I have received an invitation to interview for a PhD position and have been asked to present past/current research in a 10 minute presentation. I am currently doing a masters but am more comfortable talking about a past research project - I was wondering if the committee would expect or ask me why I have chosen to not present my current masters research work?

Additionally, I am confused about the amount of raw data to include in my presentation. Do they want to see the big picture rather than the nitty gritty raw data? I don't think it would be possible to include all the data I have collected in 10minutes, would it be acceptable to say "we did X and saw Y, but I haven't shown the data here for the sake of time"?

Additionally, some of the experiments have some design flaws in them, should I acknowledge and explain the flaws and point out what could have been done to get better data or not show these figures and change focus/skim over them?

Thank you!

  • 1
    In ten minutes, keep it high level. Goals, a bit on methodology, results - even if partial. And don't forget to mention that you have done things after this one. And make sure the one you talk about is somehow relevant to the doctoral studies you hope to start.
    – Buffy
    Jan 23 at 21:39
  • 2
    Personally, I'd expect to see at least one example of "big picture" thinking and at least one example of detailed thinking. Don't try to cram in everything. Do have a professor critique your presentation. Jan 24 at 4:06

As a member of my department's graduate admissions committee, I have been participating in a bunch of interviews, just like what you are describing, this very month. We invite the prospective students to give a brief talk, ten to fifteen minutes, about a project they have done in the past, at the beginning of each interview.

Sometimes, students who are currently in master's programs talk about earlier work they did (usually from their times as undergraduates), rather than their current thesis work. I don't see anything negative about this, and I don't think the other committee members do either. So I think you will be fine talking about an earlier project—although don't be surprised if there are some general questions about your more recent work.

The goal of an admissions intervew is to show what you know and your level of familiarity with research. The faculty interviewers are evaluating the students they talk with for their potential; they are not specifically evaluating their current research work. Showing a lot of detailed data is not necessary and may even be counterproductive, since it may draw attention away from the big picture of what you are trying to convey—which is that you know your field and will be able to do good research in that field. If there were problems with your earlier experiments, you can explain that and use that explanation as a way to show that you understand the difficulties that are encountered in research; if you can explain how those problems could be fixed—even if you are not going to be able to implement those fixes yourself—that can be a very good way to demonstrate research competency and maturity.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.