Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Create a Power Point Presentation from a Finished Paper

Academic presentations are often based on research in progress or unfinished work. However, sometimes we may find ourselves creating presentations based on full drafts of papers.

What happens when you have completed your 8 or 10,000 word article and now you have to create a 15-minute presentation on the basis of your paper? Luckily, there is a fairly straightforward system you can use to create a presentation from a full paper.

presentation skills

I once heard someone say that a presentation should be viewed as an advertisement for a paper, rather than an attempt to present all of the information in the paper. Keeping this in mind will help you to focus on what’s important and avoid the temptation to attempt to convey all of the rich information in your paper in a brief presentation. Unfortunately, trying to cover too much often means you fail to highlight what’s important.

In my field – Sociology – there is a straightforward formula for giving presentations. I am sure that there is one in your field as well, and it may be very similar to the formula in Sociology. In Sociology, presenters often use Power Point, and presentations often look like this:


  • Introduction (1 slide)
  • Research Questions/Hypotheses (1 slide)
  • Literature Review/Theory (1 slide)
  • Methods & Data Collection (1 slide)
  • Data Presentation/Findings (3-5 slides)
  • Conclusion (1 slide)


Admittedly, many people use many more slides than this, but I advocate for sticking to the rule of no more than one slide per minute. I also think it is important to focus most of your attention on your findings, and as little as possible on other people’s theories and findings. And, you will bore people tremendously if you spend too much time on your methods and data collection. There are many exceptions of course – if your paper is all theory or primarily methodological, then it will look quite different.

To create a presentation from a full-length paper or article, you can pull out the most important parts of the article, based on the above list – or based on the subheadings in your own article.

For the introduction, you can use the same compelling introduction you use in your paper. If you are using Power Point, try and find a provocative image that conveys the point of your paper.

Your next slide should contain your research questions – which your introduction should point to.

Then, spend no more than a minute contextualizing your research questions and project within the literature. Don’t make the mistake of spending too much time reviewing what others have written about your topic. Spend just enough time on the existing literature to make it clear that your work contributes to existing research in the field. People don’t come to conferences to hear literature reviews – they come to hear about new research like yours. The purpose of the literature review is to establish the importance of your work, not to show you have read every relevant article.

Once you have established the importance of your project, explain just enough of your methods and data collection to establish your ability to speak on the topic. Think about the questions people might have – what data set did you use? How many interviews did you carry out? How many months of participant observation did you complete? How many newspaper articles did you code? What is the timeframe for the data? Give just enough information to validate your findings.

Try to get through all of the above in the first five minutes so that you can spend as much of your time as possible sharing the rich detail of your own data and analyses. If you have ethnographic data, you can tell one story from the field for each point you want to make. For statistical data, you can present a table with findings for each finding you wish to highlight. For interview data, you can use one interview quote for each theme you plan to highlight.

Once you have chosen the parts of your findings you wish to highlight, you can leave a minute or two for your conclusion.

As you make each slide, remember to put as few words as possible on each slide, and place an image on each slide to convey your points visually.

4 comments:

  1. As a quantitative researcher, may I suggest: instead of a table of your key result(s), present a graph. Please.

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  2. Unless you are presenting as a scientist, or you have quantitative data, the best advice I can give is, don't have a power point presentation, even the name is distasteful. Academia is not a corporation, let's drop the corporate talk.

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  3. Need an appropriate design (template) - try the search on http://imaginelayout.com/. And by the way, the presentation - it is not something. This is a summary of the information that we want to apply to the listener.

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  4. Hi! Great piece! Conference paper writing can be really difficult sometimes but your tips make it much easier.
    Though I often stumbled on pics on your blog that are no longer available. I think you should fix it.
    Otherwise, great job!

    ReplyDelete