Research Skills C-1

A dinosaur
LecturerMark WEEKS, Associate Professor
DepartmentInstitute of Liberal Arts & Sciences, 2018 Spring 1
Recommended for:Graduate students (21.5 hours / session One session / week 15 weeks / semester)

Key Features

Academic presentations are an important activity in global research communities today. In an atmosphere that is relaxed but at the same time challenging, I want to show in these courses that it is possible to not only present research successfully but actually enjoy the process and interaction, even in another language.

The first step is to think deeply about why we're speaking and what our main point is, which we will discuss and practice. The next is careful preparation based on the key principles of logical clarity and persuasive support. Students give two presentations and as they prepare I am available to provide advice and help throughout.

Feedback is provided after presentations, in most detail by myself, but also from other students who were the audience. So that students can really understand what they sound and look like to an audience, each presentation is video recorded and given to the student for personal review (unless the student chooses not to, which is no problem).

Classes are conducted in an informal, communicative atmosphere. Most lessons include a short interactive lecture. Students discuss issues raised and work together in pairs or small groups, changing partners each week in order to increase communication opportunities.

Teacher's Tips

There is no escaping the fact that the overwhelming majority of students are stressed by the need to give presentations about their research, especially if it's in a second or third language. While overcoming nervousness is not the sole or even the primary aim of this course, it is something that needs to be dealt with, and I try to do that firstly by creating a relaxed, friendly, interactive atmosphere in which students are not afraid to make mistakes.

Secondly, at a cognitive level, I have students examine closely why they are presenting, and help them realize that a presentation is not usually an end in itself in the same way that a dramatic performance might be; a research presentation generally has the functions of disseminating results, garnering useful feedback, perhaps making useful contacts. In short, a research presentation is not usually an exam. Even if our research is going to be "tested" by some in the audience, that should have the constructive effect of improving our research.

With that in mind, I make it clear to the students that when they present in class, they should focus on getting useful feedback, which doesn't necessarily mean entertaining the audience but keeping them interested and facilitating understanding through clear organization and delivery of material. So that raises what is definitely a central issue of the course, making a logically clear and persuasive case for an idea through the presentation.

In that sense, logical clarity -which generally means supporting a clearly stated thesis and cutting incidental material within the strictly controlled time frame of presentations -is basically a pragmatic, not dogmatic issue. It serves to communicate clearly and persuasively.

The other important issue I've discovered is giving plenty of feedback. I help students individually on request as they prepare their two presentations for each course, particularly with structural and slide design issues. I give detailed feedback after their presentations, along with somewhat less detailed (but nevertheless very useful) feedback from fellow students. The goal, I tell them, is not to produce a faultless presentation, since that is almost impossible, but to improve through consideration of the feedback and through experience.

Course Aim

The combined central aims of these 2 courses include helping students/researchers to:

  1. acquire skills in drafting logical, clear and persuasively effective research presentations.
  2. develop confidence and competence in presenting and communicating in English in academic contexts.
  3. write presentation/abstracts that will be accepted by conference selection committees.
  4. understand how to design and present effective research poster presentations.

Course Contents

Classes are conducted in an informal, communicative atmosphere and most lessons include a short interactive lecture. Students discuss issues raised and work together in pairs or small groups, changing partners each week in order to increase communication opportunities. Here are the main themes dealt with over the two courses:

Practical Presentations Skills (Research Skills C1)
The functions and pleasures of presentations
Reducing nervousness, finding your main idea and significance
Signal to Noise ratio
Logically structuring your presentation
Effective slide design principles, techniques
Delivery: voice, body language, interaction with slides
Question time strategies and language
Communicating at the right level for different audiences
Editing and preparation techniques to avoid timing problems
About handouts

Practical Presentations Techniques (Research Skills C2)
Aims and benefits of presenting your research
Expressing your presentation purpose efficiently
Abstracts: clear and impressive structure
Attracting and persuading an audience
Creating logical flow through transition vocabulary and slides
Showing data and other support effectively, handling Q&A
Poster session techniques
Visual design for clarity and impact
About humor in presentations


There is not textbook. All materials are provided by the instructor. Most materials are created by the instructor and can be accessed through this website.

Reference Materials

A dictionary for using English should be brought to each class.
The following texts are referred to during the course:

Alley, Michael. The Craft of Scientific Presentations. New York: Springer, 2003.

Duarte, Nancy. Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. Boston: O'Reilly, 2008.

Graff, Gerald and Birkenstein, Cathy. They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. New York: Norton, 2017.

Meyer, Erin . The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead and Get Things Done Across Cultures. New York: Public Affairs Books, 2014.

Reynolds, Garr. Presentation Zen. Berkeley: New Riders, 2008.

Reynolds, Garr. Presentation Zen Design. Berkeley: New Riders, 2010.

Schwabib, Jonathon, Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks. Columbia University Press, 2017.

Wallwork, Adrian. English for Presentations at International Conferences. New York: Springer, 2010.

Weissman, Jerry. Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2009.


Simply be an enrolled student or designated researcher at this university. English skills sufficient to undertake classes conducted in English.

Course Prints


Two presentations 40%, Participation 60% for both courses.


Two presentations of 6-10 minutes plus Question Time of 5 minutes for both courses.
An abstract for the Fall semester course.

Last updated

June 21, 2020