Skills Earth Sciences


What is the purpose of your research? Your presentation should start with an explanation as to why you performed the experiments/ran the data/designed the model/read the papers. What scientific knowledge was missing in the academic world that you want to contribute to? This is known as your research question. Put this on your title slide.

Typically, a content slide is not necessary. An extensive description of the structure of your presentation costs you valuable time and is redundant since most conference talks (and thus the type you’ll probably be giving in your classes) follow the same structure. In the unlikely case that you follow an unorthodox structure, or when your audience is not familiar with scientific talks, you can outline the structure of your talk, but keep it short.

The main purpose of your introduction is to articulate the research question(s). One way of opening your presentation and keeping it interactive is by asking your audience how much they already know about your research topic and using that to build the necessary background your audience needs to understand your research question.

Another tip is to use a physical experiment or an anecdote to showcase why the topic fascinates you. Ideally, your introduction grabs the attention of the audience. Keep the theory easy to follow (depending on your target audience) and elaborate into more specific detail-oriented theory very gradually.

Use these questions as a guide when deciding what to say and what not to say:

  • Why is your presentation relevant to your audience?
  • What do they need to know in order to understand the next section of your presentation, e.g. the results?
  • What do you want them to take away from the intro? This brings us back to the core message. At this stage you can phrase the core message as a working hypothesis.

Pose some sub-questions which should directly follow from the research question, hypothesis, and background you just outlined. The answers to these sub-questions would ideally require explanation using the next section of your presentation; the results. Let’s keep that momentum!