Learning how to present with Michael Alley’s The Craft of Scientific Presentations

Slideshows are serious business, and bad slides can kill. Many books, including the one I will review today, discuss the role that Morton Thiokol’s poorly designed and overly complicated slides about the Challenger O-rings played in why the shuttle was allowed to launch despite its flaws. PowerPoint has become the default presentation style in a wide range of fields — regardless of whether or not that is a good idea, see the 2014 Slate article “PowerPointLess” by Rebecca Schuman.  With all that being said, in order to learn a bit more about how to present, I read The Craft of Scientific Presentations by Michael Alley, an engineering communications professor at Penn State.

To start, what did Lise Meitner, Barbara McClintock, and Rosalind Franklin have in common? According to Michael Alley, their weak science communication skills meant they were not taken as seriously even though they had great ideas and did great research… Yes, the author discusses how Niels Bohr was a very weak speaker (which only somewhat had to do with English being his third language) but it’s mostly in the context of his Nobel Prize speech or trying to talk to Winston Churchill; in other words, the kinds of opportunities that many great women in science never got… Let’s just say the decontextualized history of science factoids weaken some of the author’s arguments…

This is not to say that science communication is not important but these are some important ideas to remember:

Things presentation skills can help you with:

  • Communicating your ideas with a variety of audiences more effectively
  • Marketing your research and yourself as a researcher more effectively
  • Creating engaging presentations that people pay attention to

Things presentation skills cannot help you with:

  • Overcoming systemic inequality in academia and society at large, though speaking out about your experiences and calling out injustice when you see it can help in a very long term way
  • Not feeling nervous especially if you have an underlying anxiety disorder, though practice can potentially reduce that feeling

For any presentation:  know your topic well, be very prepared, and actually practice giving your talk more than you do anything else (such as making slides). But like any skill, the key is practice practice practice!

For the most part, this book is a great review of the common sense advice that’s easy to forget when you are standing in front of a large audience with everyone looking at you expectantly. The author also offers a lot of great critiques of the default presentations you can churn out with PowerPoint and of PowerPoint itself. PowerPoint has the advantage of being the most common type of slideshow presentation software, though alternatives exist and have been discussed in depth elsewhere on the blog and in university resources. Alley introduces the Assertion-Evidence approach in which you reach people through presenting your research as memes images with text statement overlay. Specifically, you use one sentence summaries and replace bullet points with visualizations. Also you have to keep in account Murphy’s Law, where slide color or a  standard font not being supported can throw off a presentation. Since Murphy’s Law does not disappear when you create a presentation around visuals, especially custom-made images and video, you may need more preparation time for this style of presentation.

Creating visualizations and one sentence summaries as well as practicing your speech to prepare for these things not working is a great strategy for preparing for a research talk. One interesting thing to think about is if Alley admits that less tested methods like TED (Technology-Entertainment-Design) and pecha kucha work for effective presentations, how much of the success of this method has to do with people caring and putting time into their presentation than a change in presentation style?

Overall this book was a good review of public speaking advice specifically targeted towards a science and engineering audience and hopefully will get people taking more time and thinking more about their presentations.

Presentation resources on campus:

  • For science specific, the definitely check out our new science communication certificate through the 21st Century Scientists Working Group and the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. They offer a variety of workshops and opportunities for students develop their skills as science communicators. There’s also science communication workshops throughout the country over the summer.
  • If you have time join a speech or debate team (Mock Trial or parliamentary style debate in particular)  it’s the best way to learn how to speak extemporaneously, answer hostile questions on the fly, and get coaching and feedback on what you need to work on. If you’re feeling really bold, performing improv comedy can help with these skills as well.
  • If you don’t have time to be part of a debate team or you can’t say “yes and…” to joining an improv comedy troupe take advantage of opportunities to present when you can at various events around campus. For example, this year’s Pecha Kucha Night is going to be June 10th at Krannert Center and applications are due by April 30!  If this is still too much find someone, whether in your unit, the Career Center, etc. who will listen to you talk about your research. Or if you have motivation and don’t mind cringe get one of your friends to record you presenting (if you don’t want to use your phone for this check out the loanable tech at the UGL!)

And for further reading take a look at:

http://guides.library.illinois.edu/presentation/getting_started

Hope this helps, and good luck with your research presentations!

Publishing Perspectives at Illinois: A Panel

Join us on Thursday, April 20th 2017, 4 to 5 p.m. in 106 Main Library for an insightful discussion on various opportunities and avenues for publishing here at Illinois!

A panel of experts from the University of Illinois Press, eTexts at Illinois, the Scholarly Commons Undergraduate Research Journals program, and the Illinois Open Publishing Network (University Library) will discuss topics ranging from:

  • advice on submitting a proposal,
  • the process of publishing in journals,
  • creating online textbooks,
  • and open access publishing.

Panelists:
Laurie Matheson, University of Illinois Press
Dawn Durante, University of Illinois Press
Julianne Laut, University of Illinois Press
Clydette Wantland, University of Illinois Press
Harriett Green, University Library
Milind Basole, eTexts @ Illinois
Yury Borukhovich, eTexts @ Illinois
Merinda Hensley, University Library

 

 

Creating a Professional Website on Weebly

One important step to having a good online scholarly presence is to have your own professional website. Weebly is a fairly easy to use and free content management system that you can use to create a customized page for yourself or a team. It is one of the website builders supported by the iSchool, which you can find more information about at this link.

How to Create a Weebly Website

Step 1) Login to Weebly either by creating a new Weebly account or linking to a Facebook or Gmail account. If this is a professional website think very carefully about whether or not you want this in any way connected to your Facebook (after all, future employers don’t care how much fun you had during spring break or want to see those conspiracy theory articles your uncle keeps sharing).

Step 2) Choose a theme! There used to be a lot more themes available on Weebly but those days are over. You have a couple options for very basic themes that with the addition of some images will help you instantly create a classy portfolio page, and any theme is fair game, though the ones under “Portfolio” and “Personal” and “Blog” are more suited for creating a professional website.

Step 3) You will be prompted to choose your web domain. You can have a free dot weebly site. Try to get some variation on your name as your website, you can also use the name of your company or organization.

Image of mothersagainstbearattacks sign up

Note: as of writing (23 Jan. 2017) this Weebly domain name is still available!

However, if this is too much pressure for now you can start creating your site and won’t have to really settle down on a name until you publish the site.

If inspiration strikes before that go to Settings >  Site Address

Step 4) Adding pages. Whichever theme you choose likely comes with Home, Blog, Contact pages that you can click on different elements of to edit. However, to add a new page or a certain type of page:

circled

Step 5) Customizing Pages. For simple edits, simply click on what you want to replace and add new content. To add new content, there’s a sidebar full of options! Even more if you add apps to your site or pay for Weebly. Simply drag and drop and arrange the content types on your site.

As an example, we’ll create a contact page.

If you want people to reach out to you it’s great to have a page where they can do that. We do not recommend writing your email out on pages because that’s a good way for spambots to find you. However, Weebly makes it easy to add a contact form: simply Click “Build” and drag and drop the contact form.

Editing contact information for Weebly contact form

If you have a physical location where you tend to be such as an office (lucky you!) or a coffee shop that pretty much is your office, then you can add a Google map as well to show people what building it is in. Though if your office is in the Armory (or certain parts of Main Library for that matter) you should probably include more specific instructions so that people don’t spend years trying to find it. You can also link your LinkedIn profile to your site by dragging and dropping that icon as well.

And don’t forget to include your ORCID, (if you haven’t created one yet, we suggest you check out this ORCID information)!

Special note: Adding stock images

Of course, your professional website should include at least one picture of you in a professional setting. Weebly has a number of stock images you can choose from that can look very nice. But what if you want something a bit more customized? For your professional website, make sure that you have proper permissions for any images that you use! Copyright infringement is very unprofessional. To learn more about finding copyright friendly stock images check out the Finding and Using Images LibGuide. And please feel free to take a look at our Scholarly Commons copyright resources. For more specific questions, you can reach out to Assistant Professor & Copyright Librarian Sara Benson.

Further Resources:

Still confused about Online Scholarly Presence? We have not one but TWO LibGuides to help you understand: Online Scholarly Presence Seminar and Create & Manage an Online Scholarly Presence.

Here is a video from a few years ago explaining more in general about creating a professional website, hosted by the University of Illinois.

 

Meet Eleanor Dickson, the Visiting HathiTrust Digital Humanities Specialist

Photo of Eleanor Dickson

This latest installment in our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features Eleanor Dickson, the Visiting HathiTrust Research Center Digital Humanities Specialist.


What is your background education and work experience? What led you to this field?

I have a B.A. in English and History with a minor in Italian studies. As an undergraduate I worked at a library which was a really fun experience. I also took an archival research trip to Florida for my undergraduate thesis research and realized I wanted to do what the archivist was doing. I have a Masters in Science in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and completed a postgraduate fellowship at the university archives / Emory Center for Digital Scholarship. And now I’m here!

What is your research agenda?

I research scholarly practice in humanities and digital scholarship, specifically digital humanities with a focus on the needs and practices in large scale text analysis.I also sometimes help with the development of train the trainer curriculum for librarians so librarians can be better equipped with the skills needed to teach patrons about their options when it comes to digital scholarship.

Do you have any favorite work-related duties?

My favorite work-related duties are talking to researchers and hearing about what they are up to. I am fascinated by the different processes, methods, and resources they’re using. With HathiTrust I get to talk to researchers across the country about text analysis projects.

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

I wish more people came to the Digital Humanities Savvy Researcher workshops. If people have suggestions for what they want to see PLEASE LET US KNOW.

(To see what Savvy Researcher workshops might tickle your fancy click here to check out our complete workshop calendar.)

If you could recommend only one book to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

Debates in Digital Humanities, which is an open access book available free online!

Need assistance with a Digital Humanities project? E-mail Eleanor Dickson or the Scholarly Commons.

Getting Started With Paperpile

Did the Paperpile Review leave you interested in learning more?

To use Paperpile you need an Internet connection, Google Chrome, and a Google account. Since student/personal use accounts do not require a dot edu email, I recommend using your Google Apps @ Illinois account  for this because you can fully use and enjoy unlimited free storage from Google to store your PDFs. Paperpile offers one month free; afterwards, it’s $36 for the year. You can download the extension for Chrome here. If you already use Mendeley or Zotero you can import all of your files and information from these programs to Paperpile. In order to use Paperpile, you will need the app on each version of Chrome you use. It should sync as part of your Chrome extensions, and you can install it on Chrome on University Library computers as well.

You can import PDFs and metadata by clicking on the Paperpile logo on Chrome.

Paperpile import tool located just right of the search bar in Chrome

On your main page you can create folders, tag items, and more! You can also search for new articles in the app itself.

Paperpile Main Menu

If you didn’t import enough information about a source or it didn’t import the correct information you can easily add more details by clicking the check mark next to the document in the menu and clicking edit on the top menu next to the search box for your papers.

Paperpile

Plus, from the main page, when you click “View PDF” you can also use the beta annotations feature by clicking the pen icon. This feature lets you highlight and comment on your PDF and it saves the highlighted text and comments in order by page in notes. It can then be exported as plain text or as very pretty printouts. It is rectangle-based highlighting and can be a little bit annoying, especially when highlighting doesn’t always covered the text that was copied. Like a highlighter in real life you cannot continue to highlight onto the next page.

Highlighted and copied sentence split by page boundary

When you leave the app, the highlighting is saved on the PDF in your Google Drive and you can your highlights on the PDF wherever you use Google Drive. The copied text and comments can be exported into a very pretty printout or a variety of plaintext file formats.

Print screen of exported annotated notes on Paperpile

Not the prettiest example but you get the idea.

Once you get to actually writing your paper you can add citations to your paper in Google docs by clicking the Paperpile tab on your Google doc. You can search your library or the web for a specific article. Click format citations and follow the instructions for how to download the add-on for Google docs.

Paperpile cite while you write in Google Docs

I didn’t try it but there’s a Google Docs sidebar so that anyone can add references, regardless of whether or not they are a Paperpile user, to a Google Doc. I imagine this is great for those group projects where the “group” is not just the person who cares the most.


Troubleshooting

Paperpile includes a support chat box, which is located on your main page, and is very useful for troubleshooting. For example, one problem I ran into with Paperpile is that you cannot change the page number to match what it actually is in the article and page number is based on the PDF file in the notes feature. I messaged and  I got a response with a professional tone within twenty-four hours. Turns out, they are working on this problem and eventually PDFs will be numbered by actual page number, but they can’t say when they will have it fixed.

For other problems, there is an official help page  with a lot of instructions about using the software and answers to frequently asked questions. There is also a blog and a  forum which is particularly nice because you can see if other people are experiencing the same problem and what the company plans to do about it.

Scholarly Commons runs a variety of Savvy Researcher workshops throughout the year including personal information management and citation managers. And let us know in the comments about your favorite citation/reference management software and your way of keeping your research organized!

And for the curious, the examples in this post are based from the undergraduate research collection in IDEALS. Specifically:

Kountz, Erik. 2013. “Cascades of Cacophony.” Equinox Literary and Arts Magazine. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/89474.

Liao, Ethel. 2013. “Nutella, Dear Nutella.” Equinox Literary and Arts Magazine. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/89476.

Montesinos, Gary. 2015. “The Invisible (S)elf: Identity in House Elves and Harry Potter.” Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal 2 (1). http://hdl.handle.net/2142/78004.

Scholarly Smackdown: Scalar vs. Omeka

Scholarly Smackdown is the Scholarly Commons’ new review series comparing popular online research tools and resources. This week we’ll be taking a look at Scalar and Omeka, resources for presenting research digitally.

No scholars were harmed in the making of this column.

Scalar

Scalar is a content management system for creating digital books of media scholarship from The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, based out of University of Southern California. It features a WYSISWYG editor that allows you to edit different types of pages within a digital book. You choose how and in what way these pages connect. It’s free and you can create as many Scalar books as you want. It makes it easy to incorporate content from partner archives such as the Internet Archive and Critical Commons. The biggest selling point to Scalar, especially for media scholars, is that it lets you present media without having to host the media yourself, which is especially relevant for those analyzing media that is still under copyright. However, please do not let all of this potential power go to your head, and instead check out our copyright resources and feel free to contact the Copyright Librarian, Sara Benson with questions you may have.
In my opinion, Scalar is not as easy or intuitive to use as the people who created it seem to think it is, though USC provides some instructions for Scalar 2. The latest update has been buggy, and while ANVC/Scalar GitHub is very helpful, Scalar is clearly still a work in progress. If you do have any experience with web development, there is very limited customization, and I was not able to find specific instructions for CSS styling for Scalar 2. Finally, you cannot import  your own files larger than 2 MB, which can be frustrating if you want to use your own very high quality scans of items.

Omeka

Omeka.net is a content management system designed for creating online exhibits from the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and Corporation for Digital Scholarship, the people behind  Zotero and THAT Camp.
Omeka basic features a WYSIWYG Editor and 500MB of file storage. The biggest advantage of Omeka is that it makes it very easy to add a lot of metadata about items that you want to display in an exhibit and create and arrange collections of these items. It also features lots of plugins (such as a CSS editor and a PDF embedded documents viewer), and the website provides very clear and thorough instructions. However, you can create only one Omeka site per account on the free version. If you contact the Scholarly Commons we can set up an Omeka site for you through the library institutional account, and you can learn more information and request an Omeka site here. 
One major difference between Omeka and Scalar is that with more storage, comes more responsibility; specifically, making sure that you have the permission to use items so that your research does not get taken down. Once again — please check out our copyright resources. Other notable drawbacks include the fact that customization is limited and Omeka.net is not great at creating things that aren’t online exhibits or exhibit-like sites.

Conclusion
Omeka and Scalar are two options of many for creating digital humanities projects. For specific questions and to learn more about Scalar and Omeka and other digital humanities resources at Scholarly Commons email us, and don’t forget to join us for a Savvy Research workshop about Scalar October 17 from 1-2 pm.

Let us know in the comments about your Scalar and Omeka experiences! Which do you prefer and why?

Further Reading:
Omeka Libguide: http://guides.library.illinois.edu/omeka
Scalar Libguide: http://guides.library.illinois.edu/scalar

Sources:

“Alliance for Networking Visual Culture » Overview.” Accessed October 12, 2016. http://scalar.usc.edu/features/overview/.
Marcotte, Alison and Alex Villanueva. “Red Cross Work on Mutilés, At Paris (1918).” SourceLab Prototype Series 1, no. 1 (2015). http://scalar.usc.edu/works/red-cross-work-1918/index.
“Image of Research” Accessed October 12, 2016.  http://imageofresearch.omeka.net/

University Library joins “Annotating All Knowledge” effort

The University Library and more than 40 scholarly publishers, platforms, libraries and technology partners have joined the “Annotating All Knowledge” effort. Coalition members, some of the world’s largest and most important scholarly publishers and knowledge platforms, share the goal of building an open conversation layer over all knowledge, which encompasses books, articles, images, data, and other scholarly works. They will be working together to define, design, and implement a common framework for scholarly collaboration from peer-review through post-production discussion, all based on open standards.

“Libraries are hubs which bring users and information together,” said John Wilkin, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at Illinois. “Open Annotation is a compelling technology that can make our online resources more lively and valuable.”

For more information, visit http://hypothes.is/annotating-all-knowledge.

-Posted on behalf of the University of Illinois Libraries