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Presenting research

Presenting your research is a chance to share your work with the scientific community. This can take the form of an oral presentation of your research findings online or at an in-person event or creating a conference poster. In this post, I'll share some tips for both.

Why is it important to present your research and do it well?

Being able to articulate yourself well, whether that's in a professional setting or socially, will inevitably help you network with other influential people in your field. Presenting your research may even bag you prizes that will bolster your applications for junior doctor positions, especially for the Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP), and specialty training.

Even if you're not in medical school, you're likely to have to present your work to your colleagues, pitch your ideas to clients, present at schools, or even compete in competitions/debates. It is an invaluable skill to have and shouldn't be one you overlook.

What opportunities are there to present my research?

The most common way to present your research to an audience is at conferences.

Almost every medical society at your university will run a national undergraduate conference and will encourage students to submit an abstract of their research. This will be judged by clinicians against some criteria (usually published on the conference website or flyer) and then if accepted, you will be asked to presented usually as a poster at the event. A panel of judges will ask you questions about your poster and marks will be awarded based on originality, robustness, and clinical relevance.

Other examples (national and international conferences) that invite students to submit posters are:

You can find a conference about whatever specialty you're interested in, in whatever country you like! If you have done research in a particular field, start by searching for conferences within that and ensure you meet abstract submission rules.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a short summary of your research paper, usually about 150-250 words long. A well-written abstract will:

  • let readers get an idea of what your paper is about so they can decide whether to read the full paper;

  • prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;

  • helps readers remember key points from your paper.

More information on my experience writing my first research project here

Tips for a good presentation

Know your audience & tailor your presentation to them It's safest to present in layman's terms and only use scientific jargon when necessary, ensuring it's fully explained. Remember to explicitly tell the audience why your research is important and spend time providing them with context / background to aid understanding.

Make recommendations Don’t just have recommendations that say 'More research is needed in this area' and 'My research has highlighted that this issue needs more funding'. Both are acceptable as part of wider recommendations; but the latter needs to explain how funds would be spent and on what.

If there are policy or practice recommendations, you should also outline these - at the end of the day, most clinicians who will judge your presentation work in organisations and are using evidence-based medicine to make important decisions. Show and tell them how your research can help them make those decisions.

Avoid overly detailed slides If you have a 10 minute slot, pace out the sections (background/methods and key results/conclusions and recommendations) so you don't overrun - timings are strictly adhered to in these events and you will be cut off if you overrun.

Opt for relevant pictures and tables/graphs (your SIMPLEST ones) over wordy slides. You may also decide to make your presentation more interactive with Prezi or include a VERY short poll (don't let it take up precious time) with PollEV. Whatever is most comfortable and will not glitch on the day (for me, it's a classic Powerpoint)! Never try and create more than 10 slides because realistically, that will only be a minute a slide.

Tips for a good conference poster

Most people create their posters on Powerpoint - a fantastic YouTube video on how to do so can be found here

A poster must include:

  • Title – No more than two lines, should be catchy and encourage people to read your poster

  • Introduction – Short background about your topic to provide the reader with context: aim to answer 'why is your research important?'

  • Methods – Describe what you did, images can be useful to enhance this section.

  • Results – Your results - graphs and charts can be useful here

  • Conclusions – What did your research show?, what is its relevance?, what future research needs to be done?

  • References – Approximately 5 references using appropriate citation style

  • Further information – Your contact details and if possible, where your poster can be downloaded

Other recommendations:

  • Use a non-serif font, as it’s easier to read at smaller font sizes - try to keep the same font throughout. Use bolding, italics, and underline as needed.

  • Main title size: 72+

  • Author name & job title/qualifications: size 54+

  • Main text: 30+ (should be readable from 1.5m away)

  • Diagram labels and references: 20+

  • Headings and text of the same importance should be the same size

  • Make sure you have the correct permission to use any images - a good website to use for royalty-free images is Pixabay. Use Google images advanced search to find images that are ‘free to use or share, even commercially’. Cite your media properly (learn how here)

  • Leave space around your text - the layout is very important. It needs to look aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. Less is more. If people have more questions, they'll come to you and you should be prepared to answer!

Other helpful resources: