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WRITING PAPERS AND GOING TO CONFERENCES Gita Subrahmanyam Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher.

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Presentation on theme: "WRITING PAPERS AND GOING TO CONFERENCES Gita Subrahmanyam Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher."— Presentation transcript:

1 WRITING PAPERS AND GOING TO CONFERENCES Gita Subrahmanyam Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher

2 OUTLINE OF WORKSHOP Why go to conferences and seminars? Hierarchy of conferences Writing, structuring and proposing papers Delivering papers

3 WHY ARE YOU HERE TODAY? As a table, talk about your experiences to date Have you been to a conference? As an attendee or as a paper-giver? Do you have a conference coming up that you would like help with? Why are you here today? What do you hope to get out of today’s workshop?

4 Credit:www.imageafter.com Transmitting ideas is a key step in getting feedback and upgrading your knowledge.

5 WHY GO TO SEMINARS AND CONFERENCES ? 1. For staff Create deadlines using short papers to kick-start your publications Meet collaborators, friends, age cohort Plug into the wider profession and gain an understanding of fashions, trends, tribes, taboos, discourses - and where the LSE sits Collate oral wisdoms, gossip, tips Book exhibitions, meet with publishers, network at dinners, receptions, bars

6 Key socializing venues – networking Spot potential examiners, meet key academics and hear professional gossip Gain valuable critiques of your work – determine what needs to be changed or improved Meet others in your peer group involved in the same areas of research (future collaboration potential here) In USA: See how the job market works (early stages) and enter it (later stages) WHY GO TO SEMINARS AND CONFERENCES? 2. For PhDs

7 HIERARCHY OF CONFERENCES Seminars in home institution - known audience Postgraduate conferences External seminars, specialist groups in your profession (wider audience) UK national conference – choice of panels European-level international conferences – workshops, panels, specialist groups US/global conferences – huge attendance but often tiny audiences at individual panels – real action in bars, book fairs, receptions

8 THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD PAPER AND PROPOSAL

9 CONFERENCE PAPERS SHOULD BE Short - between 6,000 and 7,000 words Focus on one idea or argument, not on multiple themes – so do not try to incorporate your entire PhD into a paper Paper should be a good illustration of your work (e.g., not on a topic peripheral to your PhD or research expertise, in order to fit within a panel theme) Paper should be designed for publication and meet publication standards in terms of style of presentation and methods

10 FOCUS ON THE ‘NEED TO KNOW’ CRITERION Normal (written) form is: –What do readers really need to know? Conference (presentation) form is: –What does the audience really need to see on screen? –What do listeners really need to have explained to them?

11 ‘NEED TO KNOW’ IMPLICATIONS 1 However literary your normal style, plan the talk as a sequence of exhibits Put all that you want to say/show on screen, in a user-friendly manner Practice timings for your talk Aim for a fast, well-paced start – do not ‘warm up’ the audience to your subject Sell the paper – don’t be diffident

12 ‘NEED TO KNOW’ IMPLICATIONS 2 Organise your talk into 3 minute chunks, planning for one display per chunk Use PowerPoint (not Word) to compose your displays – and have OHP backups! Text should be free-standing and readily understandable without you speaking (audience will deconstruct it like that) Try to avoid a build-up of slides or too many ‘flying bullets’ – delays exposition and too controlling

13 ‘NEED TO KNOW’ IMPLICATIONS 3 Pick a font that is visible to someone in the back row - like this one Put equations and quantitative tables into separate image screens, magnified so that the smallest subscript is visible Preferably use summary data tables, rather than detailed ones Pick the best feasible fonts for display

14 TIME LIMITS FOR PRESENTATIONS Seminars to 40 minutes UK and most European conferences - 20 minutes per paper, then questions; normally 2 or 3 papers per panel US and most international conferences - 10 to 15 minutes per paper, followed by questions; often 4 or 5 papers per panel Workshops and intensive conferences – minutes per paper, followed by one-hour discussion time

15 IMPLICATIONS FOR PROPOSALS A conference proposal/abstract should be an accurate and concise summary of what the paper delivers Check the ‘Call for Papers’ carefully –What are the key themes of the conference? –What kind of presentation will you do?presentation –How long should the abstract be? –When is the deadline for submission?

16 IMPLICATIONS FOR PROPOSALS (2) ‘Need to know’ criterion should guide abstract –What do organisers need to know to assess whether to accept the paper and where to place it in a panel? Core argument/bottom-line findings should form centre-piece of the abstract Don’t waste words on literature review or methodology

17 HAVE A GO Write a proposal/abstract for the conference of your choice Follow the ‘Call for Papers’ guidelines in the example you brought in, EXCEPT stick to a maximum of 200 words If you haven’t brought a ‘Call for Papers’, then try using one of the spare copies at the front of the room

18 A GOOD PROPOSAL/ABSTRACT Sentence 1 – a hook, indication of motivation (for you and reader) Sentences 2 –3 – formulation of research problem/question Sentences 3 – 4 – outline of core finding (maybe a sideways glance at method) Sentences 5 – 6 - implications

19 GET SOME FEEDBACK Pass your abstract to the person on your left Read the abstract you have in front of you and think about what you might do to improve it Feed back to the person who handed you their abstract, and get feedback on your own abstract

20 WHAT CAN GO WRONG ON THE DAY WITH AN OTHERWISE GOOD SEMINAR OR CONFERENCE PAPER

21 SCARY CONFERENCE VISION - real life is more prosaic

22 BE PREPARED FOR A REALISTIC AUDIENCE SIZE Check the venue in advance for size and features – may indicate audience size Conference slots respond to multiple factors, including competition, timings etc – so don’t regard small audiences, dribbling in late, in an over-large room, as unusual or depressing Alternatively beware of an over-large audience, cramped and uncomfortable in too small a room

23 BE PREPARED FOR POSSIBLE PRESENTATION PROBLEMS Presentation facilities vary unpredictably - you need to be adaptable –Take Powerpoint slides in two storage formats (e.g. USB stick and CD). – slides to seminar hosts. –Take an OHP copy of slides –Print readable ‘handout’ copies of slides for a realistic audience (say 25) –Take full paper copies, for zealots

24 THINGS TO AVOID, IDEALLY: - BEING INVISIBLE – by never standing up - HAVE NO VISUALS AIDS – unexciting - READING THE PAPER WORD FOR WORD

25 THINGS TO AVOID, cont’d. USING BADLY CONSIDERED VISUALS – that are unreadable and do not project well on an OHP (or in PowerPoint)

26 PLAN FOR POSSIBILITY THAT YOU MAY BE ALLOCATED A NOT-SO-IDEAL ROOM AND THINK ABOUT HOW TO ADJUST FOR IT

27 Credit: RANDOM UNIVERSITY ROOM – functional but depressing, no daylight, blackboard!

28 CREDFIT: SMALL ROOM HAZARDS – no OHP, no screen, table dominating the space,.. + dogs!

29 Credit: LARGE ROOM HAZARDS – long thin room, audience obstructs each others’ view, no equipment for visual displays

30 SUBTLE HAZARDS - half the audience can’t see the OHP, narrow tables, and uncomfortable seating arrangment

31 Credit: THINGS TO AIM FOR, IDEALLY STAND UP, and use CLEAR, VARIED SLIDES for best feasible delivery

32 THINGS TO AIM FOR, cont’d FOR LARGE AUDIENCES (just in case) – think of the view from the back row

33 Credit: IDEAL SEMINAR ROOM – central display screen + OHP, wide tables, space for moving around, daylight or good lighting, smallish group

34 PRESENTING DATA poorly

35 START BADLY – I’ve printed my cover page in tiny font and slapped it on the OHP slide

36 MAINTAIN CONSIS- TENCY: ‘Some of you may not be able to see the subscripts here too well’

37 TABLES – complex, difficult to read, weak heading/title, unnecessary abbreviations, space wasted between data points

38 CHARTS – 3D design, small and thin, weak heading, no logic to arrangement of bars, labels in a legend, key details in micro font

39 VERY LARGE TABLES – multiple smudges of micro font are not ideal for presenting full regression results to a crowded room

40 PRESENTING DATA properly

41 Credit: STRONG EXPOSITION – proper display, visible fonts, speaker visible… and using pointer for details

42 Formula for effective number of parties

43 Figure 7.2: How Scotland’s health boards compared in treating cataracts, financial year Notes:Treatment rates per 100,000 people The range is 506, and the midspread (dQ) is 55. Source: National Audit Office, 1999.

44 Figure 1: How Scottish health boards treat cataracts,


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