I can think of two simple reasons for citing sources in a speech: credit and credibility. Let’s look at them more closely.
Where Credit is Due
Other people work hard to produce a body of work (and by “work,” I’m talking about anything that person has produced and had copyrighted). They deserve the recognition.
Whenever you present someone else’s work without acknowledging the source, you are essentially claiming that you are the creator of that work. This is known as plagiarism and is illegal (and uncool).
How and When to Give Credit
Click here to read about how to cite sources in a speech. When you’re done, we’ll continue on to understanding when to give credit.
When do we cite a source? It’s really simple: Cite the source for every fact, idea, or figure (number).
If you hear about something happening in the news, cite the source: “According to the Associated Press…”
Paraphrasing some long passage? That’s still someone else’s idea (your words, their work). Cite the source.
If you have some number, like a year or quantity, cite the source. “The Weather Channel reports that…”
Some exceptions, of course, include things that are common knowledge. But, determining what that is (like, Columbus sailing for the New World in 1492) is sometimes more difficult than simply finding a source to back up what you vaguely remember from grade school social studies class.
When in doubt, cite a source.
Credibility – Looking Smarter or More Important by Proxy
The other good reason to cite a source is for credibility. We live in a world of experts (so-called). Adding the results of their work will give your presentation a measure of legitimacy. As noted above, omitting the source will not only land you in trouble for plagiarism, it will also call into question the legitimacy of your claims. If you tell us that the H1N1 virus (i.e. the “swine flu”) is dangerous, we are not inclined to believe you. However, if you are a medical researcher working for the Center for Disease Control, we are more likely to believe you.
In addition, simply providing your opinions just won’t cut it. We want to know what the experts say on the matter. Adding their opinions (for whatever it’s truly worth) will add a degree of credibility to your speech or presentation. So, your opinion on a book is no less valid than Oprah Winfrey’s opinion, but millions of fans trust her to choose great books to read. Whether or not she is truly an authority on books can be debated, but her influence on others cannot. So, if she says a book is terrific, and you agree, then use her as a source within your speech. Seems silly, but it works.
Add sources to your speeches and presentations and notice the impact it has on others. You put yourself on the right side of the law and you impress others. That’s win-win baby!