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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Speech 113: Choosing a Topic

Resources for students taking Speech Communication 113

Thinking about Civic Engagement

Since civic engagement is the theme of SPE 113, the speeches you prepare for the course should be related to social and political issues that affect you and your community.

For your speeches, you may choose a topic that has already come up in class readings and discussions. Alternatively, you may focus on other issue of public concern.

Civic Engagement Issues in the News

To get an idea for a topic that is current, browse through news and magazine sites. Check out the following:

  • The New York Times is a leading newspaper that covers local, national, and international news. 
  • The Wall Street Journal, another prominent newspaper, focuses on financial and business news.
  • The Washington Post, in turn, is a newspaper that specializes in news related to politics, government,and foreign policy.
  • Mother Jones, a bimonthly magazine and website, is a nonprofit news organization well-known for its investigative, political, and social justice reporting.
  • The Economist comes out weekly and specializes in international politics, business news, and opinion.
  • The Atlantic Monthly, a monthly magazine and website, covers current events and publishes articles about politics, business, and the arts.
  • National Review, a biweekly magazine and website, is known for its coverege of national and international affairs.
  • The New Republic comes out twice a month and covers politics and culture.

Narrowing Down Your Topic

After you have come up with an idea for a speech and done some preliminary research, you will need to focus your topic.

You should be able to narrow down your topic by considering the following questions:

  • What/whom is your topic about?
  • What is the time period you are interested in?
  • Where is the topic taking place?
  • How will you approach your topic?

For more ideas on how to focus your topic, take a look at this guide from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. It shows how to move from a broad idea to a focused research question.

The table below also shows how to narrow down a general topic.

General Topic Topic Narrowed Down a Bit Topic Narrowed Down Even More
Youth violence
Policies aimed to fight youth violence

- Specific policies that have proved effective

- Proposed legislative measures and their limits

Sentencing of young offenders

- Life-without-parole sentences for young offenders

- Restorative justice programs and young offenders

Young offenders and the correctional system

- Differences between juvenile and adult correctional systems

- Alternatives to imprisonment