Guidelines for Research Presentations

Research presentations describe work-in-progress, but they still must be well organized in advance rather than “made up” on the spot. Think of them not as final statements, but as reports on the research process as well as on what you are learning and thinking about a particular topic and how you are planning to write about it. In the interest of making each presentation an interesting and constructive experience (for the presenter and for seminar participants), please keep the following points in mind.

Your presentations will be evaluated in writing by all seminar participants, as well as the instructor, and these evaluations will be considered in your grade.

Aim for a presentation of 15 minutes maximum, to be followed by 15-20 minutes or so of questions and comments. I’ll be keeping time.

Note: The outline below is not a rigid formula intended to dictate what you say or the order in which you say it. It is a set of guidelines designed to take the mystery out of this assignment and give you a concrete idea of the major topics and questions to be covered. Excellent presentations will cover these general issues while still being extremely individualized and tailored to the specifics of your particular project.

Your Project, Its Significance and Its Originality

  • Introduce your working title and explain why you chose it.
  • Describe your topic and list the specific questions you are trying to answer in the course of your research.
  • Explain why you think these questions matter. What makes your work historically significant?
  • Place your topic in the context of other secondary literature. What is that other literature? (You might mention particularly significant books or articles.) What questions and themes are emphasized by scholars w ho have written in this field? How is your approach similar to other work on this topic? How is it different?

Your Encounter with Sources

  • Describe the primary sources you are using.
  • What types of sources are they? (Government documents, creative literature, memoirs, organizational documents, newspapers, films, photographs, letters, statistical data, maps, etc.)
  • Why did you choose the sources you did?
  • How will these particular sources help you answer the research questions you have formulated?
  • Has the research process so far caused you to change or refine any of your initial questions? If so, how and why?
  • Are there particular challenges, limitations, or advantages associated with the sources you are using? Explain.
  • How are you organizing your research process–bibliography, notes, and other research materials?

Findings and Final Product

  • Summary of preliminary findings and arguments.
  • What are the tentative answers to your research questions?
  • Do they confirm what you thought before doing the research, or not?
  • What organizational scheme are you considering for your paper? How might your paper be structured? Why that way and not some other way?

Please feel free to reproduce and share materials (please keep them relatively brief) that will make your research project come alive for the rest of us. This might be an outline, an especially rich source, a single visual image, or anything else you think will work. If you need any equipment for your presentation (an overhead or computer projector, VCR and monitor, cd player, etc.), please let me know in advance.