Journal Club: How to Prepare Effectively and Smash Your Presentation
Journal club. It’s so much more than orally dictating a paper to your peers.
It’s an opportunity to get a bunch of intelligent people in one place to share ideas. It’s a means to expand the scientific vocabulary of you and the audience. It’s a way to stimulate inventive research design.
But there are so many ways it can go wrong.
Poorly explained papers dictated blandly to an unengaged audience. Confusing heaps of data shoehorned into long presentations. Everybody stood awkwardly outside a meeting room you thought would be free.
Whether you are unsure what journal club is, are thinking of starting one, or simply want to up your presentation game—you’ve landed on the ultimate journal club guide.
The whats, the whys, and the hows, all in one place.
What Is a Journal Club in Science?
A journal club is a series of meetings in which somebody is elected to present a research paper, its methods, and findings to a group of colleagues.
The broad goal is to stimulate discussion and ideas that the attendees may apply to their own work. Alternatively, someone may choose a paper because it’s particularly impactful or ingenious.
Usually, the presenter alternates per a rota, and attendance may be optional or compulsory.
The presenter is expected to choose, analyze, and present the paper to the attendees with accompanying slides.
The presentation is then followed by a discussion of the paper by the attendees. This is usually in the form of a series of questions and answers directed toward the presenter. Ergo , the presenter is expected to know and understand the paper and subject area to a moderate extent.
Why Have a Journal Club?
I get it. You’re a busy person. There’s a difficult research problem standing between you and your next tenure.
Why bother spending the time and energy participating in a series of meetings that don’t get you closer to achieving your scientific goals?
The answer: journal club does get you closer to achieving your scientific goals!
But it does this in indirect ways that subtly make you a better scientist. For example:
- It probably takes you out of your comfort zone.
- It makes you a better communicator.
- It makes you better at analyzing data.
- It improves your ability to critique research.
- It makes you survey relevant literature.
- It exposes you and your audience to new concepts.
- It exposes your audience to relevant literature.
- It improves the reading habits of you and your audience.
- It gets clever people talking to each other.
- It gives people a break from practical science.
It also provides a platform for people to share ideas based on their collective scientific experience. And every participant has a unique set of skills. So every participant has the potential to provide valuable insight.
This is what a good journal club should illicit.
Think of journal club as reading a book. It’s going to enrich you and add beneficially to the sum of your mental furniture, but you won’t know how until you’ve read it.
Need empirical evidence to convince you? Okay!
In 1988 a group of medical interns was split into two groups. One received journal club teaching and the other received a series of seminars. Approximately 86% of the journal club group reported improved reading habits. This compares to 0% in the group who received seminar-based teaching. 
Journal Club Template Structure
So now you know what journal club is, you might wonder, “how is it organized and structured?”
That’s what the rest of this article delves into. If you’re in a rush and need to head back to the lab, here’s a graphical summary (Figure 1).
Nobody likes meetings that flounder around and run over time. And while I have no data to prove it, I reckon people take less away from such meetings. Here’s a basic journal club template that assumes you are the presenter.
Introduce the Paper, Topic, Journal, and Authors
Let your audience know what you will be talking about before diving right in. Remember that repetition (of the important bits) can be a good thing.
Introducing the journal in which the paper is published will give your audience a rough idea of the prestige of the work.
And introducing the authors and their respective institutes gives your audience the option of stowing this information away and following it up with further reading in their own time.
Provide a Reason Why You Chose the Paper
Have the authors managed to circumvent sacrificing animals to achieve a goal that traditionally necessitated animal harm? Have the authors repurposed a method and applied it to a problem it’s not traditionally associated with? Is it simply a monumental feat of work and success?
People are probably more likely to listen and engage with you if they know why, in all politeness, you have chosen to use their time to talk about a given paper.
It also helps them focus on the relevant bits of your presentation and form cogent questions.
Orally Present Key Findings and Methods of the Paper
Simple. Read the paper. Understand it. Make some slides. Present.
Okay, there are a lot of ways you can get this wrong and make a hash of it. We’ll tell you how to avoid these pitfalls later on.
But for now, acknowledge that a journal club meeting starts with a presentation that sets up the main bit of it—the discussion.
Invite Your Audience to Participate in a Discussion
The discussion is the primary and arguably most beneficial component of journal club since it gives the audience a platform to share ideas. Ideas formulated by their previous experience.
And I’ve said already that these contributions are unique and have the potential to be valuable to your work.
That’s why the discussion element is important.
Their questions might concur and elaborate on the contents of the paper and your presentation of it.
Alternatively, they might disagree with the methods and/or conclusions. They might even disagree with your presentation of technical topics.
Try not to be daunted, however, as all of this ultimately adds to your knowledge, and it should all be conducted in a constructive spirit.
Summarize the Meeting and Thank Your Audience for Attending
There’s no particularly enlightening reason as to why to do these things. Summarizing helps people come away from the meeting feeling like it was a positive and rewarding thing to attend.
And thanking people for their time is a simple courtesy.
How Do You Organize It?
Basic steps if you are the organizer.
Okay, we’ve just learned what goes into speaking at the journal club. But presenter or not, the responsibility of organizing it might fall to you.
So, logistically , how do you prepare a journal club? Simply follow these 5 steps:
- Distribute copies of the research article to potential participants.
- Arrange a meeting time and location.
- Organize a speaker.
- Hold the journal club.
- Seek feedback on the quality of the meeting.
Apart from point 5, these are fairly self-explanatory. Regarding point 5, feedback is essential to growing as a scientist and presenter. The easiest way to seek feedback is simply to ask.
Alternatively, you could create a form for all the meetings in the series and ask the audience to complete and return it to you.
Basic Steps If You Are the Speaker
If somebody has done all the logistics for you, great! Don’t get complacent, however.
Why not use the time to elevate your presentation to make your journal club contribution memorable and beneficial?
Don’t worry about the “hows” because we’re going to elaborate on these points, but here are 5 things you can do to ace your presentation:
- Don’t leave it to the last minute.
- Know your audience.
- Keep your presentation slides simple.
- Keep your audience engaged.
- Be open to questions and critiques.
Regarding point 1, giving yourself sufficient time to thoroughly read the article you have chosen to present ensures you are familiar with the material in it. This is essential because you will be asked questions about it. A confident reply is the foundation of an enlightening discussion.
Regarding point 3, we’re going to tell you exactly how to prepare effective slides in its own section later. But if you are in a rush, minimize the use of excessive text. And if you provide background information, stick to diagrams that give an overview of results from previous work. Remember: a picture speaks louder than a thousand words.
Regarding point 4, engagement is critical. So carry out a practice run to make sure you are happy with the flow of your presentation and to give you an idea of your timing. It is important to stick to the time that is allotted for you.
This provides good practice for more formal conference settings where you will be stopped if you run over time. It’s also good manners and shows consideration for the attendees.
And regarding point 5, as the presenter, questions are likely to be directed toward you. So anticipate questions from the outset and prepare for the obvious ones to the best of your ability.
There’s a limit to everyone’s knowledge, but being unable to provide any sort of response will be embarrassing and make you seem unprepared.
Anticipate that people might also disagree with any definitions you make and even with your presentation of other people’s data. Whether or not you agree is a different matter, but present your reasons in a calm and professional manner.
If someone is rude, don’t rise to it and respond calmly and courteously. This shouldn’t happen too often, but we all have “those people” around us.
How Do You Choose a Journal Club Paper?
Consider the quality of the journal.
Just to be clear, I don’t mean the paper itself but the journal it’s published in.
An obscure journal is more likely to contain science that’s either boring, sloppy, wrong, or all three.
And people are giving up their time and hope to be stimulated. So oblige them!
Journal impact factor and rejection rate (the ratio of accepted to rejected articles) can help you decide whether a paper is worth discussing.
Consider the Impact and Scope of the Paper
Similar to the above, but remember, dross gets published in high-impact journals too. Hopefully, you’ve read the paper you want to present. But ask yourself what makes this particular paper stand out from the millions of others to be worth presenting.
Keep It Relevant and Keep It Interesting
When choosing a paper to present, keep your audience in mind. Choose something that is relevant to the particular group you are presenting to. If only you and a few other people understand the topic, it can come off as elitist.
How Do You Break Down and Present the Paper?
Know and provide the background material.
Before you dive into the data, spend a few minutes talking about the context of the paper. What did the authors know before they started this work? How did they formulate their hypothesis? Why did they choose to address it in this way?
You may want to reference an earlier paper from the same group if the paper represents a continuation of it, but keep it brief.
Try to explain how this paper tackles an unanswered question in the field.
Understand the Hypothesis and Methods of the Paper
Make a point of stating the hypothesis or main question of the paper, so everyone understands the goal of the study and has a foundation for the presentation and discussion.
Everyone needs to start on the same foot and remain on the same page as the meeting progresses.
Turn the Paper into a Progression of Scientific Questions
Present the data as a logical series of questions and answers. A well-written paper will already have done the hard work for you. It will be organized carefully so that each figure answers a specific question, and each new question builds on the answer from the previous figure.
If you’re having trouble grasping the flow of the paper, try writing up a brief outline of the main points. Try putting the experiments and conclusions in your own words, too.
Feel free to leave out parts of the figures that you think are unnecessary, or pull extra data from the supplemental figures if it will help you explain the paper better.
Ask Yourself Questions about the Paper Before You Present
We’ve touched on this already. This is to prepare you for any questions that are likely to be asked of you. When you read the paper, what bits didn’t you understand?
Simplify Unfamiliar and Difficult Concepts
Not everyone will be familiar with the same concepts. For example, most biologists will not have a rigorous definition of entropy committed to memory or know its units. The concept of entropy might crop up in a biophysics paper, however.
Put yourself in the audience’s shoes and anticipate what they might not fully understand given their respective backgrounds.
If you are unsure, ask them if they need a definition or include a short definition in your slides.
Sum Up Important Conclusions
After you’ve finished explaining the nitty-gritty details of the paper, conclude your presentation of the data with a list of significant findings.
Every conclusion will tie in directly to proving the major conclusion of the paper. It should be clear at this point how the data answers the main question.
How Do You Present a Journal Club Powerpoint?
Okay, so we’ve just gone through the steps required to break down a paper to present it effectively at journal club. But this needs to be paired with a PowerPoint presentation, and the two bridged orally by your talk. How do you ace this?
Provide Broad Context to the Research
We are all bogged down by minutia and reagents out of necessity.
Being bogged down is research. But it helps to come up for air. Ultimately, how will the research you are about to discuss benefit the Earth and its inhabitants when said research is translated into actual products?
Science can be for its own sake, but funded science rarely is. Reminding the journal club audience of the widest aims of the nominated field provides a clear starting point for the discussion and shows that you understand the efficacy of the research at its most basic level.
The Golden Rule: A Slide per Minute
Remember during lectures when the lecturer would open PowerPoint, and you would see, with dismay, that their slides went up to 90 or something daft? Then the last 20 get rushed through, but that’s what the exam question ends up being based on.
Don’t be that person!
A 10-15 minute talk should be accompanied by? 10-15 slides! Less is more.
Be Judicious about the Information You Choose to Present
If you are present everything in the paper, people might as well just read it in their own time, and we can call journal club off.
Try to abstract only the key findings. Sometimes technical data is necessary for what you are speaking about because their value affects the efficacy of the data and validity of the conclusions.
Most of the time, however, the exact experimental conditions can be left out and given on request. It’s good practice to put all the technical data that you anticipate being asked for in a few slides at the end of your talk.
Use your judgment.
Keep the Amount of Information per Slide Low for Clarity
Your audience is already listening to you and looking at the slides, so they have a limited capacity for what they can absorb. Overwhelming them with visual queues and talking to them will disengage them.
Have only a few clearly related images that apply directly to what you speaking about at the time. Annotate them with the only key facts from your talk and develop the bigger picture verbally.
This will be hard at first because you must be on the ball and confident with your subject area and speaking to an audience.
And definitely use circles, boxes, and arrows to highlight important parts of figures, and add a flowchart or diagram to explain an unfamiliar method.
Keep It Short Overall
The exact length of your meeting is up to you or the organizer. A 15-minute talk followed by a 30-minute discussion is about the right length, Add in tea and coffee and hellos, and you get to an hour.
We tend to speak at 125-150 words per minute. All these words should not be on your slides, however. So, commit a rough script to memory and rehearse it.
You’ll find that the main points you need to mention start to stand out and fall into place naturally. Plus, your slides will serve as visual queue cards.
How Do You Ask a Question in Journal Club?
A well-organized journal club will have clear expectations of whether or not questions should be asked only during the discussion, or whether interruptions during the presentation are allowed.
And I don’t mean literally how do you soliloquize, but rather how do you get an effective discussion going.
Presenters: Ask Questions to the Audience
We all know how it goes. “Any questions?” Silence.
Scientists, by their very nature, are usually introverted. Any ideas they might want to contribute to a discussion are typically outweighed by the fear of looking silly in front of their peers. Or they think everyone already knows the item they wish to contribute. Or don’t want to be publicly disproven. And so on.
Prepare some questions to ask the audience in advance. As soon as a few people speak, everyone tends to loosen up. Take advantage of this.
Audience: Think About Topics to Praise or Critique
Aside from seeking clarification on any unclear topics, you could ask questions on:
- Does the data support the conclusions?
- Are the conclusions relevant?
- Are the methods valid?
- What are the drawbacks and limitations of the conclusions?
- Are there better methods to test the hypothesis?
- How will the research be translated into real-world benefits?
- Are there obvious follow-up experiments?
- How well is the burden of proof met?
- Is the data physiologically relevant?
- Do you agree with the conclusions?
How to Keep It Fun
Make it interactive.
Quizzes and polls are a great way to do this! And QR codes make it really easy to do on-the-fly. Remember, scientists, are shy. So why not seek their participation in an anonymized form?
You could poll your audience on the quality of the work. You could make a fun quiz based on the material you’ve covered. You could do a live “what happened next?” You could even get your feedback this way. Here’s what to do:
- Create your quiz or poll using Google forms .
- Make a shareable link.
- Paste the link into a free QR code generator .
- Put the QR code in the appropriate bit of your talk.
Talking to your audience without anything to break it up is a guaranteed way of sending them all to sleep.
Consider embedding demonstration videos and animations in your talk. Or even just pausing to interject with your own anecdotes will keep everyone concentrated on you.
Keep It Informal
At the end of the day, we’re all scientists. Perhaps at different stages of our careers, but we’ve all had similar-ish trajectories. So there’s no need for haughtiness.
And research institutes are usually aggressively casual in terms of dress code, coffee breaks, and impromptu chats. Asking everyone to don a suit won’t add any value to a journal club.
Your Journal Club Toolkit in Summary
Anyone can read a paper, but the value lies in understanding it and applying it to your own research and thought process.
Remember, journal club is about extracting wisdom from your colleagues in the form of a discussion while disseminating wisdom to them in a digestible format.
Need some inspiration for your journal club? Check out the online repositories hosted by PNAS and NASPAG to get your juices flowing.
We’ve covered a lot of information, from parsing papers to organizational logistics, and effective presentation. So why not bookmark this page so you can come back to it all when it’s your turn to present?
While you’re here, why not ensure you’re always prepared for your next journal club and download bitesize bio’s free journal club checklist ?
And if you present at journal club and realize we’ve left something obvious out. Get in touch and let us know. We’ll add it to the article!
- Linzer M et al . (1988) Impact of a medical journal club on house-staff reading habits, knowledge, and critical appraisal skills . JAMA 260 :2537–41
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How to prepare and deliver an effective oral presentation
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- Peer review
- Lucia Hartigan , registrar 1 ,
- Fionnuala Mone , fellow in maternal fetal medicine 1 ,
- Mary Higgins , consultant obstetrician 2
- 1 National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
- 2 National Maternity Hospital, Dublin; Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Medicine and Medical Sciences, University College Dublin
The success of an oral presentation lies in the speaker’s ability to transmit information to the audience. Lucia Hartigan and colleagues describe what they have learnt about delivering an effective scientific oral presentation from their own experiences, and their mistakes
The objective of an oral presentation is to portray large amounts of often complex information in a clear, bite sized fashion. Although some of the success lies in the content, the rest lies in the speaker’s skills in transmitting the information to the audience. 1
It is important to be as well prepared as possible. Look at the venue in person, and find out the time allowed for your presentation and for questions, and the size of the audience and their backgrounds, which will allow the presentation to be pitched at the appropriate level.
See what the ambience and temperature are like and check that the format of your presentation is compatible with the available computer. This is particularly important when embedding videos. Before you begin, look at the video on stand-by and make sure the lights are dimmed and the speakers are functioning.
For visual aids, Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Mac Keynote programmes are usual, although Prezi is increasing in popularity. Save the presentation on a USB stick, with email or cloud storage backup to avoid last minute disasters.
When preparing the presentation, start with an opening slide containing the title of the study, your name, and the date. Begin by addressing and thanking the audience and the organisation that has invited you to speak. Typically, the format includes background, study aims, methodology, results, strengths and weaknesses of the study, and conclusions.
If the study takes a lecturing format, consider including “any questions?” on a slide before you conclude, which will allow the audience to remember the take home messages. Ideally, the audience should remember three of the main points from the presentation. 2
Have a maximum of four short points per slide. If you can display something as a diagram, video, or a graph, use this instead of text and talk around it.
Animation is available in both Microsoft PowerPoint and the Apple Mac Keynote programme, and its use in presentations has been demonstrated to assist in the retention and recall of facts. 3 Do not overuse it, though, as it could make you appear unprofessional. If you show a video or diagram don’t just sit back—use a laser pointer to explain what is happening.
Rehearse your presentation in front of at least one person. Request feedback and amend accordingly. If possible, practise in the venue itself so things will not be unfamiliar on the day. If you appear comfortable, the audience will feel comfortable. Ask colleagues and seniors what questions they would ask and prepare responses to these questions.
It is important to dress appropriately, stand up straight, and project your voice towards the back of the room. Practise using a microphone, or any other presentation aids, in advance. If you don’t have your own presenting style, think of the style of inspirational scientific speakers you have seen and imitate it.
Try to present slides at the rate of around one slide a minute. If you talk too much, you will lose your audience’s attention. The slides or videos should be an adjunct to your presentation, so do not hide behind them, and be proud of the work you are presenting. You should avoid reading the wording on the slides, but instead talk around the content on them.
Maintain eye contact with the audience and remember to smile and pause after each comment, giving your nerves time to settle. Speak slowly and concisely, highlighting key points.
Do not assume that the audience is completely familiar with the topic you are passionate about, but don’t patronise them either. Use every presentation as an opportunity to teach, even your seniors. The information you are presenting may be new to them, but it is always important to know your audience’s background. You can then ensure you do not patronise world experts.
To maintain the audience’s attention, vary the tone and inflection of your voice. If appropriate, use humour, though you should run any comments or jokes past others beforehand and make sure they are culturally appropriate. Check every now and again that the audience is following and offer them the opportunity to ask questions.
Finishing up is the most important part, as this is when you send your take home message with the audience. Slow down, even though time is important at this stage. Conclude with the three key points from the study and leave the slide up for a further few seconds. Do not ramble on. Give the audience a chance to digest the presentation. Conclude by acknowledging those who assisted you in the study, and thank the audience and organisation. If you are presenting in North America, it is usual practice to conclude with an image of the team. If you wish to show references, insert a text box on the appropriate slide with the primary author, year, and paper, although this is not always required.
Answering questions can often feel like the most daunting part, but don’t look upon this as negative. Assume that the audience has listened and is interested in your research. Listen carefully, and if you are unsure about what someone is saying, ask for the question to be rephrased. Thank the audience member for asking the question and keep responses brief and concise. If you are unsure of the answer you can say that the questioner has raised an interesting point that you will have to investigate further. Have someone in the audience who will write down the questions for you, and remember that this is effectively free peer review.
Be proud of your achievements and try to do justice to the work that you and the rest of your group have done. You deserve to be up on that stage, so show off what you have achieved.
Competing interests: We have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: None.
- ↵ Rovira A, Auger C, Naidich TP. How to prepare an oral presentation and a conference. Radiologica 2013 ; 55 (suppl 1): 2 -7S. OpenUrl
- ↵ Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for making good oral presentations. PLos Comput Biol 2007 ; 3 : e77 . OpenUrl PubMed
- ↵ Naqvi SH, Mobasher F, Afzal MA, Umair M, Kohli AN, Bukhari MH. Effectiveness of teaching methods in a medical institute: perceptions of medical students to teaching aids. J Pak Med Assoc 2013 ; 63 : 859 -64. OpenUrl
How to Prepare an Outstanding Journal Club Presentation
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Rishi Sawhney; How to Prepare an Outstanding Journal Club Presentation. The Hematologist 2006; 3 (1): No Pagination Specified. doi: https://doi.org/10.1182/hem.V3.1.1308
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Dr. Sawhney is a member of the ASH Trainee Council and a Fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Journal club presentations provide a forum through which hematology trainees keep abreast of new developments in hematology and engage in informal discussion and interaction. Furthermore, honing presentation skills and mastering the ability to critically appraise the evidence add to our armamentarium as clinicians. Outlined here is a systematic approach to preparing a journal club presentation, with emphasis on key elements of the talk and references for electronic resources. Use of these tools and techniques will contribute to the success of your presentation.
I. ARTICLE SELECTION:
The foundation of an outstanding journal club presentation rests on the choice of an interesting and well-written paper for discussion. Several resources are available to help you select important and timely research, including the American College of Physicians (ACP) Journal Club and the Diffusion section of The Hematologist . McMaster University has created the McMaster Online Rating of Evidence (MORE) system to identify the highest-quality published research. In fact, the ACP Journal Club uses the MORE system to select their articles 1 . Specific inclusion criteria have been delineated in order to distinguish papers with the highest scientific merit 2 . Articles that have passed this screening are then rated by clinicians on their clinical relevance and newsworthiness, using a graded scale 3 . With the help of your mentors and colleagues, you can use these criteria and the rating scale as informal guidelines to ensure that your chosen article merits presentation.
II. ARTICLE PRESENTATION:
Study Background: This section provides your audience with the necessary information and context for a thoughtful and critical evaluation of the article's significance. The goals are 1) to describe the rationale for and clinical relevance of the study question, and 2) to highlight the preclinical and clinical research that led to the current trial. Review the papers referenced in the study's "Background" section as well as previous work by the study's authors. It also may be helpful to discuss data supporting the current standard of care against which the study intervention is being measured.
Study Methodology and Results: Clearly describe the study population, including inclusion/exclusion criteria. A diagrammatic schema is easy to construct using PowerPoint software and will help to clearly illustrate treatment arms in complex trials. Explain the statistical methods, obtaining assistance from a statistician if needed. Take this opportunity to verbally and graphically highlight key results from the study, with plans to expand on their significance later in your presentation.
Author's Discussion: Present the authors' conclusions and their perspective on the study results, including explanations of inconsistent or unexpected results. Consider whether the conclusions drawn are supported by the data presented.
III. ARTICLE CRITIQUE:
This component of your presentation will define the success of your journal club. A useful and widely accepted approach to this analysis has been published in JAMA's series "User's guide to the medical literature." The Centre for Health Evidence in Canada has made the complete full-text set of these user's guides available online 4 . This site offers review guidelines for a menu of article types, and it is an excellent, comprehensive resource to focus your study critique. A practical, user-friendly approach to literature evaluation that includes a worksheet is also available on the ASH Web site for your use 5 .
While a comprehensive discussion of scientific literature appraisal is beyond the scope of this discussion, several helpful tips warrant mention here. In assessing the validity of the study, it is important to assess for potential sources of bias, including the funding sources and authors' affiliations. It is also helpful to look for accompanying editorial commentary, which can provide a unique perspective on the article and highlight controversial issues. You should plan to discuss the trade-offs between potential benefits of the study intervention versus potential risks and the cost. By utilizing the concept of number needed to treat (NNT), one can assess the true impact of the study intervention on clinical practice. Furthermore, by incorporating the incidence rates of clinically significant toxicities with the financial costs into the NNT, you can generate a rather sophisticated analysis of the study's impact on practice.
IV. CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS:
Restate the authors' take-home message followed by your own interpretation of the study. Provide a personal perspective, detailing why you find this paper interesting or important. Then, look forward and use this opportunity to "think outside the box." Do you envision these study results changing the landscape of clinical practice or redirecting research in this field? If so, how? In articles about therapy, future directions may include moving the therapy up to first-line setting, assessing the drug in combination regimens or other disease states, or developing same-class novel compounds in the pipeline. Searching for related clinical trials on the NIH Web site 6 can prove helpful, as can consultation with an expert in this field.
Good journal club discussions are integral to the educational experience of hematology trainees. Following the above approach, while utilizing the resources available, will lay the groundwork for an outstanding presentation.
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Ten Simple Rules for Making Good Oral Presentations
- Philip E Bourne
Published: April 27, 2007
- Reader Comments
Citation: Bourne PE (2007) Ten Simple Rules for Making Good Oral Presentations. PLoS Comput Biol 3(4): e77. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030077
Copyright: © 2007 Philip E. Bourne. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: The author received no specific funding for this article.
Competing interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.
Continuing our “Ten Simple Rules” series [ 1 – 5 ], we consider here what it takes to make a good oral presentation. While the rules apply broadly across disciplines, they are certainly important from the perspective of this readership. Clear and logical delivery of your ideas and scientific results is an important component of a successful scientific career. Presentations encourage broader dissemination of your work and highlight work that may not receive attention in written form.
Rule 1: Talk to the Audience
We do not mean face the audience, although gaining eye contact with as many people as possible when you present is important since it adds a level of intimacy and comfort to the presentation. We mean prepare presentations that address the target audience. Be sure you know who your audience is—what are their backgrounds and knowledge level of the material you are presenting and what they are hoping to get out of the presentation? Off-topic presentations are usually boring and will not endear you to the audience. Deliver what the audience wants to hear.
Rule 2: Less is More
A common mistake of inexperienced presenters is to try to say too much. They feel the need to prove themselves by proving to the audience that they know a lot. As a result, the main message is often lost, and valuable question time is usually curtailed. Your knowledge of the subject is best expressed through a clear and concise presentation that is provocative and leads to a dialog during the question-and-answer session when the audience becomes active participants. At that point, your knowledge of the material will likely become clear. If you do not get any questions, then you have not been following the other rules. Most likely, your presentation was either incomprehensible or trite. A side effect of too much material is that you talk too quickly, another ingredient of a lost message.
Rule 3: Only Talk When You Have Something to Say
Do not be overzealous about what you think you will have available to present when the time comes. Research never goes as fast as you would like. Remember the audience's time is precious and should not be abused by presentation of uninteresting preliminary material.
Rule 4: Make the Take-Home Message Persistent
A good rule of thumb would seem to be that if you ask a member of the audience a week later about your presentation, they should be able to remember three points. If these are the key points you were trying to get across, you have done a good job. If they can remember any three points, but not the key points, then your emphasis was wrong. It is obvious what it means if they cannot recall three points!
Rule 5: Be Logical
Think of the presentation as a story. There is a logical flow—a clear beginning, middle, and an end. You set the stage (beginning), you tell the story (middle), and you have a big finish (the end) where the take-home message is clearly understood.
Rule 6: Treat the Floor as a Stage
Presentations should be entertaining, but do not overdo it and do know your limits. If you are not humorous by nature, do not try and be humorous. If you are not good at telling anecdotes, do not try and tell anecdotes, and so on. A good entertainer will captivate the audience and increase the likelihood of obeying Rule 4.
Rule 7: Practice and Time Your Presentation
This is particularly important for inexperienced presenters. Even more important, when you give the presentation, stick to what you practice. It is common to deviate, and even worse to start presenting material that you know less about than the audience does. The more you practice, the less likely you will be to go off on tangents. Visual cues help here. The more presentations you give, the better you are going to get. In a scientific environment, take every opportunity to do journal club and become a teaching assistant if it allows you to present. An important talk should not be given for the first time to an audience of peers. You should have delivered it to your research collaborators who will be kinder and gentler but still point out obvious discrepancies. Laboratory group meetings are a fine forum for this.
Rule 8: Use Visuals Sparingly but Effectively
Presenters have different styles of presenting. Some can captivate the audience with no visuals (rare); others require visual cues and in addition, depending on the material, may not be able to present a particular topic well without the appropriate visuals such as graphs and charts. Preparing good visual materials will be the subject of a further Ten Simple Rules. Rule 7 will help you to define the right number of visuals for a particular presentation. A useful rule of thumb for us is if you have more than one visual for each minute you are talking, you have too many and you will run over time. Obviously some visuals are quick, others take time to get the message across; again Rule 7 will help. Avoid reading the visual unless you wish to emphasize the point explicitly, the audience can read, too! The visual should support what you are saying either for emphasis or with data to prove the verbal point. Finally, do not overload the visual. Make the points few and clear.
Rule 9: Review Audio and/or Video of Your Presentations
There is nothing more effective than listening to, or listening to and viewing, a presentation you have made. Violations of the other rules will become obvious. Seeing what is wrong is easy, correcting it the next time around is not. You will likely need to break bad habits that lead to the violation of the other rules. Work hard on breaking bad habits; it is important.
Rule 10: Provide Appropriate Acknowledgments
People love to be acknowledged for their contributions. Having many gratuitous acknowledgements degrades the people who actually contributed. If you defy Rule 7, then you will not be able to acknowledge people and organizations appropriately, as you will run out of time. It is often appropriate to acknowledge people at the beginning or at the point of their contribution so that their contributions are very clear.
As a final word of caution, we have found that even in following the Ten Simple Rules (or perhaps thinking we are following them), the outcome of a presentation is not always guaranteed. Audience–presenter dynamics are hard to predict even though the metric of depth and intensity of questions and off-line followup provide excellent indicators. Sometimes you are sure a presentation will go well, and afterward you feel it did not go well. Other times you dread what the audience will think, and you come away pleased as punch. Such is life. As always, we welcome your comments on these Ten Simple Rules by Reader Response.
The idea for this particular Ten Simple Rules was inspired by a conversation with Fiona Addison.
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- 12 May 2021
Good presentation skills benefit careers — and science
- David Rubenson 0
David Rubenson is the director of the scientific-communications firm No Bad Slides ( nobadslides.com ) in Los Angeles, California.
You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar
You have full access to this article via your institution.
A better presentation culture can save the audience and the larger scientific world valuable time and effort. Credit: Shutterstock
In my experience as a presentation coach for biomedical researchers, I have heard many complaints about talks they attend: too much detail, too many opaque visuals, too many slides, too rushed for questions and so on. Given the time scientists spend attending presentations, both in the pandemic’s virtual world and in the ‘face-to-face’ one, addressing these complaints would seem to be an important challenge.
I’m dispirited that being trained in presentation skills, or at least taking more time to prepare presentations, is often not a high priority for researchers or academic departments. Many scientists feel that time spent improving presentations detracts from research or clocking up the numbers that directly affect career advancement — such as articles published and the amount of grant funding secured. Add in the pressing, and sometimes overwhelming, bureaucratic burdens associated with working at a major biomedical research institute, and scientists can simply be too busy to think about changing the status quo.
Improving presentations can indeed be time-consuming. But there are compelling reasons for researchers to put this near the top of their to-do list.
You’re probably not as good a presenter as you think you are
Many scientists see problems in colleagues’ presentations, but not their own. Having given many lousy presentations, I know that it is all too easy to receive (and accept) plaudits; audiences want to be polite. However, this makes it difficult to get an accurate assessment of how well you have communicated your message.
Why your scientific presentation should not be adapted from a journal article
With few exceptions, biomedical research presentations are less effective than the speaker would believe. And with few exceptions, researchers have little appreciation of what makes for a good presentation. Formal training in presentation techniques (see ‘What do scientists need to learn?’) would help to alleviate these problems.
Improving a presentation can help you think about your own research
A well-designed presentation is not a ‘data dump’ or an exercise in advanced PowerPoint techniques. It is a coherent argument that can be understood by scientists in related fields. Designing a good presentation forces a researcher to step back from laboratory procedures and organize data into themes; it’s an effective way to consider your research in its entirety.
You might get insights from the audience
Overly detailed presentations typically fill a speaker’s time slot, leaving little opportunity for the audience to ask questions. A comprehensible and focused presentation should elicit probing questions and allow audience members to suggest how their tools and methods might apply to the speaker’s research question.
Many have suggested that multidisciplinary collaborations, such as with engineers and physical scientists, are essential for solving complex problems in biomedicine. Such innovative partnerships will emerge only if research is communicated clearly to a broad range of potential collaborators.
It might improve your grant writing
Many grant applications suffer from the same problem as scientific presentations — too much detail and a lack of clearly articulated themes. A well-designed presentation can be a great way to structure a compelling grant application: by working on one, you’re often able to improve the other.
It might help you speak to important, ‘less-expert’ audiences
As their career advances, it is not uncommon for scientists to increasingly have to address audiences outside their speciality. These might include department heads, deans, philanthropic foundations, individual donors, patient groups and the media. Communicating effectively with scientific colleagues is a prerequisite for reaching these audiences.
Better presentations mean better science
An individual might not want to spend 5 hours improving their hour-long presentation, but 50 audience members might collectively waste 50 hours listening to that individual’s mediocre effort. This disparity shows that individual incentives aren’t always aligned with society’s scientific goals. An effective presentation can enhance the research and critical-thinking skills of the audience, in addition to what it does for the speaker.
What do scientists need to learn?
Formal training in scientific presentation techniques should differ significantly from programmes that stress the nuances of public speaking.
The first priority should be to master basic presentation concepts, including:
• How to build a concise scientific narrative.
• Understanding the limitations of slides and presentations.
• Understanding the audience’s time and attention-span limitations .
• Building a complementary, rather than repetitive, relationship between what the speaker says and what their slides show.
The training should then move to proper slide design, including:
• The need for each slide to have an overarching message.
• Using slide titles to help convey that message.
• Labelling graphs legibly.
• Deleting superfluous data and other information.
• Reducing those 100-word text slides to 40 words (or even less) without losing content.
• Using colour to highlight categories of information, rather than for decoration.
• Avoiding formats that have no visual message, such as data tables.
A well-crafted presentation with clearly drawn slides can turn even timid public speakers into effective science communicators.
Scientific leaders have a responsibility to provide formal training and to change incentives so that researchers spend more time improving presentations.
A dynamic presentation culture, in which every presentation is understood, fairly critiqued and useful for its audience, can only be good for science.
Nature 594 , S51-S52 (2021)
This is an article from the Nature Careers Community, a place for Nature readers to share their professional experiences and advice. Guest posts are encouraged .
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- v.17(1); Spring 2018
Scientific Presenting: Using Evidence-Based Classroom Practices to Deliver Effective Conference Presentations
Lisa a. corwin.
† Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309
‡ Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical College of Wisconsin–Central Wisconsin, Wausau, WI 54401
Shannon B. Seidel
§ Biology Department, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA 98447
Scientific presenting is the use of scientific teaching principles—active learning, equity, and assessment—in conference presentations to improve learning, engagement, and inclusiveness. This essay presents challenges presenters face and suggestions for how presenters can incorporate active learning strategies into their scientific presentations.
Scientists and educators travel great distances, spend significant time, and dedicate substantial financial resources to present at conferences. This highlights the value placed on conference interactions. Despite the importance of conferences, very little has been studied about what is learned from the presentations and how presenters can effectively achieve their goals. This essay identifies several challenges presenters face when giving conference presentations and discusses how presenters can use the tenets of scientific teaching to meet these challenges. We ask presenters the following questions: How do you engage the audience and promote learning during a presentation? How do you create an environment that is inclusive for all in attendance? How do you gather feedback from the professional community that will help to further advance your research? These questions target three broad goals that stem from the scientific teaching framework and that we propose are of great importance at conferences: learning, equity, and improvement. Using a backward design approach, we discuss how the lens of scientific teaching and the use of specific active-learning strategies can enhance presentations, improve their utility, and ensure that a presentation is broadly accessible to all audience members.
Attending a conference provides opportunities to share new discoveries, cutting-edge techniques, and inspiring research within a field of study. Yet after presenting at some conferences, you might leave feeling as though you did not connect with the audience, did not receive useful feedback, or are unsure of where you fit within the professional community. Deciding what to cover in a presentation may be daunting, and you may worry that the audience did not engage in your talk. Likewise, for audience members, the content of back-to-back talks may blur together, and they may get lost in acronyms or other unfamiliar jargon. Audience members who are introverted or new to the field may feel intimidated about asking a question in front of a large group containing well-known, outspoken experts. After attending a conference, one may leave feeling curious and excited or exhausted and overwhelmed, wondering what was gained from presenting or attending.
Conferences vary widely in purpose and location, ranging from small conferences hosted within home institutions to large international conferences featuring experts from around the world. The time and money spent to host, attend, and present at conferences speaks to the value placed on engaging in these professional interactions. Despite the importance of conferences to professional life, there is rarely time to reflect on what presenters and other conference attendees learn from participating in conferences or how conferences promote engagement and equity in the field as a whole. A significant portion of most conference time is devoted to the delivery of oral presentations, which traditionally are delivered in a lecture style, with questions being initiated by a predictable few during question-and-answer sessions.
In this essay, we discuss how you can use a backward design approach and scientific presenting strategies to overcome three key challenges to effectively presenting to diverse conference audiences. The challenges we consider here include the following:
- Engagement in learning: ensuring that your audience is engaged and retains what is important from a talk
- Promoting equity: creating an environment that is inclusive of all members of the research field
- Receiving feedback: gathering input from the professional community to improve as a researcher and presenter
At conferences, learning and advancement of a field is paramount, similar to more formal educational settings. Thus, we wrote these presenting challenges to align with the central themes presented in the scientific teaching framework developed by Handelsman and colleagues (2007) . “Learning” aligns with “active learning,” “equity” with “diversity,” and “feedback” with “assessment.” Using the scientific teaching framework and a backward design approach, we propose using evidence-based teaching strategies for scientific presenting in order to increase learning, equity, and quality feedback. We challenge you , the presenter, to consider how these strategies might benefit your future presentations.
BACKWARD DESIGN YOUR PRESENTATION: GOALS AND AUDIENCE CONSIDERATIONS
How will you define the central goals of your presentation and frame your presentation based on these goals? Begin with the end in mind by clearly defining your presentation goals before developing content and activities. This is not unlike the process of backward design used to plan effective learning experiences for students ( McTighe and Thomas, 2003 ). Consider what you, as a presenter, want to accomplish. You may want to share results supporting a novel hypothesis that may impact the work of colleagues in your field or disseminate new techniques or methodologies that could be applied more broadly. You may seek feedback about an ongoing project. Also consider your audience and what you hope they will gain from attending. You may want to encourage your colleagues to think in new and different ways or to create an environment of collegiality. It is good to understand your audience’s likely goals, interests, and professional identities before designing your presentation.
How can you get to know these important factors about your audience? Although it may not be possible to predict or know all aspects of your audience, identify sources of information you can access to learn more about them. Conference organizers, the website for the conference, and previous attendees may be good sources of information about who might be in attendance. Conference organizers may have demographic information about the institution types and career stages of the audience. The website for a conference or affiliated society often describes the mission of the organization or conference. Finally, speaking with individuals who have previously attended the conference may help you understand the culture and expectations of your audience. This information may enable you to tailor your talk and select strategies that will engage and resonate with audience members of diverse backgrounds. Most importantly, reflecting on the information you gather will allow you to evaluate and better define your presentation goals.
Before designing your presentation, write between two and five goals you have for yourself or your audience (see Vignettes 1 and 2 for sample goals). Prioritize your goals and evaluate which can be accomplished with the time, space, and audience constraints you face. Once you have established both your goals and knowledge of who might attend your talk, it is time to design your talk. The Scientific Presenting section that follows offers specific design suggestions to engage the audience in learning, promote equity, and receive high-quality feedback.
Situation: Mona Harrib has been asked to give the keynote presentation at a regional biology education research conference. As a leader in the field, Mona is well known and respected, and she has a good grasp on where the field has been and where it is going now.
Presentation Goals: She has three goals she wants to accomplish with her presentation: 1) to introduce her colleagues to the self-efficacy framework, 2) to provide new members of her field opportunities to learn about where the field has been, and 3) to connect these new individuals with others in the field.
Scientific Presenting Strategy: Mona has 50 minutes for her presentation, with 10 minutes for questions. Her opening slide, displayed as people enter the room, encourages audience members to “sit next to someone you have not yet spoken to.” Because her talk will discuss self-efficacy theory and the various origins of students’ confidence in their ability to do science, she begins by asking the audience members to introduce themselves to their neighbors and to describe an experience in which they felt efficacious or confident in their ability to do something and why they felt confident. She circulates around the room, and asks five groups to share their responses. This provides an audience-generated foundation that she uses to explain the framework in more detail. For historical perspective, she relates each framework component back to prior research in the field. She ends with some recent work from her research group and asks participants to discuss with their partners how the framework could be used to explain the results of her recent study. She again gathers and reports several examples to the whole group that illustrate ways in which the data might be interpreted. She then asks the audience to write a question that they still have about this research on note cards, which she collects and reviews after the presentation. After reviewing the cards, she decides to incorporate a little more explanation about a few graphs in her work to help future audiences digest the information.
Situation: Antonio Villarreal is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, who has recently been selected for a 15-minute presentation in the Endocytic Trafficking Minisymposium at the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting. He has attended this conference twice, so he has a sense of the audience, space, and culture of the meeting. In his past experiences, he has found that the talks often blur together, and it is especially difficult to remember key ideas from the later talks in each session.
Presentation Goals: With a manuscript in preparation and his upcoming search for a faculty position, Antonio has the following three goals for his presentation: 1) to highlight the significance of his research in a memorable way; 2) to keep the audience engaged, because his presentation is the ninth out of 10 talks; and 3) to receive feedback that will prepare him to give professional job talks.
Scientific Presenting Strategy: Antonio took a class as a postdoctoral fellow about evidence-based practices in teaching and decides he would like to incorporate some active learning into his talk to help his audience learn. He worries that with only 15 minutes he does not have a lot of time to spare. So he sets up the background and experimental design for the audience and then projects only the two axes of his most impactful graph on the screen with a question mark in the middle where the data would be. Rather than simply showing the result, he asks the audience to turn to a neighbor and make a prediction about the results they expect to see. He cues the audience to talk to one another by encouraging them to make a bold prediction! After 30 seconds, he quells the chatter and highlights two different predictions he heard from audience members before sharing the results. At the end of his presentation, he asks the audience to turn to a neighbor once again and discuss what the results mean and what experiment they would try next. He also invites them to talk further with him after the session. The questions Antonio receives after his talk are very interesting and help him consider alternative angles he could pursue or discuss during future talks. He also asks his colleague Jenna to record his talk on his iPhone, and he reviews this recording after the session to prepare him for the job market.
SCIENTIFIC PRESENTING: USING A SCIENTIFIC TEACHING PERSPECTIVE TO DESIGN CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS
Presenters, like teachers, often try to help their audiences connect new information with what they already know ( National Research Council, 2000 ). While a conference audience differs from a student audience, evidence and strategies collected from the learning sciences can assist in designing presentations to maximize learning and engagement. We propose that the scientific teaching framework, developed by Handelsman and colleagues (2007) to aid in instructional design, can be used as a tool in developing presentations that promote learning, are inclusive, and allow for the collection of useful feedback. In this section, we discuss the three pillars of scientific teaching: active learning, diversity, and assessment. We outline how they can be used to address the central challenges outlined earlier and provide specific tips and strategies for applying scientific teaching in a conference setting.
Challenge: Engagement in Learning
Consider the last conference you attended: How engaged were you in the presentations? How many times did you check your phone or email? How much did you learn from the talks you attended? Professional communities are calling for more compelling presentations that convey information successfully to a broad audience (e.g., Carlson and Burdsall, 2014 ; Langin, 2017 ). Active-learning strategies, when combined with constructivist approaches, are one way to increase engagement, learning, and retention ( Prince, 2004 ; Freeman et al. , 2014 ). While active-learning strategies are not mutually exclusive with the use of PowerPoint presentations in the dissemination of information, they do require thoughtful design, time for reflection, and interaction to achieve deeper levels of learning ( Chi and Wylie, 2014 ). This may be as simple as allowing 30–60 seconds for prediction or discussion in a 15-minute talk. On the basis of calls for change from conference goers and organizers and research on active-learning techniques, we have identified several potential benefits of active learning likely to enhance engagement in conference presentations:
- Active learning increases engagement and enthusiasm. Active learning allows learners to maintain focus and enthusiasm throughout a learning experience (e.g., Michael, 2006 ). Use of active learning may particularly benefit audience members attending long presentations or sessions with back-to-back presenters.
- Active learning improves retention of information. Active reflection and discussion with peers supports incorporation of information into one’s own mental models and creates the connections required for long-term retention of information (reviewed in Prince, 2004 ).
- Active learning allows for increased idea exchange among participants. Collaborative discourse among individuals with differing views enhances learning, promotes argumentation, and allows construction of new knowledge ( Osborne, 2010 ). Active-learning approaches foster idea exchange and encourage interaction, allowing audience members to hear various perspectives from more individuals.
- Active learning increases opportunities to build relationships and expand networks. Professional networking is important for expansion of professional communities, enhancing collaborations, and fostering idea exchange. Short collaborative activities during presentations can be leveraged to build social networks and foster community in a professional setting, similar to how they are used in instruction ( Kember and Leung, 2005 ; Kuh et al ., 2006 ).
While a multitude of ways to execute active learning exist, we offer a few specific suggestions to quickly engage the audience during a conference presentation ( Table 1 ). In the spirit of backward design, we encourage you to identify learning activities that support attainment of your presentation goals. Some examples can be found in Vignettes 1 and 2 (section 1), which illustrate hypothetical scenarios in which active learning is incorporated into presentations at professional conferences to help meet specific goals.
Active-learning strategies for conference presentations
Similar to giving a practice talk before the conference, we encourage you to test out active-learning strategies in advance, particularly if you plan to incorporate technology, because technological problems can result in disengagement ( Hatch et al ., 2005 ). Practicing presentation activities within a research group or local community will provide guidance on prompts, timing, instructions, and audience interpretation to identify problems and solutions before they occur during a presentation. This will help to avoid activities that are overly complex or not purpose driven ( Andrew et al ., 2011 ).
Challenge: Equity and Participation
Consider the last conference you attended: Did you hear differing opinions about your work or did the dominant paradigms prevail? Who asked questions; was it only high-status experts in the field? Did you hear from multiple voices? Did newer members, like graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, engage with established members of the community? In classroom settings, equity and diversity strategies improve learning among all students and particularly support students from underrepresented groups in science by decreasing feelings of exclusion, alleviating anxiety, and counteracting stereotype threat ( Haak et al ., 2011 ; Walton et al ., 2012 ; Eddy and Hogan, 2014 ). Likewise, in a conference setting, strategies that promote equitable participation and recognize the positive impact of diversity in the field may help increase equity more broadly and promote a sense of belonging among participants. Conference audiences are oftentimes even more diverse than the typical classroom environment, being composed of individuals from different disciplines, career stages, and cultures. Incorporating strategies that increase the audience’s understanding and feelings of inclusion in the professional community may impact whether or not an individual continues to engage in the field. We have identified three central benefits of equity strategies for presenters and their professional communities:
- Equity strategies increase accessibility and learning. As a presenter, you should ensure that presentations and presentation materials 1) allow information to be accessed in various forms, so that differently abled individuals may participate fully, and 2) use straightforward language and representations. You can incorporate accessible versions of conference materials (e.g., captioned videos) or additional resources, such as definitions of commonly used jargon necessary to the presentation (e.g., Miller and Tanner, 2015 ). You may consider defining jargon or acronyms in your talk to increase accessibility for individuals who might struggle to understand the full meaning (e.g., new language learners or individuals who are new to the field).
Equity strategies for conference presentations (as presented in Tanner, 2013 )
- Equity strategies promote a sense of belonging among all individuals. Creating a welcoming, inclusive environment will make the community attractive to new members and help to increase community members’ sense of belonging. Sense of belonging helps individuals in a community to view themselves as valued and important, which serves to motivate these individuals toward productive action. This increases positive affect, boosts overall community morale, and supports community development ( Winter-Collins and McDaniel, 2000 ). Belonging can increase if it is specifically emphasized as important and if individuals make personal connections to others, such as during small-group work (see Table 2 ).
Many strategies discussed in prior sections, such as using active learning and having clear goals, help to promote equity, belonging, and access. In Table 2 , we expand on previously mentioned strategies and discuss how specific active-learning and equity strategies promote inclusiveness. These tips for facilitation are primarily drawn from Tanner’s 2013 feature on classroom structure, though they apply to the conference presentation setting as well.
An overarching goal of conferences is to help build a thriving, creative, inclusive, and accessible community. Being transparent about which equity strategies you are using and why you are using them may help to promote buy-in and encourage others to use similar strategies. By taking the above actions as presenters and being deliberate in our incorporation of equity and diversity strategies, we can help our professional communities to thrive, innovate, and grow.
Challenge: Receiving Feedback
Consider your last conference presentation: What did you take away from the presentation? Did you gather good ideas during the session? Were the questions and comments you received useful for advancing your work? If you were to present this work again, what changes might you make? In the classroom, assessment drives learning of content, concepts, and skills. At conferences, we, as presenters, take the role of instructor in teaching our peers (including members of our research field) about new findings and innovations. However, assessment at conferences differs from classroom assessment in important ways. First, at conferences, you are unlikely to present to the same audience multiple times; therefore, the focus of the assessment is purely formative—to determine whether the presentation accomplished its goals. This feedback can aid in your professional development toward being an effective communicator. Second, at conferences, you are speaking to a diverse group of colleagues who have varied expertise, and feedback from the audience will provide information that may improve your research. Indeed, conferences are a prime environment to draw on a diversity of expertise to identify relevant information, resources, and alternative interpretations of data. These characteristics of conferences give rise to three possible types of presentation assessments ( Hattie and Timperley, 2007 ):
- Feed-up: assessment of the achievement of presentation goals: Did I achieve my goals as a presenter?
- Feed-back: assessment of whether progress toward project goals is being achieved: Is my disciplinary work or research progressing effectively?
- Feed-forward: input on which activities should be undertaken next: What are the most important next steps in this work for myself and my professional community?
Though a lot of feedback at conferences occurs in informal settings, you can take the initiative to incorporate assessment strategies into your presentation. Many of the simple classroom techniques described in the preceding sections, like polling the audience and hearing from multiple voices, support quick assessment of presentation outcomes ( Angelo and Cross, 1993 ). In Table 3 , we elaborate on possible assessment strategies and provide tips for gathering effective feedback during presentations.
Assessment and feedback strategies for conference presentations
a We suggest these questions for a simple, yet informative postpresentation feed-up survey about your presentation: What did you find most interesting about this presentation? What, if anything, was unclear or were you confused about (a.k.a. muddiest point)? What is one thing that would improve this presentation? Similarly, to gather information for a feedback/feed-forward assessment, we recommend: What did you find most interesting about this work? What about this project needs improvement or clarification? What do you consider an important next step that this work might take?
Technology can assist in implementing assessment, and we predict that there will be many future technological innovations applicable to the conference setting. Live tweeting or backchanneling is occurring more frequently alongside presentations, with specific hashtags that allow audience members to initiate discussions and generate responses from people who are not even in the room ( Wilkinson et al ., 2015 ). After the presentation, you and your audience members can continue to share feedback and materials through email list servers and QR codes. Self-assessment by reviewing a video from the session can support both a better understanding of audience engagement and self-reflection ( van Ginkel et al ., 2015 ). There are benefits from gathering data from multiple assessment strategies, but as we will discuss in the next section, there are barriers that impact the number of recommended learning, equity, and assessment strategies you might chose to implement.
NAVIGATING BARRIERS TO SCIENTIFIC PRESENTING
Though we are strong advocates for a scientific presenting approach, there are several important barriers to consider. These challenges are similar to what is faced in the classroom, including time, space, professional culture, and audience/student expectations.
One of the most important barriers to consider is culture, as reflected in the following quote:
Ironically, the oral presentations are almost always presented as lectures, even when the topic of the talk is about how lecturing is not very effective! This illustrates how prevalent and influential the assumptions are about the expected norms of behavior and interaction at a scientific conference. Even biologists who have strong teaching identities and are well aware of more effective ways to present findings choose, for whatever reason (professional culture? professional identity?), not to employ evidence-based teaching and communication methods in the venue of a scientific conference. ( Brownell and Tanner, 2012 , p. 344)
As this quote suggests, professional identity and power structures exist within conference settings that may impact the use of scientific presenting strategies. Trainees early in their careers will be impacted by disciplinary conference norms and advisor expectations and should discuss incorporating new strategies with a trusted mentor. In addition, incorporating scientific presenting strategies can decrease your control as a presenter and may even invoke discomfort and threaten your or your audience’s professional identities.
Balance between content delivery and active engagement presents another potential barrier. Some may be concerned that active learning takes time away from content delivery or that using inclusive practices compromises the clarity of a central message. Indeed, there is a trade-off between content and activity, and presenters have to balance presenting more results with time spent on active learning that allows the audience to interpret the results. We suggest that many of these difficulties can be solved by focusing on your goals and audience background, which will allow you to identify which content is critical and hone your presentation messaging to offer the maximum benefit to the audience. Remember that coverage of content does not ensure learning or understanding and that you can always refer the audience to additional content or clarifying materials by providing handouts or distributing weblinks to help them engage as independent learners.
Physical space and time may limit participants’ interaction with you and one another. Try to view your presentation space in advance and consider how you will work within and possibly modify that space. For example, if you will present in a traditional lecture hall, choose active learning that can be completed by an individual or pairs instead of a group. By being aware of the timing, place in the conference program, and space allotted, you can identify appropriate activities and strategies that will fit your presentation and have a high impact. Available technology, support, and resources will also impact the activities and assessments you can implement and may alleviate some space and time challenges.
As novice scientific presenters dealing with the above barriers and challenges, “failures” or less than ideal attempts at scientific presenting are bound to occur. The important thing to remember is that presenting is a scientific process, and just as experiments rarely work perfectly the first time they are executed, so too does presenting in a new and exciting way. Just as in science, challenges and barriers can be overcome with time, iterations, and thoughtful reflection.
STRUCTURING A CONFERENCE TO FACILITATE SCIENTIFIC PRESENTING
Although presenters can opt to use backward design and incorporate scientific presenting strategies, they do not control other variables like the amount of time allotted to each speaker, the size or shape of the room they present in, or the technology available. These additional constraints are still important and may impact a presenter’s ability to use audience-centered presentation methods. Conference organizers are in a powerful position to support presenters’ ability to implement the described strategies and to provide the necessary logistical support to maximize the likelihood of success. Organizers often set topics, determine the schedule, book spaces, identify presenters, and help establish conference culture.
So how can conference organizers affect change that will promote active engagement and equity in conference presentations?
- Use backward design for the conference as a whole. Just as presenters can use backward design to set their specific learning goals, conference organizers can set goals for the meeting as a whole to support the conference community.
- Vary conference structures and formats based on the needs of the community. Conference presentation structures vary widely, but it is worth considering why certain session structures are used. To what extent does it serve the community to have back-to-back 10-minute talks for several hours? Many people will have the chance to present, but does the audience gain anything? Are there topics that would be better presented in a workshop format or a roundtable discussion? What other structures might benefit the conference community and their goals?
- Choose a space that is conducive to active presentations or consider creative ways to use existing spaces. The spaces available for conferences are typically designed for lecture formats. However, organizers can seek out spaces that facilitate active presenting by choosing rooms with adaptable formats in which furniture can be moved to facilitate small-group discussions. They can also provide tips on how to work within existing spaces, such as encouraging participants to sit near the front of a lecture hall or auditorium.
- Give explicit expectations to presenters. Organizers could inform presenters that active, engaging, evidence-based sessions are encouraged or expected. This will help cultivate the use of scientific presenting within the community.
- Provide examples or support for presenters to aid in design of active learning, equity strategies, and assessment. Videos with examples of the described techniques, a quick reference guide, or access to experts within the field who would be willing to mentor presenters could be critical for supporting a conference culture that uses scientific presenting. For example, researchers at the University of Georgia have developed a repository of active-learning videos and instructions for instructors interested in developing these skills (REALISE—Repository for Envisioning Active-Learning Instruction in Science Education, https://seercenter.uga.edu/ realisevideos_howto ).
- Collect evidence about conference structure and use it to inform changes. Surveying audience members and presenters to better understand the benefits and challenges of particular session formats can help inform changes over multiple years. Organizers should coordinate these efforts with presenters so they are aware of what data will be collected and disseminated back to them.
Although scientific teaching has increasingly become standard practice for evidence-based teaching of science courses, there are potentially great benefits for transforming our oral presentations in science and science education by incorporating the rigor, critical thinking, and experimentation that are regularly employed within research. The strategies suggested in this paper can serve as a starting point for experimentation and evaluation of presentation and conference efficacy. Using scientific presentation strategies may expedite the advancement of fields by increasing engagement and learning at conference presentations. Equity strategies can increase inclusion and community building among members of our research areas, which will help research fields to grow and diversify. Finally, regularly incorporating assessment into our presentations should improve the quality and trajectory of research projects, further strengthening the field. Both individual presenters and conference organizers have a role to play in shifting conference culture to tackle the challenges presented in this paper. We urge you to consider your role in taking action.
We thank Justin Hines, Jenny Knight, and Kimberly Tanner for thoughtful suggestions on early drafts of this article.
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- Publication Recognition
How to Make a PowerPoint Presentation of Your Research Paper
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Table of Contents
A research paper presentation is often used at conferences and in other settings where you have an opportunity to share your research, and get feedback from your colleagues. Although it may seem as simple as summarizing your research and sharing your knowledge, successful research paper PowerPoint presentation examples show us that there’s a little bit more than that involved.
In this article, we’ll highlight how to make a PowerPoint presentation from a research paper, and what to include (as well as what NOT to include). We’ll also touch on how to present a research paper at a conference.
Purpose of a Research Paper Presentation
The purpose of presenting your paper at a conference or forum is different from the purpose of conducting your research and writing up your paper. In this setting, you want to highlight your work instead of including every detail of your research. Likewise, a presentation is an excellent opportunity to get direct feedback from your colleagues in the field. But, perhaps the main reason for presenting your research is to spark interest in your work, and entice the audience to read your research paper.
So, yes, your presentation should summarize your work, but it needs to do so in a way that encourages your audience to seek out your work, and share their interest in your work with others. It’s not enough just to present your research dryly, to get information out there. More important is to encourage engagement with you, your research, and your work.
Tips for Creating Your Research Paper Presentation
In addition to basic PowerPoint presentation recommendations, which we’ll cover later in this article, think about the following when you’re putting together your research paper presentation:
- Know your audience : First and foremost, who are you presenting to? Students? Experts in your field? Potential funders? Non-experts? The truth is that your audience will probably have a bit of a mix of all of the above. So, make sure you keep that in mind as you prepare your presentation.
Know more about: Discover the Target Audience .
- Your audience is human : In other words, they may be tired, they might be wondering why they’re there, and they will, at some point, be tuning out. So, take steps to help them stay interested in your presentation. You can do that by utilizing effective visuals, summarize your conclusions early, and keep your research easy to understand.
- Running outline : It’s not IF your audience will drift off, or get lost…it’s WHEN. Keep a running outline, either within the presentation or via a handout. Use visual and verbal clues to highlight where you are in the presentation.
- Where does your research fit in? You should know of work related to your research, but you don’t have to cite every example. In addition, keep references in your presentation to the end, or in the handout. Your audience is there to hear about your work.
- Plan B : Anticipate possible questions for your presentation, and prepare slides that answer those specific questions in more detail, but have them at the END of your presentation. You can then jump to them, IF needed.
What Makes a PowerPoint Presentation Effective?
You’ve probably attended a presentation where the presenter reads off of their PowerPoint outline, word for word. Or where the presentation is busy, disorganized, or includes too much information. Here are some simple tips for creating an effective PowerPoint Presentation.
- Less is more: You want to give enough information to make your audience want to read your paper. So include details, but not too many, and avoid too many formulas and technical jargon.
- Clean and professional : Avoid excessive colors, distracting backgrounds, font changes, animations, and too many words. Instead of whole paragraphs, bullet points with just a few words to summarize and highlight are best.
- Know your real-estate : Each slide has a limited amount of space. Use it wisely. Typically one, no more than two points per slide. Balance each slide visually. Utilize illustrations when needed; not extraneously.
- Keep things visual : Remember, a PowerPoint presentation is a powerful tool to present things visually. Use visual graphs over tables and scientific illustrations over long text. Keep your visuals clean and professional, just like any text you include in your presentation.
Know more about our Scientific Illustrations Services .
Another key to an effective presentation is to practice, practice, and then practice some more. When you’re done with your PowerPoint, go through it with friends and colleagues to see if you need to add (or delete excessive) information. Double and triple check for typos and errors. Know the presentation inside and out, so when you’re in front of your audience, you’ll feel confident and comfortable.
How to Present a Research Paper
If your PowerPoint presentation is solid, and you’ve practiced your presentation, that’s half the battle. Follow the basic advice to keep your audience engaged and interested by making eye contact, encouraging questions, and presenting your information with enthusiasm.
We encourage you to read our articles on how to present a scientific journal article and tips on giving good scientific presentations .
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How to make a good (and interesting) presentation in journal club.
When I give presentation in journal club, I always select the kind of papers that tell a "fun" story- I believe we can learn more by discussing "how the author(s) come up with such idea?" question. Over the years, the topics of my selected papers have ranged from how bugs determine the color of laid eggs to whether getting cancer is just bad luck. Many people have told me that they like how the papers I selected arouse interest and discussion from the audience in journal club. Here I'd like to explain how we all can benefit our research by reading and interpreting research papers from a different perspective.
To begin with, we have to understand that the purpose of scientific research is very different from that of scientific publication, and the latter can facilitate but does not achieve the former. Therefore, it is important for a career scientist to be able to distinguish these from each other, get to know the structural elements of both, and identify what can be learned from them for her/his own research.
First of all, we don’t only study cancer. We study the natural history of life. Ultimately, all biological studies address different perspectives of life. Keeping in mind the quote "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" (Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973), any paper is relevant.
Second, in most studies, the authors observe the world through the lens of the contemporary paradigm or prevailing models. Many papers in top-tier journals attempt to find the “last piece” of the puzzle in the established model (and many “elite” authors are very good at this). An idea that does not fit into any of the paradigms will have a hard time getting published. A good example is Carl Woese. He single-handedly redefined the history of life but was mostly ignored until his later years because people of his time did not know where his idea should be placed (if you don’t know who he is, please Google him).
Third, we have to understand how a paper is written. Running a study is like constructing a skyscraper. You dig ground to make a foundation, lift pillars, construct floor by floor. Finally, you reach the top and finish the roof. When the construction is completed, you remove all the scaffolds and auxiliaries, clean up all the garbage, and decorate the environment. Now a brand new, beautiful building stands in front of people. But when someone asks you how such a marvelous building is constructed, you say: "I started constructing it from the roof, followed by the top floor, and floor by floor built down until the first floor touched the ground. This is a perfect plan, isn’t it?” Unfortunately, this is often how a study is presented at publication nowadays. If you follow the authors’ plans, most papers are over-decorated in a similar fashion, making them quite indistinguishable, with everything arranged perfectly and logically, even though the study hadn’t truly evolved in that way, sacrificing many critical elements that may give implications or insights to the field. For example, a discovery made by chance is described as a process following a logical design without mentioning the accident, thus the critical elements involved in the discovering circumstances may be lost forever, resulting in low reproducibility. Alternatively, following a “perfect” plan, a paper may be over-decorated with mechanism studies, and the real drivers of the phenomenon are overlooked.
The route out of these “conceptual traps”, I believe, comes from a genuine observation or curious question that can catch people by surprise. For example, one of my all-time favorite papers is “Genetic Variations Associated with Red Hair Color and Fear of Dental Pain, Anxiety Regarding Dental Care and Avoidance of Dental Care” - yes, this is the real title. The study was initiated by an urban legend circulating among dentists: redheads have a worse response to anesthesia and terrible tooth conditions. The author - a dentist - wanted to test if it was true. What would you think if you heard such a rumor as a dentist? As you can imagine, this study is not high-profile journal material (it was published in a dental house journal, J. Am. Dental Assoc., 2009, 140:896-905). Because I study pigment cells, the results gave me a “think-out-of-the-box” moment: pigment variation and neural response are intertwined together evolutionarily.
With these thoughts in mind, I would like to share a few “tips” for selecting a paper and preparing a presentation for journal club:
● Select a paper with a subject that might interest both scientists and non-scientists. A genuine question out of curiosity is always intriguing. Studies in lifestyle and behavior are fun because the audience can connect with them personally.
● In many cases, why the researcher asked the question and how she/he solved it are more valuable - and interesting - than the discovery itself. Even a wrong question can lead to a good observation.
● Discuss what led the authors to the current study in the historic and/or conceptual (paradigm) perspective. This is necessary, in my opinion. For example, Joan Masague copied the in vivo cycling methodology from Isaiah J. Fidler, who got the idea from Luria-Delbruck distribution in bacterial resistance to phage. From here, we can easily see how studies of bacterial resistance heavily impacted the concept of clonal selection in cancer research. It would be very interesting to discuss the extent/limit of this concept in cancer research. Digging into the history of the research field can bring implications beyond the imagination.
● Figure out if the question and the hypothesis are the “roof” or the “foundation” of the study. This will also arouse fun discussion.
● Examine whether the “mechanism” is required or decorative for the conclusion. Here is one of my favorite examples. In 1846, Hungarian clinician Ignaz Semmelweis published his findings in Vienna that washing deliverers’ hands with chlorinated lime solutions could effectively reduce maternal mortality in obstetrical clinics. Although the experimental data was solid, the idea was rejected by the most renowned doctors at the time, including Rudolf Virchow. The reason? Semmelweis could not offer an explanation fitting the contemporary scientific concept (i.e., “mechanism”) for his findings. The practice of hand disinfection did not prevail until Pasteur’s germ theory emerged in 1880, 15 years after Semmelweis had died in a mental institute. During this period, more women died unnecessarily because elite doctors demanded mechanisms in a scientific paper.
● Try to discuss how the findings can be applied to other fields. For example, after discovery of immune checkpoints, many immunologists tried to activate them to cure autoimmunity. Imagine this: if you read such a paper in those years, how would you think about its implication in cancer research?
Actually, all the statements above involve only two factors: zooming out and then zooming in on the question. Believe me, doing this will easily facilitate many fun discussions.
Here are some more practical, step-by-step suggestions for the slides for journal club:
1. Start with a brief background of the field: a historic account to explain “how we got here”, and/or introduction to the current and alternative paradigms. Do these paradigms make sense in terms of biological evolution or life history?
2. Summarize the model system and focused pathway/process being used and studied that is related to the paper. What is the scope of the model being used, and how relevant is it to the real world?
3. What is the author’s question? Why did she/he ask it? Is the question derived from the current model, or from an unexpected observation?
4. What are the key claims in the paper? (We put this first so we can hang all the data against their claims. Ironically, the hypothesis in the paper may already give a good clue since it is often added after all the results were generated.)
5. A summary of the study design is helpful, especially for complicated projects.
6. Pick and choose key data that support the central conclusion, summarize everything else.
7. How much could the results answer the question? Alternatively, what is the paradigm-shifting discovery?
8. What is the implication of the results? How can we make use of the information in the paper in our own work? In what ways could the results impact other fields? What are the unanswered questions?
All the questions here can be asked during your presentation to arouse questions or discussion from the audience.
Case Study: Ising C., et al. NLRP3 inflammasome activation drives tau pathology. Nature (2019).
Conclusion: 1. fibrillar amyloid-beta -> NLRP3 inflammasome -> tau kinase/phosphatase -> tau pathology 2. Neurofibrillary tangles develop downstream of amyloid-beta-induced microglial activation.
Historic context: What is the “driver” of Alzheimer disease (AD) identified by pathological and genetic studies in the history of research?
Evolutionary context: Why is there neurodegeneration disease? 1. Do other animals get neurodegeneration disease? Are the genes involved in AD conserved in other animals? What are the functions of the conserved and divergent genes? 2. “Why would we have in our brains proteins such as α-synuclein or tau that, without substantive modification appears to be able to accumulate and cause some rather distressing diseases?” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4662249/) 3. What is the common cause of microglia activation? Is neurodegeneration disease the price we pay to prevent parasite infection in brain? 4. Does the conclusion of this study fit in any evolutionary biology explanation? If so, is the explanation supported by any epidemiological data worldwide?
Results: 1. How much in pathology can the identified mechanism explain? 2. Can boundary condition of the model be mapped to human data?
Biomedical relevance: 1. Is there any study in diet and life style related to the conclusion, so a preventive/diagnostic measure can be suggested? 2. Disease of aging and cancer are two extreme ends in the same spectrum. Is the activation of microglia relevant to the occurrence or suppression of brain tumors?
The author would like to thank Dr. Sarah Spaeh for her editorial assistance.
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This is an excellent article, not only about how to present but where adn what to look for. Most big findings are serendipitous, and boggles our mind. Keeping an open mind, looking for crazy connections everywhere, not just in high tier journals, is a w3onderful suggestion. Thank you
I am glad that this article is helpful for you! There are so many interesting and important papers out there, not necessarily in the top-tier journals. For example, Luria-Delbruck distribution was published in the journal Gene in 1943. The work, which won them Nobel Prize, is the foundation of research in the evolution of cells, but the modern impact factor of the journal was like 4.0.
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Local News | Lorain Lions Club to host dinner Jan. 4 with…
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Local News | Lorain Lions Club to host dinner Jan. 4 with presentation from county Board of Elections director
The Lorain Lions Club will host a dinner Jan. 4 with keynote speaker Paul Adams, executive director of the Lorain County Board of Elections.
The meeting and dinner will take place at Rebman’s On the Avenue, 5300 Oberlin Ave., Lorain, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with the meal served at 6 p.m., according to a news release from Mitchell J. Fallis, press secretary for the Lorain Lions Club.
Adams will begin his presentation on the operations of the Lorain County Board of Elections and local election procedures at 6:30 p.m.
“Paul is an excellent speaker,” said Fallis, who’s known Adams for nearly 20 years.
Adams and Fallis worked together years ago at the South Lorain Community Development Corporation, Fallis also noted.
“He has a very, very good understanding of elections and the process and the rules on election law and what needs to be done and what can not happen in order for elections to run appropriately,” Fallis said. “We’re looking forward to his presentation.”
The public is invited to attend the event.
For reservations, contact Lorain Lions member Bruce McCartney at 440-371-6987.
The Lorain Lions Club is comprised of service-minded men and women who strive to make a difference by meeting people’s needs in the greater Lorain community, the release stated.
“Around the world, Lions are serving their neighborhoods and beyond while focusing on the eight global causes of: vision, hunger, environment, childhood cancer, humanitarian, youth, disaster relief and diabetes,” the release stated.
The Lions Clubs International motto is “We Serve,” and the Lorain Lions Club has lived up to it, Fallis said.
For 101 years, the Lorain Lions Club has raised funds to purchase eyeglasses for local children in need.
The Lions Clubs International is the largest membership-based service organization in the world.
There are 1.4 million members in more than 49,000 clubs, serving in over 200 countries globally, the release also noted.
“Since 1917, Lions clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired, championed youth initiatives, improve health and well-being, strengthened local communities, support those in need through hands-on humanitarian services and grants that impact lives globally and encourage peace and international understanding,” the release stated.
For information about Lions Clubs International, visit www.lionsclubs.org.
The Lorain Lions Club is comprised of 45 men and women members who meet at 5:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month and at noon on the second and third Thursdays of the month at Rebman’s On the Avenue.
Club meetings include dinner followed by club business and a guest speaker.
The Lorain Lions Club was chartered Oct. 12, 1922.
The club’s goals include raising funds to donate to those in financial need for eyesight and hearing expenses and to fund educational scholarships, the release stated.
Those interested can visit at Lorain Lions on Facebook or contact us by email at [email protected] or by mail at Lorain Lions Club, P.O. Box 298, Lorain, Ohio 44052.
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An extremely rare case of multiple small bowel intussusceptions in a 20-year-old female
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Elaine Kelly, Amy E Murphy, James Byrne, Ahmed Haidaran, An extremely rare case of multiple small bowel intussusceptions in a 20-year-old female, Journal of Surgical Case Reports , Volume 2023, Issue 12, December 2023, rjad688, https://doi.org/10.1093/jscr/rjad688
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Intussusception, which is characterized by the invagination of one portion of the gastrointestinal tract into an adjacent segment, is an uncommon cause of abdominal pain in adults. Given that it is typically associated with identifiable pathological abnormalities, intussusception can pose a diagnostic challenge in adults due to its rarity and nonspecific symptomatology. This report presents a unique case of multiple small bowel intussusceptions in a 20-year-old female, which emphasizes the importance of clinical suspicion and advanced imaging for an accurate diagnosis.
Intussusception is a process by which one portion of the gastrointestinal tract invaginates into an adjacent intestinal lumen [ 1 ]. It is a rare cause of abdominal pain in adults and typically due to the presence of a well-defined pathological abnormality in the bowel, serving as a lead point [ 2 ].
Intussusception can be a challenging diagnosis in adult patients if given its rarity and presentation with nonspecific abdominal pain. A thorough history and clinical examination can often aid in the clinical suspicion of intussusception; however, abdominal imaging such as CT is often required to make the diagnosis. Therefore, it is important to keep it in mind as a rare cause of abdominal pain in adult patients.
Patients will usually be brought to theatre not only for reduction of the intussusception but also to rule out a malignant tumour serving as a lead point. In instances where a lead point cannot be identified, bowel resection is typically not required and reduction of the intussuscepted portion of bowel is sufficient [ 3 ].
We present the case of a 20-year-old female who presented to the Emergency Department complaining of a 1-day history of sudden onset right iliac fossa pain associated with nausea and vomiting. On examination, her abdomen was soft with tenderness to palpation of the right iliac fossa and suprapubic regions. Her background history consisted of bipolar affective disorder, for which she was taking mirtazapine and aripiprazole. Bloods taken at the time of admission revealed an acute inflammatory process with white cells of 24.5 and a C-reactive protein (CRP) of 76.8. She was referred to the surgical team for work-up of acute appendicitis. She had a pelvic ultrasound to rule out any gynaecological cause of her pain, which showed normal appearance of the uterus and ovaries and was unable to visualize the appendix. She then proceeded to have a CT of her abdomen and pelvis which showed an 8 cm jejunal small bowel intussusception, with no focal bowel lesions or abnormalities within the surrounding mesentery identified ( Fig. 1 ).
CT scan showing 8 cm jejunal intussusception.
She was taken to theatre for laparoscopic intussusception reduction. A bowel walk was performed in which the small bowel was checked from the ileocaecal valve to the duodenojejunal flexure twice. Our patient was found to have six intussusceptions within the first 100 cm of jejunum with no identifiable lead point ( Figs 2 and 3 ). The intussusceptions were all reduced laparoscopically by starting distally with a bowel grasper and pushing proximally. All reduced easily and the bowel appeared healthy with no signs of intestinal obstruction, bowel ischaemia or intraluminal pathological lesions, and the surrounding mesentery was normal. It was remarked there was some spasmodic and abnormal contraction of the bowel, which may have been a precipitating factor.
Following laparoscopic reduction, her symptoms subsided. She had an unremarkable postoperative recovery, with an inpatient stay of 2 days for monitoring and received buscopan. She was discharged home on buscopan for 1 week and oral esomeprazole for 6 weeks and will be seen in the outpatient clinic 6 weeks following discharge to determine whether further work-up is required.
Small bowel intussusception is a rare diagnosis in adults comprising only about 5% of intussusception cases [ 2 ]. In 70%–90% of adult patients, there is often an identifiable lead point, such as a tumour or polyp. Alternatively, patients may have predisposing factors such as postoperative adhesions, underlying Crohn’s disease, or a Meckel diverticulum [ 4 , 5 ].
In our case, only one of the six intussusceptions was identified on CT. There is currently only one other documented case in the literature of such a high number of concurrent intussusceptions, which describe a 25-year-old male with underlying coeliac disease found to have five intussusceptions within the small bowel [ 6 ]. In any patient presenting with multiple or recurrent intussusceptions, a diagnosis of Peutz–Jeghers Syndrome must be considered. Peutz–Jeghers Syndrome is an autosomal dominant mutation in the STK11 gene characterized by gastrointestinal polyposis, mucocutaneous pigmentation, and cancer predisposition [ 7 ]. Typically, one of the hamartomatous polyps present in the small bowel will serve as a lead point for intussusception. Our patient, however, did not have Peutz–Jeghers and had no predisposing factors or identifiable lead points contributing to intussusception.
Whilst the CT scan only revealed one of the six intussusceptions, this finding was sufficient to bring the patient to theatre for reduction, consequently allowing for discovery and reduction of all six points. Small bowel intussusception may result in small bowel obstruction or bowel ischaemia requiring resection, fortunately our patient did not have features of either. Given that our patient’s intussusceptions were found to be idiopathic, laparoscopic reduction without resection was deemed an appropriate treatment [ 3 ].
As evidenced by our case report, small bowel intussusception must be considered as a rare cause of right iliac fossa pain in adults. It also highlights the importance of performing a CT scan as a first-line investigation in patients presenting with abdominal pain, even in females of childbearing age. Abdominal CT has been found to be a superior imaging modality for the diagnosis of intussusception compared to contrast studies, ultrasonography, and endoscopy [ 8 ]. Moreover, it illustrates how vital it is to perform a thorough small bowel walk from the ileocaecal valve to the duodenojejunal flexure at least twice, such as not to miss this diagnosis and prevent progression to obstruction and ischaemia.
This case presentation describes an extremely rare phenomenon of the presence of six simultaneous intussusceptions within the proximal jejunum, deemed to be idiopathic in nature. There are currently no other similar cases documented in the literature. Intussusception, whilst uncommon, must be considered as a possible differential diagnosis in patients presenting with right iliac fossa pain due to the risk of bowel ischaemia and obstruction.
Aref H , Nawawi A , Altaf A , Aljiffry M . Transient small bowel intussusception in an adult: case report with intraoperative video and literature review . BMC Surg 2015 ; 15 : 36 .
Zubaidi A , Al-Saif F , Silverman R . Adult intussusception: a retrospective review . Dis Colon Rectum 2006 ; 49 : 1546 – 51 .
Potts J , Al Samaraee A , El-Hakeem A . Small bowel intussusception in adults . Ann R Coll Surg Engl 2014 ; 96 : 11 – 4 .
Panzera F , Di Venere B , Rizzi M , Biscaglia A , Praticò CA , Nasti G , et al. Bowel intussusception in adult: prevalence, diagnostic tools and therapy . World J Methodol 2021 ; 11 : 81 – 7 .
Weilbaecher D , Bolin JA , Hearn D , Ogden W 2nd. Intussusception in adults. Review of 160 cases . Am J Surg 1971 ; 121 : 531 – 5 .
Saliu V , Ulusoy C , Nikolovski A . Multiple small bowel intussusceptions detected by diagnostic laparoscopy in an adult patient with previously undiagnosed coeliac disease . Eur J Case Rep Intern Med 2022 ; 9 : 003391 .
McGarrity TJ , Amos CI , Baker MJ . Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome. In: Adam MP , Mirzaa GM , Pagon RA , Wallace SE , LJH B , Gripp KW , et al. (eds). GeneReviews(®) . Seattle (WA) : University of Washington, Seattle , Copyright © 1993–2023. GeneReviews is a Registered Trademark of the University of Washington, Seattle. Seattle: University of Washington, 1993.
Yakan S , Caliskan C , Makay O , Denecli AG , Korkut MA . Intussusception in adults: clinical characteristics, diagnosis and operative strategies . World J Gastroenterol 2009 ; 15 : 1985 – 9 .
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‘Hopper: An American Love Story’ Review: The Art of Loneliness
This ‘american masters’ presentation on pbs examines the painter’s enduring appeal and unique place in art history, as well as his relationship with his wife, josephine..
Dec. 28, 2023 5:47 pm ET
Tuesday, 9 p.m., PBS
The enduring appeal of Hopper’s paintings—“Nighthawks” (1942) probably being the most recognizable—has much to do with their surface simplicity, their not-so-welcoming invitation to critical interpretation, and their mix of naturalism with a suggestion of the surreal, of the familiar being out of place. The deeper, paradoxical Hopper—whose pictures recognize, and share, an existential loneliness—is there if one wants to do a little mining, which this “American Masters” presentation does to enlightening effect.
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