88 Question Period

After considering all the rules heretofore listed, there is one which will determine the value of the rest: know your subject! The more confident you are on the research matter, the more flexible you will be if a surprising turn occurs in your presentation. The kind of surprising turns which are deliberately given their chance is the question section.

Question section will often be up to twenty minutes of fielded questions from the audience per panel (sometimes five minutes per presenter). In most cases, the questioner will be friendly and wish to flatter your work; it is highly unlikely there will be an all out attack on your work. Common questions will be directed to “expand on” your methods, that finding, or discussion; so try to anticipate the most obvious gaps in your findings, discussion and methods. Likewise accept the question generously, as if it is exactly the question you wanted, thanking them for the time to give it, and ensure you have answered it fully by ending with another question: “have I answered your question fully?”

Often times, the person asking the question is more experienced than you in the field. If you get a contention, be open to their feedback and then be clear about why you may or may not have found the similar result. Extensive argument will not help you look good in the conference, so offer your contact information in case you want to talk more and move on. Remember, if you see a debate is going nowhere, it is better to say “I’d love to discuss that with you some more after this presentation” and move on to other questions. Likewise, if you are unable to answer a question, be honest. Say something like “I haven’t thought about that yet” or “I don’t have the answer now, but would be happy to share it with you later.” At the end of the presentation, ask for the questioner’s contact details, and do contact them.

Ultimately, the question period will show your audience how truly confident you are on your topic, so try and frame your answers around the knowledge you are most comfortable with. If two sections of your paper adequately address the questioner’s concern, pick the one you are most confident with and try to add more insight to that issue then the question even asks for.


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Practicing and Presenting Social Research Copyright © 2022 by Oral Robinson and Alexander Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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