Presentation Guidelines


The point of your talk is to share your research paper’s thesis and your arguments in support of it. Obviously, you cannot discuss everything that your paper covers – just as you cannot discuss everything in your paper that your research uncovers.


  • clarity of thesis
  • organization and development of the argument
  • introduction, argument’s main points, and conclusion
  • historical detail and accuracy
  • delivery (eye contact, posture, movements, voice, pronunciation, grammar)
  • adherence to the time limit


  • The presentation must have a clear introduction that explains what your talk will be about. It should make clear how your talk will be organized and your main points.
  • It is almost impossible for an introduction to be too explicit in its explanation of your topic, thesis, and organization. Do not be afraid to list, for instance, the four main points of your argument.



  • The supporting arguments for the thesis presented in your introduction must be clearly organized and carefully and explicitly (if briefly) explained.
  • Assume that your audience is smart, but completely unfamiliar with your topic. Remember that your listeners cannot “reread” your talk in order to understand parts that you do not make clear.
  • The audience has only your quickly passing spoken words to help understand your presentation, so your organization and your explanations must be more explicit than in your paper and must use organization and content appropriate to a talk, not to a paper.
  • For example, explain in your introduction that you will discuss four points; list them. As you reach each during your talk, announce that you are now on point one. “Too obvious” is not a phrase often associated with oral presentations.



  • You should reiterate the key points of your presentation.
  • You should discuss the direction that future research should take.
  • You should come up with a clear, structured ending.



Do not forget that what is clear and simple to you will likely be complex and confusing to your audience; your audience may benefit from a visual aid.

Use visual aids or handouts to illustrate your points—or perhaps use the blackboard, either at the outset for reference or during the talk for explanation/emphasis.  [This visual aid could just be a map, chronology, picture or photograph of the person/topic/event being studied.]  Bear in mind, however, these points:

  • Make sure all aids looked “professional.”  Sloppy, marginally relevant, materials are worse than none at all.
  • If handouts (or other visual aids) are not brief and easy to read, your audience will be reading rather than listening.
  • Never use a visual aid without telling listeners when to refer to it (e.g., “As you can see on the handout” and “As the diagram on the board demonstrates”). A quick nod in the direction of the board or at a handout is not sufficient.
  • You may use PowerPoint, but practice so that you are able to do so with confidence and dexterity.  Do not read from the presentation
    • If you do use PowerPoint, remember that it should augment your presentation, not BE the presentation.
    • Make sure the technology works before your actual presentation.
      • Do a practice run in the room with the computer ahead of time.
      • Bring the presentation on multiple formats (CD-ROM, USB Flash Key, email attachment).


  • Do not write out your presentation verbatim. You should use carefully constructed note cards. Many professors will require you to turn the note cards in immediately after your talk.
  • It is important that your graded presentation is NOT the first time you deliver your talk before an audience. Receive advice and encouragement–as well as a taste of standing before an audience–before you speak for a grade. Adjust your presentation according to the advice you receive about clarity, organization, mannerisms, etc. Practice also to make sure you are taking full advantage of your allotted time, that you do not run over, and that time signals do not fluster you.
    • If the classroom is available–as it usually is on weekends and most evenings–use it for practice sessions.
  • You should take advantage of the various resources that the Speaking Center can provide.
  • Be reasonable about nervousness; everyone has “butterflies” when they address a group.
    • You will feel more nervous that you look.
    • Remember that you have an understanding audience, one that is going through the same things you are.
    • Also remember that this assignment is a learning exercise; you are NOT expected to be flawless; you are expected to be new at this process. In other words, this presentation is no different from your graded written assignments. It is a learning exercise to help you do better in future presentations.