A part of most faculty job interviews is the research presentation.
A doctoral student who is getting ready for a campus job interview sent me these three questions:
- How long do I have to make my research presentation?
- How much time should I leave to allow the audience to ask questions?
- Should my presentation focus on my dissertation only or should I also include information about my research interests and my academic background?
Let me start by saying that a crucial component of your campus visit is the chair of the search committee. That’s the person who can answer many of your questions.
The fact that you have been invited for a campus visit means that you are one of the top applicants for the position. Typically about three candidates are invited for campus visits. The search committee and the chair want you to do well during your visit. Part of your ability to do as well as possible means that you are informed about the expectations of the visit.
That’s where there’s sometimes a lack of communication.
The committee and the chair of the search committee may be so busy arranging your schedule on campus – including appointments with administrators and meals with faculty members — that they haven’t talked with you about specifics.
So ask the search committee chair.
I’m going to answer your questions from the perspective of a presentation for a communications position, realizing that research presentations have some differences depending on the academic field.
1. How long do I have to make my research presentation?
Probably about an hour will be allocated to your research presentation. Often the time is based on class periods. At my university, that’s a 50-minute time block.
Your presentation time will include giving time for people to get settled. Sometimes refreshments or coffee is made available to help encourage attendance. You also will be introduced. And you want to allow time for questions (more on that later).
I’d say plan on making your research presentation in about 40 minutes if you have an hour.
Be prepared to make some introductory remarks about yourself. You may get an excellent introduction. If so, you may be ready to move into your presentation. But in many cases, the introduction will be rather brief based, in part, on the assumption of the faculty member making the introduction that everyone attending has read your curriculum vitae. That may or may not be true. Even if they did read your CV, they may have read the other candidates’ too and not remember you specifically.
Don’t go into great detail but highlight your background – degrees, professional experience, teaching experience, etc. This introduction can be a good way to segue into how you became interested in this area of research.
2. How much time should I leave to allow the audience to ask questions?
Allow 10 to 15 minutes for questions — unless you receive other guidance from the search chair.
Sometimes you may be nervous about allowing time for questions, as you have the great unknown of what you might be asked.
Part of the purpose of asking questions is to see how you can think on your feet, defend your position, be open to different perspectives, etc. So you want to give the faculty a chance to see you in that role. If you use your entire time for presenting, the faculty won’t have the opportunity to see that other important aspect of yourself – going off script. Not allowing time for questions could work against you.
Don’t worry that there won’t be questions. The reason that some are attending your presentation is because they are interested in your research and you as a potential collaborator. Those faculty will ask questions.
And if no one on the faculty is into your research area, someone on the search committee will ask questions to keep things moving along.
Could you get a tough question? Definitely. You may be in a research area that is “the area” for someone else on faculty, and that person could challenge you. Someone else may not agree with your methodology or the value of your research. But that’s part of the life of the academy. Be prepared to defend yourself professionally – just like you would at a professional conference.
3. Should my presentation focus on my dissertation only or should I also include information about my research interests and my academic background?
As I mentioned earlier, you do want to include some information about your academic and professional background. Typically that works into your introduction to yourself and your research.
You do want to talk about your research interests beyond just your dissertation. You want to demonstrate that you have a line or stream of research to pursue. Your dissertation demonstrates your research ability, and your discussion of other research helps show that you have scholarly potential.
Not only does the committee and the faculty want a good candidate hired, but they want to hire someone who can make tenure. Your discussion of your research interests helps them see your potential for continued research and tenure.
You want to show how your research evolves and is connected. Your research doesn’t have to be in one area, but you do want to avoid sounded to spread out in your interests.
Before your campus visit, do your homework in investigating the research the faculty currently is doing. If you are going to interview at a major research institution, you could see how many faculty are working on grant projects, as that could be an expectation for you that you’d want to talk about during your campus visit.
4. How should I plan my presentation in terms of technology use?
The doctoral student who asked me for advice didn’t ask that question, but I am going to include it in my advice.
Plan to use some technology in your presentation. The typical candidate research presentation includes PowerPoint or Keynote slides. Of course, you can make an excellent presentation without slides. But part of the purpose of using the slides is to demonstrate that you can use slides effectively, as faculty would think you would need to use slides in your teaching.
Beware of getting too fancy with your technology. You may decide to show a streaming video and then find out the computer or wireless in your presentation room aren’t up to the task.
Ask the chair about the room you’ll be presenting in and the technology setup. Ask the chair to have an IT support person or a tech-savvy faculty member there to assist you in setting up if needed.
You don’t want to come across as someone who can’t use technology, however, your presentation might be in a special conference room that the faculty don’t teach in so they don’t know the tech setup. (That happened in a recent candidate research presentation I attended. The candidate lost at least five minutes and probably was more nervous by the time he was able to start his presentation.)
I’d be interested in the advice others would offer about faculty job research presentations. Any stories about your own experiences or insights into differences in research presentations based on the academic field?