Universiti Malaya (UM) Master Research Proposal Defense Format

by - January 14, 2021

Hi, I have just defended my master's research proposal online and I thought I would like to share the format here since the information on the correct format is scarce. I am currently doing Master of Science (Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology) and the information in this posting might interest those who are in STEM. Regardless, I hope you find this blog post useful in your proposal defense preparation. 


Before you begin preparing the slides, think of a color scheme that you want to use throughout the presentation. Since most of the presentations are online due to the pandemic, it is advisable to keep the slides minimal and readable by the audience. Avoid fancy transitions/animations and fonts, unless you need explain a pathway/process in animation but otherwise, keep it simple. Include a page number for each slide, so the accessors can easily refer to the specific slide if they have questions. 

For the Title Page it should be straightforward and nothing too fancy. Include an up-to-date University/institute logo (ask the dean if you are not sure of the logo). Details such as your name, student numbers and supervisors should be included as well. 


A slide on the Presentation Outline is needed so your audience can keep track of the presentation progress. It also keeps you on track given the time to present is very limited. It helps you organize the time required for each slide. This outline is the format (at least for University of Malaya students) which might be slightly different for other universities. Since my study is about biochar, I placed an image of a Palm Kernel Biochar which I took by myself so the slide does not appear too empty. It is important to use a white background, not colored so whatever you write or place in the slide is readable. And oh please include slides for References as well at the end of your presentation!


The motivation behind the study should be your Research Background. In your slides, avoid using too much words/sentences. Use points instead. The slides are for your audience to read, not you. I am sure we all have that few Professors who would just read from the slides and we would complain to our friends about how boring the class is. So, use the slides for your reference only. Plan your speech well the night before and practice several times before the real presentation. Your audience should be able to a gist of what your study is all about just by looking at your Research Background. Your explanation should help them understand better. 


As a research student, your knowledge in the specific topic should be adequate. The level of your understanding of the topic is determined from the Literature Review. This gives the impressions to the accessors that you are well prepared and that you can undertake the proposed study. I prepared 6 slides just for the Literature Review alone. Identify each topic in your proposed study and do a literature search for it. Here are some of the Literature Review slides that I have done. 


From your literature review, what are the problems you identify related to your study? In my literature review slides, I have mentioned several problems associated with previous studies. You need to mention the problems again but in statements. 


Now that you have clear idea of the study and what you want to do based on the literature review and statement of the problems, consider asking yourself few questions on the purpose of the proposed study. These questions will help you shape your research objectives. Since my study is still on-going, the research objectives are confidential. However, I will share more about it in the future.


Discuss in detail about the materials procurement and what will you do with them for example where do you buy the materials from, the downstream processing of the raw samples etc. Explain verbally in details, things that you do not include in the slide to help your audience understand. List down all your methods in the slides, however, in your speech try to explain it briefly as you do not want repetitions. The way I did my methods is based on each objective I have set. You may have a lot of methods to achieve the objective so list them all down in the slides.  


Based on each objective, what are the results you might expect? What are your hypotheses? For example in one of your objectives, you are looking To investigate the effects of pre-heating on a sample's properties. You should expect some changes in the sample properties based on the reading from the literature review or based on your opinion. So list these expectations in this particular slide. Meanwhile for the Expected Publications, some universities may not require you publish as part of your postgraduate degree but it is okay. Expected publication is based on each objective you have set earlier. Using the sample objective earlier, the title of your publication should tell the reader a little insights of the results. For example "Heating of Sample A degrades the Structure of Protein B" or you can directly write it as "Effects of heating on Sample A : A Proteomic analysis"


 A Gantt Chart should portray the timeline of your research. It is equally as important to follow the timeline so you are able to graduate on time. If you are given a specific time to conduct the experiment, please follow the schedule. I hope my sharing here benefits some of you who are currently preparing proposal defense slides. I wish you best of luck in your research. 

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