Research-in-Progress (RIP): Tips

Making the Most of RIP 

Powerpoints by Fellowship Alumna, Neda Ratanawongsa, MD, MPH

What is RIP?

A forum where fellows can talk about their research idea, designs, and results and get feedback in an informal, comfortable setting.

At what stages of my research can I present?

All stages: starting a project, planning the design, analyzing the data, or getting ready to present your results at conferences or in manuscripts.

Why are we talking about this?

  • Different objectives (& skills) for presenting research-in-progress vs. completed work
  • Necessary to do this throughout your career
  • It doesn’t have to be scary – can it even be enjoyable?!
  • We want to encourage you to present often and feel more comfortable each time.

Setting Your Objectives

You will never get through as much as you thought you would – set a reasonable agenda.

Starting a research project

  • Present what’s been done
  • Identify the gap(s) in the literature
  • Focus on 1-2 issues/dilemmas, for example:
    • Present/refine your conceptual framework
    • Identify possible research questions/hypotheses
    • Discuss pros/cons of research methodologies
    • Identify potential datasets
    • Solicit ideas on mentors/collaborators/funding sources

Research design or data analysis

  • Briefly present what’s been done as it affects your design
  • Identify your specific aim(s) and hypotheses
  • Present your research design
  • Focus on 1-2 issues / dilemmas – for example:

    Research design:
    • Are these appropriate inclusion / exclusion criteria?
    • How can I improve recruitment?
    • Please pilot my questionnaire.
    • How can I get my protocol through the IRB?
    • How can I collect data on other variables in my conceptual framework?

    Data analysis:
    • Do the variables in my model make sense?
    • Here’s an interesting finding – what do you think of my conclusions?
    • Are there other confounders I haven’t considered?

Presenting for conferences

  • Explain the venue / audience / constraints for your future presentation
  • Identify for your audience 2-3 concerns you have about your presentation, for example:
    • My talk is too long.
    • I talk too quickly.
    • Do my slides make sense? 
    • I’m worried about fielding questions.
  • Present as if you are at the conference (including Q&A time afterwards)
  • Allow ample time to get feedback on the style, content, and your responses in Q&A

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your RIP Presentation

1. Present early and often.

  • Better to reconsider your design before submitting the IRB, collecting data, or writing the manuscript

2. Present weeks or months before key deadlines.

  • You'll be more willing to incorporate major changes and have time to present again

3. Invite faculty.

  • Ask your mentor(s) to come.
  • Invite faculty who are not working with you but who have experience with the methodology / content (use your mentors to help you identify and invite them)
  • Allow enough lead time so you can coordinate with faculty schedules

4. Prepare for 20 minutes/20 slides.

  • Allow enough time for questions while you present and discussion after
  • Avoid the temptation to present lots of background
  • Go over your slides and objectives with your project mentor in advance to optimize the structure of your talk

5. State upfront and explicitly your (one to three) objectives for the session (see above).

6. Consider how to manage your audience when they:

  • Veer off your objectives:
    • If they question something upstream of your objective (e.g. research design), go with the flow for a period of time,
    • But redirect your audience back to your objectives when necessary: "These are all great points, but I’d like to move on to …"
  • Interrupt you to ask questions:
    • You can ask the audience to hold questions during part/all of your talk,
    • But try to practice managing interruptions (which may occur at a conference or job talk): "That’s an important question, and I think my next few slides will address that issue. If I don’t, please remind me to come back to that before we end."

7. Convert comments into constructive criticism.

  • "That's a great point that I've struggled with - do you or does anyone else have suggestions on how I could do this differently?"
  • Let the audience know in advance the type of feedback you want (content vs. style)

8. Assign a note-taker.

  • Save your energy for thinking about and fielding questions
  • Have someone bring a laptop to write down what others say and how you respond to their comments / questions

9. Set time aside that day to process the feedback.

  • Look over the notes and/or talk about them with your project mentors
  • Don’t necessarily act on every suggestion, but keep track of why you don’t (great for anticipating questions at future presentations and writing the limitations section)

10. Solicit feedback on how you present.

  • Assign someone to take notes on how you can improve your format, speaking style, responses to questions, the way you redirect the audience
  • Hand out a form asking for feedback on both content and presentation style.

When You’re Not Presenting in RIP

  • Come to the conferences.
    • You will learn by hearing others’ critiques and suggestions.
    • You will learn by thinking critically about other presentations.
  • Speak up.
    • Better to hear from a variety of viewpoints.
    • If you don’t understand something from the presenter or from an audience member, chances are that someone else doesn’t understand either.
    • You don’t have to have an answer to a concern that you raise; someone else may have one.
    • Better to receive constructive criticism here now than everywhere else later.
  • Be sensitive to the objectives of the speaker.
    • Consider writing down suggestions that don’t relate to the session’s objectives and are not immediately pressing.