Academic Presentations in English


Welcome to Academic Presentations in English. The syllabus below is a tentative plan. After meeting with you, I will be able to customize the course to your needs.

Week 1 (April 5)


  • Course Introduction
  • Introducing yourself and explaining your research interests
  • How this course can help you
  • The problem with presentations
  • Differences between academic and non-academic presentations
  • How to watch a talk on TED


First, Watch this talk by Malcolm Gladwell on Choice, happiness, and spaghetti sauce.

Second, think about the questions below and be prepared to discuss your answers with your classmates next week.

  1. What did you like or dislike about the talk?
  2. What were the main points of Gladwell's talk?
  3. Why do you think he spent so much time telling Howard Moskowitz' story rather than providing data?
  4. What were Gladwell's conclusions?
  5. How did Gladwell connect his conclusions to the work done by Moskowitz?
  6. Was this an effective presentation? Why or why not?

Third, be prepared to give a short 3-4 minute talk about your research topic to other members of the class. The first minute or so of your talk should be a story about how you became interested in the topic and why you want to investigate it.

Week 2 (April 12)


  • Review
  • Discussion about the Malcolm Gladwell talk
  • Research topic presentations
  • The structure of the introduction


    First, watch the two Ken Robinson talks below.

    Second, think about the questions below and be prepared to discuss your answers with your classmates next week.

    1. How were the talks similar in terms of content, structure, and style?
    2. How were the talks different in terms of content, structure, and style?
    3. Which one did you prefer? Please provide specific reasons.
    4. Were his conclusions different or the same?

    Third, using the Dummies guide to presentation introductions prepare a 3-4 minute introduction about your research topic.

    Week 3 (April 19)


  • Review
  • Research topic presentations
  • Discussion about Ken Robinson's presentation (please see the homework questions)
  • The purpose and structure of the body
    * Please use this link to join the Slack group.


    First, read How to give an academic talk, v.3.1

    Second, read the Dummies guide on "How to write the body of a presentation

    Third, prepare a 4-5 minute simple explanation of your research topic. This is just the body so you will not need an introduction. Please follow the suggestions in the Dummies guide. Also, incorporate the ideas from Edward's paper in your presentation.

    Fourth, remember not to write our your presentation word-for-word. Try to make an outline or a mind map. You can find a list of mind mapping apps on the Tech for research and writing page. Scroll down to the "Suggested apps" section and then look for the "Mind mapping/concept mapping section".

    Week 4 (April 26)


  • Review
  • Research topic presentations (main section only)
  • Understanding logical organization


    First, prepare 6-7 minute presentation of your research topic that includes an introduction and body. Remember to start your presentation with a short story or anecdote.

    Second, watch Bill Clinton's nominating speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention. Pay particular attention to how he explains issues in simple and easy to understand English. Also notice that even though he wrote his own speech, he delivers it as if he is talking directly to the audience. You don't have to watch the whole speech (it's 50 minutes long).

    Week 5 (May 10)


  • Review and short discussion on Bill Clinton's speech.
  • Research topic presentations
  • Introduction to logical organization


    First, watch this short "TED talk from the future". Please pay particular attention to his timing, gestures, voicing, and the overall organization of the speech.

    Second, watch this "speech" from the U.S. television series "The West Wing". Please pay attention to how the speaker uses repetition to increase the emotional impact of his statements. And yes, I know that the music increases the dramatic effect, but still, it's a good speech. The first 1:46 gives you background information on the speech contents.

    The opinions expressed in the videos are not intended to represent my opinions nor to indicate support for the ideas. The videos are posted here to show you some possible tools that can help increase the dramatic effect of your presentations.

    Third, go back and critically watch the TED talks and the Bill Clinton speech. What are the speakers doing with their voices, their gestures, their expressions? Do they pause to emphasize ideas? Do any of them use repetition to increase dramatic value? What do they do hook the audience? How are their talks organized? When you come to class next week, you should be able to explain to your classmates "how" the talks work.

    Week 6 (May 17)


  • Review.
  • Discussion about the dramatized speeches you watched.
  • Voice practice.
  • Presenting facts and opinions.
  • Midterm presentation explanation.


    First, use some kind of outlining or mind mapping system to prepare a 5-6 minute presentation on how to improve the undergraduate teaching system in your field. If an undergraduate program does not exist, then make an argument for why one is necessary. Make sure that your presentation has an effective introduction and that the main body is organized according to one of the logical patterns we have discussed.

    Second, after planning your presentation, spend time practicing your talk. You should practice in front of a mirror, and record yourself for reviewing your talk. Minimally, you should make a voice recording to hear how you sound. Using your smart phone to make a video of yourself would be even better. You want to pay particular attention to how you use your voice in terms of tone, volume, emphasis, repetition, and silence.

    Week 7 (May 24)

    Midterm presentations

    Week 8 (May 31)


  • More talk about presentations.
  • Practicing different logical structures.
  • Providing facts and evidence.


    First, look at the Presentation Zen website. Carefully read about what makes a good slide.

    Second, watch the first 15 minutes of Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone in 2007. You only need to watch the first 15 minutes. Focus on the slides, how they are designed, and how they help communicate his ideas.

    Third, use PowerPoint or some other slide application to make 3 slides that provide information (facts and evidence) about your research topic. It is very important that you use images and little or no text in your slides.

    Week 9 (June 7)


  • Review
  • Peer review of slides
  • David McCandless on visualizing data

  • Data visualization exercises


    First, try to look at as many different kinds of data visualization as you can.

    Second, think about the data you want to use in your presentation. How many different ways can you present it?

    Third, make three slides that make your data "visible" to your audience. Print them out and bring them to class.

    Week 10 (June 14)


  • Peer evaluation of slides
  • Describing and explaining slides
  • Impromptu speaking practice


    First, begin to map out or outline your final presentation using your preferred system.

    Second, find evidence and citations to support your claims.

    Third, revise your slides based on the feedback you receive today.

    Week 11 (June 21)


    • Review.
    • More work on data visualization.


    First, prepare a mind map or outline for a 15-20 minute final presentation. You should break down the presentation into three sections: introduction, body, and conclusion.

    Second, make sure you have valid data/evidence to support your claims.

    Third, try to make 5 slides that you can use in your final presentation.

    Fourth, print out your mind map and bring it to class.

    Week 12 (June 28)


    • Peer editing and teacher consultations for mind maps.

    Week 13 (July 5)

    • Final presentations.