Finding Support for Your Speech

Learning Objectives

Identify the different locations to find support for your speech.

Gathering supporting materials for your speech requires creativity, thoroughness, and careful note-taking. There are many possible sources of evidence or support for your speech. Five of the most common sources are:

  1. Your Own Experiences
  2. Others’ Experiences
  3. Academic Research
  4. Internet Research
  5. Interviews

To these, we could add a sixth:

6. Thinking Outside the Box

Within these categories we can further differentiate between primary sources and secondary sources.

  • Primary sources: information that is first-hand or straight from the source; information that is unfiltered by interpretation or editing.
  • Secondary sources: information that is not directly from the source; information that has been compiled, filtered, edited, or interpreted in some way.

Personal Experience

Woman looking in rearview mirrorHave you heard the phrase, “Start with what you know”? Well, this statement is true for gathering speech material! You’ve likely chosen your speech topic because you have a personal connection to it, and including your own experiences will add meaning, personality, and personalization. Imagine working on a speech called “How to Write a Successful College Resume.” If you were gathering supporting material from personal experience, you might find different versions of your own resume, or wonder what you could have done better on your resume. You might write a short account of your experience working with an advisor at your college’s career center. Take time to consider your experiences related to your topic and how you might integrate them into your speech.

If you’re planning to talk about the experiences of someone you know, make sure you have their consent to do so, or change the details of the story enough that the person’s identity cannot be guessed. Even if you’ve concealed the identity of the person involved, it can be problematic to tell others’ stories without their involvement; some stories are just not yours to tell. This question often comes up when artists or authors portray experiences that are not theirs, thus raising the possibility that they are exploiting the story, rather than inhabiting it with artistic empathy.[1][2] If you want to tell a story to humanize a statistical or social reality, it’s often best to create a hypothetical example, or to use a publicly available source, to avoid any sense you might be exploiting a story to make your point.

To watch: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”

In this powerful and popular TED talk, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice—and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. Pay close attention from the 2:51 to the 4:05 mark as she uses a story from her childhood to make her point.

You can view the transcript for “The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie” here (opens in new window).


Academic Research

Academic (or scholarly) research includes materials written by experts reviewed by other experts in their field (also known as peer-reviewed). This type of research typically includes background on a topic and details about a research study and its results. Academic research is published in scholarly journals, dissertations, and professional conference proceedings. You can find academic research and scholarly journals through databases in your college’s library, including Academic OneFile and JSTOR. Google Scholar is a free search engine where you can search for research on a wide range of topics.

Using the search term “resume for college students” in Google Scholar shows thousands of results. The following hit might be a useful article to read for the speech topic:

Screenshot of a Google Scholar search result showing a journal article called "Resume Assessors' Experiences, Attitudes toward Job Context, and Corresponding Evaluations and Associated Confidence.

Be aware that academic research is often quite technical and difficult for a non-expert to understand. If that is the case, the “Abstract” at the beginning of an article or the “Findings” section near the end can provide a clearer summary of the research and findings. Not every speech will need academic research for support, but it can add credibility and depth to your speech.

Internet Research

Woman in a hijab working on a computerInternet research involves using a search engine like Google to find relevant articles, websites, blogs, photos, etc., to support your speech. For the speech topic “Successful Resumes for College Students,” you might look at the resources on your college’s career center website, articles in magazines like Forbes, or examples of great and not-so-great resumes on a job listing site like

Using the terms “college student resume” in a Google search shows the article “How to Write a College Student Resume” on the job listing site

Google results for the phrase "College student resume," explained further in the text

Note, however, the two paid ads above the images. Paid ads probably won’t be relevant to your search, and they will almost certainly try to get you to pay for something (or, at a minimum, sign up for something).

Not every article you read will seem relevant to your speech, but since your topic is probably evolving, keep a careful list of your notes and their sources.

Note: The internet can be a great research tool, but it is also chock-full of errors, misinformation, half-truths, time-sinks, scams, and things that are just plain unpleasant. When using the internet for research, it is crucial to ask probing questions about the credibility of your source. The next page has in-depth recommendations about assessing whether online sources are credible.

Internet research can provide materials for your main ideas, supporting evidence and examples. Credible articles and websites will also include statements from experts on your topic, whom you can then quote or paraphrase in your speech. Pay attention to any stories, anecdotes, research, and examples you might integrate into your speech. Your internet research will be useful for exploring your topic more broadly and gathering supporting examples that will add depth and personality to your speech.


Students are often surprised at how they can add value to their speeches with interviews. An interview might be a formal situation where you contact an expert, a professor, etc., and schedule a time to ask them specific questions about your speech topic. Alternatively, you might email or text your questions. Contact the interviewee early in your research and be sure to ask questions that aren’t easy to find from other sources. For instance, if you interview a career advisor about resumes, it would be a waste of the advisor’s time to ask what a resume is. Instead, ask interesting questions like, “What are the most common mistakes you see students make on their resumes?” or “What’s one thing you wish more students knew about resumes?” or “How have resumes changed over the past couple years?” Be sure to take careful notes and always follow up with a gracious thank-you note.

Don’t overlook those in your personal network who might have valuable information on your topic. In your research about resumes, you might ask questions of your aunt who works in recruiting at a hospital. Or, you might ask your roommate questions about their recent resume experience applying for an internship.

Thinking Outside the Box

As you gather materials for your speech content, be open to creative ways to gather material that can add value and interest to your speech. Throughout your  research, look for video clips, photos, gifs, memes, etc., that will add energy and interest to your speech. For instance, as you’re researching resumes, you might remember a scene from the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde and tie it into your introduction as a humorous way to introduce common resume mistakes.

Screen capture from the movie Legally Blond.In the 2001 hit movie Legally Blonde, sorority girl Elle Woods is approached by her Harvard Law professor after a strong showing in class. He tells her she did well in class and should apply for his internship and asks if she has her resume. Elle says, “Yes, I do. Here it is.” When the professor sees it, all he can say is, “It’s pink!” to which  Elle responds, “And it’s scented! I think it gives it a little something extra! Don’t you think?…Ok, well, see ya next class.”

Depending on your topic, another type of supporting material might come from polls or questions to connections on social media. You might create a poll that asks about resume experience, or simply ask for stories about good or bad resume experiences. While the results of these polls or questions are not scientific, they can often provide some anecdotes, peer testimonials, or insights you might not have considered.

These outside-the-box materials might be used as a hook in your introduction or as more colorful or personalized support for your main points.

Try It


  1. Holmes, Anna, and James Parker. “Who Gets to Tell Other People's Stories?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 May 2016,
  2. Loughrey, Clarisse. “Who Gets to Tell Other People's Stories? How Madeline's Madeline Explores Exploitation in Art.” The Independent, 13 May 2019,