This blog post is an assignment for my technical writing class for the Honors Undergraduate Research Blog. This provides a reflective overview of what I discovered during my research process.
The topic for this research paper was to determine which presentation software is most efficient for technical writing students; PowerPoint or Prezi. The criteria that the software was judged on was usability, ease of use, and the technical support for each presentation software. These criteria guided the research by providing clear pieces of information that needed to be addressed.
The specific criteria that helped me select sources during this process was the usability, ease of use, and available technical support for each software. These were our criteria because those were the top few most important aspects of a software program. The softwares ability to be manipulated by students to fit their individual needs is important; it needs to be able to accommodate with several types of learners/presenters. The softwares ability to be learned, the presentations ability to be created, and how smooth the presentation is in front of an audience is important because we want the software to be convenient for the students, and therefore easy to use. And lastly, the technical support available to students is important because they should be able to ask the company anything about their software to ensure that they can make a success presentation.
I decided not to use Chris Preimesbergers’ research paper within my section of the report titled Harvard Researchers Find Prezi App More Effective Than PowerPoint. I did this specifically because it was directed towards the Prezi App, instead of the original software for a laptop or a computer. My section of the report was to write about the effectiveness of PowerPoint in higher education, and having a source about an app did not make sense. Although it provided a strong counter argument in favor of Prezi over PowerPoint, it was not related enough to the topic of the research paper for me to feel comfortable adding it in. However, I specifically used Allan M Jones journal titled The use and abuse of PowerPoint in Teaching and Learning in the Life Sciences: A Personal Overview because it clearly addressed several positives regarding PowerPoints ease of use. These positives include a clear level of support for PowerPoints overall ease of use section in the report. It goes over different learning styles and describes how PowerPoint accommodates each one, describes how PowerPoint is easy to learn, and elaborates how PowerPoint gives the students the freedom to create whatever type of presentation they wish.
An obstacle I faced during the source selection process was finding research that did not repeat information. I wanted each source to supply new research to support, counter, or elaborate on the criteria; yet I often found the same interpretation of research within several sources. I grappled with this for a while, and eventually overcame this obstacle after continuously looking for new sources. I went through several sources that I didn’t add to the research paper in search of new information, and eventually found some.
I learned several things regarding my topic as a result of my inquiry process. One specific research idea that I learned was from a journal entry written by Akgün ÖE that claimed that there are little to no gaps in the information received by students (2016). The second thing that I learned about my topic is that both presentation software applications allow students to recall information efficiently and accurately. Thomas Li-Ping Tang and M. Jill Austin at Middle Tennessee State University published an article regarding undergraduate students and their preferences of learning between PowerPoint, Prezi, and oral presentations. Tang and Austin found that lectures that used PowerPoint were rated higher than those without (2009). The third being that according to Northern Illinois University, “PowerPoint Slide Sorter View is especially helpful to check slides for proper sequencing and information gaps and redundancy.” Using PowerPoint’s Slide Sorter View can accommodate various learning styles; video, shapes, and images for visual learners; sound and music for auditory learners; and for kinesthetic learners, PowerPoint has the ability to have interactive slides for group activities (Northern Illinois University, Teaching with PowerPoint).
The source that was the most helpful for my research was from the American Institutes of Research. This source gives an outside of the box viewpoint of PowerPoint. It describes why students think a professional presenter is important and adds in the statistics that shows that students do better in class when the presenter is professional. This adds context to the argument in support of PowerPoint because PowerPoint is built to give people the extra information they need to not only make an effective presentation, but a professional looking one. This source was also the one I found to be the most interesting because of its outside of the box information. Personally, I think it makes a lot of sense because students can determine credibility in the amount of professionalism that is presented to them.
As a researcher, I learned how to push through less helpful sources to find the more credible ones. I also expanded my inventiveness in regards to plugging in source research (such as the American Institutes of Research information about professionalism). This unconventional thinking led to me showing a perspective of the research totally different than anything within the report. Based on this process, I will change how I develop my ideas. I want to continue to show as many perspectives as I can to ensure that the audience gets an ambiguous understanding of the topic that is being dissected. This was successful for me because it added another layer of understanding not only for myself with my topic, but also for the audience.
My three tips to other researchers are these; think about various perspectives, do not despair if you do not find research that fits perfectly into your topic, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Considering new perspectives means that you are thinking critically about your research, and that’s great! It’s also super easy to get discouraged when you can’t find the “perfect” piece of research. Sometimes you’ll have to rework the paragraph to fit in a different point, and that’s okay. Staying flexible is key. And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help - whether it’s with identifying a credible source, proofreading, or troubleshooting your points. The more feedback you get, the better off you’ll be because you’ll be able to identify the holes in your report.