Presenting Your Research:Papers, Talks, and Chats Marie desJardins (firstname.lastname@example.org) University of Maryland, Baltimore County First Annual MAPLE Research Colloquium 31 May 2002
Research isn’t just research • Who cares what you do, if you never tell them? • You’ll need to present your ideas in various forms and venues: • Networking with colleagues at UMBC and elsewhere • Writing and submitting papers to workshops, conferences, and journals • Presenting papers at workshops and conferences • Putting together a website that highlights your interests and research activities • …oh, and these things also provide useful experience for job interviews, not to mention valuable job skills…
Networking • Meet people! It helps to have an objective: • Find out what research they’re currently working on • Tell them what you’re currently working on • Find an area of common interest • Learn what their visions/future directions are • Suggest a new direction for research or topic for a class • What’s in this interaction for you? • What’s in it for them? • If you know two friends, and they know two friends, and they know two friends… Pretty soon you know everybody!
Networking II • You need to be prepared to summarize your research • For a thesis topic, you should have a 1-minute, 5-minute, and 15-minute presentation already thought through • The same goes for other projects you’ve been working on • Be able to distinguish between your original contributions, your advisor’s contributions, and ideas drawn from previous research • Practice with other students!
Writing and submitting papers • For a master’s thesis, you should aim to have at least one “good” conference paper by the time you graduate • For a doctoral dissertation, you should aim for a couple of good conference papers and a journal paper • Writing these papers is great practice for the thesis itself… (and you can reuse the material!) • Where to submit? • Look at publication lists of people doing research related to yours, and see where they publish • Publish at the conferences that have the most interesting papers
Writing papers: Strategy • First, decide where you plan to submit the paper • You may not finish in time, but having a deadline is always helpful • Two to four months away is a good planning horizon • Next, decide what you will say • What are the key ideas? Have you developed them yet? • What are the key results? Have you designed and run the experiments yet? Have you analyzed the data? • What is the key related work? Have you read the relevant background material? Can you give a good summary of it? • Now get started on the work you need to do to fill in the missing holes! (You can write in parallel…)
Writing papers: Design • Abstract –summarizes the research contributions, not the paper (i.e., it shouldn’t be an outline of the paper) • Introduction/motivation – what you’ve done and why the reader should care, plus an outline of the paper • Technical sections – one or more sections summarizing the research ideas you’ve developed • Experiments/results/analysis – one or more sections presenting experimental results and/or supporting proofs • Future work – summary of where you’re headed next and open questions still to be answered • Conclusions – reminder of what you’ve said and why it’s important • Related work – sometimes comes after introduction, sometimes before conclusions (depends to some extent on whether you’re building on previous research, or dismissing it as irrelevant)
Writing papers: Tactics • Top-down design (outline) is very helpful • Bulleted lists can help you get past writer’s block • Unless you’re a really talented/experienced writer, you should use these tools before you start writing prose • Neatness counts! Check spelling, grammar, consistency of fonts and notation before showing it to anyone for review • If they’re concentrating on your typos, they might miss what’s interesting about the content • Leave time for reviews! • Fellow students, collaborators, advisors, … • A paper is only done when it’s submitted... and usually not even then.
Authorship • Who should be an author? • Anyone who contributed significantly to the conceptual development or writing of the paper • Not necessarily people who provided feedback, implemented code, or ran experiments • What order should the authors be listed in? • If some authors contributed more of the conceptual development and/or did most/all of the writing, they should be listed first • If the contribution was equal or the authors worked as a team, the authors should be listed in alphabetical order • Sometimes the note “The authors are listed in alphabetical order” is explicitly included
Giving talks • Know how long you have • How long is the talk? Are questions included? • A good heuristic is 2-3 minutes per slide • If you have too many slides, you’ll skip some or—worse—rush desperately to finish. Avoid this temptation!! • Almost by definition, you never have time to say everything about your topic, so don’t worry about skipping some things! • Unless you’re very experienced giving talks, you should practice your timing: • A couple of times on your own to get the general flow • At least one dry run to work out the kinks • A run-through on your own the night before the talk
Giving talks II • Know who your audience is • Don’t waste time on basics if you’re talking to an audience in your field • Even for these people, you need to be sure you’re explaining each new concept clearly • On the other hand, you’ll lose people in a general audience if you don’t give the necessary background • In any case, the most important thing is to emphasize what you’ve done and why they should care!
Giving talks III • Know what you want to say • Just giving a project summary is not interesting to most people • You should give enough detail to get your interesting ideas across (and to show that you’ve actually solved, but not enough to lose your audience • They want to hear what you did that was cool and why they should care • Preferably, they’ll hear the above two points at the beginning of the talk, over the course of the talk, and at the end of the talk • If they’re intrigued, they’ll ask questions or read your paper • Whatever you do, don’t just read your slides!
Preparing slides • Don’t just read your slides! • Use the minimum amount of text necessary • Use examples • Use a readable, simple, yet elegant format • Use color to emphasize important points, but avoidtheexcessiveuseofcolor • “Hiding” bullets like this is annoying (but sometimes effective), but… • Don’t fidget, and… • Don’t just read your slides! Abuse of animation is a cardinal sin!
How to give a bad talkAdvice from Dave Patterson, summarized by Mark Hill • Thou shalt not be neat • Thou shalt not waste space • Thou shalt not covet brevity • Thou shalt cover thy naked slides • Thou shalt not write large • Thou shalt not use color • Thou shalt not illustrate • Thou shalt not make eye contact • Thou shalt not skip slides in a long talk • Thou shalt not practice
Some useful resources • Writing: • Lynn DuPre, Bugs in Writing • Strunk & White, Elements of Style • Giving talks: • Mark Hill, “Oral presentation advice” • Patrick Winston, “Some lecturing heuristics” • Simon L. Peyton Jones et al., “How to give a good research talk” • Dave Patterson, “How to have a bad career in research/academia”