I've given several conference papers over the last few years (my topic is the application of particular theories within a humanities subject), but no one ever asks questions afterwards.
(The session chairs etc. often take pity - as they tell me afterwards - and throw in questions to fill the silence of my allocated 5 mins. + of question time.)
This is worrying. I'm in a situation that I've never had to verbally defend my work (my supervisor doesn't seem to want to talk about it - even though he suggested the topic & says 'it'll be fine' when I express my concerns) - but I need to be able to do this for the viva!
I've asked other students after they've heard my papers about why they think this is so, but they've just given me the usual polite 'it was fine/good/interesting/nothing wrong with it' etc. (Though I sometimes get practical comments re. illustrations, font size, etc.)
I'm used to presenting, having spent many years teaching in the Adult Education sector (and my students don't have any problem with questioning me! They also say one of the things they most like about my teaching is my evident enthusiasm).
At conferences, my papers are presented in the same format as my colleagues' papers (Powerpoint is the standard tool, I've tried both reading from a 'script', and presenting without a script) - and many of them include theoretical approaches.
I've also been placed in a uni. competition designed to present the most interesting research to young people (to try to encourage them to go to uni.). So, though some may find my research boring, not everyone does, I try to make the theories more interesting by presenting examples that are of relevance to the audience, and of general interest.
I just don't know what I'm doing wrong.
Would it get this sort of response if they all thought it was rubbish? (My supervisor says that he finds no problems with my research, and other dept. members were happy in my last progress meeting, I've also had a peer review paper published, which I wouldn't have thought would have happened if it was cuckoo?).
Maybe it does need making more interesting, but I'm not sure how to do this - perhaps there's some general tips that have worked for forum members?
It could be because you're doing everything right in that you give presentations that are comprehensive, clear and address everything that there's no need for questions.
It could be people are aware of your student status and don't want to put you on the spot out of consideration. I tend to do this.
It can be difficult to be the first to ask a question as people look at the person asking the question as well.
I'm not being polite in making the points above, these could be the reality.
My university has a thesis monitoring committee scheme, where full-timers meet other members of staff twice a year, and part-timers once a year, to discuss their progress. I found this the most useful way of gaining experience in defending my work, because the questions from academics in these meetings were often very unpredictable, and perceptive, and important to deal with.
Do you have anything like that at your university? If so you may already have gained useful experience.
I always used to hate this at conferences - nobody ever seems to want to ask questions and I always felt a bit strange for actually wanting to know extra info! I think it's quite common and often strained.
I remember chairing a session at a conference and it was painful - we were told to make sure we asked a question to each person presenting if nobody else did so they got at least one. I was lucky several people did in my session otherwise would have been so awkward.
So, in summary, I think it just seems quite normal and no reflection on your work!
People never ask questions about my PhD research (they used to about my previous stuff though). I'm almost positive that it's because of where I present it, that is, it doesn't really fit in anywhere perfectly. I present to relevant people but it's a bit on the outskirts. Perhaps you might find this is the case with your research?
I hope that makes sense. I'm in the hardcore writing up period (submission in September) and I'm very aware that I don't make a lot of sense about non-thesis things at the moment.
We have a very similar system to the one Bilbobaggins mentions. Every six months we have our 'board' where we have to write a paper and are then grilled on it by 3 academics (including our supervisor). Sometimes the questions they ask are bizarre lol! Its very hard going, quite frightening in some ways - you just never know what's coming, but I guess good grounding for the horror that is the viva. Its to ensure that we're writing and on track - its also totally nervewracking as our upgrades and continued study rest on a six monthly assessment. so far I've been ok and they've gone well (the last one was agony) but I know of people who've had to resubmit and eventually leave.... never good. But a good idea all the same - no chance of slacking off and then having to rush at the end lol!
It could well be as others mention, that your presentations are fine. It sounds like it to me.
I think most questions comes from either curiosity in the area, in the method/stats or any controversy attached to the issues discussed. If people don't know the area well, or aren't interested in the area as a whole then you're not going to get many questions. People don't want to ask obvious questions and if it's not related to something they do then they're not going to be motivated too.
If there's something interesting or potentially 'off' about the method and the stats then you might get questions but if everything you've done is solid and fairly problem free then again you're not going to get many questions. There's no point trying to pick about how someones analysis if it's solid.
If there's a more controversial issue attached to the area that your presenation relates to then people might get more motivated to ask questions. But again, if it's not relevant then you shouldn't be putting in your paper. There's no point trying to find a tenuous link to a hot button issue if there's no need.
From my presentations, and when I've had a co-authored paper presented, the questions were either inane or to do with an issue someone had taken with the interpretation (differences in gender were mentioned so obviously it was sexist!). I wouldn't worry!
Thanks everyone - some helpful comments and advice
Sounds like there's some useful mechanisms out there for helping students prepare to defend their research - although I don't have many of these at my university, I may get together with other students to practice being 'grilled'. I'm sure this will help academic development
I'll look into LaTex!
Masters DegreesSearch For Masters Degrees
An active and supportive community.
Support and advice from your peers.
Your postgraduate questions answered.
Use your experience to help others.
Enter your email address below to get started with your forum account
Enter your username below to login to your account
An email has been sent to your email account along with instructions on how to reset your password. If you do not recieve your email, or have any futher problems accessing your account, then please contact our customer support.
or continue as guest