Student Resources

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Guidelines for Presenting Your Research

Jump to: Standard Presentations | Poster Presentations

Standard Presentations

Professor Mendelson presented a seminar before the 2002 and 2003 Graduate Research Forum that provided valuable guidelines for students and faculty about how to effectively present research (e.g., at conferences or in job talks). The MS Powerpoint slides from the seminar, in Acrobat (.pdf) format, are available here. (If you need the free Acrobat Reader program to open the file, click here.)

An excerpt from a short pamphlet titled “Really Bad Powerpoint [and How to Avoid It]” by Seth Godin is below; the pamphlet is available for $1.99 from

Four Components To A Great Presentation

First, make yourself cue cards. This feature should be built in to PowerPoint, but it’s not. You should be able to see your cue cards on your laptops screen while your audience sees your slides on the wall. Alas. In the meantime, you’ll just have to resort to writing them down the old-fashioned way. Now, you can use the cue cards you made to make sure you’re saying what you came to say.

Second, make slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them. Create slides that demonstrate, with emotional proof, that what you’re saying is true not just accurate.

Talking about pollution in Houston? Instead of giving me four bullet points of EPA data, why not show me a photo of a bunch of dead birds, some smog and even a diseased lung? Amazingly, it’s more fun than doing it the old way. But it’s effective communication.

Third, create a written document. A leave-behind. Put in as many footnotes or details as you like. Then, when you start your presentation, tell the audience that you’re going to give them all the details of your presentation after its over, and they don’t have to write down everything you say.

IMPORTANT: Don’t hand out the written stuff at the beginning. Don’t! If you do, people will read the whole thing while you’re talking and ignore you. Instead, your goal is to get them to sit back, trust you and take in the emotional and intellectual points of your presentation.

Fourth, create a feedback cycle. If your presentation is for a project approval, hand people a project approval form and get them to approve it, so there’s no ambiguity at all about what you’ve just agreed to.

So What’s On Your Slides?

Here are the five rules you need to remember to create amazing PowerPoint presentations:

  1. No more than six words on a slide. EVER.
  2. No cheesy images. Use professional images from instead. They cost $3 each, or a little more if they’re for professional use.
  3. No dissolves, spins or other transitions. None.
  4. Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never (ever) use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have.
  5. Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They’re emotional, and they wont work without you there. If someone wants your slides to show the boss, tell them that the slides go if you go.

The home run is easy to describe: You put up a slide. It triggers an emotional reaction in the audience. They sit up and want to know what you’re going to say that fits in with that image. Then, if you do it right, every time they think of what you said, they’ll see the image (and vice versa).

Poster Presentations

Recommended Resources for Writing

  • The Writing Center at Colorado State University has a web site called Writing@CSU that contains an amazingly comprehensive set of resources for writers and teachers, including interactive tutorials and demonstrations, writing guides, and extensive links to writing and teaching resources on the Internet. The writing guides related to conducting research seem particularly useful.
  • The Guide to Grammar & Writing page hosted by Capital Community College of Hartford, Connecticut features provides answers to common writing questions and issues.
  • Good advice about writing topics including grammar, style, diction, word formation, gender, social groups and scientific forms, and even e-mail conventions can be found in the American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English.
  • The Purdue Online Writing Lab’s Writing a Research Paper site contains a variety of resources, including a large links page.
  • Although it hasn’t been updated for the recent 5th Edition of the APA Style Manual, an online Guide for Writing Research Papers based on the Styles Recommended by the American Psychological Association is worth a look. Other APA guidance can be found here.
  • It’s often difficult to evaluate the credibility of material on the web; some helpful guidelines from the web site of Cornell University’s library are here.
  • Don’t plagiarize – MM&C is committed to strict adherence to and enforcement of Temple University’s Student Code of Conduct and in particular its policy on academic honesty. Every MM&C student is expected to understand and strictly adhere to commonly recognized academic standards regarding the proper citation of and reference to other scholars’ work. Definitions and detailed advice about how to avoid committing plagiarism can be found on this page of the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s site.
  • Tara Gray provides twelve useful steps to getting your writing done and published in her 2005 book Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar. A good short summary is available here in .pdf format.

Networking and Support

  • The Graduate School Survival Guide provides concise suggestions for everything from how to select and work with your research adviser to avoiding the research blues; it also includes links to other resources.
  • In addition to discussion forums, a very extensive set of useful links specifically for graduate students working on dissertations and theses is available at
  • The National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) is the umbrella group for over two million graduate and professional students currently studying in the United States.

Media Analysis in the Media

  • Reliable Sources (CNN) – A one hour Sunday morning show hosted by the Washington Post media analyst Howard Kurtz; “one of television’s only regular programs to examine how journalists do their jobs and how the media affect the stories they cover.”
  • On the Media (NPR) – A weekly hour report; “On the Media explores how the media ‘sausage’ is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression in America and abroad.”
  • The Communicators (C-SPAN) – A no nonsense weekly series “featuring a half-hour interview with the people who shape our digital future.”
  • Studio 360 (PRI) – A weekly hour, Public Radio International’s “Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen from WNYC is public radio’s smart and surprising guide to what’s happening in pop culture and the arts. [The host] introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture” as he “gets inside the creative mind through conversations with guests such as Yo-Yo Ma, Zadie Smith, Sean Lennon, Sean Penn, Walter Mosely, Dolly Parton, Ang Lee, Dave Eggers, Frank Gehry, and Tori Amos.”
  • The Strand (BBC World Service) – A daily “arts radio programme from the BBC World Service, bringing you news, reviews and interviews from the global arts scene.” Also available via podcast and online.
  • The PBS NewsHour (PBS) – The weekday news hour features irregularly scheduled segments (reports and interviews) on a variety of media topics.
  • The IFC Media Project (IFC) – Irregularly scheduled short seasons of half hours that deliver “a refreshingly hard-hitting and unapologetic perspective on what’s wrong with the news today, delving into important news stories that were inaccurately reported on from leading news outlets, and more.”
  • Fox NewsWatch (FOX News) – A half hour Saturday panel show; “Host Jon Scott and his panel of media analysts cover the coverage of the week’s biggest stories” (they’d deny it, but the analysis has a conservative bent).
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central) – Mondays-Thursdays, Host Jon Stewart is arguably the best media analyst and critic out there; “an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning program that takes a reality-based look at news, trends, pop culture, current events, politics, sports and entertainment with an alternative point of view.”
  • The Colbert Report (Comedy Central) – Airing after and a satirical off-shoot of The Daily Show, whose host invented the word truthiness; “With the gravitas of Stone Phillips and the spirit of Captain America, nobody feels the news at you like Stephen Colbert.”
  • InfoMania (Current) – A fast moving, snarky weekly half hour featuring some surprisingly cogent media analysis (e.g, the “Target: Women” feature); “Chewing up the week’s media so we can regurgitate it, half-digested, into your mouth”
  • The Rotten Tomatoes Show (Current) – A snarky half hour movie review show that often features thoughtful analyses of film, media and culture; “Hosts Brett Erlich and Ellen Fox … in a hilarious tour of the Oscar-worthy, and the straight up worthless.”
  • The Soup (E!) – A weekly half hour in which host Joel McHale (in a post once held by Jon Stewart) takes satisfying shots at the media and its inhabitants, including news programs, talk shows, reality TV, and all things pop culture.