Scientific Presentation Skills and Career Planning


 course description 


Scientific Presentation Skills and Career Planning

BIOL-F-537 / VUB-4018805DNR


Prof. Dr. Farid Dahdouh-Guebas


  Systems Ecology and Resource Management

Écologie des Systèmes et Gestion des Ressources

e-mail :

  Scientific Presentation Skills and Career Planning


 course material 


The start of the next courses is scheduled for December this year and December next year (see schedule)

Course description


The course comprises 3 ETCS (VUB) or 5 ECTS (ULB or VUB).  The course targets first year or second year Master students from the disciplines of Biology, Bio-Engineering, Geography and Environmental Sciences and Management. However, being very generic, the course is open to all other science domains within the Faculty of Sciences and is highly recommended for students wondering what 'writing a thesis' means, what an 'academic career' is, or what to focus un if they intend to pursue a non-academic career. Ideally you follow the course in the first year (because the content will serve you for many other courses), but you validate it officially in the second year (because with few exceptions the evaluation is linked to your second year's thesis).


The course is compulsory for the Erasmus Mundus Masters Course in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems (TROPIMUNDO, ULB-VUB and other partners), for the MSc in Biology (VUB) specialisations Environment, Biodiversity and Ecosystems and for Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology, and for the equivalent specialisations in the MSc in de Biologie (under the translated title 'Wetenschappelijke presentatievaardigheden en loopbaanplanning'), for the specialisation Human Ecology (ICP course).  Students of the Master en Biologie des Organismes et Ecologie (Finalité didactique, approfondie option générale, option BEVT) follow the lectures of Scientific Presentation Skills and Career Planning under the title 'Projet de mémoire' (BIOL-F-418), and Students of the MSc in Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management (Oceans & Lakes) may follow this course as a Major Elective Course.



Aims and objectives :

This course aims at teaching students how to find and select essential scientific information to make a scientific presentation (e.g. preparation of research proposal, writing of an assignment, report or thesis, thesis findings to be presented in an international conference), under which form to present methods and results (text, tabulation, illustration and their content and layout) and how to defend them assertively.  It also introduces common standards and practices and explains why it is important to follow them in Sciences. A huge chapter is spent to writing and layout skills and to plagiarism. This course also prepares you for stay within academia (academic career) or for the challenges young graduates face on the employment market (non-academic career).

Upon finalising this course the student should master presentation skills (designed and spoken) and assertiveness in defending own research results. In addition the student should be fully aware of scientific standards and procedures in the career of a scientist or beyond academia.


The evaluation is related to your MSc thesis and is most commonly an evaluation of your written or oral presentation and argumentation skills evidenced at your thesis proposal or final defense. It is not the difficulty or content of your thesis that will be evaluated, but the form and style of presentation and argumentation.


Compulsory or advised pre-knowledge :



Content :


1.Scientific proposals:

Rationale / Background / Problem situation / Context of the subject

Literature review (source types, Boolean and proximity operators)

Use of the Internet (what can we trust out there ?)

Research objectives (disambiguation of purpose, aim, goal, scope, objective, target and ambition)

Scientific questions and hypotheses

•A selection of 24 examples of logical fallacies

What does 'a model' mean and what is 'modelling' ?

Planning a research strategy and schedule 


2. Fieldwork, desk work and analysis in scientific research:

•What precedes my research ?


Field- and labwork

Samples and sampling strategies (categories)

Analysis tools

Making a deadline

Back-up your data


3. Writing and layout skills:

Basic components of a paper, thesis or proposal (in-depth overview per section from the front cover page to the back cover)

Scientific and biological standards

How to work and write scientifically (managing your work, scientific standards from different domains, ISO standards for official codes)

•Citation, paraphrasing and plagiarism (rigorous overview with examples, regulations and penalties)

How to present data and how to present data badly (text and non-text illustrations in written documents and posters)

Reference systems (Copyrights, Creative Commons, Plagiarism-detection software)


4. Scientific publication:

Extracting a manuscript from a thesis

The peer-review process (from what precedes writing of a paper to its final publication)

Selecting an appropriate scientific journal (incl. Open Access and Open Source)

•Quality indices (common bibliometric measurements for evaluation of journals, researchers and institutes)

Internet sources for scientific publishing and indexing

Popular scientific articles

Talking to the media


5. Pre- and post-research presentation and defence skills:

Public speaking skills (from waht you say to how you say it))

Public presentation of data

Use of didactical material

Presentation and defence (of proposals, of finished research)



6. Academic currencies:

The academic career
Grading systems
Scientific publications (SLOSS, FIORI,...)
Conference presentations
Curriculum vitae design for academic and non-academic purposes (how to advertise your skills ?)
Time management


7. National and international funding:

Privileged partners



Sources for funding

Project budgets


Compulsory study material :

Didactical material and information used during the course.


Additional study material :



+ current international research publications


Type of examination :

Scientific presentation exercise (oral presentation and/or defence of a written document).  The examination matter is the oral and written matter covered during the lectures.  Note that the course material only provides the slides used during the lectures and all oral and blackboard information !


Additional information:

The following website has been developed :

Course + material :







Normally there are 7 lectures of 1-2 h, but because of the schedule challenges resulting from the interest for this course from multiple disciplines the course is given in 2 marathon lectures of 7 hours (however leaving space for plenty of interactions).


Please check on your institution's official course schedule for dates, times and venues:



or check both, because sometimes there may be incomplete data, errors or double bookings...





Please consult your MSc programme's secretariat for the planning.



Course material


All course material should be downloaded through your e-learning platform :


Université Virtuelle (ULB) :


Canvas (VUB) :



Practicals and individual assignment


Not applicable.





Not applicable.

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