Presenting My Research

Just yesterday, I had the chance to give a talk on my honors research to a group of linguistics faculty and students.  It was part of an ongoing effort by the Linguistics Program for both students and professors to present their research projects (in whatever stage they’re in).  Every week, someone who is or will be conducting research in the Linguistics Lab is allowed to give a presentation about their project.  Anyone who attends the talk can ask questions and offer comments regarding any aspect of the presenter’s research.  This initiative is a great way to spread awareness of the various types of projects that linguistics students can get involved in, as well as provide whoever is presenting with valuable feedback that may inform their decisions later in the research process.

Although I did not have any results to show during my presentation (since my data are still not completely coded and ready for statistical analysis), it was very helpful and enlightening to practice speaking about my research.  Because my research incorporates knowledge from two very separate fields (linguistics and music), preparing for and delivering my talk gave me a sense of how to best explain fundamental concepts to an audience who may be much less familiar with one field or the other.  For example, not all linguists will necessarily understand why, in Western tonal music, different chords provide different harmonic functions depending on the context.  By contrast, a musician may not know that people process language by hierarchically ordering the words and phrases in a sentence that they read or hear.

Giving this presentation was a wonderful trial run in preparation for the Honors Colloquium next semester.  I hope that the lessons I’ve learned from having to orally explain my research to an audience of varying knowledge and backgrounds will eventually inform my decisions when writing about it.