How to Build Your Best Student Research Showcase Presentation

by Heather Thorstensen | Apr 07, 2020

Students who plan to participate in the Student Research Showcase can get tips for building their websites by watching the recording, “How to Build Your Best Student Research Showcase Presentation,” which was held as a live Zoom meeting on February 17, 2020. 

Moderator: Janelle Simmons, Manager of Programs for Sigma Xi
Guest Speaker: Amrita Dosanjh, Student Research Showcase Judge, Pediatrician and Pulmonologist 

Below is the full recording followed by key takeaways. 

What is the Student Research Showcase?

Timestamp: 1:22–1:38

“It’s an opportunity for students to create a website, which has three components: the abstract, a slideshow, and an opportunity to show yourself on camera with a video, talking about your project,” said Simmons. 

The Abstract

Timestamp: 2:27-10:02

“The abstract should be no more than 250 words,” said Simmons.

  • Be concise
  • Don’t include information that needs a reference
  • It should act as a stand-alone description of your research project
  • Format it as a single paragraph
  • Include two to four sentences describing the overview of your research and its significance
  • Describe your research goals, methods, and outcomes
  • Describe why the study is happening
  • Use searchable key phrases

What motivated the study? What is being tested?” prompted Dosanjh. “What do you hope to find? What do you think will happen during the course of experimentation? And why are you studying this particular scientific question?”

The Slideshow

Timestamp: 10:03-14:20

“You want to make sure that, regardless of the background of the audience, that they’re able to understand [your slideshow],” said Simmons.

  • You can pick from a variety of slideshow programs: PowerPoint, Google Slides, etc.
  • Limit yourself to 27 slides or less, comprised of a title slide, 25 content slides, and an acknowledgement slide
  • Discuss the research question or goals, hypothesis, methods, data, results, findings, and conclusions
  • Use references at the bottom of the slides
  • Consider adding analogies with photos to help explain your project
  • Projects pending publication may have a password-protected slideshow, accessible only by Simmons and the judges. The rest of the website must be publicly available.

“How do you want to present the material? It should be done in a way that is interesting,” said Dosanjh.

The Video

Timestamp: 14:22-18:18

“You can use a good cell phone camera,” said Simmons. “You don’t have to go spend money or get a videographer. You can do something really simple using your phone or your webcam on your computer.”

  • It should be an engaging and compelling introduction to your research project
  • Keep it to three minutes long
  • You must include a statement on how your research fits into the big picture of research
  • Consider shooting your video in the place where you conducted the experiment to give the audience a visual viewpoint of the study
  • Be clear, concise, and make sure the information has a logical flow

“You can also tell a little bit about yourself and how motivated you are to study the question, why you find your work interesting, because I think that enthusiasm for your research will be transmitted very effectively in this modality,” said Dosanjh.

Video Example from a Past Presenter

Watch the 2019 presentation video from Yangyang Luo of Louisiana Tech University.  

“One thing she adds is some animation to her video,” said Simmons.

2020 Competition Timeline, Process, and Prizes

Timestamp: 20:27-25:32

Note that the timeline has been updated since the Zoom meeting. The new competition timeline is listed on the Student Research Showcase webpage.

High school, undergraduate, and graduate division winners get up to $500 each.

Of the division winners, the overall top presenter receives an additional $500.

Top presenters in each research discipline receive an honorable mention. 

People’s Choice Award winner (won by public vote on the video) receives up to $250.

The Discussion Widget and Website Providers

Timestamp: 25:33-30:15

“What we’re asking is that all participants on their website have a comments page,” said Simmons.

  • Discussion widgets allow judges to comment on presentations
  • Most commonly used widget is Disqus but you may use others
  • Presenters will receive instructions for adding Disqus to a website
  • Do not require people to sign in to post comments
  • Check for comments daily throughout the judging period so you can respond
  • Make it easy for judges to find the discussion widget
  • Picking a website provider is up to the presenter
  • Popular website choices are Tumblr, Wix, Wordpress, Google Sites, and Squarespace

The Judging Process and Advice from Judge Amrita Dosanjh

Timestamp: 30:41-32:57

“It’s a real joy to view [students’] work and to try to help by making, hopefully, constructive suggestions for their future work,” said Dosanjh. 

“This process is, I think, very valuable from an education standpoint. These are the formats that are typically used by scientists at meetings across the country,” she added. 

“There is always a learning curve,” said Dosanjh. “You are at the start of your scientific careers and I think that, I hope that, they enjoy the process of communicating their work and dedicating themselves to scientific work.”

Advice from Program Manager Janelle Simmons

Timestamp: 33:00-33:38

“During your video, make sure to speak slowly,” said Simmons. 

Advice from the 2019 Undergraduate Division Winner Natasha Shah

 

Advice from the 2019 Graduate Division Winner Anthony Oppong-Gyebi

 

A Note About Teams

Timestamp: 38:51-39:27

“You can have a team work together to present a website. So the maximum team members is four, so you can have four students on a team and it can be all high school, all undergraduate, all graduate or a combination if you’re doing research with students in other levels,” said Simmons. 

Teams who win a division would split the prize money among the team members. 

Questions about the Showcase?

Timestamp: 39:38-41:19

Contact Janelle Simmons, manager of programs, at jsimmons@sigmaxi.org

Heather Thorstensen is the manager of communications for Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society. 

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