PhD Diary – May 2021

How do I summarise eight months of work in a 10-minute presentation? This my current problem as the university is hosting an event to allow PhD students to present their work in a brief conference. This is the first time I am discussing my research to the faculty, in front of a range of academics. The presentation has undergone its fair share of rewrites before even finishing a full draft. As my major review approaches, pressure has risen to present the contexts around my project in a concise manner.

The biggest challenge for me is trying to pin down the key points about the project and articulating them in a manner to prevent waffling. There is no shortage of information to discuss but picking out the details crucial to the broad aims of the project has proven tricky. The hardest part is trying to fit all the pieces together in a way that makes sense. One method I have been trying is treating the presentation as a story and weaving a narrative throughout the slides. By framing the contexts around the project as worldbuilding or setting the plot, I have found it easier to visualise the bigger picture I am trying to convey.

Having tried creative writing in the past, I am familiar with the challenge of determining what are important aspects of the narrative and what is expendable when there are restrictions to length. Whilst the above strategy has helped provide a sound structure, it has not helped decide what exactly I intend to discuss. In hindsight, it would have been useful if I had implemented some sort of relevance ranking system to my reading when doing research. By having some quick reference to the literature integral to the project, establishing the key contexts should be easier. Of course, there are drawbacks in this approach. On what grounds would one consider a piece of literature relevant? Especially early in a project like this, one that tends to adapt as time goes on as the network of knowledge grows. Perhaps such an approach would be useful after settling the contexts of the project, so this is something to come back to.

In the end, this is probably the main consideration to make about this presentation. This is not about condensing eight months of work into ten minutes. Rather, it is about establishing the key questions and contexts surrounding the work that I have done. Even this far in, the contexts surrounding this project are yet to be set in stone. It is better to consider this presentation as an opportunity to get something more concrete.

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