By Lawrence Zhang and Susan Carter
Professor Lawrence Zhang is a much sought after supervisor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who takes a large number of mainly Chinese doctoral students through to successful completion and employment following that. One comment of his on a student’s oral presentation seemed so helpful and of use to many other students that it triggered this post.
The oral presentation was for the committee who were reviewing at the end of the provisional first year. They worked within the discipline but not within the particular field.
Reviewing the candidate’s PowerPoint, Lawrence wrote in an email:
You have listed all the authors, and this is not as good as what research has been done. Can you list all the challenges that are pointed out by these scholars instead of just name-listing? Your purpose of citing these authors and critically appraising their work is to argue for the validity of your study, especially showing any possible research gap that you intend to fill. In a way, that will be how you will be regarded as making contributions to the existing literature. It is not only about the presentation per se, but instead it is really about the Introduction of the thesis where you have to really spend time presenting your argument systematically and coherently on the basis of what you have briefly reviewed about “the state-of-the-art” in the field on this particular topic or subject. It is not about piling up all the names to impress your reader or your audience, who are more keen to know what these authors have done in terms of how that relates to what you will be doing.