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This is the "Sophomore Honors English - Research Speech" page of the "Grayslake Central LRC" guide.
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Online Databases

SIRS Researcher (username:grayslake, password:rams)

GALE PowerSearch (username:rams, password:rams) Make sure you UNSELECT History and Science Databases


Online Newspapers

***ProQuest Newstand***  (username:grayslake, password:rams)

Any other major news site (TV or Print)


Statistic Sources


Statistical Abstract of the United States

U.S. Census Bureau

*If you are using statistics from any other infographic or article, check to see who actually did the research to see if it is credible.





The world has changed a lot since Victor Hugo published Les Miserables in 1862.  Hugo wrote his novel using a steel nib pen and paper.  Lots (and lots) of paper.  The typewriter wouldn’t be around for another six years, and when Hugo died in 1890, electrified cities were barely a thing.  Hugo never sent a single tweet, and he was never de-friended on Facebook for constantly sharing his extreme political views.  Yes, human civilization has made great technological progress since Hugo’s day and age—there’s no doubt about that.  But many of the social ills Hugo saw plaguing French society back then still exist today, right here in America.

So, let’s move past our idealistic visions of America for a moment and take a more objective look.  Freedom House, an organization that reports the level of media independence, says that there are over 25 countries with freer press environments.  Moreover, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked 76 countries according to how well their students performed in math and science tests.  The United States came in 29th place, behind countries you might be hard pressed to find on a map (like Slovenia, 18th place) or countries you imagine to be plagued with poverty (like Vietnam, 12th place).  The OECD has also declared that social mobility in the United States -- the ability for people to move beyond the social class they were born into -- is among the lowest of the industrialized nations. In short, Hugo’s vision of a utopia hasn’t quite been realized here in America.

The Sophomore English Honors teachers don’t mean to say that America isn’t a great country or that it hasn’t done exceptional things.  Just like Victor Hugo criticized his beloved France because it fell short of raising its citizens out of social darkness, we want to suggest that America isn’t perfect, and assuming it’s the best at everything can only hinder its progress.  With this critical understanding in mind, we want you to prepare a 10-minute speech built on academic research that examines the following questions: where does America not live up to its ideals, what factors keep it from being exceptional, and how can it start to make change to get there?  

To begin, think about defining some sort of issue that the United States (or areas within it) struggles with.  The United Nations frequently issues Human Development Reports.  Its categories can be helpful to have as you think about where you want to focus:

  • Health

  • Education

  • Income/Composition of Resources

  • Inequality

  • Gender

  • Poverty

  • Work, Employment, and Vulnerability

  • Human Security

  • Trade and Financial Flows

  • Mobility and Communication

  • Environmental Sustainability

These categories aren’t meant to be all-inclusive, and there are certainly things that American can do to improve that fall beyond the scope of those broad topics.  Use them as a starting place only.  Eventually you’ll have to clearly and specifically define an issue, then articulate how America can approach that issue to create a more exceptional version of itself.  Please note that while we’ve seemingly implied that the issue must be national by reusing the terms “America” and “Americans,”  the issue we want you want to look should attempt to be as specific as possible, thus narrowing its scope. This will make your presentation more personal and more meaningful.  Think about how impactful presentations on homelessness or school inequality in Lake County, or child welfare in Chicago or Illinois could be, for example.


What follows is a breakdown of how we’d like you to structure your 10-minute speech.

Part 1: Introduction and Contextualization of the Issue

Assume that your classmates are essentially unfamiliar with your topic (this will certainly be the case in many circumstances).  Start by introducing your issue in broad strokes, then begin to narrow your presentation by presenting more specific research.  By the end of this introduction, your audience should get a sense of what the problem is, where it is happening, and why it is happening.

  • What does the problem look like today?  What exactly is happening?

  • What are the systems/institutions/organizations you are focusing on? Explain and define them.

  • What are the problem’s historical roots?  

  • Would a timeline help you to present important dates and events to the class?

  • What facts and figures help us see the current scope of the problem?

  • Are there visuals and infographics out there that might help deliver facts and statistics in impactful ways?

  • Would the use of maps help your audience visualize geographic regions?


Part 2: Obstacles to Improvement

This part of your speech will move beyond the context you provide in the introduction and examine some of the obstacles that are preventing us from responding or responding effectively.  Another way to think of this part of your speech is like this: if most reasonable people would agree that the issue you’re looking at is indeed a problem, why hasn’t that problem been solved already?  Some questions to consider:

  • Are there historical/political/economic/religious/ideological reasons for why the problem persists?

  • Are their logistical or practical issues that make improving the situation difficult?

  • What other complications might be holding us back?  

  • What are people trying to do already, and what problems are hindering that aid?

  • Are resources being used elsewhere that could be better used on this issue?

To develop meaningful responses to the preceding questions, you’ll have to do research and become an expert on the problem.  With that said, your research will only take you so far.  You’ll need to think creatively and synthesize information from several sources in order to develop a critical response.


Part 3: Recommendations and Call to Action

Based on the problem you outlined in Part 1 and the obstacles you presented in Part 2, make some recommendations in Part 3. You should work to be as specific as possible, avoiding a “we should all love each other” or “the federal government should give a pile of cash” type of solution. Instead, what can we specifically do to improve the situation?  The “we” here can be read several ways:

  • What can we do personally, as individuals, to help?  

  • How should local/state/federal government respond?  

  • What can nonprofit organizations do?

A good starting point is looking at other areas of the country, other organizations, or perhaps other countries that are successfully managing the problem and see the ways in which those ideas could be applied to your issue.

As with Parts 1 and 2, this final part of your speech should be deeply informed by your research.


  • Create and hand in 8 annotated bibliography sheets containing a summary of each source and an explanation of how it will be used in the speech.  Will the source be used to help give context?  Does the source reveal the complicated situation surrounding the issue that prevents change?  Does the source suggest future remedies?

  • Create and hand in a detailed, MLA-formatted outline.

  • Create and hand in a MLA-formatted works cited page that includes all sources.  EasyBib can do this for you very easily, and most databases offer citations attached to sources.



  • PowerPoint is the preferred visual presentation method; however, alternate methods are allowed. Please see me to discuss.
  • PowerPoint presentations should be submitted to Schoology before the start of class on Monday, April 25th.


Paper copies of your final outline and works cited page must be brought to class on April 25th.

Points will be deducted for late materials.



Keyword Search Guide

After you have your basic topic, take a few minutes to plan what keywords can be helpful when completing your research.  

This SITE can help you create a spreadsheet of possible keywords.  I would suggest also having an online thesaurus ready to help you.


How To Use the Online Databases (Tutorials)


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