When you decide on topic, you may need some background information to help you decide how to focus the topic of your speech, or to help you decide what you even need to know to do research on your topic.
Wikipedia and Google searches are great for this - if your topic has a Wikipedia page or has been discussed widely enough on the Internet to show up in Google search results.
As you do your research using Google and Wikipedia, keep in mind that the while contributing to the web is certainly more democratic than on legacy media platforms, there are still significant limitations to access that mean that information online is not necessarily representative of the world at large. For example, Wikipedia is considered to have significant gender and racial bias in terms of coverage and language used.
Library-based resources for background research
In addition to searching the open web, you may also want to try the following library-based research tools. All of these tools offer accessible overviews of topics and links to further resources.
Opposing Viewpoints covers a wide range of both perennial and newer issues that are controversial. Topic pages provide an overview of the topic, viewpoints on different sides of the issue, and links to newspaper, magazine and journal articles as well as statistics, video and audio reports.
Provides biographical information of more than one million people throughout history, around the world and across all disciplines and subject areas. Searchable by birth and death years and places, nationality, ethnicity, occupation or gender.
Biographical essays on anyone deceased individuals "whose significant actions occurred during his or her residence within what is now the United States or whose life or career directly influenced the course of American history."
GVRL is a collection of online reference books that can be searched all at once. This would be another good place for finding topic overviews and information on historic events related to students' topics.