Presentation Tips

Here are some tips on how to present a research paper in class. These tips could also be helpful for presenting all kinds of complex topics in front of an audience.

  • Read the paper in full before preparing your first slide or talking point.
  • First things first: summarize the main ideas in a few sentences. Your audience wants to know what they’re in for, from a bird’s’ eye view. It’s very reassuring for your listeners to know what is about to happen.
  • Before going into the details, say a few words about the authors. Who are they? What is their main line of research? What’s the academic background they are writing in?
  • Then build the story, along the lines of the paper. You can go on tangents, for example if the paper includes a reference to a seminal or particularly interesting other reading.
  • Whenever you present an idea clearly, visual illustration is better than text on the wall.
  • Where relevant, explain the research methods employed (qualitative/quantitative, experimental/descriptive, objective/subjective), including pitfalls and limitations.
  • Most often, results are best shown through graphs and tables.
  • Think of your personal critique. This could be of the methodology, the theory, or the conclusions of the paper.
  • If you found any references to be interesting, mention them briefly at the end of the presentation.
  • Tie the ideas in the paper to broader topics. How can the paper’s points be applied to your research interest?
  • Think about discussion points to encourage class participation.
  • Be concise, engaging, and clear.

Additional reading: Lera Boroditsky’s tips on giving research talks, in turn borrowed from Gordon H. Bower’s original tips.