Archive for December, 2015

Presentations, Presentations, Presentations

December 14, 2015

I know, I know: that joke just isn’t funny anymore. In any event, here’s another brief post that I’ll eventually fatten up with advice and links to more advice on oral communication and the presentation of ideas. There’s life after ‘Death by PowerPoint’, and salvation can be yours.

Presenting on an Assigned Reading

Here’s a Presentation Template you can use when your assignment is to present and critique a single reading.

Grading Rubric

  • A = You are well organised, and you finish your presentation on a high note (as opposed to, ‘Uh, well I guess that’s all I have…’). Your presentation style is polished, with lots of eye contact and few pauses or verbal tics. Your speaking style is conversational, but without lapsing into language more suited for the street, the locker room, or a rhetoric teacher’s nightmare (‘I feel like…‘). The content of your presentation goes far beyond mere summary or presentation of the bare facts of the case, and there is ample evidence of careful research above and beyond the call of duty. You’ve put a lot of thought into your images and their visual impact, and you even exercise good judgment regarding the aesthetics (‘the look’) of your presentation, eschewing cheesy PowerPoint clip art and lame attempts at humour (careful with those cartoons and Internet memes!). Excellent.
  • B = You did what was asked of you. Solid work!
  • C = You’re clearly unprepared, or crucial elements of the presentation are missing.
  • D = You’re clearly unprepared, crucial elements of the presentation are missing, and you’ve committed several major ‘don’ts’ when it comes to oral presentations. Did you look at any of the presentation tips below?
  • F = You’ve ignored/overlooked crucial instructions, and you weren’t prepared. But hey, at least you went up there.
  • 0 = You weren’t ready when you said were supposed to be ready.

Further Reading/Notes Toward a Personal Canon

Dieker, Nicole. 2017. ‘When Public Speaking, Look at Individuals Instead of the Entire Group’.

Howard, Philip N. 2015. ‘A Dozen Slides’. Inside Higher Ed, 16 September. This is advice about giving an academic job talk, but some of the advice works across presentation scenarios (if you’re presenting a research proposal, for example, or presenting on someone else’s work, obviously you’ll need to adjust accordingly). I think the author is too quick to make the same claim about Orwell’s [1946] dicta regarding writing, but that’s a discussion for another time…

Kim, Joshua. 2015. ‘3 Advantages of Giving A PowerPoint-Free Talk’Inside Higher Ed, 22 October. Just because you’re giving a presentation doesn’t mean you have to use PowerPoint (or Prezi or Keynote or Google Slides or whatever), and Kim discusses some of the advantages of going analog. But I think the real lesson here is that there are moments when you might want to mute the projector and connect with your audience more directly.

Male, Christopher. 2017. ‘So, Um, How Do You, Like, Stop Using Filler Words?’New York Times, 24 February.

Watts, Reggie. 2011. ‘A Sendoff in Style’. Pop! Tech 2011. This sendoff is a brilliant send-up of the TED Talk Style.

Worthen, Molly. ‘Stop Saying “I Feel Like”‘. How you speak at the podium should be different — more polished, more professional, and more assured — from how you speak on the street.



Orwell, George. 1946. ‘Politics and the English Language’. Originally published in Horizon 13, No. 76, pp. 252-265.


For the Final Exam (12/18/15)

December 13, 2015


  1. The final draft of the proposal is due by the end of the exam period, and attendance is mandatory. A few of you have spoken to me about scheduling issues, and I’ll deal with those individually; but generally speaking, it should go without saying that it’s a bad idea to schedule something during an exam period.
  2. Prepare a presentation on your proposal (a satisfactory presentation will count for a score of 100% on one of your previous assignments — I’ll choose the assignment — so think of it as extra credit). As I mentioned in class, I’m not asking for ‘I Have a Dream’-level speechifying; this should be a 5-10 minute presentation, with or without slides/visuals/charts (although the superior presentation would be with), addressing the following questions:
    1. Who are you and what’s the title of your proposal?
    2. What’s it about?
    3. What’s your research question and/or research hypothesis?
    4. What’s your research design? (Brief Overview)
    5. Why should this be funded? (IOW, What’s the contribution your study would make to the relevant scholarly literature on your topic?


  • Presentations (here’s some how-to advice, if you haven’t already seen the post above this one)
  • TBA: we’ll probably devote a little time to some topics we haven’t had a chance to really delve into, but think of this as a time to put the finishing touches on your proposals and accompanying materials, or to get my help.


  • If you’ve followed instructions meticulously, relax: everything should be okay.
  • If not…

Replication, Replication, Replication

December 7, 2015

I couldn’t resist the allusion to my earlier, lame little joke about participation. Anyway, everybody’s been having so much trouble wrapping their heads around the replication homework assignments that I thought I’d try to provide a bit more background as to why replication is such a core part of doing science. If you’re at all familiar with Milgram’s obedience study (discussed in our textbook and every other textbook that ever talks about research methods, or research ethics, or, well, obedience), you’ll know that his findings were surprising, even to Milgram. When you get surprising results, the most sensible thing to do is to stage a replication — a ‘do-over’, as Janet Ruane (2005) dubs it — in order to establish that the results the first time weren’t just a fluke. If  you repeat your study and get much the same results, you’ve now got grounds for more confidence in the findings. If other people replicate your study and get much the same results (after all, what if you really, really wanted to be surprised? what if you therefore saw what you wanted to see, and not what was actually there?), then you’ve got even more confidence in the findings.

Even after you’ve established some confidence in the findings, you might wonder how much they can be generalised to other settings, populations, and circumstances. And so you might seek to replicate the study but add some twists, in order to test the scope of the study’s external validity. All of these options — repeating the study step-for-step, having other researchers try to replicate the findings, tweaking the study’s setup — are alluded to in the replication HW assignments. The point is to digest the methods and findings of a previous study, and then to ‘reverse-engineer’ it in order to come up with your own version, which can be more or less faithful to the original (you should always give reasons for the changes you make, of course).

Why would anyone want to do that? you ask. Well, whenever someone ends up with surprising or controversial findings, we have good reasons to seek to replicate them. But often the most surprising ones or the ones that are only marginally significant, statistically speaking, are the ones that can’t be replicated: ‘Suppose you have two well-designed, carefully run studies, A and B, that investigate the same phenomenon. They perform what appear to be identical experiments, and yet they reach opposite conclusions. Study A produces the predicted phenomenon, whereas Study B does not’ (Barrett 2015). What we have here is a failure to replicate — but it’s a telling failure.

And thus we eliminate tempting but misleading bits of falsehood from the fund of human knowledge. Science can get things wrong, but this doesn’t mean we can do without science; in such cases, as one researcher argues in a recent, highly informative interview, our best hope for a corrective is … more science.

Further Reading/Notes Toward a Personal Canon

Patten, Mildred L. 2014. Proposing Empirical Research: A Guide to the Fundamentals, 5th Ed. Pyrczak Publishing. For advice on how to ‘reverse-engineer’ when you think you’ve got reason to introduce some changes in the original design, see Patten (2014:19, Topic A) on modified replication.



Barrett, Elizabeth Feldman. 2015. ‘Psychology is not in crisis’. New York Times, 1 September, p. A23.

Ruane, Janet. 2005. Essentials of Research Methods: A Guide to Social Science Research. Blackwell.

For Friday, 12/11

December 4, 2015

Our last regular day of class. Last Friday, I’d speculated that we wouldn’t be doing much during the final exam period; I was wrong. This is considered an instructional period, so we’re required to make use of it. Just as well, I suppose: we’ve still got lots of material we could cover.


  • HW due: Complete Draft of the Research Proposal
  • Schutt, Chapter 3
 (‘Research Ethics and Research Proposals’)

As I mentioned in class, you should consult this article for invaluable advice about how to position your research question with reference to a given scholarly literature. The least you ought to do (you owe it to yourself, if you’re honestly trying to do good work) is to check out the aforementioned ‘Index of the Interesting’ (Part II of the article).


  • Lab: TBA

One thing we’ll definitely need to spend time on is causation/internal validity. Internal validity is a core scientific context, and we’ll want to devote special attention to the methods for establishing itHere’s a pop quiz: which tests of internal validity are alluded to in the following description of this recent, fascinating study of print book culture?

Aside from the disappearance of record crates and CD towers, the loss of print books and periodicals can have significant repercussions on children’s intellectual development. Perhaps the strongest case for a household full of print books came from a 2014 study published in the sociology journal Social Forces. Researchers measured the impact of the size of home libraries on the reading level of 15-year-old students across 42 nations, controlling for wealth, parents’ education and occupations, gender and the country’s gross national product.


  • HW: TBA