Class Oral Presentations Guide
I. What is a presentation and what are its objectives?
Oral presentations require each student to discuss a particular reading or subject in front of their
class for approximately 8 minutes. Presentations should be no less than 5 minutes in length and
no longer than 10 minutes.
Few of us will be experts on the issues we will be encountering. It is therefore best to first study
what these authors are saying and claiming. When you are just beginning to learn about an issue
you first review the material in the field in order to know what some of the experts have said. All
research begins this way and that is where we are at – reviewing the literature and making
educated comments on it. Therefore it is very important that you make a clear distinction
between what you think and what the author says or authors are saying. We want to know
what the author is saying in his or her own words. Your job is to clearly and concisely convey
this to us.
II. What is the criteria by which student presenters are
judged and graded?
Below is the criterion that your instructor uses to grade your presentation:
Accuracy & Comprehension 20%
Clarity & Coherence 20%
Relevant Issues Raised 20%
Details (examples &
Discussion (question &
III. How should students prepare for their presentation?
Everybody has their own way of going about or preparing for their presentations. Some students
prefer using index cards; some use written essays, others use outlines or abbreviated notes.
Personal style and the manner in which you present yourself to the class is important. Although
there is no one way, it is important that you are prepared before coming to class to give your
presentation. “Winging it” or coming to your presentation without notes, cards, outlines or any
lecture aids is a terrible idea and not recommended by your instructor. If you have a tried and
tested method that works for you and for which you are comfortable then I suggest sticking with
If you have not done an oral presentation or are uncertain how to go about doing one I
recommend the following tips:
1. Read and take light notes. Your very first step is toread the material or article once; take light notes and then put the book aside. Don’t get crazy and start taking tons of notes
on the first reading. Often that method is confusing. Try to draw back from the work and
sort out the general overall issues involved. Simplify the article or issue without making
things superficial; but simplify. Usually every article, essay or book has a major set of
ideas or thesis around which everything else revolves. See if you can sort them out. The
important thing is not to get lost in the details. You may want to write down a short
summary when you finish reading the article, selecting one or two quotes and examples
that you thought captured or clarified an important point by the author. You can always
right down in a note pad at a later point ideas that capture or clarify the essence of the
issue when they come to you. Read the article again in order to clarify your
understanding of the work.
2. Write an out line. After this you may want to begin writing an outline. As you write your outline you might find that there are “blank” areas or gaps that you are not sure of.
That’s perfectly fine. Continue writing the outline anyway. After the outline is done
(even if it has large gaps, wholes or “lacunas”, which it most likely will) read the essays
once again to see if you got it right and if you can fill in some of those gaps or
confusions in your outline. Sometimes those gaps are areas that the authors’ themselves
have not provided satisfactory answers. You will want to make note of that if it is so.
Keep in mind that much of what you write is not going to come out right or perfect the
first (or even the second) try. That is something you have to get use to – i.e., making
mistakes, starting off with ideas or conceptions that are less then perfect, rewriting and
3. Write out your outline as an essay. The next stage involves writing out your outline in a clear and concise essay form. I strongly recommend you do this. Writing it out forces
you to confront what you don’t know or contradictions you avoided but need to iron out
and possibly provide some sort of resolution. Also, and this is very important, it forces
you to edit out everything that is either unnecessary or obscure in your essay. Remember
that part of your job is to inform and convince your listeners not to dazzle or beat them
down with heights of incomprehensible brilliance. So, put a lot of effort into eliminating
everything you possibly can! Your presentation is judged in terms of what you choose to
present as well as what you choose not to present. In other words, it is important to know
what to select and how to discriminate the important from the superficial. Make sure to
look-up all words whose meaning you are not sure of or that are central to the article.
4. Practice reading your presentation. Practice reading your presentation out-loud with a watch or timer. Do this several times or until you feel familiar and comfortable with your
presentation. Note: Do all this ahead of time in order to be able to review your
presentation several times before presenting it in class.
IV. How should the presentation actually be done in the
1. Introduction: Provide an introduction that offers a brief overview of the article or issue that will guide the class through the many facts and issues you will soon discuss. Your
introduction should be a simplified, concise or tight version of what is to come and that
highlight the central issues to be discussed.
2. Body: This part should consist of the body of the work. It is where the nitty-gritty of the issues, the details and descriptions are discussed and encountered. It is not the place for
you to state your criticisms or problems concerning what the authors said. Your job here
is to reconstruct the author’s work and research by providing details, examples and
quotations from the reading when appropriate. You should focus on the central and major
issues that the author raises. Avoid side issues or things that are interesting but not central
to the author’s argument or discussion. This section should entail a thorough discussion
of the issues involved.
3. Conclusion: Provide a conclusion that summarizes the major points of the article you just discussed. A conclusion restates the introduction as well as the supporting facts and
arguments that the author raised but in a very concise manner. You should also end your
presentation by posing several questions or points of further inquiry. These can be critical
questions that point out areas of contradiction or problematic aspects of the authors work.
It can also indicate other related issues worth considering or poignant questions that you
believe need to be given further or greater consideration.
4. Class Discussion: After you are finished with the formal part of your presentation ask the class if they have any questions, points in need of clarification or comments in relation to
your presentation. Address their questions or comments to the best of your ability. You
are not required to have any expertise over the issue or topic you have presented. Often
the class will discuss these issues with you and among themselves for an extended period
of time, which is fine. Your instructor will thank you for your presentation and ask you to
have a seat after the discussion comes to close. Take a deep breath of relief.
V. Final Consideration
Always make a clear distinction between your ideas and the ideas of the author you are
reviewing. If you mix them up you might provide an answer to a problem the author does not
develop or address. In other words, you will prevent yourself from understanding what the author
is really trying to say.
Suspend or “bracket” your critical opinions of the article that you are reading until you have
clearly figured out what the author is claiming. You cannot accomplish this if you immediately
launch into your critique or opinion before letting the author speak for himself or herself. This
can be a very hard thing to do. One way of forming your critique without interfering with your
understanding of the author’s argument is to have a separate sheet of paper on hand as you do the
reading. List your critical comments separately as you go along trying to figure out what she or
he is saying. You may find that your initial ideas and impressions were wrong or inaccurate.