How to Cite Sources in a Speech

April 3, 2009 | | Comments Off on How to Cite Sources in a Speech

Citing a source in a paper is easy. I come from an APA background, so all I have to do is quote some journal article or book and write: “(Woods, 2009).” But, saying that in a speech wouldn’t exactly flow: “Open parenthesis Woods two thousand nine page seven closed parenthesis” just sounds weird and takes too long to say.

There must be a way. So, what can you do?

A Sore Cite – What Not to Do

First, let’s discuss some solutions that just don’t work.

Leaving citations out– The classic move of ignoring the problem only magnifies the problem. At best, people will wonder where all your information is coming from. At worst, you may be accused of plagiarism as the audience will think you are trying to claim the language or ideas as your own.

Citing sources at the end– A simple solution to the problem above: put the sources at the end! Unfortunately, the conclusion sounds like this: “And, in conclusion, I got my sources from…” followed by a list of vague sources. Why is this bad? Well, the conclusion is supposed to summarize the relevant information and assess the purpose of the speech, perhaps even urge us to action or provide the next steps. This one sounds like a reference page. That just doesn’t work. In addition, we have no idea which facts, figures, and quotes go to which sources (and if you only have one source, you better do some more research!).

That leaves us where we started: what can you do?

A Cite for Sore Eyes or Ears

Believe it or not, you can cite a source without disrupting the flow. Page numbers and the year of publication are not necessary, but you can add the name and the title of the work very easily. Observe:

“Mark Woods, author of ‘How to Prepare a Pretty Good Speech,’ states that…”

If you quote this author again, simply say:

“According to Woods…”

Of course, the audience may wonder where in the book you got that quote. It’s beyond the speech to provide that, but a reference sheet can be handed out after the speech, or the complete citation can be placed on an overhead slide, perhaps with the quote included.

Is There Such Thing as Too Much Information?

Magazine articles or web pages become a bit more difficult, but again, making mention of the author and the source can still be done:

“Literary critic Joan Smith, in a 2008 Writers on Written Stuff magazine article titled ‘What’s up with Citations?’ states…”

(And, there’s no such author, magazine, or article. This was just purely an exercise.)

Yes, it’s a lot of information, but it helps to give the audience some background and context. From that point on, you can simply refer to “Smith” and not the article title or the magazine (unless you are quoting her from a different source).

The Effects of Added Effort

Ultimately, it’s important to weave in the sources as you speak. It lends a certain credibility to what you are saying through the accuracy (of your work) and by proxy (i.e. the credibility of the sources themselves).  Taking the extra time to add the sources may feel like more work, but it’s the necessary effort needed to develop a better speech.

Long after the words and the sources are forgotten, it’s the impression you make that will be remembered. Be remembered as someone who develops a well-cited, well-developed speech. It’s amazing how little things like that can make a big difference over time.

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