Presenting research – the difference between research and practice

A criticism of my doctoral assessment was that I came across as defensive and perhaps overly confident – at the perceived risk of not listening to feedback and being wedded to my own conclusions before testing them properly. I think this criticism is due to two factors: firstly, nervousness and secondly, the difference between presenting in professional settings and presenting research.

Firstly, when I'm nervous, I lose my sense of humour. I speak with a humourless gravity that may be misinterpreted as false confidence. A colleague suggested a couple of drinks beforehand may help, but no one likes a humourless drunk. I think experience in presenting my research is all that will help me here.

Secondly, and more importantly, I think there is a vast difference between what is expected from a presentation of professional work in progress and what is expected from a presentation of research work in progress. As a practitioner returning to academics, it's a been a distinction I've only come to understand recently, but an important one. If I'm presenting my work (often to a marketing department rather than a 'client' as such), it's in my best interest to gloss over uncertainties and speak with unwavering confidence; in many instances, I am presenting work in progress to an audience who are not visual thinkers, so when presenting unfinished work, the client/marketing department needs to be verbally convinced that I will produce an effective and well polished outcome. A good marketing department/client can sniff out uncertainty and will savage a work in progress like a pack of wolves (perhaps a slight hyperbole, but not entirely unwarranted). With research presentations, on the other hand, glossing over uncertainties and speaking with unwavering confidence does exactly the opposite of inspiring faith in your abilities to perform the research effectively.

I said that there are two factors that influence this criticism of me, but if I'm being completely honest in my reflections, there are actually three: it's sometimes true.


Secret said…
Hello, Zoe -

Forgive me for putting this in a comment, but we couldn't find an e-mail address for you. My partner Barry and I are gearing up to launch a new comics publishing company, Secret Acres, and we’re interested in your writing. How can we get in touch with you, beyond leaving inappropriate messages in these comments? You can find me at We hope to hear from you.


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