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Dissertation Proposal [Presentation Thursdays] March 4, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Academically Speaking, Presentations.
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Below are the slides I used for the presentation of my dissertation proposal to my faculty panel. I decided on a clean and simple aesthetic, which I thought would be appropriate for the occasion. Amusingly, or perhaps ironically, my mentor opined that the slides were good but “too flashy” for her taste. I stand by the decision, though: as easy as it would have been to design something along the lines of “death by Powerpoint” (and an argument could be made that such would have been appropriate, too, in a way), I just couldn’t abide the thought.

View this presentation on Slideshare.

Since the purpose of the presentation was to get approval for the topic, the slides aimed to communicate the thought process behind the research I’ve already done. This might seem odd for a “proposal”, but the truth is that a dissertation proposal is itself a semi-complete paper and not simply a statement of “this sounds interesting and I would like to do research on it for kicks.” Hence, because a considerable amount of reading, hypothesis testing and analysis had already gone into developing the proposal (as well as a fair amount of missteps along the way), I felt it was important to take the panel through this process in order to get their support and guidance for where I thought the research was headed.

The early slides were fun to make. Images were from creative commons-licensed photos I found on Flickr (here and here). I particularly like the two bar graphs on Philippine remittances that I made to illustrate why the Philippines is a unique remittance-recipient economy. The play on colors per section was something I just settled for to add variety; while they’re obviously unnecessary I think they turned out well enough without being overly distracting.

Delivering the presentation made me realize how difficult it is to effectively present numbers. Getting through the lengthy section that reports my initial regression results was a struggle, suddenly having to grapple with talking about these in a coherent and interesting way (without much success, mind, but I soldiered on). I once thought learning the econometric techniques were hard; there’s a good case to be made that presenting these may be even harder.

(Note for the curious: the summary results are just screen captures from the paper that makes up the proposal. It was easier to go about it this way rather than encode the results all over again.)

Ultimately, I think I managed to showcase my value-added through these slides. There’s a lot lost in translation by just reading through the slides without me actually presenting them, which on balance is how effective slides should be, methinks. To belabor the point, consider the following version of the slides, to which I have added some explanatory annotations:

View this presentation on Slideshare.

A final tidbit: in the runup to the presentation day, I resisted the temptation to read through both Nancy Duarte’s Slide:Ology and Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen Design, which were pending on my reading queue. I’m sure there are any number of tips I could’ve picked up from those books; yet I was scared they’d make me feel bad about my slides.

That said, my presentation went well, which means I’m that much closer to finishing with my PhD.

Now all that’s left to do is get the work done.

[About Presentation Thursdays: Every now and then, on a Thursday, I post a presentation from my archives and include some accompanying commentary not just about the content but also my thoughts on designing it. The presentations can also be viewed and downloaded from my Slideshare page]

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