How to Present Your Research
Researchers all have a similar responsibility to share their results with the science community and the public. It is the collective and unique understanding gained by many scientists studying the same problem that allows science to advance. Because results must be shared with people who have not been involved in the research, scientists have accepted ways to present their science.
These can be used as suggested guidelines for poster presentations or science talks. They have a similar structure to a science paper, providing an introduction to the science problem, a description of the methods used to study the problem, an explanation of the results produced and a discussion of their significance and limitations. As you develop your presentation, be sure to consider your audience.
Ask the questions: Is my audience comprised of students, educators, and/or scientists? What background do they already have on my research and what more do I need to convey for them to appreciate my results? How can I present my project so the audience leaves with the best understanding of the importance of my science, how I studied the problem and the contribution I am making to understanding a science problem?
The remainder of this document offers some guidelines to address in organizing and preparing the different parts of a research presentation. These were developed with the input of scientists, educators and students participating in the GISS Institute on Climate and Planets. We hope they are helpful to you in preparing a science poster or talk.
The purpose of your introduction is education about your research problem. Provide background information that will assist the audience in understanding the science question you are trying to answer and your results.
The introduction describes how your research fits into a larger research problem. In the case of ICP researchers it is addressing how the climate system works and changes that occur on various temporal and spatial scales. What are the parts of the research problem and how are they related? What are the unresolved problems and/or questions related to the larger context? Describe how the research expects to make a contribution to understanding climate. Which questions does this research project attempt to answer? Relate the significance of the problem. Explain how the research/problem/issue affects people and its relevance to the research community.
Consider the following when introducing the research:
Clearly define the purpose of the research/problem/issue. Your audience should be able to recognize the research problem and the “truths” that you as the researcher are seeking.
Explain the nature of the scientific problem, its importance and relevance to citizens.
Explain what is known about the problem already, with citations of varying views.
Explain what is not well understood about the problem, with citations of varying views.
What’s new about what you are doing and why hasn’t it been done before?
What answers are you trying to get? (research objective and questions).
State your hypotheses and reasoning for assumptions.
Describe relevant science/math concepts and relate to climate/weather applications, systems/processes and big questions.
Methods or Research Approach
The purpose is to describe the data and/or model and analysis used in the research. Explain essential terminology. Ensure that you thoroughly understand and learn how you are investigating the research problem. Describe the techniques for analyzing data/model. This is what will enable you to relate the same to your peers and others in the audience. Sufficiently communicate the methods in order to explain how the results were derived.
Consider the following when describing the methods:
Defines attributes of the data sets and/or model used, e.g. resolution, duration (temporal scale), coverage (spatial scale).
Where do the data come from? Is the variable(s) observed directly by sampling atmosphere/ocean/surface or is it derived from remote sensing or a computer algorithm (model, e.g. a GCM)?
What geographic area does your data/model cover?
What time period does your data/model cover?
What is the area your variable(s) measured over (resolution of your grid boxes)?
Describes strengths and limitations of data sets and/or models used.
Why was data set or model selected? You may want to discuss this with faculty advisors and team scientists. Answers like “It was available at GISS” or “My teacher/scientist told me to use it” are not acceptable.
How accurate are the data? Are they equally accurate in all parts of the world under all conditions? What factors may impact confidence in the data?
What kinds of things do you think the model used will simulate or predict well and what do you suspect it might do poorly, and why?
If data is presented, it should be in an easily understood and well-defined format.
Provide a sound explanation of methods of investigation. Defend why they were selected.
Are you using manual or automated (computer) techniques?
What statistical methods (means, standard deviations, and correlation coefficients) are being used and what are your reasons for applying them?
What are you doing to the data for analysis (averaging, binning, sorting of data)
Are you conducting model/data comparisons? What kind of comparisons?
Why did you choose this research approach, e.g. your methods?
Present the results of your investigation in a graphical format, with a brief explanation based on your data and/or model analysis. Show diagrams/figures that indicate what happened in your study. While planning presentation of results, you should make a list of the figures you want to use, identify what is important about each figure and why. Show the most important results in the form of specific statistics, logistics, data and references. The interpretation of this information builds the argument for your conclusions. Results should be presented objectively, yet they should not be boring. Avoid merely stating a result. Instead, be sure to integrate a discussion of the result with its implications. Remind listeners about the relationship to the significance, background, “big picture” and the “hook” presented in your introduction.
Consider the following when explaining your results:
Results are presented in an easily understood and well-defined format.
Did you label axes of figures, including units?
Try not to use more than 3-4 curves on a single plot
Are figures presented in a way that best communicates your findings?
A vs. time and B vs. time, or A vs. B
A (model) vs. latitude and A (data) vs. latitude
A (x,y) or deviation of A (x,y) from its mean
Use only figures essential to support the main findings of your research. **Lay out the figures you plan to use and begin putting captions by them to explain the research. Does it make sense? Do the figures support your claims?
Presents each main finding of your study with no more than 1-2 figures or tables.
Describe each figure and summarizes what’s important.
Are explanations of science/math concepts used to explain importance?
The discussion of these graphics should include descriptions of trends, positive and negative correlation, comparison between results, agreement or disagreement with initial hypothesis or expected outcomes.
Does your discussion of figures/tables support conclusions you’ll make in the next section of your presentation?
What do your results suggest about the problem you’re studying? What clues do they provide regarding the questions addressed in your study?
Results are presented in a logical way, not chronologically.
Describe what you believe is the significance or importance of your results. Explain why scientists should care about your project findings and why the general public should care. It is essential to provide a critique of your results (strengths/weaknesses). Tell your audience how well you think you addressed the guiding scientific questions and what remains unanswered (what we still don’t know and need to find out). Conclude with a brief description of future scientific work needed to study your research problem and the important unanswered questions.
Restate the problem your studying and discuss the impact and interpretation of your results. This section summarizes conclusions. How certain are the results? Is there support in the science community for your research results or the interpretation of the results or do they conflict with currently held scientific perspectives?
Consider the following when stating your conclusions and relating them to key points in your introduction:
Restate the research objective.
Connect results to hypothesis and research objective.
What implications do your results have for “big” questions guiding your research?
What significance do your conclusions have for scientists and the general public?
Attempt to predict how results may change with different variables and/or methods of analysis.
Use results presented as evidence to make conclusions about research problem.
What are the new things that were found compared to what was known before?
Illustrate significance of findings by explaining trends or patterns in results, as well as comparisons made of data/model analysis. Conclusions are based on results, not speculation?
Identify constraints of project (data, model, methods) that may impact results
Did you explain the uncertainty related to your results? Is there a standard error for your calculations?
What are the limitations of your results in addressing your research problem?
Too small a statistical sample to be significant
Needed data not accurate enough or available
Was the tested hypothesis the right one to make?
Describe unanswered questions and future work. Explain advantages of further study and possible changes to data and methods used.