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Oral presentations

Structure your presentation

Spoken academic presentations may have a similar structure to written academic papers. For example, in disciplines in the sciences, a spoken presentation about your research will have an introduction, methodology, results, discussion and conclusion.

Regardless of the discipline area, almost all presentations need to include three parts:

  • an introduction that clearly introduces your topic and main argument, research questions or purpose, for example.
  • a body that is divided into a few main parts, each with a main point and some examples or evidence
  • a conclusion that sums up the main points, reinforces your argument or answers your research question, showing implications for the future.

It’s important to make the topic and structure of your presentation clear for the audience. At the end of your introduction you should tell the audience your main points and their order (and stick to this). You can reinforce the order of your presentation with a slide or handout listing the sections.

During the presentation, use ‘signposting’ language to guide the audience through your presentation. This could include summarising what you’ve just told them, clearly introducing each section and linking your points back to the overall topic.

Another way to make your structure clear is to use headings on your slides.

When you plan the structure of your presentation, set a time limit for each section and stick to it. If you can see you’re running over time, leave out one or two examples in that section. This allows enough time to complete the rest of your presentation. Practicing before your presentation helps you with your timing.

In group presentations think about timing, order of presentations and the role/functions of the different speakers.

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Last updated: 19 July 2018

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