How To Give A Research Lecture

Andrea DiMartini M.D.


This lecture will aid in the development and presentation of a research lecture.  This lecture is best used following two other Alcohol Medical Scholars lectures  “How To Give A Lecture” and “How To Use PowerPoint” as those lectures provide the basics of good lecturing.


I. Introduction


A. Why is this important to put forth the effort to do it well? (Slide 2)

1. To communicate findings effectively

2. To the advance knowledge

3. To establish your credibility

4. To prepare for a manuscript


B. Similar to an educational lecture (Slide 3)

1.      Rules on slide composition

            a. Keep them simple

            b. Large font – not <24 point

            c. Not too much text

2.      Not more than 3-4 key points

3.      Format of the presentation

a.       Orienting the audience to the lecture

b.      Recapitulation of points

c.       Summarizing and conclusions


C. Different from an educational lecture (Slide 4)

1.      Goals –reporting research findings and interpretation of the results

2.      Format – differences discussed below

3.      Length – usually shorter - typically 15 – 20 minutes for conference / symposium presentations

4.      Style of delivery - your own preference (causal vs. more formal for a research lecture).

5.      Recommend professional attire

            a. More formal is better

            b. Too informal is distracting


D. What this lecture will cover (Slide 5)

1.      How to organize information

2.      Format

3.      Slide composition for tables, charts, data, and text

4.      Issues of delivery


II. Format of the presentation


A.     Format  - each section to be discussed below. 

(Note to the lecturer: the suggested number of slides for each section is a rough approximation based on the assumption that the speaker would spend approximately one minute per slide for a 15 to 20 minute presentation). (Slide 6)

1.   Title/disclosures /acknowledgements

2.      Background

3.      Specific aims / hypotheses

4.      Methods

5.      Data

6.      Conclusions

7.      Future directions for research and/or clinical work resulting from your research/ideas


B. Title Slide (Slide 7)

1.      Usually 1 slide

a.       Some conferences request financial/commercial /funding source disclosure slide as the first slide

b.      Otherwise these disclosures should be acknowledged and can be placed at the bottom of the title slide

2.      Acknowledgements -

a.       Not a litany of everyone you ever worked with

b.      List key personnel, elaborate on their contributions

c.       Consider those who meet manuscript authorship requirements (i.e. those who made significant experimental, intellectual, or technical contribution to the work).

d.      Consider verbal acknowledgment of staff / students


C . Background (Slide 8)

1.      Approximately 1-2 slides

2.      Consider sophistication of the audience

a.       Well versed in this area - only need key ideas

b.      Or require more background to familiarize themselves with your work

3.      Research / clinical experience leading to your ideas

4.      Previous work supporting your ideas/hypotheses

5.      Or prior work providing the foundation for your work

6.      Your preliminary work / clinical leading to development of your research

7.      Acknowledge the work of others if pertinent to your research


D. Specific Aims (Slide 9)

1.      1 slide

2.      Clearly articulated, concise language

3.      Specific aims are critical

a.       To identify the goals of the study

b.      Basis of design and methods

c.       To interpret data and conclusions

4.      Prepares the audience to understand and interpret your results

5.      Most studies have 1-3 clearly defined aims

6.      Even if the results do not support your hypotheses, so called “negative results” are as important as “positive results” if the study and hypotheses are well designed and the research is well conducted.

7.      Examples: (Slide 10)

a.       “Our aim was to determine the incidence of alcohol use in pregnant women during their first trimester of pregnancy”

b.      “Our aim was to determine if MDR1 polymorphisms are associated with tiagabine neurotoxicity”


E. Methods – This slide should cover how the research was conducted.  This should be easy as you have completed the research and the details will be very familiar to you. (Slide 11 with Slide 12 as an example)

1.      Approximately 1-2 slides depending on the complexity of the study

2.      Clinical study should answer questions on:

a.       How the sample was assembled recruited?

b.      How was data gathered (i.e. interviews, instruments used, time course, etc.)

3.      Bench top research should answer questions on:

a.       What were the procedures?

b.      How were samples collected, processed, analyzed, stored?

c.       Other information pertinent for others to replicate your work


F. Sample (Slide 13 with Slide 14 as an example)

1.      1 slide

2.      Number of participants / samples in the study (the “N”)

3.      Include demographics for a clinical cohort (i.e. age, gender, race, socioeconomic variables, etc)

4.      For clinical study consider reporting on diagnoses, treatment, comparison to other/general population to orient audience to your cohort


III. Organization and Composition of Data Slides


A. Data (Slide 15)

1.      Approximately 5-6 slides

2.      Keep it simple

3.      Include the most important points/statistics

4.      Figures/tables/graphs

a.       PowerPoint has a wide array of graphs

b.      Be creative but not overwhelming

c.       Think how to emphasize key points in a chart, table, or graph


B. Examples of displaying data (Slides 16 to 25)

1.      If you need to apologize about the quality of the slide don’t use it.

2.      Size and visibility.  Is the graph proportioned to show the results? (Slide 17)

3.      Do not make tables with tiny data or text.  Save this for manuscripts (Slides 18 and 19)

4.      Graphics and pictures should be easy to view (Slide 20 compared to 21)

5.      Too much data can lose the audience in what is important.

a.       Focus on the key points.

b.      Save details for manuscripts

(Note to lecturer discuss how slides 22 and 23 both show study variables and results but in slide 23 key points are better emphasized including only the positive p values and focusing on key variables). (Slides 22 and 23)

6.      Combining different types of data on a slide

a.       Effective if not too complex

b.      Differing units of measurement for variables on same graph is complex

(Note to the lecturer discuss how slide 24 is a good example of combining data to make a specific point.  Slide 25 has 3 variables each with different units of measurement making the graph confusing and too complex to understand quickly. (Slides 24 and 25)


IV. How to do conclusion slides (Slide 26)


            A. Recapitulate your main points

                        1. Keep it simple

                        2. Focus on key findings

                        3. Do not review all findings / data


            B. Limitations of your study – pros / cons

                        1. Audience will know you have thoroughly considered all issues

                        2. Will leave the audience with a negative impression

                        3. Not enough time


            C. Future directions

                        1. Where your findings lead

                        2. Possible translation of your findings to clinical practice, other areas, etc.

                        2. Possible next study to perform



V. Issues of delivery (Slide 27)


  1. Know the audience

1.      Their level of sophistication

2.      Tailor your talk to them (basic facts vs. details of your specific area)


  1. Know exactly how much time you have and stick to it! 

1.      Don't run out of time and get cut off before you finish 

2.      Don't have too many slides

3.      Don't flip through slides you don't have time to share

4.      Moderator has an obligation to presenters / audience to stay on schedule.

5.      Bring a watch and keep track of your time


C.     Rehearse your presentation and timing

1.      This avoids running over time. 

2.      Leave time for questions if no panel discussion at end


VI. Summary (Slide 28)


A. Critical to the presentation and dissemination of scientific information. 


B.     When done well establishes your credibility as a researcher


C.     Effective lectures result from organization and planning


D.     Anyone can do it if they

1.      Focus on issues covered

2.      Avoid the pitfalls of poor data display

3.      Pay attention to the time and format of a research lecture


E.      Practice makes the presentation flow smoothly and keeps to the time allotted