Joining the Conversation

Throughout this site, we encourage you to think of your research as a contribution to an ongoing conversation between scholars. In our guide on citation, we introduce different strategies for getting your audience up to speed on the specific scholarly conversation that interests you. Here, we focus on different ways that you can highlight your original contribution to the scholarly conversation. 

Your original contribution can take many forms; above all, we encourage you to understand yourself as an active member of the university: someone who has something to say to your audience. For example, ask yourself:  

  • Are there any ways that your argument goes beyond—either in agreement with or against—other scholarship? 
  • Are you looking at a different body of evidence—different data, different primary texts—than previous scholars? 
  • Are you synthesizing findings from different scholars, different studies, or different disciplines? 
  • Are you taking a side in, or proposing a solution for, any current scholarly debates? 
  • Are you applying a new theoretical lens to analyze an existing research problem? 

Remember to think of your oral presentation as just one step in an ongoing research process, but a very important one: here is your chance to share your ideas with an audience and get almost immediate feedback. An oral presentation is a great chance for you to join the conversation, but don’t think of it as your final say.

Think about your goals for the research you’ve undertaken for your presentation. Will you use it to write a term paper? Is it just for the presentation itself? Will it be helpful for your other courses? Reflect on how your goals can inform your approach to preparing for the presentation.

Below you will find some examples of students positioning, supporting, and summarizing their research. As you’re watching, think about how the presenters speak to and with other scholars—both those in the room and those they’re citing. 

It is important to begin your presentation with a land acknowledgement. As the Xwi7xwa library at UBC explains it, “A land acknowledgement (or territorial acknowledgement) is considered a respectful, yet political, statement that acknowledges the colonial context of the Indigenous territory/territories where a gathering is taking place. It recognizes relationships between land and people, and in particular Indigenous peoples' continued presence on the lands being acknowledged.”

When presenting at academic conferences hosted at post-secondary institutions, you can often learn about the history of the land on the institution’s website, and many schools will even offer a sample land acknowledgement. You can read UBC’s acknowledgment here, and here you can watch a video explaining more about why we acknowledge Musqueam territory at UBC. However, you should also do your own research on the history of the territory on which your home or host institution is situated.

Consider personalizing your land acknowledgement and, where appropriate, stating how the history of the land in question, or of Indigenous peoples more broadly, relates to your own positionality or to the research you’re presenting.

Tip: If you are new to the idea of land acknowledgements, you can find many more UBC resources by clicking here, and there are also many online guides online created by Indigenous organizations with suggestions for writing a meaningful land acknowledgement.

When you speak in a class or conference setting, you have a chance to show how your position differs from others. Here, you will see students identifying the research gap—the “hole” in the current scholarship that their arguments aim to help fill—or identifying where their work fits into a broader conversation. Can you name the gap that your own research project responds to?

Tip: You don’t need to present a ground-breaking new discovery. The other scholars that you’re citing are likely researchers who have dedicated years to thinking about your chosen subject, and their research has generally gone through expert peer review. You can share your new ideas that might not yet have reached that level of innovation, sophistication, or polish!

Positioning your argument includes providing evidence or examples to back it up. In a presentation, you might offer examples that support your claim, new evidence you’ve found, or provide a new interpretation of existing data. Remember to clearly explain the significance of the evidence and tie this analysis back to your argument.

Tip: Slides can be useful for presenting complex data involving numbers, statistics, survey results, and other data that isn’t easy to process when heard aloud.


Close reading is a specific way of interpreting evidence that is common for many disciplines in the Humanities. Close reading involves paying special attention to how language is used in a text—whether it’s a literary work like a poem, or a speech by a politician.

You can use slides to show your audience key quotations—and you can highlight, italicize, or bold text that you want to draw special attention to. Make sure to visit our guide to quoting out loud to learn strategies for distinguishing between quoted language and your own words during your presentation. 

The conclusion of your presentation is your last chance to explain your contribution to the scholarly conversation and to set up the conversation for the discussion period. While there is no formula for an effective conclusion, it's a good time to assert why your argument matters and why people in the audience should care.

In the examples provided, you will hear the speakers using “I” to present their work. They will say things like, “Today, I will argue…” or “I will discuss…”. You may have learned in high school that one should never use “I” in their formal assignments. Thinking about scholarship as a conversation, reflect on why scholars choose to use “I” as they present their work.

Remember, you want to communicate to your audience that your presentation is just one step in your research process—and you can do that by recognizing that there’s still work to be done. At the end of your presentation, you can include a call for future research to explore your subject further, or for future action that might help solve a problem you’ve been discussing. Looking forward in this way doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be the one to take these next steps—in fact, the conclusion is a good chance to set up a discussion about what comes next.

Tip: You can also include your contact information at the end of your presentation for those who would rather gather their thoughts and reach out over email with suggestions for next steps.