there aspects of climate change that might make a compelling informative speech– perhaps one way that might help improve our climate?  You can research possible topic ideas once you have a general category.  Some of the ideas you find, such as reducing food waste, might end up being persuasive, so you have to consider that as you brainstorm.  One possibility, though, is renewable energy.  You realize it is something you have heard mentioned a lot, but you do not know much about it in actuality and think it could make a really good, informative topic.

Once you go through this process on your own for your speech assignment, write up your chosen topic on a document, along with the information in Step 3.

Step 3: Identify the general and specific purpose of your speech. Following the guidelines in your text, identify the specific purpose and general purpose of your speech. Include your topic, general purpose, and specific purpose in a document to submit to your instructor.

Step 4: Develop your central idea. Your specific purpose and general purpose are not specifically stated in your speech, but your central idea is.  Your central idea includes your topic, your objective, and the overall direction of your speech. The central idea is similar to a thesis statement in an essay.  Once you have your specific purpose, you can draft your central idea.  It may be refined as you do more research and write your speech.


Topic: Renewable Energy

General Purpose: To Inform
Specific Purpose: To explain to my audience what renewable energy is and its role in improving our climate.

Central Idea: As concerns mount about climate change, renewable energy holds the promise to significantly reduce emissions, save money, and improve our health.

Grading Rubric: Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea
Criteria Ratings Point Total: 100%
Topic Selection Brainstorm, narrow, and choose an appropriate topic for the assignment. ____ / 30%
General Purpose Identify the general purpose of the speech. ____ / 20%
Specific Purpose Identify the specific purpose of the speech. ____ / 20%
Central Idea Develop the central idea, including topic, purpose, and overall direction for the speech. ____ / 30%