Wanted: guidelines for students (and others) for doing a journal club presentation

Just a quick post here to follow up on something I posted to Twitter.  I am trying to compile information and guidelines people have on “How do give a journal club presentation” for students in particular but also for others.  Any links, ideas, information, etc you have on this topic would be greatly appreciated.


4 thoughts on “Wanted: guidelines for students (and others) for doing a journal club presentation

  1. Its so dependent on the context of that journal club. Ive seen informal short presentations of papers, and detailed in depth discussions including background literature. It might be helpful to know how you run said journal clubs (also, i am in general interested in how different groups do this)

  2. Great idea, a really important part of academic life and students’ development but rarely discussed. Here’s what works for us:

    * Informal with even mix of all career stages/genders/etc where you can – aim is to make sure no-one feels unable to speak up.
    * Rota presenters in ahead (each term) and make sure to remind them 2 weeks before.
    * Encourage juniors (especially students) to do a _minimum_ number of slides necessary to explain the topic – more important to understand the material than glitzy presentation. 5-8 usually our max over a 1hr session.
    * Timings for us usually ~35mins presentation, 15mins questions – by the time ppl finish interrupting (see below) easily an hour.
    * encourage ppl to eat/drink coffee (we have ours at lunch); makes postdocs and seniors more likely to attend as it counts towards ‘productive time’ _and_ lunch – winner!
    * Encourage everyone to butt in as soon as they don’t understand a term or concept. Very often no-one else does, either, and it makes for a far, far, better discussion if everyone can agree terms etc. Senior staff can set a good example here.
    * Encourage presenters to pick a paper slightly out of their comfort zone, and of wide interest. Better for their personal development, and encourages them to think about the underlying issues rather than getting hung up on technical details.
    * Pick papers of the widest possible interest given the group, sticking to narrow technical incremental papers is too easy and rarely makes for a good discussion as it tends to degrade into ‘who’s got the biggest methods brain’ rather than a proper examination of the science.

    Think that’s all. Oh – Weekly clubs are far better than monthly ones if possible (regularity breeds familiarity, a good thing) and fewer than 5-7 or more than 20 attendees is detrimental.

  3. Here are some guidelines for students leading paper discussions in a community ecology class:

    Paper presentations. Review and discussion of selected papers are key elements of this course. Papers provide more information and illustrations of concepts presented in lecture. All students should read all papers thoroughly, and come prepared with comments and questions.

    Discussion leaders should provide only brief summaries of the approach and main points, as all students are expected to have come prepared. Summaries are strictly limited to five minutes. The leader’s primary responsibility is to prompt discussion among members of the class by asking questions pertaining to the concept(s) addressed, study approach, novel or important findings, and potentially controversial aspects of the reading.

    The leader should attempt to maintain the class’s focus on concepts and general approach, rather than allowing too much criticism of details. Although the role of the leader is to prompt discussion, please bear in mind that students often need a little time to formulate answers, so when leading please avoid rapid question-hopping or talking to fill dead air.

    To prepare for discussions, keep the following questions in mind when reading papers:
    What concepts were addressed? What were the goals of the study? Did the methods seem appropriate? Did the results answer the original question? What other questions or new hypotheses arose from the work?

    Our goal is even and positive participation. To that end, try to say something each discussion period, but avoid dominating the discussion; leave space for others to speak and avoid interrupting.

    Please politely acknowledge each other’s points even if you disagree.

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.