Researching for your presentation

Think of your presentation as an iceberg:

  • The invisible foundation to your presentation is reading and research (below the waterline).
  • It supports your academic writing but it isn’t always visible – the presentation is the end report.

Structure of presentation

The general structure of any presentation is:

Introduction – explain the background to your research question and outline your method(s)

Main Body – state and analyse your key results

Conclusion – provide a brief comment on the results

Invite questions

When preparing a presentation ask yourself these questions:

Why? Why is the presentation required? To inform, to initiate discussion, or to persuade? What do you hope to achieve?

Who? How many people are you presenting to? How much will they know about the subject? What do they expect to learn from the presentation?

Where? Where will the presentation take place? What is the room layout? What audio-visual equipment will be available?

What? What do you want to say?

Presentation slides:

Introduction: make the 1st or 2nd slide an outline of your presentation and follow the order of your outline for the rest of the presentation. Only place main points on the outline slides.


  • Stick to the 8 by 8 rule; no more than 8 lines of text per slide and no more than 8 words per line.
  • Write in point form, not complete sentences
  • Include 4-5 points per slide
  • Don’t use too many words; instead use key words and phrases
  • Don’t have too many slides; use slides to emphasise a point


  • Use at least 18-point standard font eg Times New Roman or Arial
  • Use different size fonts for main and secondary points


  • Use colours that provide a sharp contrast and are readable
  • Use colour to reinforce the logic of structure and/or to emphasise a point

Presentation data:

Use graphs rather than just charts and words. This is good to highlight trends and makes data easier to understand and retain. Always title and source graphics

Concluding slides:

Use an effective and strong closing to summarise main points and suggest future avenues for research


Proofread your slides for spelling and grammar

Logical Flow

There should be a logical flow throughout the presentation, and each topic should be presented from general to specific details.

Preparation and delivery

The more knowledgeable you are and the better prepared you are, the less nervous you will be.

  • Read and re-read your script
  • Reduce the script to a series of headings and sub-headings covering key points. Transfer them onto cue cards.
  • Rehearse and time yourself
  • At start of delivery, introduce yourself (or your group)
  • Start with an outline of your presentation
  • Speak to your intended audience at their level
  • Look at the audience, make eye contact and speak slowly and clearly
  • Do not read word-for-word from a script
  • Try to sound interested in your subject. Smile!

Signalling the structure:

Language signals are words and phrases that tell the listeners where you are in the presentation. They may signal:

The topic/structure of the whole talk: “First we will look at the historical background then consider the two main theories. Finally, we will present …”

The beginning or end of a section of the talk: “In this section, we will compare and contrast the two main theories of…”

A new point: “This theory introduces us to the concept of…”

A contrasting point: “An alternative viewpoint was provided by …”

A point of special importance: “It is worthwhile highlighting that…”

Further details on presentations can be found at:

Skills for Presenting in Seminars, UK Council for International Student Affairs

Delivering an Effective Presentation, University of Leicester

Presentations, University of Sussex