Research Paper Topics on Rhetoric and Public Speaking

Rhetoric is the study of writing or public speaking as a means of communication or persuasion. No matter your major, this is a skill that is critical for college students to master. Knowing how to communicate in both written and verbal forms will be required in your future career, especially as you rise higher into positions of responsibility.

Improve your rhetoric and public speaking skills with our tips. (Credit: LinkedIn)

Improve your rhetoric and public speaking skills with our tips. (Credit: LinkedIn)

For that reason, it’s a good idea to take time to explore research paper topics in rhetoric.

The study of rhetoric

The study of rhetoric began over 2,500 years ago in Ancient Greece where the philosopher Socrates explored how language could be used to influence people and society. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, oratory was generally confined to the church and was utilized mainly in politics, religion and law.

As governments evolved a more parliamentary system, great political orators emerged in England and Ireland. In the United States, Patrick Henry and James Otis became the voice of the new nation.

Famous orators in U.S. history of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries include:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Daniel Webster
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

Throughout our history, great speeches such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address have established significant events into our cultural memory. These speeches have moved society forward by rousing the mass emotions and consciousness of the nation.

Research resources

Research paper topics related to rhetoric and public speaking include: argumentation, debating and persuasion. You can find resources on these and many more topics at Questia, the Internet’s largest online library of full-text books, magazines, newspapers, journals and encyclopedias.

For examples of rhetoric in public speaking, check out the text of famous speeches on Questia. These resources contain such speeches as:

  • George Washington’s “Farewell Address”
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”
  • Abraham Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address”

Another valuable resource at Questia is the book, Authentic Communication: Public Speaking for Everyone, by Jeffrey Hannan, Travis Kiger and Ganer Newman.

Authentic Communication is a complete program for anyone interested in speaking effectively in public. It provides instruction and exercises for all aspects of public speaking. Chapters discuss: the theory of public speaking, overcoming communication apprehension, writing for the listening audience, topic selection, research, organization, introduction and conclusions, physical delivery, vocal delivery, and audience analysis. The program includes activities for skill development, key concepts for quick review, and interviews with professionals who engage in public speaking every day.

The authors were very thorough in describing the many steps in preparing and creating a speech. Among the steps is defining both the internal and the external purposes of the speech.

“Internal purposes relate to the speaker’s personal goals for the speech, while external purposes relate to the audience experience the speaker wants to create. Your internal purposes are your own, and when they are clear, your topic selection process will often be very simple,” the authors said.

Written rhetoric

Questia also houses vast resources to help college students research, write and cite their research papers. The place to start is the Topic Finder where you can search for scholarly resources for your topic or you can work with the Topic Idea Generator if you need an inspirational spark.

The Questia Writing Center will walk you through the nine steps to creating your research paper including research, developing the outline, writing drafts and doing revisions.

Rhetoric required

Many college programs require that students take a course in rhetoric; a fact of college life that may cause fear and intimidation. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Iowa explained, “Why is Rhetoric Required?” for its student body.

“Clear thinking, good argument, and logical discussion are essential to academic student success in any discipline and field. […] The more you understand how to criticize and analyze what you read and study in Music, Mathematics or the Modern Languages, the stronger your education,” they said.

Want to learn more about rhetoric and public speaking? Check out Questia—particularly the section on debating

Do you have any tips to make public speaking easier? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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