Speaking Guidelines
for Engineering and Science Students

Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides:
The Assertion-Evidence Structure

A small, but growing, revolution is occurring in the way that engineers and scientists design their presentation slides. This revolution advocates alternatives (based on multimedia learning principles) that challenge PowerPoint's default structure of a topic-phrase headline supported by a bullet list of subtopics.

Rethinking scientific presentations: the assertion-evidence approach.

One such alternative is the assertion-evidence structure, in which a sentence headline states the main message of the slide. That message assertion is then supported not by a bullet list, but by visual evidence: photos, drawings, diagrams, graphs, films, or equations.

Talks by Penn State undergraduates that demonstrate three important traits of effective presentation slides.

One assumption of the assertion-evidence structure is that slides are, in fact, an appropriate visual aid for the talk. Another assumption is that the primary purpose of the slides is to help the audience understand and remember the content, rather than to provide talking points for the speaker. More details about the assertion-evidence structure can be found in The Craft of Scientific Presentations.

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Content Editor: Michael Alley