The Research Toolkit

CURIE's open research platform

Month: August 2018

The dos and don’ts of intercultural communication and presenting to international audiences

27/08/2018 – Post by Senior Student Projects Officer Darcy Whitworth

Second Language learning & ICUR 2017

Presenting for the first time at ICUR in 2017 was an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience where I was exposed to an entirely new form of research communication.

As a Japanese studies student with advanced proficiency in the Japanese language, I was tactically paired in a panel with Kyushu University. Approaching my presentation with the understanding that I would be talking to an international audience, I specifically designed my speech and content to include simple language. This meant I could communicate my message effectively to all members, no matter their level of English language. Moreover, I utilised my language skills to present a short introduction of my topic in Japanese; thus, I was able to foster a sense of inclusion between myself and the Kyushu audience from the very beginning of my presentation.

Overall, my involvement in ICUR 2017 taught me the importance of speaking slowly, using well-known graphics in my slides, body language and eye contact within my presentation. Looking toward the future, I have devised a checklist of ‘must-do’s’ for presenting to an international audience which can be a used by anyone wishing to boost their intercultural competency skills.  

Must do #1: Think of language as a tool to bridge the gap between cultures

Firstly, language plays a vital role in how well the audience can understand the crux of your research and if used correctly, your words can be a powerful tool to bridge the gap between cultures. For this reason, it is essential that you choose your words wisely, and if you know that you will be presenting to an audience whose first language is not English, I would consider simplifying your content. Furthermore, always remember to speak slowly with a measured pitch, so as the audience will be able to easily process information. In this way, you can be sure that everyone will know what you are talking about and that your research message will be effectively conveyed to all.

Must do #2: Body Language is your superpower

Secondly, I cannot stress enough the importance of using body language, gestures and stance when presenting and communicating. This is a skill which is valuable to not only for your ICUR experience, but also in your everyday life as well. I would like to think of you as Superheros, with body language as your superpower which you can use to connect with every member of the audience. Communication with your audience begins before you open your mouth. The audience’s first impression of you is your posture and presentation, so it’s very important to know how to stand, as well as, how to act.

Tips for how to present yourself: (Don’ts)
  • Don’t stand facing your visuals and turning your back to your audience.
  • Don’t stand with your hands in your pockets, with your shoulders slumped forwards. It’s very difficult to convey a strong message through this posture.
  • No hands-on hips; when your hands are on your hips you tend to look too powerful.
  • Lastly, hands clasped in front of your body. While it makes you look somewhat timid or scared it is very bad when you would like to use your hands to gesture from this stance. (“I want to show you something.”)
Tips for how to present yourself: (Do’s)  
  • Stand face on to the people you are talking to with your hands by your sides. Move your hands forward to emphasis main points, with palms up, not down.
  • Gesture toward your body by opening your arms, using both at the same time to demonstrate positive facts.
  • Move your hands down in a ‘chop’ motion, one or both, to deliver strong opinions.
  • Eye contact, look at how your audience members are sitting, are they paying attention or are they zoning out? You can alter your movements and actions to reconnect with the audience. For example; try adding a little bit of humour to your presentation to lighten the mood!

Must do #3: Slide graphics, the simpler the better!

Finally, the content of your slides can dramatically affect how well you are able to communicate your message across cultures. For this reason, I would recommend using simple English, with a minimum of two to three dot-points per slide. For your presentation, you do not want to overwhelm the audience with textual information in your slides, as they will already be working very hard to understand the English within your speech. To ensure effective intercommunication, include well-known graphics and analogies to simplify your main points. This approach can be useful to bridge the gap between multiple nations and reconnect with the audience through common interests. Furthermore, by including well-known ideas and graphics such as images from pop-culture, you can increase the likelihood of the audience understanding the main message of your research; thus, improving their engagement and experience of your presentation.

So, best of luck on your journey into presenting to an intercultural audience! If you take on even a few of these points you will be well ahead of many in the field. Good luck to those of you presenting at ICUR 2018 and enjoy the experience, it’s really special when you are able to connect with an international audience.

How to manage your GLARP project during Semester 2

20/08/2018 – Post by Senior Student Projects Officer Jenna Barker

So, you’ve been funded… now what? Maybe you’ve started your Master To Do List, maybe you haven’t. If not, start reading here to get ahead and kickstart your GLARP project!

But, if you’ve already started, you’re probably facing the challenge of balancing your GLARP commitments with all the assignments that are pouring in (Week 5 already, yikes!). But even though each GLARP project will be different, it’s important that you dedicate enough time towards your project to get the most out of the experience and support your team mates.

Each GLARP project will have different aims, objectives and dissemination, however, whether your project involves a symposium, an ICUR presentation, or other events, effectively managing any GLARP project beyond the funding application deadline is crucial. As you can see below, it requires planning, being realistic and communication.

1. Identify checkpoints.

Use your Master To Do List to break down your project into small chunks that you consistently chip away at. This makes it more manageable and less stressful. You also feel like you are constantly making progress, rather trying to spend a few huge chunks of times while also stressing about that assignment that’s due in a few days!

2. Be Realistic.

Being realistic about the deadlines you set yourself will help keep stress levels down. Look ahead and incorporate upcoming assignments, social events, work and other commitments so you can plan around them. Discuss your commitments openly with your group and plan around everyone’s commitments. This brings us to our final, and possibly the most important point… Don’t forget to communicate!

3. Communicate!

The success of your GLARP project really relies on your ability to communicate effectively with your team. Be honest with your team about your commitments and what you can realistically get done for the project. Make sure you stay in regular contact and be there to support each other when things go wrong. Try to communicate both positive outcomes as well as frustrations. You should all be equally contributing to the research project so be willing to speak up if you feel someone isn’t pulling their weight. HOWEVER, treat them with care, there may be other reasons that they have stopped contributing to the extent they said they would. Try to understand why they are acting like they are but don’t be afraid to clearly and calmly state your own needs. Remember, you’re all in this together! When things get difficult, clear communication is key!

It will be hard, it will probably be stressful, but what you will learn throughout the process will be priceless!

This also gives you a real taste of what it’s like to go down the research path and whether you would like to pursue a career in research or whether it’s just not for you. Navigating interdisciplinary research as an undergraduate is a feat within itself, so congratulations on taking on this task! After your project is complete, you will be better prepared for the future, whether it be pursing a career in research, academia or in industry.

So, as the November 30th deadline looms, make sure you set aside the time to tick off all the tasks in the Master To Do List and don’t forget to enjoy the process. This may be the first of many successful research projects you undertake!

Writing an Abstract: The “blurb” of your research

13/08/2018 – Post by Compass Mentor Alice Kim

Writing an abstract is an important skill in academic writing. It is probably one of the most common pieces of writing that researchers do – for journal submissions and conference proceedings. Once you master the art of writing an abstract, you have acquired a skill that can be used in a myriad of ways.  

I like to think of the abstract as the “blurb” of your research. It’s usually the first thing people read so it should give them enough information to understand your research journey.

Coming from a science background, I was taught the “formula” but this can be applied to all disciplines. An abstract usually has five components:

  1. Introduction: Starting your abstract with a bit of background information helps sets the stage for your research. Introduce the key concepts or terms that are critical to your research to help the reader contextualise your research.
  2. Aim/hypothesis: Briefly state your aim (what you want to find out) or hypothesis (what you think you will find out) of your research.

  3. Methodology: How did you conduct your research (ie. literature search, experiments)? How did you analyse your data (ie. statistical tests, thematic analysis)?

  4. Results: What did you find out? Or if you do not have results yet, what are your preliminary results and/or what do you expect to find?

  5. Conclusion/significance: What do your results mean? What do they mean in the context of the field?

Altogether, this should give the reader the information to get a general understanding of your research. Some tips that I discovered through writing abstracts include:

  • Use bullet points to plan your abstract. I extract the main points from each section and compile a list. By doing this, you can see all the critical points of your research, making it easier to link all the main points together.

  • Keep it concise. An abstract is usually between 250-300 words, so it should be concise. Concise means brief but informative – you should be able to convey all the information you need using the minimum number of words. Writing concisely is a skill – the more you write, the better you will become.

  • Avoid jargon. Your abstract could be read by anyone. In the case of ICUR, your audience is inter-disciplinary. To ensure that your audience understands your research, avoid using discipline-specific terms. If you need to use them, make sure to define them.

  • Do the “mum test” – get someone from outside of your discipline to read your abstract. If they can understand it, that’s a good sign your abstract is fit for an interdisciplinary audience.

I hope these tips were helpful and happy abstract writing everyone!

Kickstart Your GLARP Research Project

6/08/2018 – Post by Senior Student Projects Officer Renee Aharon

Congratulations!

Your hard work has paid off and now you’re about to start your research journey! This can be a little daunting at first, but don’t worry, you’ll find you have exactly what it takes.

Last year, our GLARP team was in your exact position, we had just gotten funding and were feeling excited but also a little overwhelmed. After going through the whole research process, we want to share our three top tips to kickstart your GLARP project and get you well on the way to starting your research journey.

Tip 1: Write down every task you need to do

And I mean every task – from writing hypotheses and getting ethics approval to printing flyers, writing reports, booking venues, hiring speakers, inviting guests, setting up team meetings, everything! Have all your team members brainstorm every small task that will need to be done for the project. Our team did this in an excel spreadsheet we called the ‘Master To Do List’.

This Master List will show you which tasks you’ve already completed, what still needs to be done and who is responsible for it. This document keeps everyone on the same page and you can use it to track your progress.

We broke our project into different sections and wrote out every task that needed to be done in order to complete that section. The image below shows a version of our Master To Do List about ¾ the way through our project.

As you can see, our project had 7 sections and we used colours to help track our progress. Green meant complete, yellow showed what we needed to focus on next and white meant we could leave that task until a later date.

We had weekly meetings to update each other on how we were going on each task and decide which tasks we should focus on next. You don’t need to meet every week, but decide with your team in advance how often you want to meet and bring the Master To Do List so everyone knows what needs to be done next.

Take time to create this list together and list every task you can think of. And don’t forgot to celebrate when you complete a task! You’re one step closer to completing your research project!

Tip 2: Start right away

The earlier you can start, the better. Be prepared for tasks to take longer than expected. We found tasks we thought would take 1 week actually took us 2 ½ weeks and sometimes tasks we thought would take 3 days only took 20 minutes between all 4 of our team members. 

Be flexible with your task and project timeline, but also have clear deadlines to aim for. The sooner you start, the sooner you finish and the less stress you’ll feel. You will be working under tight deadlines and balancing study and other responsibilities so the earlier you can start the better. 

So go set up that first team meeting right away and get started on that Master To Do List! 

And last note, make sure you celebrate and congratulate each in that first meeting. Your grant proposal was in the top 30% and this is a fantastic achievement!

Tip 3: Go easy on yourself and be prepared to make mistakes

You are going to make mistakes in your project. ALL of our team members made at least one quite major mistake over the course of the project (I made about 3), but each time, we banded together and found a solution.

Be determined to overcome any challenge that occurs over the course of the project and be there to support your teammates when they make a mistake. There is ALWAYS a solution to a problem or mistake and you will grow dramatically from learning how to overcome these types of challenges.

The other tip is to go easy on yourself when it’s you who makes the mistake. You will all be working under extremely tight time frames along with study and other responsibilities so don’t beat yourself up (as high achieving students often do) when you make a mistake. Instead, think of a solution. In fact, think of every possible solution, even if it sounds unrealistic or silly.

Listing many possible solutions will help give you perspective on the problem and help you find the most creative solution. Enlist the help of your teammates as well, you’re common goal is to make this research project the best that it can possibly be. You can do this!

I hope these top three tips will help you kickstart your GLARP project and get you excited to start. Remember the CURIE team is always here to provide support as you tackle the research process for the first time. Just come see us in the office (W616 in Menzies) if you have any queries, problems, questions, or concerns.

We look forward to hearing about your projects and best of luck on your research journey!

Tips for presenting at ICUR

1/08/2018 – Post by Monash ICUR Student Director Peter Halat

Semester 2 has begun, which means that ICUR is fast approaching. There are many reasons to get excited for ICUR: the chance to learn about research outside of your field, the ability to meet other passionate students and to practice some important employability skills such as public speaking.

Standing in between now and the wonderful two day experience of ICUR is the process of creating, tweaking and practising your own presentation. While this can be a daunting task, there is still plenty of time.

Tip: Don’t forget your audience

The main thing to keep in mind about presenting your research at ICUR is the audience. While the audience at ICUR is very attentive and supportive, they will not be familiar with your sort of research. Therefore, you should aim to make your research as accessible as possible. No matter which stage of research you are at, you can always construct a story to make your research appreciable to a broad audience. Think about how you would explain the applications and importance of your work to your family and friends (you probably won’t be able to use much jargon). There is undoubtedly something new and/or unique about your research, which you should emphasise to lock in your audience’s attention.

The importance of your research can also link well into your methodology. Make it clear how you have, or will, conduct the research and how this is contributes to the literature.

Then there is the matter of presenting results. Again, it’s not best to use too much jargon here, so try to simplify your results by explaining their importance. By linking back to your earlier hook with your results, you will keep the audience engaged. Make your powerpoint slides visually appealing (but not distracting) and use them to highlight the main points of your presentation. Use a consistent visual theme to link together segments of your presentation. Often the process of making a powerpoint forces you to start thinking about the broad structure of your speech. You can also subtly communicate with your audience through a powerpoint slide, and incorporate some humour to keep your audience engaged. Even if your research is still in progress, starting on a powerpoint presentation can allow you to identify what sort of results would fit best, given the story and methodology of your research.

Tip: Practice in front of friends and family

While it is good to spend time creating vibrant slides, the best way to see how you’re going is to practice presenting. The process of getting up and giving it a go forces you to create some finer sentence structure in your speech, which might not have been clear in your mind when you prepared slides. Make sure to time your practices, and use each rehearsal constructively. You may find that you have prepared too many slides for your presentation. Instead of deleting extra slides, keep them handy for question time, where they may become useful. Every time you practice the more confident and prepared you will feel. Another advantage of practicing is the chance to adjust your speaking posture and hone in on some nice hand gestures to complement your talk.  

With enough preparation and practice, standing up and presenting at ICUR will become and incredibly fun and rewarding experience!