Consider giving an oral presentation

Spoken presentations are overwhelmingly common in the scientific and technical professions. They take many forms, from conference presentations, departmental seminars, and job interviews to classroom presentations, brown-bag lunches, and public talks. Treat each opportunity with respect. Each has its own role to play in a scientist's life, equally valuable in its own way to communication through formal peer-reviewed publication.

At a point partway through your study, seek out an opportunity to present your research orally or in poster form at a public forum such as a laboratory meeting, a departmental seminar, or a scientific conference whose proceedings are limited to abstracts. The comments and questions you receive will help you determine where more work might be needed to fill gaps in your arguments and observations.

Oral presentations can be more than merely way-stations on the track to eventual publication of new information. A well-designed and well-delivered oral presentation of ongoing work can be one of the most effective forms of communication experiences available to both the speaker and the audience.

With the burgeoning popularity of computer-based presentation software such as Microsoft® PowerPoint®, temptation has strengthened to treat oral presentations as though they were simply spoken versions of a typescript. In its worst iteration, the speaker is simply a reader, parroting text directly from the screen as it is projected. Don't even consider such a route. See Chapter 4 for guidelines and tips on effectively presenting material orally.


Failing to plan is planning to fail.

All of us, when confronted by a writing deadline, face the temptation to skip the organizational phases of writing. This is akin to leaving on a trip to unknown parts without a road map! Professional writers are quick to point out that organizing one's thoughts at the outset will save time in the long run, and will result in a more effective document.

Organize and plan your message

Whenever the subject of organization comes up in the context of writing, people picture an outline - the most widely used technique for placing ideas in linear sequence for a written document. However, organization has both a thinking and a writing stage, and half of any writing effort is taken by the thinking stage. At the thinking stage, outlining is actually less effective than any of a number of other, lesser-known activities, including brainstorming and clustering. You may wish to try out the procedures mentioned below, and see which best contributes to the unity of your document and eases the writing task.

If you find one or more of these techniques to be helpful, you will probably discover yourself using it freely and often. Some journalists use clustering to take notes during interviews, for example, developing a concept map as the responder talks. Technical writers report that these methods help minimize the edit-rewrite-edit-rewrite syndrome common in many commercial and academic situations. After capturing key points onto a concept map, issue tree, or cluster diagram, these writers translate the points into an organized list rather than a complete sentence draft. Only after approval of this version by supervisors do they go on to produce a full-sentence version.

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