experiments authors

Tips on How to Present a Paper
Joff Silberg, Ph.D
Rice University
Taken from: http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~bios311/bios311/bios313/tips.html
Scientific papers are typically constructed as Abstract, Introduction, Results and
Discussion. You should essentially follow this construction in your presentation and
follow the general guidelines below.
1. Abstract/ Introduction. Start by stating very briefly what the paper is about. Give
the title and names of major authors (first authors and corresponding authors). Give a
roadmap of the questions they want to answer and how they go about doing that.
a. Big Picture Significance. What general research area does this paper
explore? Why should anyone find this interesting? If possible, include as
many reasons as you can, e.g. practical reasons (for improving health or
productivity?) and intellectual reasons (what is puzzling or mysterious about
the area being investigated?). Be mindful that your audience may not
appreciate why the topic is interesting (including you, so try to find out).
b. Organism/System. Give some background on the experimental organism or
system chosen for this study. Why do people typically use this
organism/approach? Are their alternative systems that could be used? Do
these have drawbacks? In a couple of slides, summarize the advantages and
disadvantages of the chosen organism/system.
c. Specific problem. Concisely state the questions that the authors are
addressing and the general strategies that they are using to address them.
Be sure to give a clear sense of the “point of departure” for the
experiments described in the paper. Indicate clearly what previous studies
had established, what questions those previous experiments raised or left
unaddressed, and which of those questions the paper to be presented
d. Other background. Summarize any additional background information
necessary for your audience to understand the research presented in the
paper. Read the important references in the introduction and methods
yourself to make sure you understand the problem. Focus on both the
biological question and the specific methods that will be used. In the case of
techniques, sometimes it will be easier to introduce these as you go through
the results.
2. Results. Describe each experiment in the paper. The order of results in the text
does not always follow the order presented in the figures. Use your best judgment on
the presentation order to best maintain coherence and clarity in the presentation. For
each experiment:
a. State the hypothesis. Clearly describe what the authors want to
demonstrate with each experiment and how their experiments address this.
b. Describe the method. Describe the method employed in sufficient detail so
that the audience can understand and interpret the results. To do this
properly, you will need to read the “materials and methods” section of the
paper, and you may also need to consult references that describe the
intricacies of a technique, such as the limitations. It is essential to know what
you can interpret from a particular experimental result when evaluating the
author’s conclusions.
c. Show the figures. Crop and blow up relevant panels from the figures for
each separate experiment. Make things large and legible so that everyone
can evaluate the data on the screen. Sometimes this means that you only
show one panel from a figure at a time. However, this depends on the
density of information within each figure.
d. Describe the result. Go through the data slowly and thoroughly for the
audience, i.e. panel-by-panel and sample-by-sample within each panel.
Describe why the authors designed the experiments the way they did.
Remember controls are always important, especially in providing evidence
that new results are valid. Often controls and some results are not presented
in figures or tables but are described in the text. Include these in your
presentation as they often include important information that supports the
author’s arguments. Also include any on line supplementary information in
your results.
e. State and evaluate the conclusion. For each experiment, indicate the
author’s interpretation and conclusions and describe whether you agree with
them! This information can typically be found within both the Results and
Discussion sections. Typically, the Discussion section gives the broader
picture perspective that relates to the overall thesis of the paper. Information
from both sections should be included during your discussion of each figure.
For every experiment that you present you should address whether you agree
with the author’s interpretation and conclusions and whether there are other
approaches that would have improved this study.
3. Conclusions/ Discussion. Summarize the overall conclusions of the paper. Make
sure you read the references that the authors base their conclusions on, so that you can
present and evaluate their argument clearly. State your assessment of the experiments
and conclusions in the paper. Did they do what they claimed they did in their
abstract/title? Is this novel work? How convincing is their argument after you have
critically analyzed their data? How could have this paper been strengthened? What are
the next experiments that you think that the authors should perform?
General tips. PowerPoint presentations are preferable for accurate reproduction of the
figures from the paper. Try to avoid excessive animations, unless they are really
required; this can often be distracting.
Use a font that is visible in the back of the room on your overheads. Go back to the
original journal to copy and/or look at the figures if you can’t make them out on your
copy (eg Pdf). If there are movies in the supporting figures, please use them to
illustrate the experiments instead of static figures directly from the text.
Remember, initial impressions are important for making a good start and will give you
confidence during the rest of your presentation. Therefore, successful presenters
typically write out and rehearse what they are going to say during the first one to three
minutes of their presentations.