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Oral presentations

Structure your presentation

The structure of your presentation will depend on its purpose. Spoken academic presentations may have a similar structure to written academic papers (although the language density and style is different).

Almost all presentations need to include three parts:

  • an introduction that clearly introduces your topic and main argument, research questions or purpose
  • 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, and shows implications for the future.

Some disciplines have further conventions that should be followed. For example, if you're a science student giving a presentation about your research, you will have an introduction, methodology, results, discussion and conclusion.

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 in the order that you'll be discussing them. You can reinforce this 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. Practising 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.

Resources

This material was developed by the Learning Centre, who offer workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.

See the handout on Oral presentations (pdf, 3.2MB).

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Last updated: 03 October 2019

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