FAQs: Background Documents and Presentations

Some people have asked about what sort of material should go into the background document and presentations (due on Friday, July 31). We hope the following FAQ will answer most of those questions.

What is the purpose of the background document?

At many other conferences, speakers tend to spend a lot of time on the background portion of their presentation. The Workshop is different. Since speakers only have about 15 minutes, the background document takes the place of that part of your presentation.  The background document could include information like a brief description of survey design attributes pertinent to research questions, issues, or problems you’re presenting, a brief summary of relevant literature, overview information…whatever might normally be covered in the “background” section of a formal presentation that provides context. This allows you to focus your limited time on what the audience tends to find the most interesting: your methods, your work in progress, research findings, discussion questions, etc.

Who will see my background document?

All backgrounders will be distributed to participants prior to the Workshop, so that people may have the opportunity to read them ahead of time. They will also be provided in the conference binder, so there’s no need to print them out and bring them with you (unless you want to, of course).

Should my background paper be like my abstract?

That’s up to you. If your abstract contains the background information necessary for your presentation, then it will probably work for this purpose. You could also add more details, give a brief outline of your presentation, and/or provide references. The key is that the backgrounder sets the stage for your talk.

How long should my presentation be?

Though each presenter is given a 30-minute time slot, we recommend that your presentation be limited to 15 minutes, with the remaining 15 minutes available for Q&A and discussion. This is what makes the Workshop a workshop – a setup that emphasizes time for discussion and interaction with colleagues, to learn from one another. This is also why we recommend ending your remarks with 2-4 questions that you would like to discuss with the participants.

How should my presentation be structured?

Short answer: however you’d like. Just keep in mind that a) participants should have already read your background document, and b) you should end your presentation with 2-4 questions to engage the participants in discussion. These questions may be to gain advice from participants regarding the topic of your talk, their experiences, etc. Your entire presentation, including discussion questions, will be provided to all participants in the conference binder.

What about references?

If you need to reference other works, place them on a slide at the end of your presentation, and/or in your background paper, whichever you deem more appropriate.

When is the final paper due?

Never! The Workshop doesn’t collect or distribute final papers. Instead, a notetaker from each session will provide a record of the Workshop.

Any other questions?

Ask them in the comments, replies will be posted there.


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