Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

What’s your presentation’s significance?

As you develop your presentation, think about the beginning, middle, and end. With your presentation objectives in mind, the following questions will help connect them to your audience:

  1. Topic: “I am going to present on….”
  2. Question: “Because I want people to know…”
  3. Significance: “…in order for my audience to understand….”

The presentation significance is VERY important, because the audience will always ask, “Why should I care?” …and your presentation needs to include this piece woven throughout your story.


PowerPoint Presentation Objectives

Now that you have a better idea of your audience, focus on your topic:

  • What question do you want to pursue? Why would someone come see your presentation?
  • What objectives do you want to address?
  • What story do you want to share/tell?

Second, how will you tell your topic? There are generally four stands you can make in a presentation:

  • Argument – are you trying to persuade the audience? For example, when I created my proposal defense, the main purpose of my presentation was to argue for why I wanted to do my study. I needed to say what I wanted to do, then provide evidence to persuade my committee that I was capable of doing it.
  • Informational – are you trying to teach the audience something? Is this an instructional topic, where people are coming to learn something from you? If so, what level will you be teaching at? How will you construct your information so that people can follow along?
  • How-To – these presentations are a little bit different than informational presentations, in that you are expecting the audience to be able to mimic what you are doing. Thus, questions to consider: What skills/knowledge will they get out of this presentation? What examples and demonstrations will you do, and how will you do them? What problems may they anticipate, and how do you overcome them?
  • Promotional – are you offering a service or trying to sell something? If so, how useful is your product? How will you effectively tell your audience about this product, and what will they get out of it? What will it cost them, or what is it that you would like to do?

Like stories, all four presentations require a beginning, a body, and a conclusion. The beginning is your hook, to capture your audience’s interest. It presents the “why” part of why your audience is here, and why the information you will provide is valuable.

The body of your presentation provides evidence to back up your why, made clearly and logically. It builds upon the “why” of the intro, and ends with the usefulness of your information, to the “take aways,” or conclusion that leaves your audience with points to remember or discuss.


Knowing your audience

An effective PowerPoint presentation tells a story in a simple, straightforward way with as little words as possible. However, the way you tell this story is heavily dependent on who your audience will be. Think of a typical fairy tale story. Most of them begin with “Once upon a time,” then, depending on the audience, the story takes you through some sort of adventure, followed by a memorable ending or moral to the story. Your presentation starts with a broad focus first (once upon a time), then, as you continue to tell your story, you narrow it down, while keeping your audience’s perspectives at the forefront, until the memorable end, which is your conclusion.

The planning and development of a presentation is an iterative cycle can take several weeks or several hours, depending on how well you know your topic, and how well you know your audience. Each iteration focuses on simplicity while clarifying the message/argument that you want to give.

So first, think about your audience. You want to present your topic in a way where they can:

  • relate to your message/story
  • trust the story that you present
  • respect your expertise

If the presentation is too simple, you will lose their interest and bore them. If the presentation is too complex, they will tune out. Thus, start thinking about ways you can engage your audience with your story. What’s the hook?

To get you started, put yourself in the audience. Then, think about answers to the following questions:

  • What do you look for in a presentation?
  • What do presenters do to make their presentation interesting?
  • Why do you go to presentations?
  • What do presenters do to keep you engaged?




PowerPoint Week

The infamous “Wall of Text” power point slides are over. This week, I’ll be talking a bit about how to make a powerpoint presentation, and offer some advice on how to get your story and your slides up to speed.

In the meantime, I start this topic off with some expert advice from Dr. James Hayton’s PhD Advice Website. He provides some very short and sweet pointers to keep in mind when making your slides in How to design outstanding power point slides.


Enjoy life today

Relaxing is productive when you focus on rejuvenating your mind and body. For one goal today, do one thing that you enjoy (that isn’t involved with school or work). Enjoy it fully.

Find one thing you are grateful for, and hold that in your heart.

Then, breathe deeply. Take care of your mind, body, and soul. You have a long journey ahead, so stop for a moment, and enjoy where you are, right now.


Are you chronically stressed?

“Relax?! How do I do that???”

Grad school stress stems from feeling that: (a) your work is not good enough; (b) you are not good enough; (c) you have to do A-Z; and/or (d) you should be reading/researching/writing. Whether you feel one of these stresses or all of them at any given time, it’s  important to give yourself moments to consciously RELAX.

I say this with a small chuckle in my head, because as a high-strung, INTJ-type of person, relaxing for me has become a very difficult thing to do. It is an easy habit to learn how to live with this constant stress in your life. However, if you don’t keep things in check, this stress can become chronic, and can lead to all sorts of other problems (high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, constant muscle pain, etc).

Please, as you are working, put breaks into your day, where you can stop for a moment, and consciously tell your body to breathe deeply, relax, and let things go. Better yet (and essential to your well-being), make time to take care of your body. With the winter months keeping me huddled by the warm heater and my computer, going out for fresh air is difficult. Here’s some ways that I’ve found to help me try to relax, and forget my stresses for a bit:

The Sworkit App – has 5-10 minute workouts (including yoga) that you can do in between your sprints.

The Three-Minute Breathing Space – is a way to consciously assess your mind and body, attuning it with your breath.

Rodney Yee’s AM/PM Yoga – I found these short (10 minutes of meditation and 28 minutes of yoga) sequences of videos to start off the morning, and end off the evening on iTunes. Sitting in your chair for hours on end isn’t good for those cramped muscles. Stretch them a bit, and then, relax.

Other things that you can do: moving meditation as you work out or run, play with a pet, be completely mindful when you clean or cook, make a “no electronics” time before bed so that you can unwind, take a bubble bath, watch a movie marathon, or splurge on a massage, facial, or pedicure.

In other words, build some time to really, really let go and not think about your work for a bit. Pamper your body. Believe me, your work will be there when you get back!449509



Summarize your articles

book-1091628_640.jpgI use a variety of things to keep track of what I read. Some things are more effective than others. One thing that I found VERY effective, however, was always summarizing my papers in one paragraph. I even have a template that I created (and you can download it blow) for journal article summaries.

The most inefficient use of your time is to read an article in detail, then forget where you put the information, forcing you to read the article yet again (not saying re-reading is a bad thing, but it’s bad when you’ve got to repeat your work). So, make sure when you’re done reading, that you’ve put what you’ve learned into a system that makes it searchable. There’s a variety of ways to do this, but find your flow!

As for the template, here’s a guide to start:

  1. Read the abstract and intro and discussion. Depending on why you are reading the article, this may be all you need.
  2. Skim the rest.
  3. Write a one-paragraph (yep, just one) summary of what the article was about. Be sure to include (along with the page number):
    • The research question
    • What they did, and to whom
    • How they did it
    • What they found
    • What they concluded

If you’re reading a particularly seminal piece of work, summarize each section and highlight important quotes –  don’t forget to list the page numbers you’ve found them! Mendeley has a nifty annotation feature in their program. However, I still use my word template for important studies.

Happy Researching!

Journal Summary Template

My grad student software toolbox

On any given project, I use a LOT of programs! For example:

Research Phase:

  • Word – To summarize papers
  • Mendeley – My reference data base
  • Scrivener – To keep track of memos, and to upload my word summaries
  • Evernote – To make all my PDFs, post-its, whiteboard notes, and handwritten notes searchable
  • Topnote (on the iPad) – For hand-drawn diagramming and brainstorming
  • Inspiration – for digital brainstorming
  • Xmind – for mind and project mapping


Planning Phase:

  • Asana – To keep track of all my tasks and to do lists
  • Google Calendar – To track all my meetings and appointments
  • Apple Reminder – For things like, “Water the plants on Wednesday”


Analysis Phase:

  • NVivo – for qualitative coding
  • Excel – to track codes
  • Word – to generate the codebook, process memos, and any stray thoughts


Writing Phase:

  • Scrivener – for writing papers and keeping track of references
  • Mendeley – again for my references
  • Word – to finally polish up my document and send it out.
  • Google Docs – to collaborate with others


Presentation Phase:

I’ve learned how to use these programs smoothly to help with my workflow — similar to tools in a toolbox. Some of these programs overlap functions, but I’ve never been able to find just one program that does it all efficiently. Some programs do things a lot better than others. For example, for collaborations on writing projects, I use Google Docs because it’s the least buggy — even though both Word, Evernote, and Scrivener have these functions, as well).  It makes me wonder, though, whether other grad students also use multiple programs to get the work done, as well.

What are the programs that you use, and what’s your workflow like?


Organize your references with Mendeley

So you’ve pulled your PDF file from your library and it’s sitting on your browser. Now what?

I’ve talked about reference management software before in previous posts. Today, I’ll show you a quick and dirty way to bring them into Mendeley.

1. If you haven’t done so, download the Mendeley desktop app. It’s free, and what I love about it is that I can access my references through my browser, phone, or my other computers, too!


2. Next, download the Mendeley Web Importer plugin for your browser, and activate it. For me, it shows up as a tiny little “M” to the right of my browser address bar.

3. Then, through your Google Scholar search, bring up the PDF article that you want to use. Click the Mendeley plugin button (note: Sometimes this works. When it doesn’t, there’s a work around that I’ll mention later below).


4. If it works, Mendeley will bring up a side window with the article info. However, this isn’t always perfect, and you may need to edit the information from here, OR, you’ll need to right click, download and save your article, then import it through your Mendeley desktop (drag the PDF file and drop it on Mendeley).


For info on importing your PDFs directly into Mendeley’s desktop, click here.

Happy Researching!






Tutorial – Tying Scholar to Your Library

Most academic libraries these days are tied to online data bases where you can quickly find the articles you need by using Google Scholar. Here’s how you set Google Scholar to your library settings:

  1. Go to Google Scholar. Hit the Settings button on the menu bar.


2. Next, click the “Library links” in the left column.


3. In the bar, type in your university, and hit enter. If your library is linked to Scholar, it will come up beneath the bar. Then click on the boxes with your options (you can add more than one library to Scholar).

4. Then click the “Save” button.


5. Last, go back to the Google Scholar main page. Type in the article that you are searching for. When your search results come up, you will see a library link to them either on your right (like in the picture below), or it will show underneath the “More” selection beneath the article summary, if there are other options.

(For example, I can pull articles from both Iowa State as well as the University of Rochester. So, ISU links show on the right, and the U of R will be under the “More” link when I click it.)


Happy Researching!




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