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Why does no one ask me questions at conferences?!

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!


Why does no one ask me questions at conferences?!

Quote From DanB:

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!

Thanks for the reassurance, DanB!

Why does no one ask me questions at conferences?!

Quote From delta:

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.

Hello delta,

(I think you're being very polite!)

I take these point - yes, come to think of it, I often don't ask a question if I feel a student looks nervous (I wouldn't be surprised if I look scared to bits - AdEd teaching is very different to giving papers in front of peers and academics, and until recently, I was quite nervous). I shall work on my confident persona!

And also, I have avoided asking questions if the topic is one with which I'm not very familiar - and my subject is quite specialised.

I think, instead of presenting overviews of my work, I shall concentrate on aspects that may overlap more with those of the audience - this may make it more accessible, and may encourage greater participation.

Thanks for your comments

I'm also considering changing the format of my presentations - instead of boring old powerpoint. So if anyone has experimented with different approaches, I'd be interested

Why does no one ask me questions at conferences?!

Quote From BilboBaggins:

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.

Hello BilboBaggins,

We don't really have anything like this - maybe I'll suggest it, as it sounds like a good idea!

We did have to present a summary of our research to the other postgrad students and some staff at the end of the 1st term during the 1st year - which I'd forgotten about (probably put it out of my mind, as it was terrifying), and I found that useful. I'll try to draw upon that!


Why does no one ask me questions at conferences?!


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?

Any advice?


anybody have OCPD and having problem submitting work?

thanks for the response - I'm going to another gp to see if I can get CBT or something, as I don't really want to take meds for this problem

but, I've got a feeling this has to be referred through mental health services. However, the psychologist / psychiatrist (not sure which) I saw thinks (I guess 'cos of funding) mental health services shouldn't get involved with anxiety problems (seeing a 2nd psych Dr isn't an option).

I think the NHS is a great thing, but money is a necessity for many treatments (something students generally don't have).

Hey ho... back to dotting the i's and crossing the t's, over and over again!

thanks again

presenting at conferences

4) remember to breathe slowly - it'll reduce your heart-rate and you'll come across calmer

5) spend time with someone who makes you comfortable / listen to your favourite music track (nip into the toilets!) beforehand - just to take your mind off it

6) take a box of immodium etc., if things are really bad!

if you have pathological problems - present a poster

But, it gets easier over time for most

as mentioned, you are in a unique position re. your research - you're the one who's worked on this specific topic. even if someone else has done something similar, your approach should be different. remember, conferences are designed to stimulate debate and exchange - the audience aren't there to judge you, to hear what you have to say. they may recognise you're new to it (as academia is usually a small world), but they should cut you some slack, and won't expect a slick presentation

good luck!

presenting at conferences

if i'm too late - hope you had a great time, and found it a breeze!
if you have yet to give your paper:

1) talk to as many people as possible at the conference beforehand - it's so much, much easier to present to people you 'know'

2) as mentioned - practice as much as possible, prefereably in front of others (family may or may not be academics, but can tell you what message you're getting across)

3) have back-up plans - in case you're overwhelmed with nerves, have a script. but try to work from index card with key points. or even better - if you're using powerpoint, print out each slide with notes, then you know what's coming next.

anybody have OCPD and having problem submitting work?


I'm having real problems - my phd has dragged on because of my obsessive / perfectionist tendancies, and i've just found out i have OCPD, which explains a lot. I write lots and lots - can't stop - because i feel need to include everything and stress out if i can't. i'm working an 80 hr week and still feel i may not finish 'cos i can't 'let go' of the work. Does anyone else have the same condition? i'm not sure how to manage this problem - the dr suggests i go on ocd drugs and i'm not sure how this will affect my work.

yr 8 of thesis - someone's bought out a book with v similar ideas! what do I do?!

I've just found out the date of a conference that I'm expected to give a paper at in the spring - I'll use it as an opportunity to mention my work and the other, how they compliment each other and differ, and my developments of the ideas presented in the book. I'll also mention that I've developed ideas that I presented at a conference 6 years ago! (I'm almost certain that there'll be someone at this conference that was at the other, as it's being held at his Uni)

thanks all for the good advice and encouragement.

yr 8 of thesis - someone's bought out a book with v similar ideas! what do I do?!

8 yrs is a long time, I agree. And I'm desperate for it be over!

I'd very nearly finished writing-up my second-rate thesis, but then I had time off sick. When I came back to it afresh, I saw the problems with it; I also realized I could write a more nuanced thesis by applying wider anthropological and sociological theory, so started a complete re-write - hence I'm still finishing off.

The topic was also too big, and area and time-frame to be covered too large. Plus I have a tendency, because of a lack of confidence, to go way beyond what is necessary when it comes to background reading. Nevertheless, things are on track to finish on time (and I'll have 2 theses, from which I can pull about 20 papers).

Thanks for the well wishes

yr 8 of thesis - someone's bought out a book with v similar ideas! what do I do?!

I doubt the two analyses are EXACTLY the same?

No, I took a different theoretical approach, just ended up with parallel conclusions. So maybe I can use this other work to further demonstrate the likelihood of being 'right'?! But, I'm sure most PhD students dream of being ground-breaking...

If possible, I'd look for any similarities/differences between your thesis and the published work, as this in essence gives you first crack at providing critical comment on a leading body of work in your field of research and expertise.

Brilliant! I have found a few holes with the other approach that can be filled using social theory, and backed up with my data.

very helpful - thanks.

yr 8 of thesis - someone's bought out a book with v similar ideas! what do I do?!

harsh, o.stoll! very constructive comments, thanks - have you thought about becoming a supervisor?!

Unfortunately I've had to work - just started year 8 part-time and just taken out an enormous loan so that I /can/ finish, without having another nervous breakdown in the process.

...80 hour weeks, to produce a multi-disciplinary thesis whilst running a business, with disabilities, as a single-parent - in my defense! whoa is me...

onwards and upwards...

yr 8 of thesis - someone's bought out a book with v similar ideas! what do I do?!

Oh dear. It isn't plagiarism, they've just arrived at very similar conclusions. It's a nice subjective subject like history, too! (I've had the platitudes from my b/f that great minds think alike - won't help my 'ground-breaking' career, though)

My supervisor (who has no memory of anything I've written) has work from way back in which I've put forward these ideas (if it's not been lost). And, I gave a paper about 5 or 6 years ago (attended by about 20 people - very popular, obviously!). And I show evidence to support these ideas in my thesis, but ...

I'm worried that when I give future papers and submit articles (in their necessarily condensed form) everyone's going to think I've copied from a very eminent scholar.

Any suggestions how I deal with this?

family planning, getting pregnant right after getting a phd?

as I've posted before, I waited, hoping to have more children after I'd completed my PhD, but due to unforeseen illnesses and cash crises, I'm now over 40, and still haven't finished my PhD; by the time I graduate, I'll be too old to conceive.
So, if you feel ready to have children, do it sooner rather than later, as you don't know how things are going to go in the future. Anyway, however fit you may be, it's likely you'll have more energy now than in the future - kids take a lot out of you, especially if you intend to work! We can, in theory, work for decades to come, but the same can't be said of making babies! Good luck!