Students may choose to present their research findings at a conference, symposium, forum, or other research-related event. And while presenting research is not required, it can be beneficial to the researcher. Presenting a project offers an opportunity for discussion which can further the development of the project itself; it also gives the researcher experience that can prove advantageous on a resume.
Students typically present their work in the form of a scholarly poster or an oral presentation. Students may present at any stage of their research; a project does not need to be complete to be presented.
Students who are completing an independent research project should work with their faculty mentor on where, how, and when their presentation takes place. Faculty mentors can provide valuable feedback and advice on how to proceed at all stages. Students who have been assisting with a faculty research project must receive the approval of their faculty supervisor before making any plans to present. Once approved, students should work with their faculty supervisor on where, how, and when their presentation takes place.
- Posters are a great way to visually engage an audience.
- Unlike traditional oral presentations that create a lecture atmosphere, a poster easily engages the presenter and the audience in a discussion of the topic.
- Poster sessions give students the opportunity to brainstorm with others who share their interests.
- A poster invites collaboration. It allows the audience to engage with the researcher in a spontaneous and energizing way.
- Oral presentations are more formal, allowing students to practice their public speaking skills and display their expertise.
- Many professors prefer that their students conduct oral presentations rather than poster presentations so they will be better prepared for graduate study and beyond.
- In some disciplines, oral presentations are more common than posters.
With both poster and oral presentations, be sure to
- Acknowledge co-authors, sponsors, mentors, etc.
- Keep the message simple and clear.
- Follow a path in the presentation.
- Keep in mind that the audience does not know what you mean to say, so assume levels of knowledge appropriate for your audience.
- Use significant quotes from the research, if doing qualitative research.
- Condense findings into simple tables or graphs but have copies of the real tables on hand for interested people.
- Use "they" rather than "he" or "she."
- Dress professionally.
- Limit the amount of material; often presenters will overestimate the amount of material the audience can absorb.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Attempt to answer all questions to the best of your ability, but do not be afraid to say, "I don't know."
- Take every question seriously, even if you feel time doesn't warrant it.
When preparing each part of your oral presentation, consider
- Does this contribute to my communication?
- Does this inform my audience?
- Does this fit with what I've said and am about to say?
- Does this make a relevant point?
For guidelines, examples, and a step-by-step guide on how to make a poster presentation, please visit the Office of Undergraduate Research Poster Guide