Advice on seminar talks


General

 

You want your audience to be interested in what you say. In order to achieve that, you will have to present the contents of a (presumably) complex article in a short, concise, and comprehensible form. The challenge is to convey enthusiasm for the topic, while remaining scientifically correct. Focus on the "headlines" of the article. Use a limited number of clear examples to make your point. Do not send the audience to sleep by swamping them with detail.

 

 

Preparation

 

  • Be aware of the time limit (e.g., 15 or 20 min). To finish your talk within the time limit requires careful preparation and makes it necessary to practice your talk in advance. In front of an audience, a talk usually lasts longer than planned. Hence, trim your talk to last 15 min when you aim for 20 min.
  • Talks should have a clear structure to facilitate understanding of scientific details. We recommend the following structure:
    • Introduction: conceptual background ("why is this interesting?") (can be short)
    • Hypotheses or research objectives (can be short)
    • Materials and methods (only what is needed to understand the results - no details) (must be short)
    • Results (can be long)
    • Discussion ("were the expectations met?", "what are the alternative explanations?", "are more experiments needed?") (can be long)
    • Conclusions/Summary (a catchy "bottom line") (very short)
  • It may be useful to present a "list of contents" at the beginning of the talk.
  • Slides should not be overloaded, neither with text nor graphics. If they are, then the audience will pay no attention to the speaker, but instead focus on understanding all the little details on the slides. As a consequence, they will simply ignore you!
  • Write no sentences, only headlines. The golden rule is: one line per statement! Use symbols to shorten your statement. Example: Do not write "Males have smaller brains than females during the reproductive season" but "Brain size: males < females (summer)".
  • Use figures if possible and tables if necessary to present complex data.
  • Keep graphs simple. Take out the detail that you are not going to mention during your talk.
  • To facilitate reading, use a large and clear font (e.g. Times New Roman or Arial; size for main title: 36-40; subtitles: 28-32; text: 20-24)
  • Only use colours and animation when they contribute to clarity. Avoid a "busy" lay-out that distracts the audience.
  • If you show scanned figures, make sure the resolution is ok (for a beamer minimum 1024 pixels width and 768 pixels height)
  • Plan short breaks in your talk by throwing in a joke, or by simply waiting a few seconds. This allows everyone to take a deep breath to go on.

 

Presentation

 

  • Make sure that you have a watch in view (not on your wrist)
  • The chairman/woman shall interrupt your talk when the time limit is over (either 15 or 20 min)!
  • Speak loud and clearly. Face the audience rather than the screen or blackboard
  • Important details may be highlighted with the help of a pointer (e.g. a laser pointer or a traditional stick). Do not point continuously. It makes the audience nervous.
  • Do not walk around during your talk.
  • Speak slowly. If you see that you are running out of time, skip slides, do not speak faster.

Advice on writing project reports, theses, and manuscripts


 

General

 

Your project report/thesis/manuscript shall give an attractive as well as precise summary of your experiments/studies. Thus, it shall be easy to read, while containing sufficient detail that permit a complete reconstruction of the experiments/studies performed. Note that the thesis must your own work - both regarding the data and the concepts. Any copy-pasting of entire sentences or even paragraphs from the literature or webpages is plagiarism - equivalent to theft - and absolutely not acceptable!

 

 

Structure

 

  • Scientific reports should have a consistent structure that allow the reader to understand the purpose of the study, the results obtained, and how these results advance our current knowledge. The following structure should be used:
    • Title page, incuding Title, names of authors, and affiliations. The title should be concise, easily understandable, and still precise. It should raise the reader's interest into the topic
    • Abstract: Provide a short summary of your study, including background + goal (1-3 sentences), main findings (1-5 sentences), and main conclusions (1-3 sentences)
    • Introduction: Conceptual background ("why is this interesting?") (1-3 pages for project report; 3-10 pages for Bachelor/Master thesis)
    • Objectives: What is your main research objective? What is your hypothesis? The formulated hypothesis must be precise! (0.5 page)
    • Materials and methods: The description of the methods should be sufficiently precise to allow complete reconstruction of the experiments/studies performed. At the same time, it is important that they are not "flooded" with unimportant details, which then may make it impossible to read and understand the approaches used. In case of complicated experiments, use graphical illustrations. The experimental design of the study must be suited to address the main research question or hypothesis! (up to 5 pages for project reports and Bachelor thesis; up to 20 pages for Master thesis)
    • Results: The results should be sufficiently long and present all results obtained in an objective format. Results are ideally shown in graphs and tables. The accompanying text should be short and focus on the main patterns found (and not repeat all the tiny little details shown in the tables and graphs). The results should be evaluated with the help of statistical methods. Avoid any interpretation and discussion of the results. (up to 5 pages for project reports and Bachelor thesis; up to 20 pages for Master thesis)
    • Discussion: The discussion should critically evaluate the results obtained in consideration of the main research question/hypothesis (e.g., "Were the expectations met?"). It should critically and objectively discuss alternative explanations for the results. Do not be misled by your expectations! Moreover, it should take into account the current literature on the topic and explain in how far the results advanced our understanding of the topic. (up to 5 pages for project reports; up to 10 pages for Bachelor thesis; up to 20 pages for Master thesis)
    • Acknowledgments: Point out who provided support for your study (0.5 page)
    • References: List all references which were quoted in the report (1-3 pages)
    • Appendix: Include extra information on methods and results that are not essential for the main report but that may still be useful for understanding of results or future studies (may be long)

    Length

    • The main parts (Introduction, Objectives, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion) should not exceed 10 pages for Project Report, 20 pages for a Bachelor thesis, and 50-80 pages for a Master thesis!
    • Quality is not equivalent with length. An excellent paper should be concise!

    Format

    • Use a standard font and a font size of 11 (e.g. Arial) or 12 (e.g., Times New Roman). Headers may be larger or in bold.
    • Use a line space of 1.5 or more (at least 1.15)
    • Leave sufficient space at the page margins (at least 2 cm; ideally 2.5 cm)

    Clarity

    • In order to reach your audience, clarity of arguments and findings is essential. Many important findings were overseen because the articles were written in an incromprehensible format
    • Use short sentences. Build up arguments step-by-step. Use graphics to illustrate complex relationships.
    • Use graphics and tables to present your findings.Think about how the reader may best understand your results. Use symbols and colours to emphasize different treatment groups. It is helpful if you use the same X-axis, Y-axis, symbols, colours for related graphs. Graphs should be large enough. Include a legend to explain the details (axes, symbols, etc) of the graphs.
    • Avoid unimportant details that do not directly relate to your main study question/hypothesis.
    • Avoid unjustified speculations in your discussion of the results.
    • You may use headers for subsections in methods, results, and perhaps discussion.
    • To ensure clarity of arguments, especially in the introduction and discussion, it is usually a good idea to start formulating internal headers for each single paragraph (i.e., headers that you do not use in the final version of the manuscript), and then add more and more details. It may then be useful to start each paragraph with a clearly formulated statement that is subsequently evaluated/discussed in more detail in the following part of the paragraph. If you have several related points that you would like to introduce or discuss, then it is useful to present them as a numbered list of points (An example for the discussion: "We can draw three main conclusions from our results: 1) xxx, 2) xxx, 3) xxx"; each listed point should start on a new line).
    • Use a format that is appealing to the eye. For example, larger font size or bold font for headers, etc.

    Tables

    • Use a concise and clear title
    • Include a legend to explain further details or abbreviations
    • Use an open and simple format
    • Only show horiontal lines of your table, no vertical lines
    • Headers may be given in bold

    Figures

    • Use a concise and clear title
    • Include a legend to explain further details, abbreviations, symbols or colours
    • You may also include a symbol legend within the figure
    • Organize the axes in a meaningful way: The explanatory variable should be given on the X-axis, whereas the response variable should appear on the Y-axis
    • Axis titles should be brief but sufficiently precise
    • Include information on the error margin, either standard error, standard deviation, or confidence interval
    • Always use the same standard pattern and colour for the same subgroups throughout the text
    • Select axis-ranges in such a way that not too much empty space is left. Log transform where useful

    Statistics

    • Provide statistics either as part of a figure, table or in the text
    • For statistical tests, always include the following information: Name of the test (e.g., ANOVA), value of the test statistic, sample size or degrees of freedom, probability.
    • The abbreviations of the calculated variables (test statistic and probability) are always given in italics.
    • The methods must include sufficient detail on how the statistical analysis was done

    References

    • Use a consistent format for the references in the reference list
    • The references can be most easily added and formatted with the help of the progrmmes Endnote or Reference Manager

Advice on writing project proposals


 

General

 

Your project proposal should provide a an overview of the plans for a scientific experiment/study, including objectives, background, and the experimental design or study design. Think of a project application for research funding: Make sure that you can convince possible referees that your project idea is worth funding.

 

 

Structure

 

  • The project proposal must clarify why the study/experiment is interesting, what are the exact objectives and how it is realised/implemented. The proposal should thus include the following sections:
    • Title page, incuding Title, names of authors, and affiliations. The title should be concise, easily understandable, and still precise. It should raise the reader's interest into the topic
    • Abstract: Provide a short summary of your proposal, including background (1-2 sentences), objectives (1-2 sentences), an overview of your approach (1-3 sentences), and your egeneral expectations (1-2 sentences)
    • Introduction: Conceptual background ("why is the proposed project interesting?") (1-2 pages)
    • Objectives: What is your main research objective? What is your hypothesis? The formulated hypothesis must be precise! (0.5-1 page)
    • Approach: An overview of the general approach that you intend to use, including for example an outline of your experimental design (or study design in case of a field study). Explain why this approach is suited to address your research objectives. It may be a good idea to illustrate your approach with the help of a graphic (1-2 pages)
    • Materials and methods: The description of the methods should be sufficiently precise to convince potential referees that your plans are suited to achieve the formulated goals and that your plans are realistic. Thus, do not only list the methods, but also explain how a particular experiment/study will help to answer a particular research question. This may be achieved by formulating expectations for your study results (up to 5 pages)
    • Time schedule: Provide a realistic summary of the time schedule for your experiment(s)/studies. This timeline is important to further convince your referees that your study is really feasible (up to 1 page)
    • Perspectives: Briefly summarize the broader context of your study including ideas on how one could continue in the mid-term future (1-2 pages maximum)
    • References: List all references which were quoted in the proposal (1-2 pages)

    Length

    • The main parts (Introduction, Objectives, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion) should not exceed 10 pages. Maximum is 12 pages!

    Format

    • Use a standard font and a font size of 11 (e.g. Arial) or 12 (e.g., Times New Roman). Headers may be larger or in bold.
    • Use a line space of 1.5 or more (at least 1.15)
    • Leave sufficient space at the page margins (at least 2 cm; ideally 2.5 cm)

    Further adivice

Advice and rules for lab books


 

General

 

Lab books are mandatory in our labs

 

Your lab book shall help you to reconstruct all the details (protocols, results) of the experiments, which you did during your project

 

Your lab book may be of legal importance, if you work with genetically modified organisms (S1 or S2) or opportunistic human pathogens. As such the lab book must be sufficiently detailed so that others can reconstruct what you did!

 

Golden rule: The lab book must be as detailed as necessary (to allow correct reconstruction of experiments by others) and as short as possible (to make it readable)

 

The below rules should be followed, in order to ensure high standard across projects and fulfilment of legal requirements

 

If you worked with genetically modified organisms, your lab book must remain in the lab for legal reasons! You can copy pages for later usage somewhere else

 

 

Rules

 

  • Front page and first page: Name + Group (AG Schulenburg) + Year(s) + # of lab book
  • Always write clearly and in a way that others can read it!
  • Always start a new experiment on a new page
  • Always include a date on page tops and/or whenever a new experiment is described
  • Always provide protocols that are as detailed as necessary. You may print out available protocols and stick them into your lab book; in this case, it is essential to add a date and indicate where you modified the protocol
  • No loose collection of pieces of papers! If you print out your protocols, then either glue them into your lab book or – if you print out all of your protocols and results, then these must be bound in chronological order; they must be printed with date and signed (with your initials), so that they can serve as legally acceptable documentation of your work, which cannot be altered and manipulated later.
  • Always provide sufficient details on the results obtained, e.g. a picture from an Agarose gel. In case of more complicated experiments: Give a brief summary of results and indicate where/how detailed results are stored
  • Always use consistent labelling of the material, which you generate and store for later usage
  • Your labels must always include your initials (e.g., AM for Anna Meier) and a date
  • Note down where you store your samples (unless it is your own freezer box or space)
  • Check with Katja or Hinrich if you want to store material in the -80 freezer

 

Strong advice for labelling of samples

 

  • Number your experiments consecutively (i.e., 1, 2, 3, etc)
  • Always start labels with your initials (2 letters; e.g., AM for Anna Meier)
  • Consecutively number all your experiments and add the respective number to your initials (e.g., AM1, AM2, etc)
  • Add small letters for sub-experiments (e.g., AM1a, AM1b, etc)
  • Add number after hyphen to label the individual samples (e.g., AM1a-1, AM1a-2, etc)
  • Avoid complicated labels on small tubes. For PCR tubes, it is ideal to use one number for the experiment and one number for the sample (e.g., 1-1, 1-2, etc). Further details can then be provided in the lab book
  • Simple labels are also advisable for petri dishes: Include your initials, date, strain of nematode/bacterium