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Presenting your PhD Research

For students in the social sciences, this is a simple checklist that will help you in the very early stages of your PhD. It is also a basic presentation template for those making their first presentation on their doctoral project.

As you progress through your research career, you can stray from this template or abandon it altogether, but at the beginning of the PhD process, it gives you a good idea of what is expected of you when presenting your proposal (KCL’s Upgrade, Oxford’s Transfer of Status) or your prospectus.

1. What is your research question?

2. Why is it important and interesting? (Also known as the So What question.)

3. What literature do you speak to and what does it say about your question? Be BRIEF. Summarize, condense, consolidate key ideas.

4. How will you answer the question? (Methodology)

5. What do YOU want to say? What is your argument? What are your expected findings?

6. What is your contribution to the literature?

7. To what extent is your argument generalizable? [Optional]

Spend one-third of your time on 1, 2, 3. Spend two-thirds of your time on 4, 5, 6, 7. In a fifteen minute presentation, spend five minutes on 1, 2, 3, and ten minutes on 4, 5, 6, 7. This is just a rough guide. The key is to remember that your audience cares most about YOUR approach to the subject (rather than spending a lot of time on reviewing what has already been said).

Separate from a formal academic presentation, you should also be prepared to give an elevator-pitch version of your PhD project- one to two minutes. Be sure that you have a version that your grandparents understand and a version for the academic community. Doing  great research is one thing, but communicating your findings and making people care about your results is also a very important skill.

Another excellent source for PhD Research Proposals can be found here, thanks to King’s Geography Dept.

* Thanks to Oisin Tansey and the University of Reading’s Politics department for inspiring this template.


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