21A.215 | Spring 2012 | Undergraduate

Disease and Health: Culture, Society, and Ethics


Oral Instructions

Some pointers on class presentations:

  1. Work on PRESENTING your paper, rather than reading it to the class.
  2. Arrange one or two dress rehearsals, preferably with friends who can give you suggestions. If this is not possible, practice in front of a mirror, and set the timer.
  3. These are timed presentations and YOU WILL BE CUT OFF at 10 minutes. Students often don’t think running over will be a problem, but it often is—they tend to spend time at the beginning getting going, and then lose track of the time. Over the years I have seen many, many students say something like, “but I’ve only covered half of what I need to say!” If you want the person minding the stopwatch to alert you when you have 5 minutes, 2 minutes left, you can request this.
  4. It is fine to take less time—everyone appreciates a well-planned presentation that doesn’t waste anyone’s time.
  5. You do need to provide a COMPREHENSIVE PRESENTATION of your paper: describe the topic, discuss the materials you worked with, and present your findings. If you want to talk about why you chose the topic, fine. If you want to present a personal anecdote as an illustration, fine. But the bulk of the presentation should be about the issues and what you learned from reading your sources.
  6. Don’t cite the titles of your authors’ essays or books—first and last names (at first mention, thereafter only last name) are enough.
  7. Don’t adopt an “aw shucks,” purposely shy or humble manner, as your audience will not appreciate it. An overly informal style will weaken your impact, as it suggests a lack of preparation or that you’re not taking the task very seriously. Work on adopting a more formal style than you ordinarily use in your interactions. Wearing more formal clothes than you usually wear, while not a requirement, helps you get into the right frame of mind. Again, the best way to figure out your own formal style is to practice, preferably in front of one or two friends. One of them should keep time and cut you off at 10 minutes.

Most MIT students have not had much experience giving oral presentations. No matter what you do in life, you will be making presentations of one kind or another. Most of us, no matter how verbal we are in conversations, experience a bit of stage fright when we find ourselves actually facing an audience, even of our peers. Stage fright can be brought under control with practice. See this part of the CI-H requirement as an opportunity rather than something scary you’d just as soon not have to do.

You can give an oral presentation, an oral presentation with overhead slides, or a PowerPoint presentation.

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As Taught In
Spring 2012
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Lecture Notes
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