Notes on Student Presentations

From Simson Garfinkel
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Notes for Students

Making a scientific presentation is a challenge for many students, so it is an important learning experience.

Basic Things to Remember when Creating Slides

  1. The first slide should clearly indicate:
    • Your Name
    • Date of presentation
    • Version number of slide deck
    • Any disclaimers
    • Slide's permanent URL
  2. Expand all acronyms on first use.
  3. Use the entire slide!
  4. Don't use small fonts. A good rule of thumb is don't use a pointsize in powerpoint that is smaller than 24. However, your best bet is to take your slides into the room and try them out several days in advance to verify that they can be seen from the last row in the classroom.
  5. Make your slides high-contrast. Ideally your slides should be black text on a white background, as this is the most legible. You can use colors like red and blue for emphasis. Remember, a significant fraction of the population cannot distinguish the colors red and green.
  6. Your slides should clearly present the information you want to present.
  7. Put a page number on every slide so that they can be referred to.
  8. Your last slide should have your important points. Don't waste it with the word "Questions" and nothing else.

Make your headlines count by using the Assertion Evidence Slide Format!


There are many goals in making a presentation on a scientific topic:

  1. First and foremost, you are seeking to present information that is technical. Make sure that your presentation has **sufficient technical depth**.
  2. If you are presenting about a specific discovery or advance, you need to put the contribution in context.
  3. You need to explain its significance, also called the contribution of the research.


Here are some excellent references for putting together a scientific presentation:

The best resource that I know of is the website and book of Michael Alley, who developed the assertion-evidence approach to scientific presentations and has a website, some videos, and a book that discusses the technique. He also has some templates that you can use:

Good Blogs on Giving Talks

I reviewed more than a dozen blogs about giving talks, and thought that these were the best:

Presentations on Scientific Presentations

For people who don't like reading that much:

Notes for Faculty

What to present

  • Have students give presentations early in the course: it helps to integrate the class.
  • Have students present a paper
  • Have students present final projects

The presentations

  • Have students submit their slides at least 4 days before the presentation, so you can offer criticism with enough time for the students to improve them.
  • Force students to turn in draft presentations by having a grade assigned for turning them in (1 point)
  • Format really doesn't matter.
  • Give students a time limit
  • Enforce the time limit