You’ll have to deliver presentations at various stages of your academic career, some of which will be assessed. These may be individual presentations, for example based on your own work or research, or they may be group presentations, the culmination of working with other students on a specific project.
It’s essential to find out how you’re being assessed before your presentation. In UK universities, the official grading criteria for assessed work are always made available to students. If you’re not sure what they are it’s important to find out, for example by checking in your programme handbook or by asking your lecturer.
You might be encouraged to engage in self-evaluation of your own presentation and/or to give informal feedback to other students. In both cases, this process of reflection can be of great benefit. The greater your awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of academic presentations, the more you’ll be able to make improvements in your own practice.
The factors listed below are all important and will almost certainly be taken into consideration in evaluation of the presentation, although the weighting, or the terminology, may differ according to your field. Some factors may be sub-divided into several categories.
When you’re being assessed, the content is of prime importance, and you should receive clear guidance about what is expected of you. For example, you may be asked to “discuss”, “describe”, “explain” or “critically evaluate” - all of these verbs require you to do something different, and you need to make sure you do exactly what you’re asked.
When you start researching your topic, initially you may find it hard to locate the information you need, but students often find that once they get past the initial stages, they find lots of information, too much to use in one presentation. This is where again you need to think about the focus; you can’t include everything, so you need to be very clear about the key message.
The other aspect is the clarity of your message; no matter how good your content is, if you can’t communicate your key message to your audience, by explaining it clearly and succinctly, your hard work on content won’t be recognised.
When you give a group presentation you’re often assessed as a group, so that each individual student receives the same grade. Alternatively, part of your grade may be for the group, and part for your individual contribution. At times, there may also be an element of peer assessment, so you’re asked to assess the contribution of each member of the team, and this score can contribute to the final grade.
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