Fundamentals of Academic Writing

Research Skills B1

Nagoya University
Professor Chad Nilep

Major assignment 1: Oral Presentation

The first of two major assignments in this seminar is to give an oral presentation. The 10 minute presentation will analyze and describe one research paper from the presenter's field of study.

You will select a research paper in your field. This can be your own research, or your analysis of a paper that someone else wrote. In either case, the paper must be one that is completed and either published or submitted for publication.

The audience for your presentation, the other participants in the seminar, are probably not scholars in your field. Therefore, your job as a presenter is not primarily to explain the research. Instead, your job is to analyze how the paper communicates its message and to explain the paper's logical and rhetorical structure to the seminar participants.

You have only 10 minutes for your presentation, so you'll need to plan carefully and not include too much detail. Usually when you prepare a research presentation, you start from your thesis statement or research conclusion. Since this assignment does not ask for original research, you should start from your evaluation of the paper, not the thesis statement of that paper.

I advise you to prepare what you plan to say; write notes to speak from, or write what you plan to say in a spoken-English style. On the day of the conference, remember to look at the audience and smile even though you feel nervous. Remember, we are all on your side and want you to do a good job; try to relax knowing that you are among friends and colleagues.

This short video gives some advice on planning for the actual speech. Mei-Writing also has courses that teach more about presenting your research.

Please ask the instructor if you have any questions. Please discuss your plan for the presentation with the members of your study group.

Major assignment 2: Abstract

The second major assignment is to write an abstract for a paper you plan to write, or one you have written, presenting your own scholarship. Choose a project for which you actually plan to publish a paper. (Publication for this purpose can include an international journal, a local journal, or internal publication such as submitting your thesis to the university.)

The length of the abstract and its formatting should follow the requirements of the journal or other outlet where you plan to publish the paper. If you do not have a specific journal in mind yet, follow the style of a prominent journal in your field.

Generally speaking, abstracts for this course will be about one page long.

The abstract must contain a thesis statement: the one or two sentence statement of what the paper is about. The thesis statement should be specific, factual, objective, and non-trivial.

I expect your abstract to give the background of your research or to position your work in your major field. The abstract should state the research question or the purpose of the study. It should describe in general terms the kinds of methods you used or your approach to investigating the idea in the thesis statement. Your results and your conclusions should also be made clear in the abstract.

Abstracts will be judged on the strength and clarity of their logic. In other words: is the thesis statement clearly stated? Is the logical argument specified, and does the abstract explain how and why the premises support the conclusion? Is the data or evidence described clearly? Is there enough evidence to support the conclusion?

Mechanics — the grammar, word choice, spelling, and formatting — do matter a little, but they are less important than the other elements of the abstract. Your main goal is to communicate your thesis statement, your evidence, and your logical argument in a clear and convincing manner. If problems with mechanics make it hard for a reader to understand that message, that is a problem. If you can fix mistakes, you should. But don't let worries about English distract you from your most important goal: to communicate your research findings.

Please ask the instructor if you have any questions.

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