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Capstone Manuscript Speech


Armeda C. Reitzel

Department of Communication

Humboldt State University


Reitzel, A. (2016). Capstone manuscript speech. Humboldt State University.


Each student takes an academic research paper that they completed for an upper division major course and turns it into a 4-6 minute manuscript speech for a general audience which is recorded and aired via our local Access television or radio station for a period of 4 weeks and then archived on the Community Media Center’s website. This assignment assesses the DQP proficiencies of specialized knowledge and intellectual skills.

Background and Context

I developed this assignment specifically for our two-semester-unit senior Communication capstone course: Comm 490, Senior Capstone. The course is 100% Communication majors who have already earned at least 90 semester units and intend to graduate within two semesters. The course has typically enrolled 25-28students. Spring semester 2017 we are offering two sections of the course with a total of 17-20 students per section.

This course assignment directly builds on earlier work by the students throughout their academic careers as Communication majors. First, they select three papers that they have written for their upper division communication courses. Second, once the paper for the assignment is selected after a review by peers, each student turns the paper into a 4-6 minute manuscript speech for a general local television-viewing or radio-listening audience. Third, the speech is practiced with peers for their feedback on organization, language, delivery, supporting material, and central message. Fourth, the speeches are aired on one of two media outlets: Channel 8, our local educational access television channel or KZZH-FM, Access Humboldt’s radio station. Televised speeches are archived on Access Humboldt’s website. The speeches played on the radio are archived on a website created by the class. The students do a self-evaluation of their speech performances and provide their feedback to their peers on their presentations. Fifth, the capstone students identify and explain the skills that they used in revising their upper division papers into a speech manuscript and delivering their speeches in three contexts: live in a studio, a taped broadcast aired on television or radio, and digitally through the Access Humboldt internet archives or a dedicated website, These skills can be incorporated into their resumes, cover letters, graduate school applications and portfolios. Many students have included links to their speeches in their applications for jobs and/or graduate school.

At first students are a bit apprehensive about giving a speech and working in the studio because they have never done this before. We spend two hours at the Community Media Center so that the students can learn about the mission, goals and operations of Access Humboldt:

Access Humboldt’s mission is “Local voices through community media.”

We are an innovative, self-sustaining and trusted media resource for residents of Humboldt County. Diverse community members utilize local access media resources to engage in meaningful conversations that increase participation in civic life. Local governments, educational institutions and community-based organizations find AH’s services to be indispensable.

Digital media production is a growing industry that supports a continually improving quality of life. North Coast residents are among the most media literate people in the world – sharing new ideas and advanced methods to empower local voices for significant positive impact on society.

Students visit the studio and learn about Access Humboldt’s public, educational and governmental television channels and FM radio station. They are encouraged to ask questions of the staff about community access media.

We also meet with Humboldt State University’s Media Production Specialist at the campus television studio to learn more about the ‘ins and outs’ of creating and delivering televised speeches. This involves a one-hour visit to the university’s television studio.

Students choose whether they will give their speeches on radio or television. Students are placed into either radio or television program episode groups consisting of three or four presenters plus an announcer who introduces the episode and all of the speakers and provides concluding remarks at the end of the session. The students practice their full program episode at least twice before they are taped. By the taping session the students have the routine down, and their confidence is bolstered because they are engaging in public discourse in a new environment that is more like a job than a typical classroom.

This assignment is intended to assess the following DQP proficiencies:

Specialized Knowledge:

  • Investigates a familiar but complex problem in the field of study by assembling, arranging and reformulating ideas, concepts, designs and techniques.
  • Constructs a summative project, paper, performance or application that draws on current research, scholarship and techniques in the field of study.

Intellectual Skills:

  • Locates, evaluates, incorporates and properly cites multiple information resources in different media or different languages in projects, papers or performances.
  • Generates information through independent or collaborative inquiry and uses that information in a project, paper or performance.
  • Constructs sustained, coherent arguments, narratives or explications of issues, problems or technical issues and processes, in writing and at least one other medium, to general and specific audiences.

Alignment and Scaffolding:

  • This assignment is the focal point of the capstone course. It brings together each student’s knowledge and skills that they have developed during pursuit of their bachelor’s degree in Communication. The skills addressed in the activity are pertinent to job success in a variety of fields: audience analysis and adaptation, presentational skills (oral and written),self-evaluation skills, and peer evaluation skills.

This assignment builds on the courses that directly address oral communication performance: Fundamentals of Speech Communication (lower division general education), Oral Interpretation (lower division general education and a major course), and Persuasive Speaking (a lower division major course). Third, the students themselves organize and run the taping sessions using the skills they learned in Small Group Communication (an upper division major course) and Organizational Communication (an upper division major course).

In a 2015 publication titled College Graduates with Communication Degrees Have the Knowledge and Skills Employers Need, the National Communication Association points out that graduates with degrees in communication can do the following:

  • Create oral and written messages appropriate to the audience, purpose, and content – Communication graduates are able to adapt to different audiences and adjust messages appropriately using a variety of communication channels.
  • Influence public discourse – Communication graduates are able to frame and evaluate local, national, and/or global issues using a communication perspective to productively respond to those issues.

This assignment directly addresses these two skills identified by the National Communication Association’s Learning Outcomes in Communication project.


This assignment challenges students to take what they have done and do something new with it: create and deliver a manuscript speech on a topic that they learned about in an upper division Communication course to a general audience in the community who may know little or nothing at all about the topic. Even though modifying messages to fit the interests and needs of different audiences is something that we strive to have our students do, our senior students have often not had the real life experience of doing so. Students have stated that they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they listen to their speeches on television, radio and/or the internet. They have shared that they are recognized in the community by people who have viewed or listened to their speeches. Several students have included links to their speeches in their portfolios, websites, resumes and graduate school applications.

Early renditions of this assignment involved filming extemporaneous speeches in the regular classroom. I wanted a more professional setting for this capstone assignment. Filming the program episode groups in a real television studio has led to more polished, professional presentations. It has also resulted in more teamwork opportunities for my students as they collaborate to do something both familiar(giving presentations) and unfamiliar (in a very different environment to the wider community). With the recent addition of a radio station to Access Humboldt, I am now giving students a choice of recording their speeches to be aired over the radio or on television. I am going to interview students about their preferences to see how much of an impact, if any, this choice has on the learning outcomes for this assignment.

Please select an option

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