How to Present a Research Paper the Easy Way

Your heart is pounding so hard that you’re positive everyone in the room can hear it. Beads of sweat form on your brow as you try to load your presentation. You pause and breathe deeply. It does nothing to calm you.

The presentation finally loads … but it’s the draft you started days ago. The version you spent 12 hours on yesterday is gone. You’re left with four miserable slides and a smeared, bent note card to help you through a 10-minute presentation.

You scream silently to yourself, but thankfully, the screams are enough to wake you from your nightmare.

Presentation anxiety has gotten the best of you. You’re more than a little freaked out because you have a killer paper but have absolutely no idea how to stand in front of your class and talk about it.

Don’t sweat it. I’m here to help you learn how to take that awesome research paper and turn it into an (even more) awesome presentation.

How to Present a Research Paper the Easy Way

how to present a research paper

Presenting a paper isn’t as difficult as you might imagine, but it does take planning and practice.

Follow these three steps to learn how to present a research paper the easy way.

Step #1: Decide what to present

Once you have a finished research paper, start by looking at the main ideas.

You might do this by reviewing any outlines you created before writing the actual paper.

(If you’re one of those people who ends up writing a paper that looks completely different from your initial outlines, try creating a reverse outline by listing your thesis, main arguments, and supporting evidence.)

Need some inspiration? Check out these speech outlines to see how other students have handled presentations:

After you’ve written a solid outline of your paper, consider the time limit of your presentation.

If you have a seven-page paper but your presentation can be no more than four minutes, you’ll likely have to hit only the most basic of points.

On the other hand, if you have to give a 10-minute presentation on a seven-page paper, you’ll need to elaborate on the details of your research.

As you decide what to include in your presentation, you’ll quickly realize that, in some cases, each key argument might be quite lengthy.

That means you can’t fit every example or piece of evidence into your presentation. If that’s the case, summarize the information and limit the examples you use.

Not sure what to include or what to cut?

The essential elements

As you work, keep the following in mind: your finished presentation should include enough information to clearly address each of the main points of your paper. (It’s better to briefly touch on each key argument than it is to skip entire sections of your research.)

Don’t forget: When figuring out how to present a research paper effectively, the introduction and conclusion are just as important in the presentation as they are in your actual paper. So remember to include a catchy opening to make your audience take notice and a smooth conclusion to neatly wrap up your ideas.

See how one student handled all of the above in the text of this speech: A Persuasive Speech on Limiting the Production and Use of Plastic.

Step #2: Create visual aids

how to present a research paper

For most presentations, you’ll want to create (or bring in) visual aids. What type of visual aids you use will, of course, depend on your assignment requirements.

In some cases, you’ll be required to bring in visual aids that correspond with your presentation. For instance, if your research focuses on how long you can leave fast food fries laying around before they become moldy, you might bring in a few orders of fries that vary in freshness.

In other cases, your presentation will rely on visuals you create—most likely a slideshow.

When creating this type of visual, you’ll want to make sure your slides are appropriate for your presentation and topic.

Here are a few quick tips:

  • The slideshow is an aid, not the focus. I know you might want to use the visuals to draw attention to the slides and away from you, but the visuals should support your presentation, not be the focus of the presentation.
  • Keep text to a minimum. Don’t try to cram in everything that you say onto your slides. Slides should contain only the main talking points of your presentation. (Refer back to your essay outlines to identify the most important points.)
  • Use bullet points as necessary. Bullet points can be a great way to include supporting points or examples to support your main points.
  • Choose appropriate fonts and backgrounds. Don’t use extremely small fonts. Keep them large enough for your audience to read. Choose easy-to-read styles, and avoid script fonts. Be sure that your color schemes and backgrounds are appropriate to your topic. For instance, if your paper is about poverty, then bright, colorful circus-themed backgrounds aren’t exactly appropriate.
  • Choose appropriate images. A few high-quality, well-placed images go a long way, so don’t feel as though you need to include images on every slide.

Looking for a few more design tips? Check out this article or these PowerPoint tips.

Step #3: Stay organized while presenting

how to present a research paper

Once again, the number and style of notes allowed during your presentation might be predetermined by your assignment. But no matter what type of notes you use, you need to stay organized.

If you’re allowed to use a few note cards, then by all means, use them. (Don’t try to wing it and rely solely on your slideshow presentation.)

Follow the same rules as you did when creating slides by limiting the number of words on each note card. I know it can be tempting to try to cram your entire speech on three tiny cards, but don’t do it.

Including too much information on a card means it’s easy to lose your place while you talk. It also means that it’s more tempting to stand in front of the class and read note cards. Remember, you’re presenting, not reading.

Instead of trying to cram everything on one tiny card, include the following basics on note cards:

  • A few reminders of topics you’ll discuss in your opening
  • The main talking points of the presentation (and maybe a few words to remind you of the supporting ideas)
  • A few reminders of what you’ll say to conclude your presentation

NOTE CARD TIP: If you’re allowed to use several note cards, number them. There’s nothing worse than dropping your cards and shuffling through them for 30 seconds (that feel more like three hours) just because you can’t find your place in your presentation.

And that’s how to present a research paper the easy way. Well, almost…

After Planning—But Before Presenting

how to present a research paper

After you’ve planned your presentation, don’t think that your work is done and that you’re prepared to give the best presentation. Sure, the content may be in place, but now it’s time to work on the delivery.

Grab some friends, family members, or even your cat, and practice your presentation. By actually presenting your paper to an audience, you’ll get used to talking about your topic, and you’ll see how well your presentation actually fits together.

These practice runs are also a good way to work on your timing. If your presentation is supposed to be five minutes but you end up only speaking for three, you can return to the planning stages.

Of course, if your five-minute presentation turns into a 10-minute speech, you’ll still need return to the planning stages—this time to trim some content.

Now that you know how to present a research paper, take a few deep breaths, stand up straight, and wow your audience with your amazing presentation.

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Did we miss anything? Share your favorite presentation tips in the comments!

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