Coming Upfront and Saying It

Following the Senate’s approval of my Ph.D award from the Medical School of the University of Sheffield in 2013, I was amazingly ecstatic, totally relieved and a little sad that this long journey had come to an end. I am forever indebted to my supervisors, Professor Mike Nolan and Dr. Sue Davies, for their patience and wonderful guidance. Since I had enrolled on a Remote Location Part-time Ph.D Scheme I could study in my home country but had to make an annual visit to meet my supervisors. I truly treasured the face-to-face time I had with them, which on hindsight I wished there had been more of it.

A memorable scholastic activity that I had undertaken as a doctoral student had enabled me to pluck up my courage to come upfront to present the preliminary findings from my doctoral study in an oral conference presentation. As a neophyte research student, being able to participate in a research conference was seen to be very grand, especially when you have the opportunity to meet academic/research scholars in your field of interest, or the authors of textbooks that you have just read. At the time of submitting for a conference abstract, I recalled the feelings of uncertainties and nerves that were quite overwhelming when deciding to go for a poster presentation or an oral presentation. To the doctoral research students who find themselves in this situation, I simply must say that undertaking an oral presentation is definitely more challenging. However, once you have plucked up the courage to do it, you will overcome that fear, and you will enjoy listening to yourself talking and answering the questions afterwards. You see when you come upfront to present your findings it is a way of sharing your work (your ‘Baby’) with the audience. Your responsibility as a presenter is to say it as concisely, logically and clearly as you can in just those crucial 10-15 minutes to an audience who knows little about your work. For my first oral conference presentation, I had the presence of my supervisors who sat in the front row. Having their presence was very supportive and further added to my nerves, yet they were able to provide constructive comments to me afterwards on how to make improvements. Inviting someone to sit in your presentations and to critique your performance is all part of the research training which I fully recommend to all postgraduate students.

The expression ‘coming upfront and saying it’ is not solely confined to oral presentations. I have applied it to writing grant proposals now; that is, coming forward to write (say) as concisely and clearly as you can, and to support your writing (saying) with evidence and rationale. While you are up against time in oral presentations, you are up against the word count in writing for grant proposals. This expression applies to both scholastic activities and highly applicable to an academic researcher if this is the road you plan to take in the future.

Dr. Lisa Low is an Associate Professor in the School of Health Sciences at an Institute of Higher Education in Hong Kong

Nov 2015