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Speech 101: Selecting a Topic

Topics from Newspapers

Newspapers contain articles on current topics that are being discussed at local, regional, and national levels. Briggs Library subscribes to both physical newspapers that you can look at in the library and online sources that you can browse from anywhere. Additionally, many newspaper websites allow you to browse their front page and access a few articles for free. These are all places that can help you with topic ideas. 

Topics from your Major

Research guides are a good place to start to find potential topics related to your area of study. They will have links to relevant websites and direct you to the subject librarian for your major, whom you can also contact for help. Either scroll through the list or use the search box to find the guide for your major at

You can also look at the websites of professional organizations related to your major. These sites will often have sections on hot topics and issues currently affecting the field which can help you find speech ideas. 

Professional Organization Examples:

American Economic Association

American Historical Association

American Nursing Association

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

National Education Association

Use Mapping to Develop a Topic

UCLA Library

Developing a Topic

One approach to developing a topic is to start with a broad subject that interests you and brainstorm some more specific topics under this broad category. For example:


  • internet businesses
  • cybersecurity
  • cell phones
  • online education
  • cyberbullying
  • robotics
  • self-driving cars
  • 3D printing

The bulleted topics are narrower, but will still need to be refined for an undergraduate research project. This is a good point to begin your research. See how much information is available on a topic and how authors approach different aspects of the topic. You’ll want to develop a research question or questions to help guide you as you search for information. Example research questions for researching cell phones follow.

Cell Phones

  • Does texting affect writing skills?
  • Can teachers use cell phones to engage students in the classroom?  If so, how?
  • How do cell phones function as a status symbol?
  • How do cell phone affect social interactions?

Your topic and topic question will evolve as you continue with your research.

Are you having trouble finding information on your topic?

Try different searches, keeping in mind that you'll need to consult multiple sources to research your topic.

Still no luck? Consider broadening your topic.

Ideas for broadening a topic:

  • Cover a broader time span
  • Cover a broader geographic area
  • Include a larger population
  • Bring in related topics or perspectives
  • Examine a larger problem


Narrow topic: Do SDSU students taking writing classes online make less progress than SDSU students taking in-person classes?

To address this question you’d likely need to conduct original research.  To find published sources you could try broadening the population and broadening the type of learning addressed.

  • Do college students taking writing classes online make less progress than students taking in-person classes?
  • Do college students taking classes online make less academic progress than students taking in-person classes?

Narrow Topic: How are men portrayed in beer commercials shown during NFL games?

Broader to topics to try:

  • How are men portrayed in commercials for alcohol?
  • How are men portrayed in commercials?
  • Are men portrayed as simplistic on television?

Mapping is another approach to generating ideas and to exploring ways to narrow or broaden a topic. You can start mapping out concepts by asking the questions who, what, when, where, and why.

You can use online programs to create concept maps which illustrate the relationships.

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