Using PowerPoint for a Research Presentation

Using PowerPoint for a Research Presentation

The following module will discuss the guidelines for creating an effective PowerPoint and how to appropriately use a PowerPoint in a research presentation.

Learning Objectives

  • List the important guidelines that should be followed when creating an effective PowerPoint
  • Discuss how to appropriately use a PowerPoint during a research presentation


The PowerPoint presentation originated as a valuable tool in the business world in the mid-1990s and its application soon spread to education. In a business setting, the goal of the PowerPoint presentation is typically to present information in a professional, yet entertaining, way.  In an educational setting, however, the goal is to teach and provide knowledge.  The PowerPoint presentation should serve as an aid in academic settings that enhances education by presenting information in a clear, concise and logical format.  Because the goal of the PowerPoint is different in education, there are special considerations that should be taken into account when creating a PowerPoint for an academic presentation.

The following YouTube video provides additional information regarding the strategies that should be used when creating the PowerPoint slides, as well as guidelines that should be followed when delivering the presentation using PowerPoint.

 Giving a Scientific Presentation - Hints and Tips

Following is a summary of some of the best practices that should be followed when creating PowerPoint slides for a presentation. Following these best practices will ensure that presenters are using PowerPoint appropriately as visual aid to augment their research presentation and enhance learning for the audience, without the PowerPoint taking over the presentation.

  • Less is better. Keep this in mind throughout all aspects of creating a PowerPoint for classroom use.  Many bells and whistles are available when creating a PowerPoint. However, just because they exist, does not mean they should be used.  Overwhelmingly, the research shows that the audience is easily distracted by flashing and flying lines of texts, bright colors and unnecessary sound.  None of these extras will improve learning.
  • Use a consistent and simple slide format.  Use a design template to ensure that all slides are consistent in terms of font, color, theme, background, and style.  Changes in the basic slide design within the same presentation are distracting. 
  • Make sure the font is easy to read and consistent throughout.  The San Serif font, with a minimum size of 30 points, is a common recommendation for PowerPoint presentations.
  • It is acceptable to emphasize keywords through the use of bold face, italicized or underlined words.
  • Minimize text.  It is recommended that each slide contain between 3-7 bullet points with 3-7 words per point. Do not use complete sentences. If the slide contains too much text, the audience will spend time reading and not listening. Presenters may also be tempted to simply read the PowerPoint slide, greatly reducing the effectiveness of the presentation. The PowerPoint is meant to be a guide, with the presenter filling in the majority of the content and the details.
  • Disclose one bullet point at a time to keep the audience focused.
  • Use consistent slide transition.  Flashy transitions do not add educational value and again, can be distracting.
  • Images, tables, graphs, charts, and videos can be used and are effective when they are relevant to the topic and presented in a simple format.  Keep text to a minimum or use no text on these slides. The presenter should provide the information and the explanation and the image should only serve as a visual aid to reinforce the concept.

Suggested Readings

Bartsch, R. A., & Cobern, K. M. (2003). Effectiveness of PowerPoint presentations in lectures. Computers & Education, 41(1), 77-86.
Collins, J. (2004). Education Techniques for Lifelong Learning Giving a PowerPoint Presentation: The Art of Communicating Effectively1. Radiographics, 24(4), 1185-1192.
Craig, R. J., & Amernic, J. H. (2006). PowerPoint presentation technology and the dynamics of teaching. Innovative Higher Education, 31(3), 147-160.
Knoblauch, H. (2008). The performance of knowledge: Pointing and knowledge in Powerpoint presentations. Cultural Sociology, 2(1), 75-97.

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