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Presentation and Reports Guidelines

How to give a talk

The purpose of a presentation is to clearly communicate the objectives, methods, results, and importance of your research project to a broad audience.

You will have a time limit. You should strictly respect this limit.

The Introduction should GRAB the listener's attention from the start. Introduce the general topic, and immediately let the audience know your focus and question. Keep the methods section brief; you needn't go into detail. Results are the most important part - allow plenty of time. Give only the major results, numbers that summarize your findings rather than details. Figures and tables should be presented as you present your facts. Make sure they are clearly titled and if you have a graph each axis is labelled.

The Discussion should EXPLAIN your results. You should essentially be answering the questions you posed in the Introduction. Include any important and unavoidable sources of error. Briefly mention specific areas for future research.

Prior to your talk, think about potential questions that the audience might ask - prepare (in your head) brief answers to them. Practice with the graphics you will use.

In a short talk, there is no need to discuss what you had hoped to do but didn't have time for, or why your sample size isn't large enough, or why this or that method failed. No waffling or hand-wringing over how terrible this study is; state confidently what you found out.

In summary, you should plan one slide per minute of your talk. They should be well balanced: assuming a total of 10 slides, 2 slides for the introduction,  1 for methods (if really relevant), 3 for the results, another 3 for discussion, and 1 for perspectives.

In general, a good slide contains few and short sentences and self-explanatory pictures. Pay attention at a good choice of colors and make sure that all the parts are readable when projected. Language is also important: check for spelling and grammar.

How to write a research report

Scientific papers have their own peculiar stylistic customs, and your report should follow this standard format that is used by the international scientific community. Your reports should conform to this style. Therefore, it should have the sections given in the template.

Introduction: Make sure you have outlined the importance of your study, by relating your specific question to a general question. Do not however, quote or refer to literature for its own sake; make sure the studies you cite are relevant to your questions. State the assumptions you are making in using your approach.

Materials and methods: Describe in summary your procedure (not what you hoped or intended to do, but what you actually did).

Results: State a result directly. For each fact you present, you can either: 1) state the data in the text, 2) present data in a figure (graph, map, diagram, histogram), or 3) present data in a table (columns and rows of numbers). Do not present data in more than one form. Try to reduce the numbers of figures and tables, but do not compress them so much that they are difficult to understand. Refer to each of them separately, directly after you have presented each nugget of results.

Discussion: The purpose of a discussion is 1) to relate your results to existing knowledge, 2) to make clear how your results add to or modify existing knowledge, 3) to speculate about what remains unknown, and 4) to suggest directions of future research.

First, briefly restate your main results in a few sentences. Discuss and explain your results. If they contradict what you expected or hypothesized, try to explain why. Tie your results back to your Introduction. Your Discussion should be answering each question you posed in your Introduction.

Give SPECIFIC suggestions for where this research could lead - what are the next questions that should be asked, and how might they be carried out. Simply stating that "more research is necessary in this area" is not very helpful.

Literature Cited: Double-check that all references in text have correctly cited references. Use a standard format.

Tables: Tables should have a title and optionally additional caption text above the body of the table. The title of the table should stand on its own.

Figures: For each Figure you should have a Legend. This also should stand on their own, with an explanation for the symbols and units you use. Figures should be drawn neatly and accurately.

General comments: Writing is hard work. It cannot be put off until the last minute. Each sentence has to be pondered to be sure that it says what you mean in an understandable, unambiguous way.

If at all possible, make arrangements with a friend to swap papers for mutual editing.

Templates for reporting are available here (zip file)