August 5, 2019, by Lisa Chin

Constructing Your Argument – An Essential Skill

This post is written by Dr Tissa Chandesa, Research Training Development Manager.

We conducted a Researcher Workshop Series throughout the month of July 2019. This series of workshops covered topics that had been highlighted by early career researchers as area where they would like more advice and practice-sharing opportunities.

On 4 July 2019, Professor Deborah Hall conducted the Constructing Your Argument – An Essential Skill workshop. This workshop introduced participants to several essential skills for effective scientific communication and gave them a chance to put these into action with one or two interactive activities.

As advance preparation, participants were required to prepare a single PowerPoint slide to describe a current research project or one of their recent past projects. At the start of the workshop, Professor Hall elaborated the importance of structuring arguments and its use in journal and proposal writing. This was followed by each attendee presenting their PowerPoint slide to the rest of the audience in no more than 3 minutes where their presentation had to:

  • describe what their research question is;

  • explain the gap in knowledge that their research question answers;

  • explain why this question(s) in important;

  • explain how the study findings might enhance communities, or bring socioeconomic impact.

After each presentation, Professor Hall provided personalised constructive feedback and advice on how each participant could improve structuring their arguments as well as presentation. The audience also provided their feedback and advice to each participant. The following important points were constantly highlighted after each presentation:

  • Start by addressing the broader picture of one’s research

  • Then, focus on what one is currently doing

  • Lastly, mention the impact of the research work

The key lies in finding the proper balance between the above 3 points. Most importantly, the key home message of your presentation cannot be rushed and must be thought through thoroughly.

The session was very interactive. Unlike the traditional style of workshop where convenors would present and the audience would listen and ask questions at the end, this workshop was mainly driven by “interactive” feedback. The feedback received from participants at the end of the session showed that participants really appreciated this form of workshop style as it supported continuous learning based on the comments/feedback received from all other participants as well as the convenor. They also suggested that future session of this nature be slightly longer (may be 3 hours).

Based on the positive feedback received, Professor Hall conducted a 2-hour follow-up session on 24 July 2019. During the first hour, participants were asked to present a revised presentation, incorporating the comments/feedback that they received from the earlier workshop. The final hour was dedicated to transforming those ideas into a title and executive summary which will be relevant for a grant application e.g. Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS).

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