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Presenting Research: Introduction

Consider Your Audience

When you have an opportunity to describe a research project you have been studying over a long period of time, you may be tempted to explain the whole process in great detail. Keep in mind that most members of your audience won't share your same level of interest and experience in the topic. Focus on helping your audience to understand what you did and why you're excited about it, and be sure to respect any time limits you have been given.

Questions to Address

To help your audience understand what you did and why you're excited about it, a typical presentation should address these basic questions:

Who are you?

Briefly introduce yourself. For group presentations, introduce all group members and any unique roles they played in completing the project. Acknowledge others who helped with the project (for example, a faculty mentor).

What did you study, and why does it matter?

Remember that your audience may be unfamiliar with your topic. As you introduce your topic, consider defining important terms. Avoid using jargon and acronyms, or explain them as needed. 

Even after they understand what your topic is, your audience may not know why they should care, so be sure tell them. You might start by explaining why the project matters to you, but be sure to consider other perspectives.

What did you find out, and how?

Share what you learned by engaging in the research process. Did your results confirm your expectations, or did they surprise you? Describe how you arrived at your conclusions, but keep your discussion of your research methods simple and brief (1-2 sentences).

What’s next?

How can others benefit from understanding or taking action based on your findings? How might you or others continue to build on this research or apply it to other topics?

To start drafting your presentation, try answering these questions as if you were explaining your project to a friend or a family member rather than copying sentences from your research paper. Notice how long it takes you to explain each part. This will help you focus on the key information and keep your explanations audience-friendly.