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24 Oral Presentations

Many academic courses require students to present information to their peers and teachers in a classroom setting. This is usually in the form of a short talk, often, but not always, accompanied by visual aids such as a power point. Students often become nervous at the idea of speaking in front of a group.

This chapter is divided under five headings to establish a quick reference guide for oral presentations.

how to write oral presentation essay

A beginner, who may have little or no experience, should read each section in full.

how to write oral presentation essay

For the intermediate learner, who has some experience with oral presentations, review the sections you feel you need work on.

how to write oral presentation essay

The Purpose of an Oral Presentation

Generally, oral presentation is public speaking, either individually or as a group, the aim of which is to provide information, entertain, persuade the audience, or educate. In an academic setting, oral presentations are often assessable tasks with a marking criteria. Therefore, students are being evaluated on their capacity to speak and deliver relevant information within a set timeframe. An oral presentation differs from a speech in that it usually has visual aids and may involve audience interaction; ideas are both shown and explained . A speech, on the other hand, is a formal verbal discourse addressing an audience, without visual aids and audience participation.

Types of Oral Presentations

Individual presentation.

  • Breathe and remember that everyone gets nervous when speaking in public. You are in control. You’ve got this!
  • Know your content. The number one way to have a smooth presentation is to know what you want to say and how you want to say it. Write it down and rehearse it until you feel relaxed and confident and do not have to rely heavily on notes while speaking.
  • Eliminate ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ from your oral presentation vocabulary. Speak slowly and clearly and pause when you need to. It is not a contest to see who can race through their presentation the fastest or fit the most content within the time limit. The average person speaks at a rate of 125 words per minute. Therefore, if you are required to speak for 10 minutes, you will need to write and practice 1250 words for speaking. Ensure you time yourself and get it right.
  • Ensure you meet the requirements of the marking criteria, including non-verbal communication skills. Make good eye contact with the audience; watch your posture; don’t fidget.
  • Know the language requirements. Check if you are permitted to use a more casual, conversational tone and first-person pronouns, or do you need to keep a more formal, academic tone?

Group Presentation

  • All of the above applies, however you are working as part of a group. So how should you approach group work?
  • Firstly, if you are not assigned to a group by your lecturer/tutor, choose people based on their availability and accessibility. If you cannot meet face-to-face you may schedule online meetings.
  • Get to know each other. It’s easier to work with friends than strangers.
  • Also consider everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. This will involve a discussion that will often lead to task or role allocations within the group, however, everyone should be carrying an equal level of the workload.
  • Some group members may be more focused on getting the script written, with a different section for each team member to say. Others may be more experienced with the presentation software and skilled in editing and refining power point slides so they are appropriate for the presentation. Use one visual aid (one set of power point slides) for the whole group. Take turns presenting information and ideas.
  • Be patient and tolerant with each other’s learning style and personality. Do not judge people in your group based on their personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender, age, or cultural background.
  • Rehearse as a group, more than once. Keep rehearsing until you have seamless transitions between speakers. Ensure you thank the previous speaker and introduce the one following you. If you are rehearsing online, but have to present in-person, try to schedule some face-to-face time that will allow you to physically practice using the technology and classroom space of the campus.
  • For further information on working as a group see:

Working as a group – my.UQ – University of Queensland

Writing Your Presentation

Approach the oral presentation task just as you would any other assignment. Review the available topics, do some background reading and research to ensure you can talk about the topic for the appropriate length of time and in an informed manner. Break the question down as demonstrated in Chapter 17 Breaking Down an Assignment. Where it differs from writing an essay is that the information in the written speech must align with the visual aid. Therefore, with each idea, concept or new information you write, think about how this might be visually displayed through minimal text and the occasional use of images. Proceed to write your ideas in full, but consider that not all information will end up on a power point slide. After all, it is you who are doing the presenting , not the power point. Your presentation skills are being evaluated; this may include a small percentage for the actual visual aid. This is also why it is important that EVERYONE has a turn at speaking during the presentation, as each person receives their own individual grade.

Using Visual Aids

A whole chapter could be written about the visual aids alone, therefore I will simply refer to the key points as noted by my.UQ

To keep your audience engaged and help them to remember what you have to say, you may want to use visual aids, such as slides.

When designing slides for your presentation, make sure:

  • any text is brief, grammatically correct and easy to read. Use dot points and space between lines, plus large font size (18-20 point).
  • Resist the temptation to use dark slides with a light-coloured font; it is hard on the eyes
  • if images and graphs are used to support your main points, they should be non-intrusive on the written work

Images and Graphs

  • Your audience will respond better to slides that deliver information quickly – images and graphs are a good way to do this. However, they are not always appropriate or necessary.

When choosing images, it’s important to find images that:

  • support your presentation and aren’t just decorative
  • are high quality, however, using large HD picture files can make the power point file too large overall for submission via Turnitin
  • you have permission to use (Creative Commons license, royalty-free, own images, or purchased)
  • suggested sites for free-to-use images: Openclipart – Clipping Culture ; Beautiful Free Images & Pictures | Unsplash ; Pxfuel – Royalty free stock photos free download ; When we share, everyone wins – Creative Commons

This is a general guide. The specific requirements for your course may be different. Make sure you read through any assignment requirements carefully and ask your lecturer or tutor if you’re unsure how to meet them.

Using Visual Aids Effectively

Too often, students make an impressive power point though do not understand how to use it effectively to enhance their presentation.

  • Rehearse with the power point.
  • Keep the slides synchronized with your presentation; change them at the appropriate time.
  • Refer to the information on the slides. Point out details; comment on images; note facts such as data.
  • Don’t let the power point just be something happening in the background while you speak.
  • Write notes in your script to indicate when to change slides or which slide number the information applies to.
  • Pace yourself so you are not spending a disproportionate amount of time on slides at the beginning of the presentation and racing through them at the end.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Nonverbal Communication

It is clear by the name that nonverbal communication are the ways that we communicate without speaking. Many people are already aware of this, however here are a few tips that relate specifically to oral presentations.

Being confident and looking confident are two different things. Fake it until you make it.

  • Avoid slouching or leaning – standing up straight instantly gives you an air of confidence.
  • Move! When you’re glued to one spot as a presenter, you’re not perceived as either confident or dynamic. Use the available space effectively, though do not exaggerate your natural movements so you look ridiculous.
  • If you’re someone who “speaks with their hands”, resist the urge to constantly wave them around. They detract from your message. Occasional gestures are fine.
  • Be animated, but don’t fidget. Ask someone to watch you rehearse and identify if you have any nervous, repetitive habits you may be unaware of, for example, constantly touching or ‘finger-combing’ your hair, rubbing your face.
  • Avoid ‘voice fidgets’ also. If you needs to cough or clear your throat, do so once then take a drink of water.
  • Avoid distractions. No phone turned on. Water available but off to one side.
  • Keep your distance. Don’t hover over front-row audience members; this can be intimidating.
  • Have a cheerful demeaner. You do not need to grin like a Cheshire cat throughout the presentation, yet your facial expression should be relaxed and welcoming.
  • Maintain an engaging TONE in your voice. Sometimes it’s not what you’re saying that is putting your audience to sleep, it’s your monotonous tone. Vary your tone and pace.
  • Don’t read your presentation – PRESENT it! Internalize your script so you can speak with confidence and only occasionally refer to your notes if needed.
  • Lastly, make good eye contact with your audience members so they know you are talking with them, not at them. You’re having a conversation. Watch the link below for some great speaking tips, including eye contact.

Below is a video of some great tips about public speaking from Amy Wolff at TEDx Portland [1]

  • Wolff. A. [The Oregonion]. (2016, April 9). 5 public speaking tips from TEDxPortland speaker coach [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNOXZumCXNM&ab_channel=TheOregonian ↵

communication of thought by word

Academic Writing Skills Copyright © 2021 by Patricia Williamson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

In the social and behavioral sciences, an oral presentation assignment involves an individual student or group of students verbally addressing an audience on a specific research-based topic, often utilizing slides to help audience members understand and retain what they both see and hear. The purpose is to inform, report, and explain the significance of research findings, and your critical analysis of those findings, within a specific period of time, often in the form of a reasoned and persuasive argument. Oral presentations are assigned to assess a student’s ability to organize and communicate relevant information  effectively to a particular audience. Giving an oral presentation is considered an important learning skill because the ability to speak persuasively in front of an audience is transferable to most professional workplace settings.

Oral Presentations. Learning Co-Op. University of Wollongong, Australia; Oral Presentations. Undergraduate Research Office, Michigan State University; Oral Presentations. Presentations Research Guide, East Carolina University Libraries; Tsang, Art. “Enhancing Learners’ Awareness of Oral Presentation (Delivery) Skills in the Context of Self-regulated Learning.” Active Learning in Higher Education 21 (2020): 39-50.

Preparing for Your Oral Presentation

In some classes, writing the research paper is only part of what is required in reporting the results your work. Your professor may also require you to give an oral presentation about your study. Here are some things to think about before you are scheduled to give a presentation.

1.  What should I say?

If your professor hasn't explicitly stated what the content of your presentation should focus on, think about what you want to achieve and what you consider to be the most important things that members of the audience should know about your research. Think about the following: Do I want to inform my audience, inspire them to think about my research, or convince them of a particular point of view? These questions will help frame how to approach your presentation topic.

2.  Oral communication is different from written communication

Your audience has just one chance to hear your talk; they can't "re-read" your words if they get confused. Focus on being clear, particularly if the audience can't ask questions during the talk. There are two well-known ways to communicate your points effectively, often applied in combination. The first is the K.I.S.S. method [Keep It Simple Stupid]. Focus your presentation on getting two to three key points across. The second approach is to repeat key insights: tell them what you're going to tell them [forecast], tell them [explain], and then tell them what you just told them [summarize].

3.  Think about your audience

Yes, you want to demonstrate to your professor that you have conducted a good study. But professors often ask students to give an oral presentation to practice the art of communicating and to learn to speak clearly and audibly about yourself and your research. Questions to think about include: What background knowledge do they have about my topic? Does the audience have any particular interests? How am I going to involve them in my presentation?

4.  Create effective notes

If you don't have notes to refer to as you speak, you run the risk of forgetting something important. Also, having no notes increases the chance you'll lose your train of thought and begin relying on reading from the presentation slides. Think about the best ways to create notes that can be easily referred to as you speak. This is important! Nothing is more distracting to an audience than the speaker fumbling around with notes as they try to speak. It gives the impression of being disorganized and unprepared.

NOTE:   A good strategy is to have a page of notes for each slide so that the act of referring to a new page helps remind you to move to the next slide. This also creates a natural pause that allows your audience to contemplate what you just presented.

Strategies for creating effective notes for yourself include the following:

  • Choose a large, readable font [at least 18 point in Ariel ]; avoid using fancy text fonts or cursive text.
  • Use bold text, underlining, or different-colored text to highlight elements of your speech that you want to emphasize. Don't over do it, though. Only highlight the most important elements of your presentation.
  • Leave adequate space on your notes to jot down additional thoughts or observations before and during your presentation. This is also helpful when writing down your thoughts in response to a question or to remember a multi-part question [remember to have a pen with you when you give your presentation].
  • Place a cue in the text of your notes to indicate when to move to the next slide, to click on a link, or to take some other action, such as, linking to a video. If appropriate, include a cue in your notes if there is a point during your presentation when you want the audience to refer to a handout.
  • Spell out challenging words phonetically and practice saying them ahead of time. This is particularly important for accurately pronouncing people’s names, technical or scientific terminology, words in a foreign language, or any unfamiliar words.

Creating and Using Overheads. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Kelly, Christine. Mastering the Art of Presenting. Inside Higher Education Career Advice; Giving an Oral Presentation. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking . 12th edition. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2015; Peery, Angela B. Creating Effective Presentations: Staff Development with Impact . Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations. Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Speeches. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Storz, Carl et al. Oral Presentation Skills. Institut national de télécommunications, EVRY FRANCE.

Organizing the Content

In the process of organizing the content of your presentation, begin by thinking about what you want to achieve and how are you going to involve your audience in the presentation.

  • Brainstorm your topic and write a rough outline. Don’t get carried away—remember you have a limited amount of time for your presentation.
  • Organize your material and draft what you want to say [see below].
  • Summarize your draft into key points to write on your presentation slides and/or note cards and/or handout.
  • Prepare your visual aids.
  • Rehearse your presentation and practice getting the presentation completed within the time limit given by your professor. Ask a friend to listen and time you.

GENERAL OUTLINE

I.  Introduction [may be written last]

  • Capture your listeners’ attention . Begin with a question, an amusing story, a provocative statement, a personal story, or anything that will engage your audience and make them think. For example, "As a first-gen student, my hardest adjustment to college was the amount of papers I had to write...."
  • State your purpose . For example, "I’m going to talk about..."; "This morning I want to explain…."
  • Present an outline of your talk . For example, “I will concentrate on the following points: First of all…Then…This will lead to…And finally…"

II.  The Body

  • Present your main points one by one in a logical order .
  • Pause at the end of each point . Give people time to take notes, or time to think about what you are saying.
  • Make it clear when you move to another point . For example, “The next point is that...”; “Of course, we must not forget that...”; “However, it's important to realize that....”
  • Use clear examples to illustrate your points and/or key findings .
  • If appropriate, consider using visual aids to make your presentation more interesting [e.g., a map, chart, picture, link to a video, etc.].

III.  The Conclusion

  • Leave your audience with a clear summary of everything that you have covered.
  • Summarize the main points again . For example, use phrases like: "So, in conclusion..."; "To recap the main issues...," "In summary, it is important to realize...."
  • Restate the purpose of your talk, and say that you have achieved your aim : "My intention was ..., and it should now be clear that...."
  • Don't let the talk just fizzle out . Make it obvious that you have reached the end of the presentation.
  • Thank the audience, and invite questions : "Thank you. Are there any questions?"

NOTE: When asking your audience if anyone has any questions, give people time to contemplate what you have said and to formulate a question. It may seem like an awkward pause to wait ten seconds or so for someone to raise their hand, but it's frustrating to have a question come to mind but be cutoff because the presenter rushed to end the talk.

ANOTHER NOTE: If your last slide includes any contact information or other important information, leave it up long enough to ensure audience members have time to write the information down. Nothing is more frustrating to an audience member than wanting to jot something down, but the presenter closes the slides immediately after finishing.

Creating and Using Overheads. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Giving an Oral Presentation. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking . 12th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2015; Peery, Angela B. Creating Effective Presentations: Staff Development with Impact . Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations. Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Speeches. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Storz, Carl et al. Oral Presentation Skills. Institut national de télécommunications, EVRY FRANCE.

Delivering Your Presentation

When delivering your presentation, keep in mind the following points to help you remain focused and ensure that everything goes as planned.

Pay Attention to Language!

  • Keep it simple . The aim is to communicate, not to show off your vocabulary. Using complex words or phrases increases the chance of stumbling over a word and losing your train of thought.
  • Emphasize the key points . Make sure people realize which are the key points of your study. Repeat them using different phrasing to help the audience remember them.
  • Check the pronunciation of difficult, unusual, or foreign words beforehand . Keep it simple, but if you have to use unfamiliar words, write them out phonetically in your notes and practice saying them. This is particularly important when pronouncing proper names. Give the definition of words that are unusual or are being used in a particular context [e.g., "By using the term affective response, I am referring to..."].

Use Your Voice to Communicate Clearly

  • Speak loud enough for everyone in the room to hear you . Projecting your voice may feel uncomfortably loud at first, but if people can't hear you, they won't try to listen. However, moderate your voice if you are talking in front of a microphone.
  • Speak slowly and clearly . Don’t rush! Speaking fast makes it harder for people to understand you and signals being nervous.
  • Avoid the use of "fillers." Linguists refer to utterances such as um, ah, you know, and like as fillers. They occur most often during transitions from one idea to another and, if expressed too much, are distracting to an audience. The better you know your presentation, the better you can control these verbal tics.
  • Vary your voice quality . If you always use the same volume and pitch [for example, all loud, or all soft, or in a monotone] during your presentation, your audience will stop listening. Use a higher pitch and volume in your voice when you begin a new point or when emphasizing the transition to a new point.
  • Speakers with accents need to slow down [so do most others]. Non-native speakers often speak English faster than we slow-mouthed native speakers, usually because most non-English languages flow more quickly than English. Slowing down helps the audience to comprehend what you are saying.
  • Slow down for key points . These are also moments in your presentation to consider using body language, such as hand gestures or leaving the podium to point to a slide, to help emphasize key points.
  • Use pauses . Don't be afraid of short periods of silence. They give you a chance to gather your thoughts, and your audience an opportunity to think about what you've just said.

Also Use Your Body Language to Communicate!

  • Stand straight and comfortably . Do not slouch or shuffle about. If you appear bored or uninterested in what your talking about, the audience will emulate this as well. Wear something comfortable. This is not the time to wear an itchy wool sweater or new high heel shoes for the first time.
  • Hold your head up . Look around and make eye contact with people in the audience [or at least pretend to]. Do not just look at your professor or your notes the whole time! Looking up at your your audience brings them into the conversation. If you don't include the audience, they won't listen to you.
  • When you are talking to your friends, you naturally use your hands, your facial expression, and your body to add to your communication . Do it in your presentation as well. It will make things far more interesting for the audience.
  • Don't turn your back on the audience and don't fidget! Neither moving around nor standing still is wrong. Practice either to make yourself comfortable. Even when pointing to a slide, don't turn your back; stand at the side and turn your head towards the audience as you speak.
  • Keep your hands out of your pocket . This is a natural habit when speaking. One hand in your pocket gives the impression of being relaxed, but both hands in pockets looks too casual and should be avoided.

Interact with the Audience

  • Be aware of how your audience is reacting to your presentation . Are they interested or bored? If they look confused, stop and ask them [e.g., "Is anything I've covered so far unclear?"]. Stop and explain a point again if needed.
  • Check after highlighting key points to ask if the audience is still with you . "Does that make sense?"; "Is that clear?" Don't do this often during the presentation but, if the audience looks disengaged, interrupting your talk to ask a quick question can re-focus their attention even if no one answers.
  • Do not apologize for anything . If you believe something will be hard to read or understand, don't use it. If you apologize for feeling awkward and nervous, you'll only succeed in drawing attention to the fact you are feeling awkward and nervous and your audience will begin looking for this, rather than focusing on what you are saying.
  • Be open to questions . If someone asks a question in the middle of your talk, answer it. If it disrupts your train of thought momentarily, that's ok because your audience will understand. Questions show that the audience is listening with interest and, therefore, should not be regarded as an attack on you, but as a collaborative search for deeper understanding. However, don't engage in an extended conversation with an audience member or the rest of the audience will begin to feel left out. If an audience member persists, kindly tell them that the issue can be addressed after you've completed the rest of your presentation and note to them that their issue may be addressed later in your presentation [it may not be, but at least saying so allows you to move on].
  • Be ready to get the discussion going after your presentation . Professors often want a brief discussion to take place after a presentation. Just in case nobody has anything to say or no one asks any questions, be prepared to ask your audience some provocative questions or bring up key issues for discussion.

Amirian, Seyed Mohammad Reza and Elaheh Tavakoli. “Academic Oral Presentation Self-Efficacy: A Cross-Sectional Interdisciplinary Comparative Study.” Higher Education Research and Development 35 (December 2016): 1095-1110; Balistreri, William F. “Giving an Effective Presentation.” Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 35 (July 2002): 1-4; Creating and Using Overheads. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Enfield, N. J. How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation . New York: Basic Books, 2017; Giving an Oral Presentation. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking . 12th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2015; Peery, Angela B. Creating Effective Presentations: Staff Development with Impact . Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations. Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Speeches. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Storz, Carl et al. Oral Presentation Skills. Institut national de télécommunications, EVRY FRANCE.

Speaking Tip

Your First Words are Your Most Important Words!

Your introduction should begin with something that grabs the attention of your audience, such as, an interesting statistic, a brief narrative or story, or a bold assertion, and then clearly tell the audience in a well-crafted sentence what you plan to accomplish in your presentation. Your introductory statement should be constructed so as to invite the audience to pay close attention to your message and to give the audience a clear sense of the direction in which you are about to take them.

Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking . 12th edition. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2015.

Another Speaking Tip

Talk to Your Audience, Don't Read to Them!

A presentation is not the same as reading a prepared speech or essay. If you read your presentation as if it were an essay, your audience will probably understand very little about what you say and will lose their concentration quickly. Use notes, cue cards, or presentation slides as prompts that highlight key points, and speak to your audience . Include everyone by looking at them and maintaining regular eye-contact [but don't stare or glare at people]. Limit reading text to quotes or to specific points you want to emphasize.

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How To Write A Presentation 101 | Step-by-Step Guides with Best Examples | 2024 Reveals

Jane Ng • 05 April, 2024 • 11 min read

Is it difficult to start of presentation? You’re standing before a room full of eager listeners, ready to share your knowledge and captivate their attention. But where do you begin? How do you structure your ideas and convey them effectively?

Take a deep breath, and fear not! In this article, we’ll provide a road map on how to write a presentation covering everything from crafting a script to creating an engaging introduction.

So, let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What is a presentation , what should be in a powerful presentation.

  • How To Write A Presentation Script
  • How to Write A Presentation Introduction 

Key Takeaways

Tips for better presentation.

  • How to start a presentation
  • How to introduce yourself

Alternative Text

Start in seconds.

Get free templates for your next interactive presentation. Sign up for free and take what you want from the template library!

Presentations are all about connecting with your audience. 

Presenting is a fantastic way to share information, ideas, or arguments with your audience. Think of it as a structured approach to effectively convey your message. And you’ve got options such as slideshows, speeches, demos, videos, and even multimedia presentations!

The purpose of a presentation can vary depending on the situation and what the presenter wants to achieve. 

  • In the business world, presentations are commonly used to pitch proposals, share reports, or make sales pitches. 
  • In educational settings, presentations are a go-to for teaching or delivering engaging lectures. 
  • For conferences, seminars, and public events—presentations are perfect for dishing out information, inspiring folks, or even persuading the audience.

That sounds brilliant. But, how to write a presentation?

How To Write A Presentation

  • Clear and Engaging Introduction: Start your presentation with a bang! Hook your audience’s attention right from the beginning by using a captivating story, a surprising fact, a thought-provoking question, or a powerful quote. Clearly state the purpose of your presentation and establish a connection with your listeners.
  • Well-Structured Content: Organize your content logically and coherently. Divide your presentation into sections or main points and provide smooth transitions between them. Each section should flow seamlessly into the next, creating a cohesive narrative. Use clear headings and subheadings to guide your audience through the presentation.
  • Compelling Visuals: Incorporate visual aids, such as images, graphs, or videos, to enhance your presentation. Make sure your visuals are visually appealing, relevant, and easy to understand. Use a clean and uncluttered design with legible fonts and appropriate color schemes. 
  • Engaging Delivery: Pay attention to your delivery style and body language. You should maintain eye contact with your audience, use gestures to emphasize key points, and vary your tone of voice to keep the presentation dynamic. 
  • Clear and Memorable Conclusion: Leave your audience with a lasting impression by providing a strong closing statement, a call to action, or a thought-provoking question. Make sure your conclusion ties back to your introduction and reinforces the core message of your presentation.

how to write oral presentation essay

How To Write A Presentation Script (With Examples)

To successfully convey your message to your audience, you must carefully craft and organize your presentation script. Here are steps on how to write a presentation script: 

1/ Understand Your Purpose and Audience

  • Clarify the purpose of your presentation. Are you informing, persuading, or entertaining?
  • Identify your target audience and their knowledge level, interests, and expectations.
  • Define what presentation format you want to use

2/ Outline the Structure of Your Presentation

Strong opening.

Start with an engaging opening that grabs the audience’s attention and introduces your topic. Some types of openings you can use are: 

  • Start with a Thought-Provoking Question: “Have you ever…?”
  • Begin with a Surprising Fact or Statistic: “Did you know that….?”
  • Use a Powerful Quote: “As Maya Angelou once said,….”
  • Tell a Compelling Story : “Picture this: You’re standing at….”
  • Start with a Bold Statement: “In the fast-paced digital age….”

Main Points

Clearly state your main points or key ideas that you will discuss throughout the presentation.

  • Clearly State the Purpose and Main Points: Example: “In this presentation, we will delve into three key areas. First,… Next,… Finally,…. we’ll discuss….”
  • Provide Background and Context: Example: “Before we dive into the details, let’s understand the basics of…..”
  • Present Supporting Information and Examples: Example: “To illustrate…., let’s look at an example. In,…..”
  • Address Counterarguments or Potential Concerns: Example: “While…, we must also consider… .”
  • Recap Key Points and Transition to the Next Section: Example: “To summarize, we’ve… Now, let’s shift our focus to…”

Remember to organize your content logically and coherently, ensuring smooth transitions between sections.

You can conclude with a strong closing statement summarizing your main points and leaving a lasting impression. Example: “As we conclude our presentation, it’s clear that… By…., we can….”

3/ Craft Clear and Concise Sentences

Once you’ve outlined your presentation, you need to edit your sentences. Use clear and straightforward language to ensure your message is easily understood.

Alternatively, you can break down complex ideas into simpler concepts and provide clear explanations or examples to aid comprehension.

4/ Use Visual Aids and Supporting Materials

Use supporting materials such as statistics, research findings, or real-life examples to back up your points and make them more compelling. 

  • Example: “As you can see from this graph,… This demonstrates….”

5/ Include Engagement Techniques

Incorporate interactive elements to engage your audience, such as Q&A sessions , conducting live polls, or encouraging participation. You can also spin more funs into group, by randomly dividing people into different groups to get more diverse feedbacks!

6/ Rehearse and Revise

  • Practice delivering your presentation script to familiarize yourself with the content and improve your delivery.
  • Revise and edit your script as needed, removing any unnecessary information or repetitions.

7/ Seek Feedback

You can share your script or deliver a practice presentation to a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor to gather feedback on your script and make adjustments accordingly.

More on Script Presentation

how to write oral presentation essay

How to Write A Presentation Introduction with Examples

How to write presentations that are engaging and visually appealing? Looking for introduction ideas for the presentation? As mentioned earlier, once you have completed your script, it’s crucial to focus on editing and refining the most critical element—the opening of your presentation – the section that determines whether you can captivate and retain your audience’s attention right from the start. 

Here is a guide on how to craft an opening that grabs your audience’s attention from the very first minute: 

1/ Start with a Hook

To begin, you can choose from five different openings mentioned in the script based on your desired purpose and content. Alternatively, you can opt for the approach that resonates with you the most, and instills your confidence. Remember, the key is to choose a starting point that aligns with your objectives and allows you to deliver your message effectively.

2/ Establish Relevance and Context

Then you should establish the topic of your presentation and explain why it is important or relevant to your audience. Connect the topic to their interests, challenges, or aspirations to create a sense of relevance.

3/ State the Purpose

Clearly articulate the purpose or goal of your presentation. Let the audience know what they can expect to gain or achieve by listening to your presentation.

4/ Preview Your Main Points

Give a brief overview of the main points or sections you will cover in your presentation. It helps the audience understand the structure and flow of your presentation and creates anticipation.

5/ Establish Credibility

Share your expertise or credentials related to the topic to build trust with the audience, such as a brief personal story, relevant experience, or mentioning your professional background.

6/ Engage Emotionally

Connect emotional levels with your audience by appealing to their aspirations, fears, desires, or values. They help create a deeper connection and engagement from the very beginning.

Make sure your introduction is concise and to the point. Avoid unnecessary details or lengthy explanations. Aim for clarity and brevity to maintain the audience’s attention.

For example, Topic: Work-life balance

“Good morning, everyone! Can you imagine waking up each day feeling energized and ready to conquer both your personal and professional pursuits? Well, that’s exactly what we’ll explore today – the wonderful world of work-life balance. In a fast-paced society where work seems to consume every waking hour, it’s vital to find that spot where our careers and personal lives harmoniously coexist. Throughout this presentation, we’ll dive into practical strategies that help us achieve that coveted balance, boost productivity, and nurture our overall well-being. 

But before we dive in, let me share a bit about my journey. As a working professional and a passionate advocate for work-life balance, I have spent years researching and implementing strategies that have transformed my own life. I am excited to share my knowledge and experiences with all of you today, with the hope of inspiring positive change and creating a more fulfilling work-life balance for everyone in this room. So, let’s get started!”

🎉 Check out: How to Start a Presentation?

how to write oral presentation essay

Whether you’re a seasoned speaker or new to the stage, understanding how to write a presentation that conveys your message effectively is a valuable skill. By following the steps in this guide, you can become a captivating presenter and make your mark in every presentation you deliver.

Additionally, AhaSlides can significantly enhance your presentation’s impact. With AhaSlides, you can use live polls , quizzes , and word cloud to turn your presentation into an engaging and interactive experience. Let’s take a moment to explore our vast template library !

Frequently Asked Questions

How to write a presentation step by step .

You can refer to our step-by-step guide on How To Write A Presentation Script: Understand Your Purpose and Audience Outline the Structure of Your Presentation Craft Clear and Concise Sentences Use Visual Aids and Supporting Material Include Engagement Techniques Rehearse and Revise Seek Feedback

How do you start a presentation? 

You can start with an engaging opening that grabs the audience’s attention and introduces your topic. Consider using one of the following approaches: Start with a Thought-Provoking Question: “Have you ever…?” Begin with a Surprising Fact or Statistic: “Did you know that….?” Use a Powerful Quote: “As Maya Angelou once said,….” Tell a Compelling Story : “Picture this: You’re standing at….” Start with a Bold Statement: “In the fast-paced digital age….”

What are the five parts of a presentation?

When it comes to presentation writing, a typical presentation consists of the following five parts: Introduction: Capturing the audience’s attention, introducing yourself, stating the purpose, and providing an overview. Main Body: Presenting main points, evidence, examples, and arguments. Visual Aids: Using visuals to enhance understanding and engage the audience. Conclusion: Summarizing main points, restating key message, and leaving a memorable takeaway or call to action. Q&A or Discussion: Optional part for addressing questions and encouraging audience participation.

Jane Ng

A writer who wants to create practical and valuable content for the audience

Tips to Engage with Polls & Trivia

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What It Takes to Give a Great Presentation

  • Carmine Gallo

how to write oral presentation essay

Five tips to set yourself apart.

Never underestimate the power of great communication. It can help you land the job of your dreams, attract investors to back your idea, or elevate your stature within your organization. But while there are plenty of good speakers in the world, you can set yourself apart out by being the person who can deliver something great over and over. Here are a few tips for business professionals who want to move from being good speakers to great ones: be concise (the fewer words, the better); never use bullet points (photos and images paired together are more memorable); don’t underestimate the power of your voice (raise and lower it for emphasis); give your audience something extra (unexpected moments will grab their attention); rehearse (the best speakers are the best because they practice — a lot).

I was sitting across the table from a Silicon Valley CEO who had pioneered a technology that touches many of our lives — the flash memory that stores data on smartphones, digital cameras, and computers. He was a frequent guest on CNBC and had been delivering business presentations for at least 20 years before we met. And yet, the CEO wanted to sharpen his public speaking skills.

how to write oral presentation essay

  • Carmine Gallo is a Harvard University instructor, keynote speaker, and author of 10 books translated into 40 languages. Gallo is the author of The Bezos Blueprint: Communication Secrets of the World’s Greatest Salesman  (St. Martin’s Press).

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Insight: Engage

How to write a good oral presentation on a point of view.

Oral presentations require preparation and practice to master. This week, Insight writer and English teacher Anja Drummond outlines steps you can take to succeed in your oral presentation SAC.

Oral presentation. Two words that are capable of striking fear into the hearts of even the most confident student. But should they? Though not all of us can ever hope to reach the heady heights of oratory genius achieved by the likes of Barack Obama or Martin Luther King Jr, there are steps we can take to help us to present our point of view strongly.

Step 1: Research

Find out as much as you can about your chosen topic. The key skills for presenting argument in the VCE English Study Design clearly state that you need to ‘conduct research to support the development of arguments on particular issues and acknowledge sources accurately and appropriately where relevant’. You are expected to research your chosen topic so that you have a deep and nuanced understanding of the issues and arguments. Read from multiple sources that present various points of view, and take notes on the arguments used.

Step 2: Plan your overall approach

Great speeches very rarely just happen; they are carefully crafted pieces of writing. Use your knowledge of argument and persuasive language as a basis for the development of your oral presentation. Remember that you are required to provide a written statement of intention to accompany your presentation. This statement of intention must outline the decisions you have made in the planning process, and explain how these demonstrate understanding of argument and persuasive language.

So, before you start writing, take the time to think carefully about the following aspects of your presentation.

Your contention

  • Where do you stand on the issue? Why? Express this in a clear and direct sentence. Avoid statements such as ‘Greyhound racing is bad’. This a vague and general opinion, not a contention. A contention on this issue would be something like ‘The cruel and abusive practice of greyhound racing should be banned immediately’.

Your context and audience

  • Who are you addressing? By that, I don’t mean your teacher or your classmates. Rather, who is your imagined audience for the speech? This is important to keep in mind, as it will inform the language choices you make. Furthermore, consider in what context you would be addressing your audience. Is your speech designed to be delivered on the steps of parliament at a rally or to a group of students at a graduation dinner? Decide this before you start writing. And don’t be afraid to adopt a persona – this will allow you broader scope in selecting a particular context and audience.

Once you have decided on your contention and on your context and audience, it is time to consider some of the finer details of your presentation.

Your purpose

  • What do you want your imagined audience to think, feel or do? Do you wish to inform or educate them? To create alarm? To effect change? Your purpose should be closely related to your contention.
  • What feelings are you seeking to communicate and to evoke in the audience? What mood are you trying to generate? Will you be using humour to relax your audience? Will you be hostile? Sympathetic? Will your tone change at any point and, if so, why?

All of the above are important factors to consider, as they will affect your language choices and the persuasive language techniques you employ.

Step 3: Plan your arguments

Now you need to decide on your supporting arguments. For each argument, ask yourself:

  • What persuasive language techniques will I use?
  • What evidence will I present?

Try to vary your chosen techniques, and remember Aristotle’s principles of rhetoric – logos (appeal to logic and reason), ethos (character of the speaker) and pathos (emotional influence of the speaker). A strong argument will address all three elements in varying degrees.

Step 4: Write the introduction

Good speeches start strongly. You need to grab the audience’s attention and make your point of view clear from the outset. The way you begin should be consistent with your audience and purpose. Strategies that you might consider are listed below.

  • Anecdote – this is a great way to highlight a personal connection to the issue or to strike a sympathetic tone.
  • Statistics – if your purpose is to shock your audience or to promote change, this is a great way to ‘hit them hard’ right from the outset.
  • Inclusive language – if you want to create a shared sense of purpose, make it clear to your audience that they are part of this issue, and that how they feel matters.

Once you have your audience’s attention, introduce yourself (or your persona), clarify the issue, state your contention and signpost your main arguments.

Step 5: Write the body

This is where all your planning from step 3 pays off!

For each body paragraph, ensure that you create strong topic sentences that clearly highlight your main arguments, and then develop each argument using your carefully selected language and evidence.

There are a few things that you should keep in mind as you write:

  • Cohesion is king! Keep your line of argument consistent and use connectives throughout.
  • Analyse the evidence! Don’t just present a raft of statistics or evidence and expect them to make the argument for you. Analyse their importance in relation to the debate.
  • Include some rebuttal! An issue has two sides – you need to rebut some or all arguments from the opposing point of view.

Step 6: Write the conclusion

Aim to finish strongly. Reiterate your contention and then tell the audience what they should think, feel or do. (This should directly relate to the purpose you decided on in the planning stage).

To ensure that you finish on a powerful note, consider using an appeal, a rhetorical question, or a call to action.

Step 7: Proofread and practise

Read your speech to friends or family and get their feedback. Did the line of argument make sense to them? Did you persuade them? Did any parts of your speech lose their attention? Take note of these responses and edit your speech as required.

And finally …

Need extra help preparing for your oral presentation? Insight’s English Year 12 and English Year 11 by Robert Beardwood include chapters on presenting a point of view that outline how to research and prepare; how to plan and write; how to present; and how to write a statement of intention. Sample SAC responses, with sample statements of intention, are also included.   

English Year 12 and English Year 11 are produced by Insight Publications , an Australian educational publisher.

Photo credit: Terd Photo/shutterstock

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Giving an Oral Presentation

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
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  • Choosing a Title
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  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
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  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
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  • Annotated Bibliography
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  • About Informed Consent
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  • Bibliography

Preparing for Your Oral Presentation

In some classes, writing the research paper is only part of what is required. Your professor may also require you to give an oral presentation about your study. Here are some things to think about before you are scheduled to give a presentation.

1.  What should I say?

If your professor hasn't explicitly stated what your presentation should focus on, think about what you want to achieve and what you consider to be the most important things that members of the audience should know about your study. Think about the following: Do I want to inform my audience, inspire them to think about my research, or convince them of a particular point of view? These questions will help frame how you want to approach your presentation topic.

2.  Oral communication is different from written communication

Your audience has just one chance to hear your talk; they can't "re-read" your words if they get confused. Focus on being clear, particularly if the audience can't ask questions during the talk. There are two well-known ways to communicate your points effectively. The first is the K.I.S.S. method [Keep It Simple Stupid]. Focus your presentation on getting one to three key points across. Second, repeat key insights: tell them what you're going to tell them [forecast], tell them [explain], and then tell them what you just told them [summarize].

3.  Think about your audience

Yes, you want to demonstrate to your professor that you have conducted a good study. But professors often ask students to give an oral presentation to practice the art of communicating and to learn to speak clearly and audibly about yourself and your research. Questions to think about include: What background knowledge do they have about my topic? Does the audience have any particular interests? How am I going to involve them in my presentation?

4.  Create effective notes

If you don't have notes to refer to as you speak, you run the risk of forgetting to highlight something important. Also, having no notes increases the chance you'll lose your train of thought and begin relying on reading from the presentation slides. Think about the best ways to create notes that can be easily referred to as you speak. This is important! Nothing is more distracting to an audience than the speaker fumbling around with his or her notes as they try to speak. It gives the impression of being disorganized and unprepared. A good general strategy is to have a page of notes for each slide so that the act of referring to a new page helps remind you to move to a new slide.

Strategies for creating effective notes include the following:

  • Choose a large, readable font [at least 18 point in Ariel ]; avoid using fancy text fonts or cursive text.
  • Use bold text, underlining, or different-colored text to highlight elements of your speech that you want to emphasize. Don't over do it, though. Only highlight the most important elements of your presentation.
  • Leave adequate space on your notes to jot down additional thoughts or observations before and during your presentation. This is also helpful when writing down your thoughts in response to a question or to remember a multi-part question [remember to have a pen with you when you give your presentation].
  • Place a cue in the text of your notes to indicate when to move to the next slide, to click on a link, or to take some other action. If appropriate, include a cue in your notes if there is a point during your presentation when you want the audience to refer to a handout.
  • Spell out challenging words phonetically and practice saying them ahead of time. This is particularly important for accurately pronouncing people’s names, technical or scientific terminology, or words in a foreign language.

Creating and Using Overheads . Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Kelly, Christine. Mastering the Art of Presenting . Inside Higher Education Career Advice; Giving an Oral Presentation . Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking . 10th edition. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008; Peery, Angela B. Creating Effective Presentations: Staff Development with Impact . Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations . Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Speeches . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Storz, Carl et al. Oral Presentation Skills . Institut national de télécommunications, EVRY FRANCE.

Organizing the Content

Begin by thinking about what you want to achieve and how are you going to involve your audience in the presentation.

  • Brainstorm your topic and write a rough outline. Don’t get carried away—remember you have a limited amount of time for your presentation.
  • Organize your material and draft what you want to say [see below].
  • Summarize your draft into key points to write on your presentation slides and/or note cards and/or handout.
  • Prepare your visual aids.
  • Rehearse your presentation and practice getting the presentation completed within the time limit given by your professor. Ask a friend to listen and time you.

GENERAL OUTLINE

I.  Introduction [may be written last]

  • Capture your listeners’ attention . Begin with a question, an amusing story, a provocative statement, or anything that will engage your audience and make them think.
  • State your purpose . For example, "I’m going to talk about..."; "This morning I want to explain…."
  • Present an outline of your talk . For example, “I will concentrate on the following points: First of all…Then…This will lead to…And finally…"

II.  The Body

  • Present your main points one by one in a logical order .
  • Pause at the end of each point . Give people time to take notes, or time to think about what you are saying.
  • Make it clear when you move to another point . For example, “The next point is that...”; “Of course, we must not forget that...”; “However, it's important to realize that....”
  • Use clear examples to illustrate your points and/or key findings .
  • If appropriate, consider using visual aids to make your presentation more interesting [e.g., a map, chart, picture, link to a video, etc.].

III.  The Conclusion

  • Leave your audience with a clear summary of everything that you have covered.
  • Don't let the talk just fizzle out . Make it obvious that you have reached the end of the presentation.
  • Summarize the main points again . For example, use phrases like: "So, in conclusion..."; "To recap the main issues...," "In summary, it is important to realize...."
  • Restate the purpose of your talk, and say that you have achieved your aim : "My intention was ..., and it should now be clear that...."
  • Thank the audience, and invite questions : "Thank you. Are there any questions?"

NOTE : When asking your audience if anyone has any questions, give people time to contemplate what you have said and to formulate a question. It may seem like an awkward pause to wait ten seconds or so for someone to raise their hand, but it's frustrating to have a question come to mind but be cutoff because the presenter rushed to end the talk.

ANOTHER NOTE :  If your last slide includes any contact information or other important information, leave it up long enough to ensure audience members have time to write the information down. Nothing is more frustrating to an audience member than wanting to jot something down, but the presenter closes the slides immediately after finishing.

Creating and Using Overheads . Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Giving an Oral Presentation . Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking . 10th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008; Peery, Angela B. Creating Effective Presentations: Staff Development with Impact . Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations . Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Speeches . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Storz, Carl et al. Oral Presentation Skills . Institut national de télécommunications, EVRY FRANCE.

Delivering Your Presentation

When delivering your presentation, keep in mind the following points. They will help you remain focused and help ensure everything goes as planned.

Pay attention to language!

  • Keep it simple . The aim is to communicate, not to show off your vocabulary. Using complex words or phrases increases the chance of stumbling over a word and losing your train of thought.
  • Emphasize the key points . Make sure people realize which are the key points of your study. Repeat them using different phrasing to help the audience remember them.
  • Check the pronunciation of difficult, unusual, or foreign words beforehand . Keep it simple, but if you have to use unfamiliar words, write them out phonetically in your notes. This is particularly important when pronouncing proper names. Give the definition of words that are unusual or are being used in a particular context [e.g., "By using the term affective response, I am referring to..."].

Use your voice to communicate clearly

  • Speak loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear you . Projecting your voice may feel uncomfortably loud at first, but if people can't hear you, they won't try to listen.
  • Speak slowly and clearly . Don’t rush! Speaking fast makes it harder for people to understand you and signals being nervous.
  • Avoid the use of "fillers." Linguists refer to utterances such as um, ah, you know, like as fillers. They occur most often during transitions from one idea to another and, if expressed too much, are distracting to an audience. The better you know your presentation, the better you can control these verbal tics.
  • Vary your voice quality . If you always use the same volume and pitch [for example, all loud, or all soft, or in a monotone] during your presentation, your audience will stop listening. Use a higher pitch and volume in your voice when you begin a new point or when emphasizing the transition to a new point.
  • Speakers with accents need to slow down [so do most others]. Non-native speakers often speak English faster than we slow-mouthed native speakers, usually because most non-English languages flow more quickly than English. Slowing down helps the audience to comprehend your talk.
  • Slow down for key points . These are also moments in your presentation to consider using body language, such as hand gestures or leaving the podium to point to a slide, to help emphasize key points.
  • Use pauses . Don't be afraid of short periods of silence. They give you a chance to gather your thoughts, and your audience an opportunity to think about what you've said.

Use your body language to communicate too!

  • Stand straight and comfortably . Do not slouch or shuffle about. If you appear bored or uninterested in what your talking about, the audience will be as well. Wear something comfortable. This is not the time to wear an itchy wool sweater or high heels for the first time.
  • Hold your head up . Look around and make eye contact with people in the audience [or at least pretend to]. Do not just look at your professor or your notes the whole time! Looking up at your your audience brings them into the conversation. If you don't include the audience, they won't listen to you.
  • When you are talking to your friends, you naturally use your hands, your facial expression, and your body to add to your communication . Do it in your presentation as well. It will make things far more interesting for the audience.
  • Don't turn your back on the audience and don't fidget! Neither moving around nor standing still is wrong. Practice either to make yourself comfortable. Even when pointing to a slide, don't turn your back; stand at the side and turn your head towards the audience as you speak.
  • Keep your hands out of your pocket . This is a natural habit when speaking. One hand in your pocket gives the impression of being relaxed, but both hands in pockets looks too casual and should be avoided.

Interact with the audience

  • Be aware of how your audience is reacting to your presentation . Are they interested or bored? If they look confused, stop and ask them [e.g., "Is anything I've covered so far unclear?"]. Stop and explain a point again if needed.
  • Check after highlighting key points to ask if the audience is still with you . "Does that make sense?"; "Is that clear?"
  • Do not apologize for anything . If you believe something will be hard to read or understand, don't use it. If you apologize for feeling awkward and nervous, you'll only succeed in drawing attention to the fact you are feeling awkward and nervous and your audience will begin looking for this, rather than focusing on what you are saying.
  • Be open to questions . If someone asks a question in the middle of your talk, answer it. If it disrupts your train of thought momentarily, that's ok because your audience will understand. Questions show that the audience is listening with interest and, therefore, should not be regarded as an attack on you, but as a collaborative search for deeper understanding. However, don't engage in an extended conversation with an audience member or the rest of the audience will begin to feel left out. If an audience member persists, kindly tell them that the issue can be addressed after you've completed the rest of your presentation and note to them that their issue may be addressed by things you say in the rest of your presentation [it may not be, but at least saying so allows you to move on].
  • Be ready to get the discussion going after your presentation . Professors often want a brief discussion to take place after a presentation. Just in case nobody has anything to say or no one asks any questions, be prepared to ask your audience some provocative questions or bring up key issues for discussion.

Amirian, Seyed Mohammad Reza and Elaheh Tavakoli. “Academic Oral Presentation Self-Efficacy: A Cross-Sectional Interdisciplinary Comparative Study.” Higher Education Research and Development 35 (December 2016): 1095-1110; Balistreri, William F. “Giving an Effective Presentation.” Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 35 (July 2002): 1-4; Creating and Using Overheads . Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Enfield, N. J. How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation . New York: Basic Books, 2017; Giving an Oral Presentation . Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking . 10th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008; Peery, Angela B. Creating Effective Presentations: Staff Development with Impact . Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations . Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Speeches . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Storz, Carl et al. Oral Presentation Skills . Institut national de télécommunications, EVRY FRANCE.

Speaking Tip

Your First Words are Your Most Important!

Your introduction should begin with something that grabs the attention of your audience, such as, an interesting statistic, a brief narrative or story, or a bold assertion, and then clearly tell the audience in a well-crafted sentence what you plan to accomplish in your presentation. Your introductory statement should be constructed so as to invite the audience to pay close attention to your message and to give the audience a clear sense of the direction in which you are about to take them.

Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking . 10th edition. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008.

Another Speaking Tip

Talk to Your Audience, Don't Read to Them!

A presentation is not the same as an essay. If you read your presentation as if it were an essay, your audience will probably understand very little about what you say and will lose concentration quickly. Use notes, cue cards, or overheads as prompts that emphasis key points, and speak to your audience . Include everyone by looking at them and maintaining regular eye-contact [but don't stare or glare at people].

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How to prepare and deliver an effective oral presentation

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  • Peer review
  • Lucia Hartigan , registrar 1 ,
  • Fionnuala Mone , fellow in maternal fetal medicine 1 ,
  • Mary Higgins , consultant obstetrician 2
  • 1 National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2 National Maternity Hospital, Dublin; Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Medicine and Medical Sciences, University College Dublin
  • luciahartigan{at}hotmail.com

The success of an oral presentation lies in the speaker’s ability to transmit information to the audience. Lucia Hartigan and colleagues describe what they have learnt about delivering an effective scientific oral presentation from their own experiences, and their mistakes

The objective of an oral presentation is to portray large amounts of often complex information in a clear, bite sized fashion. Although some of the success lies in the content, the rest lies in the speaker’s skills in transmitting the information to the audience. 1

Preparation

It is important to be as well prepared as possible. Look at the venue in person, and find out the time allowed for your presentation and for questions, and the size of the audience and their backgrounds, which will allow the presentation to be pitched at the appropriate level.

See what the ambience and temperature are like and check that the format of your presentation is compatible with the available computer. This is particularly important when embedding videos. Before you begin, look at the video on stand-by and make sure the lights are dimmed and the speakers are functioning.

For visual aids, Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Mac Keynote programmes are usual, although Prezi is increasing in popularity. Save the presentation on a USB stick, with email or cloud storage backup to avoid last minute disasters.

When preparing the presentation, start with an opening slide containing the title of the study, your name, and the date. Begin by addressing and thanking the audience and the organisation that has invited you to speak. Typically, the format includes background, study aims, methodology, results, strengths and weaknesses of the study, and conclusions.

If the study takes a lecturing format, consider including “any questions?” on a slide before you conclude, which will allow the audience to remember the take home messages. Ideally, the audience should remember three of the main points from the presentation. 2

Have a maximum of four short points per slide. If you can display something as a diagram, video, or a graph, use this instead of text and talk around it.

Animation is available in both Microsoft PowerPoint and the Apple Mac Keynote programme, and its use in presentations has been demonstrated to assist in the retention and recall of facts. 3 Do not overuse it, though, as it could make you appear unprofessional. If you show a video or diagram don’t just sit back—use a laser pointer to explain what is happening.

Rehearse your presentation in front of at least one person. Request feedback and amend accordingly. If possible, practise in the venue itself so things will not be unfamiliar on the day. If you appear comfortable, the audience will feel comfortable. Ask colleagues and seniors what questions they would ask and prepare responses to these questions.

It is important to dress appropriately, stand up straight, and project your voice towards the back of the room. Practise using a microphone, or any other presentation aids, in advance. If you don’t have your own presenting style, think of the style of inspirational scientific speakers you have seen and imitate it.

Try to present slides at the rate of around one slide a minute. If you talk too much, you will lose your audience’s attention. The slides or videos should be an adjunct to your presentation, so do not hide behind them, and be proud of the work you are presenting. You should avoid reading the wording on the slides, but instead talk around the content on them.

Maintain eye contact with the audience and remember to smile and pause after each comment, giving your nerves time to settle. Speak slowly and concisely, highlighting key points.

Do not assume that the audience is completely familiar with the topic you are passionate about, but don’t patronise them either. Use every presentation as an opportunity to teach, even your seniors. The information you are presenting may be new to them, but it is always important to know your audience’s background. You can then ensure you do not patronise world experts.

To maintain the audience’s attention, vary the tone and inflection of your voice. If appropriate, use humour, though you should run any comments or jokes past others beforehand and make sure they are culturally appropriate. Check every now and again that the audience is following and offer them the opportunity to ask questions.

Finishing up is the most important part, as this is when you send your take home message with the audience. Slow down, even though time is important at this stage. Conclude with the three key points from the study and leave the slide up for a further few seconds. Do not ramble on. Give the audience a chance to digest the presentation. Conclude by acknowledging those who assisted you in the study, and thank the audience and organisation. If you are presenting in North America, it is usual practice to conclude with an image of the team. If you wish to show references, insert a text box on the appropriate slide with the primary author, year, and paper, although this is not always required.

Answering questions can often feel like the most daunting part, but don’t look upon this as negative. Assume that the audience has listened and is interested in your research. Listen carefully, and if you are unsure about what someone is saying, ask for the question to be rephrased. Thank the audience member for asking the question and keep responses brief and concise. If you are unsure of the answer you can say that the questioner has raised an interesting point that you will have to investigate further. Have someone in the audience who will write down the questions for you, and remember that this is effectively free peer review.

Be proud of your achievements and try to do justice to the work that you and the rest of your group have done. You deserve to be up on that stage, so show off what you have achieved.

Competing interests: We have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: None.

  • ↵ Rovira A, Auger C, Naidich TP. How to prepare an oral presentation and a conference. Radiologica 2013 ; 55 (suppl 1): 2 -7S. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for making good oral presentations. PLos Comput Biol 2007 ; 3 : e77 . OpenUrl PubMed
  • ↵ Naqvi SH, Mobasher F, Afzal MA, Umair M, Kohli AN, Bukhari MH. Effectiveness of teaching methods in a medical institute: perceptions of medical students to teaching aids. J Pak Med Assoc 2013 ; 63 : 859 -64. OpenUrl

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How to Prepare for Your Oral Presentation in English

When you stand up for an oral presentation, you want to feel like a rockstar .

Confident. Cool. Ready to blow the audience away.

That is the ideal situation, anyways.

In real life, most people—even native English speakers—feel totally the opposite before an oral presentation.

Nervous. Self-conscious. Scared the audience will fall asleep.

Most of us have been there. Every student and professional, at some point, will have to do an oral presentation . Of course that includes English language learners. In fact, oral presentations might happen more often in an English class because they are a good way for teachers to assess your speaking and writing skills.

This article will provide a six-step example of how to ace your oral presentation in English . We will provide key English phrases, tips and practice techniques you can use for any presentation you have coming up.

Soon you will be presenting in English with the confidence of a rockstar !

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

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how to write oral presentation essay

Follow This Example to Rock Your Oral Presentation in English

Every country has different cultural standards for communication. However, there is a general consensus in English-speaking colleges and universities about what makes a good oral presentation.

Below, we will show you how to write a presentation in English that your listeners will love. Then we will show you the English speaking skills and body language you need to present it effectively.

1. Introducing a Presentation in English

Having a strong introduction is extremely important because it sets the tone for the rest of the presentation .   If the audience is not interested in your presentation right away, they probably will not pay attention to the rest of it.

To get everyone’s interest, try using attention-grabbing language . If your introduction is engrossing enough, the audience will not care if you have an accent or mispronounce a few words. They will want to learn more about your topic because you did such a great job of making them interested.

Here are some example ideas and phrases you can use in your own presentation introductions:

  • Start with a story or personal anecdote , so the audience will be able to relate to your presentation.

“When I was a child…”

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how to write oral presentation essay

  • Mention a startling fact or statistic.

“Did you know the U.S. is the only country that…”

  • Have the audience imagine something or describe a vivid scene to them.

“Imagine you are sitting on the beach…”

  • Show an interesting picture or video on your presentation screen.
  • Introducing yourself can also help make the audience more comfortable. It does not have to be anything fancy.

“My name is John and I am…”

“I became interested in this topic because…”

2. Supporting Your Claims with Evidence

If you have written an essay in English , you have probably had to do some research to provide statistics and other facts to support your thesis (the main point or argument of your essay). Just like those essays, many oral presentations will require you to persuade someone or inform them about a topic.

Your presentation will need background information and evidence . To persuade someone, you will need convincing evidence. No one will be persuaded if you simply say, “We need to stop global warming because it is bad.”

At the same time, it may be hard to express your thoughts or argument if English is not your first language. That is why doing research and finding credible sources is extra important.

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how to write oral presentation essay

Using information and quoting from sources can make your presentation much stronger. (Of course, always remember to cite your research properly so you do not plagiarize !) If you are not sure how to go about researching or where to look for evidence, the University of North Carolina’s Writing Center provides some excellent examples here .

After you have done research, add a section or a slide that specifically gives facts or evidence for your topic . This should be somewhere in the middle of the presentation, after your introduction but before your conclusion or closing thoughts (basically like the body paragraphs in an essay). This will help keep your ideas logical and make it a really effective presentation.

3. Incorporating Persuasive Language

Specific evidence is crucial for a persuasive argument. But to truly impact your audience, you need to speak persuasively, too .

Need some vocabulary that will catch everyone’s attention? According to Buffer , the five most persuasive words in the English language are surprisingly simple:

  • Free (this one is less relevant to oral presentations, since it is used in the context of persuading people to get a product)

Using these words in your introduction and throughout your presentation will help keep the audience engaged.

For example, if giving a persuasive speech, speaking directly to the audience will have a better effect:

“To help lessen the effects of global warming, the planet needs you .”

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how to write oral presentation essay

4. Using Logical Flow and Transitions

As an English learner, was there ever a conversation that you could not follow because you had no idea what was going on? A language barrier often causes this confusion. However, even if your English is fluent, this can also happen when ideas or information are presented in an order that does not make sense.

This applies to presentations as well. If the sequence is illogical, the audience may become confused. It is important to have a clear sequence of thoughts or events. A distinct beginning, middle and end with logical sequences is needed for your audience to follow along.

As an English language learner, you may not be familiar with certain transitional words or phrases. Below are some example English words and phrases to use as you transition through your oral presentation.

General transitions that show sequence:

  • First…
  • Next…
  • Then…
  • In addition/additionally…

When you are nearing the end of your presentation, it is important to let the audience know you are going to finish soon. Abruptly ending the presentation may confuse the audience. Or, the presentation may not seem as effective. Just like with introductions and transitions, there are certain phrases that you can use to bring your presentation to a close.

Phrases to conclude your presentation:

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how to write oral presentation essay

  • To conclude/In conclusion…
  • To sum everything up…
  • Finally…

5. Speaking Clearly and Confidently

You may be self-conscious about your ability to speak clearly if you are not fluent in English or if you have an accent. But let us be honest. Many people do not have long attention spans (the length of time someone can focus on one thing), so you will need to keep their attention during your presentation. And to do this, you will have to  enunciate (speak clearly, loudly and confidently).

Do not expect this to just happen on the day of your presentation. You will need to practice ahead of time . Here is how:

Pay attention to how your lips, mouth and tongue move.

Practice saying different sounds and words over and over in front of the mirror, or have a friend watch you. What shapes does your mouth make? When does your tongue raise or flick? How can you change those movements to make each word sound clearer?

Listen to others speak English so you know how it should sound.

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Record yourself when you practice your presentation.

This will help you get a better sense of how your mouth moves or how you pronounce words. You will also see what kind of mistakes you made and will be able to correct them.

Practice speaking slowly.

Along with enunciation, it is important to practice speaking slowly . Nerves can make us rush through things, but the audience may not understand you if you speak too quickly. Try reading your presentation for a couple minutes a day to get used to speaking slowing.

how to write oral presentation essay

6. Making Eye Contact

In American society, it is important to keep eye contact. It is considered rude to not look someone in the eyes when you are speaking with them. Avoiding eye contact (even if it is unintentional or out of embarrassment) might frustrate your audience.

Therefore, when giving your oral presentation, you will want to try to make eye contact with your audience, especially if you are in the U.S. The audience will not feel appreciated if you stare down at your note cards or at the presentation screen. They may become bored. Or, they may think you are not confident in your work—and if you are not confident, they will not be, either!

Here is an example of a speaker  demonstrating eye contact during an English presentation . Notice how he is careful to make eye contact with all audience members, looking left, right and forward throughout the presentation.

Following the tips in this article will help make your oral presentation great. Who knows, maybe your teacher or professor will use it as an example for other students!

As an added bonus, all of the skills needed for a good oral presentation are needed in everyday English. Speaking clearly, making eye contact and having a logical flow of ideas will help you communicate better with others when you are speaking with them in English. In addition, knowing how to write an introduction, use attention-grabbing language and provide evidence will help you in English classes. You will be able to get a great grade on your presentation and improve your overall communication skills.

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials , as you can see here:

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If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.

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FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:

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FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

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The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

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how to write oral presentation essay

Sacred Heart University Library

Organizing Academic Research Papers: Giving an Oral Presentation

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Executive Summary
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tertiary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • How to Manage Group Projects
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Essays
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Acknowledgements

Preparing for Your Oral Presentation

In some classes, writing the research paper is only part of what is required. Your professor may also require you to give an oral presentation about your study. Here are some things to think about before you are scheduled to give your presentation.

  • What should I say?  If your professor hasn't explicitly stated what your presentation should focus on, think about what you want to achieve and what you consider to be the most important things that others should know about your study. Think about: do I want to inform my audience, inspire them to think about my research, or convince them of a particular point of view?
  • Oral communication is different from written communication.  Your audience only has one chance to hear your talk and can't "re-read" it if they get confused. Focus on being clear, particularly if the audience can't ask questions during the talk. There are two well-known ways to communicate your points effectively. The first is to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). Focus on getting one to three key points across. Second, repeat key insights: tell them what you're going to tell them (Forecast), tell them, and then tell them what you just told them (Summarize).
  • Think about your audience.  Yes, you want to demonstrate to your professor that you have conducted a good study. But professors often ask students to give an oral presentation to practice the art of communicating and to learn to speak clearly and audibly about yourself and your research. Questions to think about include, what background knowledge do they have about my topic? Does the audience have any particular interests? How am I going to involve them in my presentation?

Creating and Using Overheads . Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Giving an Oral Presentation. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking. 10th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008; Peery, Angela B. Creating Effective Presentations: Staff Development with Impact. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations . Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations . The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Speeches . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Storz, Carl et al. Oral Presentation Skills . Institut national de télécommunications, EVRY FRANCE.

Organizing the Content

First of all, think about what you want to achieve and think about how are you going to involve your audience in the presentation.

  • Brainstorm your topic and write a rough outline. Don’t get carried away—remember you have a limited amount of time for your presentation.
  • Organize your material and draft what you want to say [see below]
  • Summarize your draft into key points to write on overheads and/or note cards.
  • Prepare your visual aids.
  • Rehearse your presentation and get its length right. Ask a friend to listen and time you.

GENERAL OUTLINE

I.  Introduction (may be written last)

  • Capture your listeners’ attention . Begin with a question, an amusing story, a startling comment, or anything that will make the audience think.
  • State your purpose . For example, "I’m going to talk about..."; "This morning I want to explain…."
  • Present an outline of your talk . For example, “I will concentrate on the following points: First of all…Then…This will lead to…And finally…"

II.  The Body

  • Present your main points one by one in logical order .
  • Pause at the end of each point . Give people time to take notes, or time to think about what you are saying.
  • Make it clear when you move to another point . For example, “The next point is that...”; “Of course, we must not forget that...”; “However, it's important to realize that....”
  • Use clear examples to illustrate your points and/or key findings .
  • Consider using visual aids to make your presentation more interesting [e.g., a map, chart, picture, etc.].

III.  The Conclusion

  • Leave your audience with a clear summary of everything that you have covered.
  • Don't let the talk just fizzle out . Make it obvious that you have reached the end of the presentation.
  • Summarize the main points again . For example, use phrases like: "So, in conclusion..."; "To recap the main points..."
  • Restate the purpose of your talk, and say that you have achieved your aim : "My intention was ..., and it should now be clear that...."
  • Thank the audience, and invite questions : "Thank you. Are there any questions?"

Creating and Using Overheads . Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Giving an Oral Presentation. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking. 10th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008; Peery, Angela B. Creating Effective Presentations: Staff Development with Impact. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011; Peoples, Deborah Carter. Guidelines for Oral Presentations . Ohio Wesleyan University Libraries; Perret, Nellie. Oral Presentations . The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Speeches . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Storz, Carl et al. Oral Presentation Skills. Institut national de télécommunications, EVRY FRANCE.

Delivering Your Presentation

Pay attention to language!

  • Keep it simple . The aim is to communicate, not to show off your vocabulary.
  • Emphasize the key points . Make sure people realize which are the key points. Repeat them using different phrasing.
  • Check the pronunciation of difficult, unusual, or foreign words beforehand . Write out difficult words phonetically in your notes.

Use your voice to communicate clearly

  • Speak loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear you . This may feel uncomfortably loud at first, but if people can't hear you, they won't try to listen.
  • Speak slowly and clearly . Don’t rush! Speaking fast doesn’t make you seem smarter, it will only make it harder for other people to understand you.
  • Practice to avoid saying um, ah, you know, like. These words occur most at transitions from one idea to another and are distracting to an audience. The better you know your presentation, the better you can control these verbal tics.
  • Vary your voice quality . If you always use the same volume and pitch [for example, all loud, or all soft, or in a monotone] your audience will stop listening.
  • Speakers with accents need to slow down [so do most others]. Non-native speakers often speak English faster than we slow-mouthed native speakers, usually because most non-English languages flow more quickly than English. Slowing down helps the audience to comprehend your talk. 
  • When you begin a new point, use a higher pitch and volume .
  • Slow down for key points . These are also moments in your presentation to consider using body language such as hand gestures to help emphasize key points.
  • Use pauses . Don't be afraid of short periods of silence. They give you a chance to gather your thoughts, and your audience a chance to think.

Use your body language to communicate too!

  • Stand straight and comfortably . Do not slouch or shuffle about. If you appear bored or uninterested in what your talking about, the audience will be as well.
  • Hold your head up . Look around and make eye contact with people in the audience. Do not just address your professor! Do not stare at a point on the carpet or the wall. If you don't include the audience, they won't listen to you.
  • When you are talking to your friends, you naturally use your hands, your facial expression, and your body to add to your communication . Do it in your presentation as well. It will make things far more interesting for the audience.
  • Don't turn your back on the audience and don't fidget! Neither moving around nor standing still is wrong. Practice either to make yourself comfortable.
  • Keep your hands out of your pocket . This is a natural habit when speaking. One hand in your pocket gives the impression of being relaxed, but both hands in pockets looks too casual and should be avoided.

Interact with the audience

  • Be aware of how your audience is reacting to your presentation . Are they interested or bored? If they look confused, ask them. Stop and explain a point again. 
  • Check if the audience is still with you . "Does that make sense?"; "Is that clear?"
  • Do not apologize for anything . If you believe something will be hard to read or understand, don't use it. If you apologize for feeling awkward or nervous, you'll only succeed in drawing attention to it and your audience will begin looking for it.
  • Be open to questions . If someone raises a hand, or asks a question in the middle of your talk, answer it. If it disrupts your train of thought momentarily, that's ok because your audience will understand. Questions show that the audience is listening with interest and, therefore, should not be regarded as an attack on you, but as a collaborative search for deeper understanding. However, don't engage in a conversation with an audience member or the rest of the audience will begin to feel left out. If an audience member persists, kindly tell them that the issue can be addressed after you've completed the rest of your presentation and note to them that their issue may be addressed by things you say in the rest of your presentation [it may not but at least you can move on].
  • Be ready to get the discussion going after your presentation . Professors often want a brief discussion to take place after a presentation. Just in case nobody has anything to say, be prepared with some provocative questions to ask or points for discussion for your audience.

Speaking Tip

Your First Words are Your Most Important!

Your introduction should begin with something that grabs the attention of your audience, such as, an interesting statisitic, a brief narrative or story, or a bold assertion, and then clearly tell the audience in a well-crafted sentence what you plan to accomplish in your presentation. Your introductory statement should be constructed so as to invite the audience to pay close attention to your message and to give the audience a clear sense of the direction in which you are about to take them.

Another Speaking Tip

Talk to Your Audience, Don't Read to Them!

A presentation is not the same as an essay. If you read your presentation as if it were an essay, your audience will probably understand very little about you say and will lose concentration quickly. Use notes, cue cards, or overheads as prompts that emphasis key points, and speak to the audience. Include everyone by looking at them and maintaining regular eye-contact (but don't stare or glare at people).

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  • Speaking exams
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Oral presentation

Giving an oral presentation as part of a speaking exam can be quite scary, but we're here to help you. Watch two students giving presentations and then read the tips carefully. Which tips do they follow? Which ones don’t they follow?

Instructions

Watch the video of two students doing an oral presentation as part of a speaking exam. Then read the tips below.

Melissa: Hi, everyone! Today I would like to talk about how to become the most popular teen in school.

Firstly, I think getting good academic results is the first factor to make you become popular since, having a good academic result, your teacher will award you in front of your schoolmates. Then, your schoolmates will know who you are and maybe they would like to get to know you because they want to learn something good from you.

Secondly, I think participating in school clubs and student unions can help to make you become popular, since after participating in these school clubs or student union, people will know who you are and it can help you to make friends all around the school, no matter senior forms or junior forms.

In conclusion, I think to become the most popular teen in school we need to have good academic results and also participate in school clubs and student union. Thank you!

Kelvin: Good evening, everyone! So, today I want to talk about whether the sale of cigarettes should be made illegal.

As we all know, cigarettes are not good for our health, not only oneself but also other people around. Moreover, many people die of lung cancer every year because of smoking cigarettes.

But, should the government make it illegal? I don’t think so, because Hong Kong is a place where people can enjoy lots of freedom and if the government banned the sale of cigarettes, many people would disagree with this and stand up to fight for their freedom.

Moreover, Hong Kong is a free market. If there's such a huge government intervention, I think it’s not good for Hong Kong’s economy.

So, if the government wants people to stop smoking cigarettes, what should it do? I think the government can use other administrative ways to do so, for example education and increasing the tax on cigarettes. Also, the government can ban the smokers smoking in public areas. So, this is the end of my presentation. Thank you.

It’s not easy to give a good oral presentation but these tips will help you. Here are our top tips for oral presentations.

  • Use the planning time to prepare what you’re going to say. 
  • If you are allowed to have a note card, write short notes in point form.
  • Use more formal language.
  • Use short, simple sentences to express your ideas clearly.
  • Pause from time to time and don’t speak too quickly. This allows the listener to understand your ideas. Include a short pause after each idea.
  • Speak clearly and at the right volume.
  • Have your notes ready in case you forget anything.
  • Practise your presentation. If possible record yourself and listen to your presentation. If you can’t record yourself, ask a friend to listen to you. Does your friend understand you?
  • Make your opinions very clear. Use expressions to give your opinion .
  • Look at the people who are listening to you.
  • Write out the whole presentation and learn every word by heart. 
  • Write out the whole presentation and read it aloud.
  • Use very informal language.
  • Only look at your note card. It’s important to look up at your listeners when you are speaking.

Useful language for presentations

Explain what your presentation is about at the beginning:

I’m going to talk about ... I’d like to talk about ... The main focus of this presentation is ...

Use these expressions to order your ideas:

First of all, ... Firstly, ... Then, ... Secondly, ... Next, ... Finally, ... Lastly, ... To sum up, ... In conclusion, ...

Use these expressions to add more ideas from the same point of view:

In addition, ... What’s more, ... Also, ... Added to this, ...

To introduce the opposite point of view you can use these words and expressions:

However, ... On the other hand, ... Then again, ...

Example presentation topics

  • Violent computer games should be banned.
  • The sale of cigarettes should be made illegal.
  • Homework should be limited to just two nights a week.
  • Should school students be required to wear a school uniform?
  • How to become the most popular teen in school.
  • Dogs should be banned from cities.

Check your language: ordering - parts of a presentation

Check your understanding: grouping - useful phrases, worksheets and downloads.

Do you think these tips will help you in your next speaking exam? Remember to tell us how well you do in future speaking exams!  

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  • Oral presentations: Part 1-4

This series of four videos covers preparing for a group presentation, how to structure your presentation, presentation skills and having a clear message.

Organising group work

A group presentation does not involve separate parts getting stitched together at the last minute. Group members need to collaborate at key points throughout the whole process. Watch this video and see how.

Your talk may be a group effort and this introduces organizational issues that can make or break the success of your presentation.

It's not appropriate to dissect the talk like a cake and distribute the parts to individual members to take care of. The body needs to be worked on by everyone collaboratively.

Specific sections of the body may be divided between your team to be deeply researched or delivered. But at some stage you need to regroup to put those pieces back together again. First of all, you need to be able to meet face-to-face preferably, and it would be good to have a regular time when this is convenient for all of you. At least once each week.

Don’t forget to exchange phone numbers and emails as well.
 If this is not a familiar topic, everyone should just go there own way at first and read broadly to get a feel for the area. But sharing any articles are particularly good of course.


You need to regroup soon, and decide what two to four topics should be covered. That is, if these are not already specified by your lecturer and it would be excellent to agree on a central message before you start writing the body, if possible.


If you want a central theme, this should be defined early on if you can to guide people's research from the beginning. >When the topics are decided you can go your own way and research your section deeply.

Keep in touch regularly with any of the other group members, whose area may overlap yours, because you don’t want to repeat material.


It is most satisfying and effective if you get to talk on the topic that you have researched yourself. You want to sound like the expert.

Remember not to measure your contribution to the group in terms of minutes standing up in speaking. This is never the hardest part. The hardest part lies in the researching, collaboration and preparation of visual resources.


Once the body of your talk is defined, the group should get together and outline the introduction and conclusion together.

One person might write from the perspective of the part that they researched, and introductions and conclusions need to have a sense of overview.


Writing the introduction and conclusion will be easy once the body is done.

But they are almost impossible to write in isolation from the body.

In the next chapter we will be looking at part two of oral presentations a sample structure.

A sample structure

Just as writing tasks have a structure, oral presentations have structure too. Without the structure, your key points will lack strength or be lost entirely. Watch this video and get some tips on how to get your message across effectively.

A sample structure of an oral presentation that I will outline here is about ‘autistic spectrum disorders’. This sample is supposed to be the outline of a twenty-minute in-class presentation.

To hold the whole talk together, I’ve also thought about the central point or message that I would like to get across. In this talk, I would like to emphasise the idea that autism encompasses a very broad range of severities – from profoundly affected to mildly affected individuals – and for this reason, it often goes unrecognised when the autism is at high functioning levels.

In the introduction, I need to establish my topic and it’s importance. Of course, this is the best place to establish your central theme or message, if you have one. If you have a particular reason for talking about this topic from your own work, life, or experience, that is always very engaging for the audience as well. Briefly outline the points you will cover, This is very important if you do not have a projected slide or handouts, where the audience can keep track of this. But avoid any detail at this stage. In a twenty-minute talk, you should limit the introduction to two minutes if possible.

The conclusion will consist of no new information about autism itself. The conclusion is the space to recap and remind the listener what we have touched on. If anything that is mentioned is new, it will be about the future needs and directions. The conclusion would be a great place to make recommendations about what should be done at a society level or what needs to be investigated further in research.

Once again, this could be made to tie in with our message, that some people can have some form of autism and yet many of their teachers or colleagues do not fully recognise or understand their condition because they expect it to be more noticeable.

The number of points that you will cover will vary from topic to topic. The advice is to have fewer points than too many in your body. If you have a lot of points, try to group them under three to four themes Talk about less, and go for depth rather than briefly skimming through a shopping list of ideas. If you decide to do an activity in your presentation, put it in where it’s most relevant. However it is probably better to do it earlier in the body or even in the introduction. because it can pique the listener's curiosity before they receive a lot information.

If you do have a central message, become skilled at saying the same thing in many different ways. Just as I’ve been doing. It would be very tedious to repeat exactly the same words of course. But, if you do it in a very subtle way, your audience will appreciate the enforcement of that idea.

Presentation skills

Being a good speaker is something that can be learned and practised. This video will give you some tips for delivering an effective and professional talk.

Many students approach writing their oral presentation the same way they approach writing an essay when, in fact, the two are completely different. An oral presentation is assessed on how well you can communicate your message or If you like, how you perform. You may get some assessment marks for the slides you produce or the handouts you’ve made, but essentially you will be marked by how well you communicate your message on the day.

So, do not write pages of sentences as you would in an essay. You cannot read these out. Natural speech does not use the long and grammatically complicated sentences that you would write in a text. Your audience would have to concentrate very hard to listen to that.

Think of your audience. and how you will keep their attention. You need to make it relevant for them, and not just show how much you’ve read. You cannot deliver all of the information you might fit into an essay. For an oral presentation, you need to reduce the amount of detail and repeat key ideas a lot more. What helps a lot is to have a key idea, or message, that you want your audience to remember. They may forget 80% of your talk, but if you have a key theme or a main point that you emphasise over and over again, they will likely remember that. And later, it is easier to remember details in relation to that key point.

Do not give the impression that you are relating what you have recently read in textbooks. Aim to give the impression that you know a lot about this, topic and that you’ve been working in the field for years. You need to have that air of confidence that comes from talking about something you know really well and have a lot of experience in. Generally, this will not be the reality of course, but you can get very familiar with your topic by reading lots and lots of literature. Five minutes of effective speaking does not mean you have only gathered five minutes of information.

As mentioned, you need to talk to your audience in a relaxed and natural, but still professional manner. You still want to keep on track, so dot points on cards – instead of, or in addition to your PowerPoint – can be quite useful. You don’t want the presentation to sound scripted, but you still want to keep on track; so speaking from dot points is efficient because you are on limited time. It also jogs your memory just in case you’re a little bit nervous.

Whether you use cards or the screen, remember to look up and look at your audience. This is very important if you really want to communicate with them. You need to relax because when you are nervous, you tend to rush onwards. Breathe deeply, stop to think for a moment. A moment may seem a long time to you, but to your audience it is not noticeable.

It’s also very helpful to indicate when a new topic is being moved onto. The audience do not have the visual cues of a new paragraph as you do when you’re reading. So these shifts in topic need to be shown or expressed. A fresh PowerPoint slide indicates a new shift in topic. But sometimes, it’s hard to know when a speaker has moved onto a new point within that slide. You can do this with words like: secondly, or on the other hand, or let us consider a further example. You might emphasise a new point by moving to a different spot on the stage, changing the quality of your voice, or just pausing for five to ten seconds.

The important thing is that these non-native features of your language do not interfere with the meaning of the message you are trying to communicate. Saying that, however, if you do have a strong or unusual accent; it may be wise to practice in front of a native speaker, and make sure that they can understand your terminology and what you are trying to say.

Thinking about the content

Do you have a message for your audience? Do you know what to say at each stage? Watch this video to avoid the ‘blah blah blah’ delivery and make this an interesting learning experience for your audience.

It is a good idea to establish your presence in the introduction of your oral presentation. This is the time to introduce yourself and your team, but keep it brief. Most importantly, establish what you will be talking about. Remember that your audience may know very little about your topic, if anything.

So, you may need to set the scene in a very simple and general way. If you have a key idea you’re building your talk around, it is good to identify that in your introduction. It always helps the audience to relate to the speaker and to the topic, if the speaker has a personal reason or a particular experience related to the topic. At least explain why you chose the topic and why you believe it will be worthwhile to listen to. However you do it, this is your chance to capture their attention.

If possible, structure your talk around a simple, one-line message. Think of one general concept that you want your audience to remember. If you build your talk around a simple message, it has much more coherence. It avoids the shopping list structure, where you present fact after fact after fact. Your audience will remember very little of this sort of talk because it presents a mass of detail and the focus is not clear.

You do need to read a lot to discover the overview off the topic, what is important, and what are the significant debates that are going on around this topic. You may need to answer questions on the spot, so you will need deep knowledge to draw from.

From the background that you have gained from your reading, it is up to you to decide what to include in the talk. Avoid looking to one book and structuring your talk around it’s headings, chapters or sections. Take a wider perspective. You are now the expert, you decide on the most interesting and important ideas to include in your talk.Because you are the expert, you determine where the talk goes. Don’t tell the audience what information is in the book for its own sake. Be selective and tell them what is important and most interesting, and tell them what the literature says about this. because different research journals often do not agree with one another.

Actually, the topics where there is disagreement are places to be explored rather than avoided. These are often the most engaging. If you do have any personal or professional experience in the topic, that is fantastic! Draw on this as well, but be sure to make clear where ideas are from your own perspective, and what things are actually from research. Include an activity if you can – if your audience is small enough to fit in a classroom.This will allow you to have some personal interaction. It is always more engaging if you can get the audience involved.

Your time is limited, so this need not be an activity on a large scale. You can get people to just “think of a time when”, or get the people to turn to the person next to them to discuss something for a minute, or make list of five things related to your topic. The tighter your schedule is, the less flexibility you will have with participation. But it adds a great deal in communicating your message.

Handouts may be a required part of your assessment. If you do not have a PowerPoint projector available, it may be helpful for your audience to have a visual guide or a program of what you will cover. Handouts like this can support your talk and the audience can have them in front of them while you are delivering your presentation. It can be useful for the audience to have a handout for other reaasons: it might be a part of one of your activities, or it may provide stats or formulae, because these may be difficult to express verbally or to copy down.

Handouts could also add to your talk by giving further information. This may include more details that you could not fit onto your talk, .or further readings or so on. However, handouts giving further information are not always a good idea to give out beforehand because they will take the audience's attention away from your presentation.

Just remember, an oral presentation is not like an essay. Do not think you would be able to cram in all the detail you would be able to put into a two-thousand-word text. You need to keep it simple, and in an oral presentation, you need to reinforce ideas a lot more.

If you are daunted by the idea of standing and talking for five to ten minutes, you will be surprised how little time this actually is when you have plenty to say – it goes very quickly. It is important to practice over and over again. And do this as you intend to do on the day. A full dress rehearsal is very necessary. This must be out loud, full volume, and with all the slides and charts you are planning to use. Practice with an audience if possible. Make sure you time yourself as you practices as well.

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Present or publish your research or creative activity, planning your oral presentation.

You have to give an oral presentation in two days on a topic of your choice, regarding research in your major. How do you plan for this presentation? Just like writing an essay, you start with a plan.

Steps for Planning Your Oral Presentation

1. determine your reasoning for this presentation.

Is your purpose to inform, educate, entertain or convince? Once you know this, you can structure how you want the delivery to look, as well as the topics you want to address

2. Keep only the most important information

Determine what your topic will be and the areas that you plan to touch upon.

3. Know your Audience

This is one of the most important steps when planning and delivering a presentation. It is essential that you know who will be listening to your presentation and remembering to adjust your words, your visuals and your expectations, however, your goal should be the same, making sure the audience understands what you have presented to them.

4. Create an Outline

Layout your basic talking points. Like that of an essay, you have the opening statement, your body paragraphs, and your closing statement. Try not to overload your outline, or note cards with too many words. Your purpose as a presenter is to have knowledge of your topic, therefore too many words will give the audience the impression that you are not knowledgeable of the information you are presenting.

5. Practice

This is the most important step of all those outlined. Practicing what you are going to say, how you are going to say it is the essential to giving a presentation. Practice with friends or family, or with yourself in the mirror. This practice will take away some of the anxieties we get when talking in front of others as well as increase your confidence.

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This presentation is designed to introduce your students to the elements of an organized essay, including the introduction, the thesis, body paragraphs, topic sentences, counterarguments, and the conclusion.

how to write oral presentation essay

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VCE Oral Presentation: A Three-Part Guide to Nailing It

January 17, 2020

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Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). the kool kids don't use landscape....

We've all been there. You're moments away from having to deliver your 5-6 minute long oral to all of your classmates and your teacher, and you're still trying to memorise that one bit that you just can't seem to get down pat. It sucks.

For many VCE English students, the oral presentation is the scariest part of the course; it’s often also the first.

Doing a speech can indeed be daunting— you’re marked in real time, you can’t go back and edit mistakes, and the writing part itself is only half the battle. Nonetheless, the oral SAC can also be one of the more dynamic and engaging tasks you complete in VCE English, and there’s plenty of ways to make it more interesting and also more manageable for yourself.

We’ll break the whole process down into three parts (don’t worry, one of these will be the delivery itself) and have a look at ways to tackle each; hopefully, you’ll feel more empowered to give it a go on your own terms. Don't forget to also check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for everything you need to know for Oral Presentations.

Part One: Choosing a good topic

(in this section—researching events & issues, topic ideas).

For a bit of a head start on this step, be sure to check out our blog post filled with Oral Presentation Topics for 2020 . It's one of our best kept secrets!

In the study design, the description that’s given for the Oral Presentation is:

“A point of view presented in oral form using sound argument and persuasive language . The point of view should relate to an issue that has appeared in the media since 1 September of the previous year.”

Besides this restriction on how current/recent your issue is, the expectations themselves for this task are pretty standard (and therefore pretty broad): you

  • select a topic or point of view
  • research arguments and supporting evidence; and
  • position the audience accordingly in your speech

Getting started on this first part can be tricky though, especially if you want to choose something a bit more original or fresh.

In any case, the first thing you need is an event . As a reminder, an event in the VCE English context is anything that happens which also generates opinionated media coverage —so, it’s not just an event but it has to be an event that people have published opinions about, and they have to have been published since September 1.

You might wonder why we don’t go to the issue straight away. Here’s a hypothetical to illustrate: if you asked me to name an issue, the best I could probably come up with off the top of my head is climate change. However, if you asked me to name an event, I’d pretty easily recall the bushfires—something much more concrete which a) has generated specific and passionate opinions in the media; and b) can easily be linked to a wider issue such as climate change.

So where do you find an event? If you can’t think of a particularly interesting one right away, you could always try Wikipedia. Seriously, Wikipedia very helpfully has pages of things that happened in specific years in specific countries, so “2019 in Australia” might well be a starting point. The ABC news archive is also really helpful since you can pick dates or periods of time and see a good mix of news events from then.

I wouldn’t underestimate your own memory here either. Maybe you attended the School Strike for Climate and/or you feel vaguely disappointed in the government. Maybe there was something else happening in the news you remember (even though it is often about the environment these days). It doesn’t have to be from the news though—maybe there was a movie or TV show you watched recently that you have thoughts about. You could really do a speech on any of these, as long as you suspect there might be recent, opinionated media coverage .

Only once you have an event should you look for an issue . This will be a specific debate that comes out of the event, and can usually be framed as a “whether-or-not” question. The bushfires, for example, might generate debate around whether or not the Australian government is doing enough to combat climate change, whether or not Scott Morrison has fulfilled his duties as Prime Minister, whether or not it’s appropriate to discuss policy already when people are still grieving. All of these issues are going to be more current and more focused than just ‘climate change’, so pick one that resonates for your speech. For a list of 2019-20 issue-debate breakdowns (i.e. topic ideas!), give this a read!

From there, you might delve a little deeper into viewpoints around your chosen issue, and you’d do this mostly by reading opinion or analysis articles (rather than hard news reports). Opinion is great to see what other people are thinking, and could help you bolster or reinforce your own arguments, whereas analysis is good to get a little deeper into the implications of and evidence behind the issue. The actual contention itself comes last—even though you might already have an idea what you think about the issue, you’ll be best prepared to articulate it after doing the research first.

Part Two: Writing a good speech

(in this section—register/tone selection, personas, openings, how formal you need to be, drafting & rehearsing).

For this part of the task, I’d keep in mind a specific snippet of its description: the need to use sound argument and persuasive language .

To be fair, persuasive language mightn’t necessarily be something you actively think about when you write persuasively—you wouldn’t ever really be like “hey, this is a great spot to include an appeal to compassion.” However, while you don’t need to start now, it’s good to have in mind a general register for your speech before you start. It’s one of the first things you might analyse in a written essay for good reason—it’s broad and it sets the tone for your argument/s.

With the bushfires for instance, you might contend that even though grief is a strong emotion, it should also be a trigger for resolute, permanent policy reform. But will you come from a frustrated, this-is-what-we’ve-been-saying-for-years register, or a compassionate look-at-the-damage-caused register, or an assertive, we-need-to-bring-the-community-together-first register?

Maybe you can incorporate a bit of each, or maybe (probably) there are more options, but in any case, making this decision first will help with stringing together arguments and incorporating more persuasive language techniques (PLTs). Note that most PLTs can be used across a number of registers, but there are some that might work more effectively with some of these.

For example:

These are things you’ll have to think about for your written explanations, and might also help you shape future research if you need to shore up the speech a little more. Something you may consider as well is adopting a persona , that is a character and a context for your speech. You don’t have to, but it may help you get started. It can be hard to just write a speech from scratch, but if you’re the mayor of a township affected by the fires and you’re outlining a course of action, it’ll help with your register and outlook.

Openings in general can be tricky though. Try to avoid stating your event, issue and contention outright—the audience doesn’t need to know that “recently, Australia experienced a horrific bushfire season and I’m going to talk about why now is the time to act on climate change.” They’ll figure it out. Instead, try to start with something that clearly communicates your register and/or persona (if you have one). If you’re a frustrated climate activist, start by illustrating the historical patterns of bushfires getting worse and worse. If you’re a compassionate community-builder, start with anecdotes of the damage. If you’re an assertive leader, explain who you are, what your experience is and how you want to create change. Don’t worry if you feel like the issue won’t be clear enough—again, they’ll figure it out! The opening also sets the bar for formality in your speech, and it’s honestly up to you how formal you’ll want to be. As a rule of thumb, don’t be so formal that you can’t use contractions (such as “you’ll” and “can’t”)—avoid those in essays for sure, but they’re a natural part of speaking and it’ll feel strange if you don’t use them.

I’d also recommend you draft and rehearse in front of others, highlighting areas where you think are the weakest and asking them for specific advice on those sections at the end. Having specific questions to ask, such as “should I include more data/quantitative evidence in x section?” or “is this specific appeal to x obvious enough?”, also means you get better feedback (since these are much easier to answer than “Was that fine?”).

Part Three: Delivering an engaging presentation

(in this section—body language, eye contact, rehearse rehearse rehearse, tone variation).

Most of you probably find this the most daunting part of the SAC—honestly, me too—but this is the part with the most tried-and-tested tips for success.

With regard to body language , stand with your feet shoulder width apart and, more importantly don’t move your legs . Especially if you’re nervous, swaying or shuffling will be noticeable and make you appear more nervous—when you practise, pay attention to the lower half of your body and train it to stay still if possible. That being said, do use your arms for gestures. Those are more natural and will help engage the audience, though don’t overdo it either—usually, holding cue cards in one hand frees up the other but also stops you from going overboard.

And cue cards brig us up to another important consideration— eye contact . Hold cue cards in one hand as high as you can without it feeling uncomfortable. This means you don’t have to take your eyes away from the audience for too long or too noticeably to check your notes.

Of course, knowing your speech better means having to check your notes less frequently. When I did my speech, I’d read it out aloud to myself 3-5 times a day for a week or two in advance, which made me feel like I was going insane but also meant that my speech was basically memorised . The cue cards were there in case of emergency, but I really didn’t need them at all. Absolutely make sure to rehearse your speech. Further, when you rehearse, try to pretend that you’re actually delivering the speech. This means:

  • looking up ahead
  • holding the cue cards in the right spot; and
  • not just reading the words but speaking as if to an audience.

This last point is really important— tone variation might come naturally to some but not to others. I always found that building it into rehearsal helped with getting it consistent and natural. Tone variation involves things like emphasising certain words, using pauses or slowing down for effect, or modifying volume . Incorporating some of these elements—even writing them into your notes by bolding/italicising/underlining—will help you break out of monotony and make the speech more engaging as well. Be sure to emphasise things like emotive language and any evidence you might use to illustrate your arguments. And one last thing— don’t speak too quickly ! Easier said than done, but often the icing on the cake for a speech that is memorable for the right reasons.

Wondering where to go from here? Well, luckily, my eBook, How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation, details my exact step-by-step process so you can get that A+ in your SAC this year.

how to write oral presentation essay

  • Access a step-by-step guide on how to write your Oral Presentation with simple, easy-to-follow advice
  • Read and analyse sample A+ Oral Presentations with EVERY speech annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY students achieved A+ so you reach your goal
  • Learn how to stand out from other students with advice on your speech delivery

Sounds like something that'd help you? I think so too! Access the full eBook by clicking here !

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Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

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Written by Lisa Tran, who achieved FULL marks in her Oral Presentation:

  • How to choose, plan and write your oral presentation and written explanation
  • A simple, persuasive speech structure that will blow your audience away
  • All essays FULLY annotated so you know exactly what you need to do and what not to do

how to write oral presentation essay

The oral presentation SAC is worth 40% of your unit 4 English mark and is comprised of two sections: your statement of intention, and your oral presentation. It can be difficult to understand what is expected of you, as this SAC definitely varies from your typical English essay! So, if you need help understanding what’s expected of you, check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations . If you’d like an even more in-depth guide on how to approach this assessment, definitely check out the How to Write a Killer Oral Presentation study guide!

Here, I’m going to dissect five of the most common mistakes students make during their oral presentation, and gloss over ways in which you can improve your marks for this critical SAC.

1. Writing an Unentertaining Speech

Whilst your other English SACs may require you to write in a formal and sophisticated manner, the oral presentation SAC is the one shining exception! Many students fall into the trap of writing a frankly boring and uninspiring speech that does no justice to their academic ability. Here are some mistakes to watch out for:

Choosing the Wrong Topic

Your school may or may not already give you a list of topics to choose from. However, in the event that you must research your own topic, it is essential that you choose an issue relevant to your current audience. You must adopt a clear contention in your speech. 

Do not, for example, write a five-minute speech on why one sports team is better than the other, or why murder should be illegal. Choose an issue that you can take a passionate stance on and engage the audience with. Avoid a contention that is obvious and aim to actually persuade your class. Make sure you choose a 'WOW' topic for your VCE Oral Presentation .

‍ Writing With the Wrong Sense of Tone

This is one of the biggest mistakes students make when writing their oral presentation. I cannot stress this enough – your speech is not a formally written text response! You are presenting your stance on an issue, which means that you are allowed to be passionate and creative. You can educate your audience on the facts without boring them to sleep. Let’s analyse two sample excerpts on the same issue to see why:

Issue: Should the Newstart allowance be increased?

Sample 1: 722,000 Australians are on Newstart. Single people receive approximately $40 a day. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently increased this payment by $2.20 to adjust to price inflation. However, I am arguing that this price should be increased more.
Sample 2: As Australians, we pride ourselves on community values, and supporting one another. Yet, the way in which we treat 722,000 of our most vulnerable people doesn’t reflect this. The Australian government recently increased the Newstart payment by $2.20 weekly. But this means that Newstart recipients still live on just over $40 a day. Ask yourself, is that really enough to survive?

Samples 1 and 2 have the same information. Yet, Sample 2 engages with the audience in a much more effective manner. Try to avoid an overly formal tone and speak with passion and interest.

2. Presenting Without Confidence

Presenting in front of your class can be a very daunting experience. However, in order to distinguish yourself from your classmates, you must speak clearly and with confidence. Try to avoid making the following mistakes:

Reading Instead of Talking

Think back to primary school. Remember when your teacher would read you a storybook, and they would put on voices to make the story more engaging and interesting? The same sort of idea applies to your oral presentation. Simply reading a well-written speech will not get you marks. Rather, you should talk to your audience. Make eye contact, maintain good posture, and project your voice. Confidence is key!

Stalling for Time

I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we haven’t prepared ourselves for a test as well as we should have. The oral presentation SAC is not an assessment that you can simply wing on the day. Oftentimes, poor scores stem from a lack of preparation which can be reflected in the way students present themselves – and stalling for time is a big giveaway. Save yourself the mental stress and prepare for your SAC by writing out your speech beforehand (or even preparing a few dot points/cue cards). I personally find it helpful to practise in front of a mirror or even in front of pets/stuffed toys.

3. Not Distinguishing Yourself From Your Class

If you’re gunning for a good mark, you want to stand out from your class. This can be especially difficult if you are presenting the same topic as one of your peers. Avoid:

Starting in an Uninspiring Way

This is another big mistake students make when presenting. Let’s just estimate that there are approximately 20-25 people in your English class. Now, imagine if every person who presented before you began their speech with:

“Good morning, today I’ll be talking about why Newstart should be increased”.

It gets repetitive. You can distinguish yourself by beginning in a myriad of other ways. Here’s an example of how I started my own oral presentation for my SAC:

Topic: Should we ban sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate?

Imagine you are a foreigner, excited to visit Australia. In your head, you’re picturing our beautiful flora and fauna, our stunning beaches, and the Great Coral Reef. You finally arrive after a long flight, eager to explore the country. You’re expecting the Great Coral Reef to be boasting colour, to look like all the pictures spotted online. Instead, you find what looks like a wasteland – a reef that has essentially been bleached to death. As Australians, we have to wonder what went wrong. If we really loved and cared for our environment, how could we not be protecting the reef, preventing any further damage? Recently, Hawaii banned sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, reasoning that these chemicals were causing harm to coral. Yet, in Australia, banning sunscreens with these chemicals are seen as drastic and useless measures, which simply isn’t true when you look at the facts. 

This is an example of an “imagined scenario” starter. How to Write a Killer Oral Presentation outlines other ways to start your speech with examples! If you’re having trouble figuring out how to start with a BANG, definitely make use of this resource.

No Enthusiasm

I say this to my students regardless of the English SAC that they’re writing – you want your writing/speech to reflect that you are indeed learning and enjoying your education. Your teacher will be able to tell if you choose a topic that you have no interest in, or if you are simply regurgitating information. Use this SAC to learn about an issue and take interest in your learning. Believe me, your grades will thank you for it.

4. Incorrectly Using Visuals

Whether you are allowed to present with visuals or not is up to your English teacher. However, it is essential that you do not incorrectly use these visuals, as it can cost you marks. Avoid:

Overusing PowerPoint Slides

I’m a bit old-fashioned myself and honestly prefer presenting a speech with no images. That’s not to say that some images can’t be a great addition to your piece. However, PowerPoint can quickly steer you away from presenting your topic in an engaging manner. 

This is an oral presentation with a stance on an issue, not an assessment where you are marked for presenting information to an audience. Therefore, reading off of PowerPoint slides is a big NO. 

Using Cluttered Infographics

The point of focus of your oral presentation should be on YOU – your words, your stance on the issue. This ties into the PowerPoint criticism I made above, but using a cluttered infographic takes away from your well-written speech. Below is an example of an overly cluttered infographic:

how to write oral presentation essay

If your speech was on renewable energy, your audience would be detracted from your stance, and too focussed on reading the information from the visual. If you have any key information that needs to be explained, it is better to embed this into your speech than rely on an infographic. ‍

5. Disregarding the Statement of Intention

If you’ve finished writing your speech, you may have let out a big sigh of relief. But don’t get too comfortable yet – you still have to write your statement of intention ( SOI ). This piece of writing is supposed to accompany your speech, and it’s worth 25% of your SAC mark. Do not waste all your hard efforts by not taking the SOI seriously. 

I like to think of an SOI as a language analysis of your own speech. Essentially, you should be explaining your choice of language, tone, and rhetoric, and justifying why that would make a profound impact on the audience.  Make sure you understand what an SOI is.

I like thinking of this as a three-step approach:

  • Quote my own speech 
  • Explain why and how my language would impact the audience
  • Link back to my overall contention of the issue

‍ How to Write a Killer Oral Presentation outlines exactly what is expected of you in this section of your SAC. If you’d like to see an annotated A+ statement of intention, be sure to check it out!

I hope that going through these mistakes will help you when writing your own oral presentation! It’s always best to ask your teacher or English tutor for advice if you’re unsure of where to start. Happy writing!

Don't forget to also check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for everything you need to know for Oral Presentations.

There are a plethora of controversial issues in the current Australian media that may be perfect for your 2017 oral presentation! Below are just a few ideas to get you started on your way towards acing that SAC. Remember, pick a topic that you’re passionate and enthusiastic about. Don’t forget that there is no ‘right’ opinion, however, make sure you offer a distinctive argument, even if it means adopting an alternative point of view. Good luck!

how to write oral presentation essay

  • Should the Australian Government ban the wearing of the burka in public?
  • Should the homeless be banned from Melbourne’s CBD? (Robert Doyle proposal)
  • Should the Australia Government continue to fund the Safe Schools Coalition?
  • Should gay marriage be legalised in Australia?
  • Should the date of Australia Day be replaced/changed?
  • Treatment of asylum seekers in detention centres (especially women and children)
  • Is enough action being taken to diminish the sugar industry propaganda to minimise obesity?
  • Should on – site pill testing be mandatory at all public events?
  • Cultural insensitivity in Australia
  • Is the development of technology and social media encouraging narcissism in young adults?
  • Victoria’s legal system
  • Stem cell research
  • Is the development of technology and social media encouraging the sexualisation of boys and girls?
  • Drug testing and drug control in Australia (Bourke Street attack)
  • Fake news being published by researchers to the media
  • Should Victoria’s juvenile justice system be improved by the Government?
  • Do students learn as effectively with ebooks compared with traditional, hardcopy books?
  • Should security footage of detention centres be released?
  • Is Australia becoming an alcohol and sugar driven society?
  • Has the notion of privacy been compromised in the 21st century? (internet, technology, terrorism)

Before you start writing your oral presentation, you can't miss our A+ tips that have helped hundreds of students get perfect marks in their SAC. Stand out from others with confidence now .

how to write oral presentation essay

If you are anything like me, the thought of standing up in front of a classroom, or even a small panel of teachers, having to hold the floor for five minutes, and being assessed on your performance is just about as terrifying as it gets. Where other students thrived on the oral presentation SAC, embracing its change of pace in comparison to the other written tasks, I dreaded it. I knew the feeling all too well: legs jelly-like and quivering, breath short and rapid, palms sweating, tongue uncomfortably heavy as the words tumble out too fast to keep up with…essentially (as I, a true master of the English language, would put it) the absolute worst. 

Fast forward to the present day and, I hate to break it to you, I am still not a fan of public speaking. But guess what? I did my oral presentation and I’m still alive to tell the tale. Plus, as a bonus, it did not involve me passing out, and as a double bonus, I still ended up with a great result. So I am here, my fellow members of the ‘Might Go Ahead and Drop Out of VCE so I Don’t Have To Do My Oral’ club, as proof that it can be done and to help you get through it. 

What Do We Mean by ‘Overcoming’?

As I have already mentioned, emerging triumphant from your oral does not require you to magically become a public speaking fanatic. Let me manage your expectations right now: that probably isn’t going to happen overnight, and likely never will. But you can still be good at public speaking, perhaps great at it, even if it scares you. Trying to figure out a magical formula of preparation that will have you breezing through the oral in total zen-mode is not only going to waste your time, but will likely also make you more frightened when you realise that you can’t completely shake the nerves. So, by accepting the reality that the fear probably isn’t going to go away any time soon we can start to learn how to manage it, at least succeed in spite of it, and hopefully even use it to our advantage. 

Selecting a ‘WOW’ Topic

Arguably the best way to improve the delivery, and overall quality, of your oral presentation is to choose a topic and contention that you actually care about. In our eBook How to Write a Killer Oral Presentation we cite the first pillar of the process as being to choose a ‘WOW’ topic and contention . As Lisa says,

“an inherently interesting topic means that you’ll showcase your opinions in an authentic way, which is incredibly important when it comes to presentation time.”

This becomes particularly significant for someone dealing with a fear of public speaking because of this basic principle: when you care about something it is easier to talk about, even in front of other people. This means that you don’t just need to choose a topic that will engage your audience, but also one that you yourself find engaging. 

Fear is an intense emotional response to a situation, and as we know it can easily consume us in the moment. If your oral topic is boring and does not interest you on a personal level then what is going to be the strongest emotion you feel when delivering it? Fear. However, passion is another intense emotional response, and so if you are passionate about the arguments you are making then, although your fear will still be there, you will feel another strong emotion that can balance it out. 

So how do you find a contention that you care about? Often the best place to start is to think about the things that affect your life. We know that your topic has to have been in the media since September of last year, but lots of things are on the news and they don’t only matter to the older generations. Think about issues that relate to schools, jobs, climate change, animals, drug-taking, fashion – these are all aspects of our lives that you might be able to form a personal connection to, and that personal connection will help you find the passion you need to get through the speech, and also get through to your audience. Check out our 2021 Oral Presentation Topics for some topic inspiration, and then learn how to create a killer contention here . 

More About the Voice, Less About the Words

It is quite likely that if you know you struggle with the delivery of oral presentations, you might try to compensate by overreaching with your script. For someone who feels more comfortable with written assessments, it can be easy to try to make the oral as close to one as possible by writing it almost as you would an essay – using lots of impressive vocabulary, complex sentences and a formal structure. This approach is all well and good until you try to say it all out loud. This isn’t to say that your command of language isn’t important to the oral, but by trying to craft a safety net of eloquent, written words you are simply distracting yourself from what makes this SAC unique; you can’t avoid the fear by avoiding the task altogether. So, you need to write a speech that you can say, not just one that sounds good on paper. Writing with the wrong sense of tone is one of the points we touch on in 5 Common Oral Presentation Mistakes.

During the writing process, you need to make your speech work for you rather than make yourself work for it. This means constantly thinking about what the words will sound like in front of an audience, and not making the performance unnecessarily hard for yourself before you even start practicing. When you’re already nervous about speaking in front of other people, the last thing you want to have to worry about is tripping over difficult language to make convoluted arguments. So, simplicity and punch is always better than verbosity and pretence. Here are some ideas of how to use this strategy:

  • Make your arguments short, sharp, and to the point. Avoid going off on any tangents, and just stick to the main points you need to get across. You are trying to persuade your audience, not confuse them. 
  • Use a mixture of long and short sentences, because a script that uses varied sentence structures is easier to say out loud without stumbling due to nerves. Short, bold statements are both less prone to being mangled by nerves and more memorable for your listeners – just make sure you don’t only use short sentences and prevent your oral from flowing. 
  • Think about where you can schedule in pauses for emphasis, because these will give you space to stop and catch your breath without revealing your nervousness. 
  • Write like you speak! Of course you want your tone to be assertive and intelligent, but it is possible to maintain this whilst also incorporating some relaxed language. You are allowed to use the first person in this task, so take the opportunity to personalise what you say, which will help you appear more comfortable and also form a personal connection with your audience. Remember that an oral is essentially a conversation with your audience, even if they don’t get to speak back, and this means that as long as you don’t use slang you can have some fun with your delivery. 
  • Don’t rely on an essay-like structure. Your audience won’t know when a paragraph ends, so the way the script looks on the page is largely irrelevant. Make it easy for yourself to follow. 

Remember, when you struggle with a fear of public speaking it is difficult to make what you say in the spotlight sound natural. To overcome this, you want to prepare yourself to almost sound unscripted (as ironic as that sounds). Without slipping into an overly casual or informal voice, it is best if you sound comfortable and relaxed when addressing your audience. This is of course the exact opposite of how you might feel going into the assessment, so you write a speech that will make you seem like you aren’t worried about passing out. The ancient adage ‘fake it ‘til you make it baby’ definitely rings true here. However, that said, really believing what you are saying and caring that the audience believes it too, as we advised earlier, will also help you avoid sounding forced and uncomfortable. 

Preparation and Memorisation

Another mistake often made when attempting to compensate for a fear of public speaking is to rely too heavily on cue cards in the oral. Having your entire speech on hand when you complete the assessment just in case you get lost might seem like a good idea, but it is most likely actually going to hold you back from giving your best performance. Ideally, you want to have done enough preparation so that you do not need to look at your notes at all. As we discussed earlier, having a script that is as simple as possible, and that mimics your speech patterns, will help you sound less fearful – and will also be easier to memorise.

Memorise your speech by practicing it as much as possible. Make sure to get your script written as far in advance as you can, so you have plenty of time to practice without stressing yourself out further. When you do practice, do so standing up, envision an audience in front of you (or practice in front of friends or family), and rehearse how you might move around the space as you talk. You can start by having your whole script with you, but eventually you should work up to only needing a few dot points for each section that can jog your memory if you forget. This strategy might seem to make the speech even scarier, but in reality not reading off a script will help you relax into the performance, and allow you to focus on your movements and voice. Practicing enough to have the speech memorised will also help build your confidence. 

Making the Most of Your Nerves

As much as I would love to tell you that you can be ‘cured’ of your fear of public speaking, it is best to accept that the nerves are going to be there and learn how to succeed in tandem with them, rather than just hoping that they go away. Instead of being convinced that fear is going to be your downfall, try to think about how, as impossible as it sounds, you can use the nerves to your advantage. Apart from making you jittery and uncomfortable, nerves also boost your energy and adrenaline, and with the right attitude you can turn this energy into confidence. Instead of letting your nerves cause you to close up, you can use them to help you open up. Often those of us who fear feeling exposed in front of a crowd have quiet, reserved personalities that we might think of as preventing us from being able to perform. However, when our bodies are flooded with nerves this ‘wired’ feeling can be used to help us project our voices and to take up space, therefore driving us to appear more outgoing. Instead of just making you feel ‘on edge’, a manageable amount of nervous energy can give you an edge that will amp up your performance. 

Even if all of this sounds completely different to your experience of fear, what I am trying to communicate is that the way you frame the oral, and the nerves that come with it, in your mind makes all the difference. If you convince yourself that you are too scared of public speaking to ever succeed with this task, you are severely limiting your chances of achieving a positive outcome. So, focussing on retraining your mindset in the lead up to delivering your speech is very important. Try not to think of this one assessment task as being a make or break five minutes, and instead view it as a learning experience that you can use to your advantage. After all, public speaking is something most of us will have to deal with multiple times over the course of our lives, so you may as well work on getting better at it. That said, my number one piece of advice about the oral presentation is to…*drumroll please*...not take it too seriously! This might sound unrealistic, and I am definitely not telling you to put in less effort, but the more pressure you put on yourself the more nervous you are going to be. Choose a topic that interests you, believe in your contention, make use of humour and personal anecdotes, and just have fun with what you say! Your fear is probably going to be your biggest obstacle, so make it as easy as you can on yourself and the rest should fall into place…as long as you put in the work. 

Finally, our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations is a must-read for anybody who is doing an Oral Presentation!

This blog covers choosing the perfect topic for your next Oral Presentation. To get a better overview of what's expected of you in Oral Presentations, writing up your speech, and speech delivery, check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations.

The following is the LSG criteria that will ensure you find an interesting topic!

Step 1: Select a topic that has appeared in the media since 1 September of the previous year

Getting started on this first part can be tricky, especially if you want to choose something a bit more original or fresh.

In any case, the first thing you need is an event . An event in the VCE English context is anything that happens which also generates opinionated media coverage —so, it’s not just an event but it has to be an event that people have published opinions about, and they have to have been published since September 1.

You might wonder why we don’t go to the issue straight away. Here’s a hypothetical to illustrate: if you asked me to name an issue, the best I could probably come up with off the top of my head is climate change. However, if you asked me to name an event, I’d pretty easily recall the Australian bushfires—something much more concrete which a) has generated specific and passionate opinions in the media; and b) can easily be linked to a wider issue such as climate change.

Only once you have an event should you look for an issue . This will be a specific debate that comes out of the event, and can usually be framed as a “whether-or-not” question. The bushfires, for example, might generate debate around whether or not the Australian government is doing enough to combat climate change, whether or not Scott Morrison has fulfilled his duties as Prime Minister, whether or not it’s appropriate to discuss policy already when people are still grieving. All of these issues are going to be more current and more focused than just ‘climate change’, so pick one that resonates for your speech. In the next couple of sections, I’ll offer you a list of 2019-20 issue-debate breakdowns (i.e. topic ideas!).

Most importantly, choose an event/issue that is interesting for you . You’re the one who’s going to deal most intimately with this event/issue - you’ll have to research multiple sources, come up with a contention and arguments, write the essay, present the essay - so make it easier for yourself because you’re going to be spending a lot of time completing all these steps. Besides, an inherently interesting topic means that you’ll showcase your opinions in an authentic way, which is incredibly important when it comes to presentation time.

Step 2: Filter out the boring events/issues

“Your aim of this entire Oral Presentation SAC is to persuade your audience to agree with your contention (whatever that may be) based off the issue you’ve selected.”   -The VCAA English Study Design

Next, you’ll need use this test to see whether or not your topic will stand up to the test of being ‘interesting’ enough for your audience. My first question to you is: who is your audience?

Is it your classroom and teacher? Is it a handful of teachers? If you don’t know, stop right now and find out. Only continue to the next question once you’re 100% certain of your audience.

Once you know who your audience is, ask yourself: Does this event and issue relate to my audience?

This question matters because “your aim of this entire Oral Presentation SAC is to persuade your audience to agree with your contention (whatever that may be) based off the issue you’ve selected.” This means that what you say to your audience and how they respond to your speech matters . Even if your assessor isn’t counting exactly how many people are still listening to your speech at the end, everyone knows a powerful speech when they’re in the presence of one - it hooks the audience from start to end - and an assessor, consciously or subconsciously, cannot deny that the collective attentiveness of the room has an influence on their marking of your Oral Presentation.

That’s why you should choose a topic that your audience can relate to. This is just my personal opinion, but I don’t find a speech on the Adani Coalmine (broad issue = climate change) as interesting and engaging as School Strike For The Climate (broad issue = climate change). That’s not to say that I’m for or against the Adani Coal Mine, but I know that if I’m speaking to a crowd of 17-18 years olds, the School Strike For The Climate would be a better choice because it’s going to hit a lot closer to home (1) (perhaps some of those in your audience - including yourself - have attended one of those strikes).

To extrapolate this idea further, I try to avoid topics that have too many unfamiliar words for my audience. For example, I recall one year when one of my students decided to take a stance on pain medications and that they should be restricted to only over-the-counter in pharmacies. Have I lost you already with the ‘over-the-counter’? Yeah, I have no doubt that some of you are unfamiliar with that word (don’t stress, I didn’t know it either when I was in school). On top of this phrase, she used words like ‘Schedule A’, ‘Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme’, ‘Medicare rebate’, ‘opioids', ‘subsidised’, and other words that aren’t part of the usual vocabulary of her audience. I’d take heed because in order to captivate the audience’s attention, they need to understand what you’re talking about. As soon as there’s something they don’t understand, it becomes much harder for them to follow your speech, and before you know it, Sarah, the class sleeper is taking her afternoon snooze and the others are struggling to keep their eyes open! Having said all that, if you have an equivalent jargon-heavy topic like pain medications that really does interest you, then go for it. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to explain any new vocabulary during your speech to keep your audience’s attention.

Keen to learn more? My How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation eBook continues on this same path, covering the next steps in your Oral Presentation journey!

The following is a snippet from my study guide, How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation . It's filled with unique advice that takes you from start to finish in mimicking the techniques used by a perfect-scorer VCE Year 12 student. You may want to start off reading Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations and come back to this blog if you haven't already!

This blog covers the first step within Pillar 2: Writing The ‘This Is-Going-To-Blow-You-Away’ Speech. Once you've chosen an interesting topic and have researched all of its different viewpoints, it's time to formulate your contention. Often, creating a killer contention is about avoiding some common traps that will make your overall presentation boring, bland and just like the rest of your cohorts'.

So, I like to avoid: ‍

Broad, overarching statements

If you think your contention is, ‘abortion in Australia’ then you’re wrong. This is simply not a contention! A contention is an opinion. The example, ‘abortion in Australia’ offers no insight into your opinion on the issue at all. Instead, ‘We need to consider women’s mental health when judging their decision on abortion’ is an opinion. ‍

A contention that is just plain obvious

Let’s say we use the issue of ‘homelessness in Australia’. Arguing ‘homelessness in Australia is a problem’ or ‘we need to fix the homelessness issue in Australia’ just isn’t going to cut it because you’d never argue the opposite, ‘homelessness is great’. There are no differing viewpoints against your contention which means that you have nothing to argue against.

You need to be more specific with your issue - that’s why you looked up all those viewpoints in your research. For example, you could contend, ‘We need to fix the problems in homes in order to fix Australia’s homeless issue.’ This does has varied viewpoints because someone else’s solution could be to give homeless people greater access to help.

TEST: Before you move on to writing structure, ask yourself, can people argue against my contention? If yes, proceed ahead! If no, you’ll need to revise your contention again. Do this over and over until you can confidently answer ‘yes’ to the above question.

Avoid a contention that is generally accepted as true in today’s age ‍

When climate change first came onto the radar, the main debate was whether it was a real or a conspiracy theory. These discussions were in full force over 5+ years ago. These days (with the exception of climate change skeptics of course), discussion on climate change revolves more heavily around the slow pace of policy implementation, intergenerational effects of climate change, and mental health surrounding climate change.

Rather than arguing, ‘Climate change is real?’ (which your teacher has probably listened to a dozen times), you’re better suited to argue ‘Young people, not governments, should lead the fight against climate change’. Not only does this tie into the LSG belief that you should be more specific with your issue, it’ll also mean that your contention is relevant to today.

Now it's your turn. Give it a go! You might need to take a few tries to get your contention right, and that's absolutely OK.

If even after that you’re still unsure about your contention, make it a priority to speak to your teacher about it. Ask them if they could review your proposed contention and offer you any constructive feedback. Heck, even if you are confident with your contention, I’d ask your teacher anyway for any insight you mightn’t have thought of.

Can you believe it’s already 2021? To kick off the year in VCE English, you’ll probably be working on your Oral Presentation sometime soon. The past year has flown by, but so much has happened in that year - there are plenty of juicy and controversial topics to get stuck into for your SAC.

Each heading below represents a broad topic and each subheading under it takes you into more specific debates. A more precise topic can make your speech more engaging and current, so feel free to pick a broad issue that resonates with you but don’t forget to zoom in on more specific questions too.

If you haven’t already, check out our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for some general tips and tricks to get you started!

1. Working From Home

ICYMI, there’s been this global pandemic going around for about a year now. It’ll probably come up in a few speeches this year, but let’s work through some more specific ways of using it in yours.

First up is working from home. In 2020, a lot of people spent a lot of time working from home - but this hasn’t been possible for everyone, meaning that it could be worsening certain forms of inequality. ‘Essential workers’ like supermarket clerks and delivery drivers have not been able to work from home, which might put them at a disadvantage when it comes to the flexibility or even the conditions of their work. Conversely, a ‘ tax on remote workers ’ has been proposed which would see people pay a 5% tax if they chose to work from home instead.

Is working from home all that it’s chalked up to be? Is it a positive sign of flexibility, or a widening gap between the manual working class and white-collar professionals? What can we learn about working from home now that we can apply to the future? Is it the environmentally responsible thing to do?

The hidden impact of the coronavirus pandemic is rising urban inequality – 26/11/2020 ‍ Rebound in carbon emissions expected in 2021 after fall caused by Covid – 11/12/2020

Possible Contentions: 

  • All workplaces, especially those with essential manual or physical labour, should provide paid health and safety training to staff who are for example more at risk of disease
  • A working from home tax is a bad idea - it encourages people to commute and pollute. We should look to ways of promoting flexibility and sustainability instead
  • Casual workers in manual professions should be given paid sick leave and other entitlements to make their jobs as flexible as remote office workers

2. Education

You might’ve spent 2020 learning from home too. Everything happened pretty quickly right at the start of the year, but as the months wore on it became clearer that some students were adjusting better than others. In particular, ‘ digital exclusion ’ became a big problem for many students around the country. Inequality is once again a big theme: access to the internet and other technology is vastly uneven, and students who were already dealing with things like mental ill-health were set further back by remote learning. Even though the Victorian government applied special considerations to all Year 12 students in 2020, this is far from a long-term fix.

What can be done about the education system to make it fairer, or even just to make it work better for you? Is it an issue with technology, or are there underlying problems around, say, mental health and wellbeing? Maybe it’s time to axe the ATAR system - would a new scoring system solve these problems?

Coronavirus kept Victorian students out of class. This is what we know about long-term effects of school closures – 21/09/2020 ‍ Government must address barriers to education in rural and remote areas, inquiry finds – 12/11/2020 ‍ The ATAR Benefits No-One: Reflections of a ‘High-Achiever’ – 02/11/2020 (yes this is a shameless plug for my own piece)

Possible Contentions : 

  • The government should supply public schools with tech for every student, including iPads and broadband devices
  • The government should implement a needs-based approach to technology in schools
  • Schools need engagement staff as well as teaching staff: COVID-19 has shown just how easy it is for students to disconnect
  • Replace the ATAR with something that measures skills and interests, rather than just results

The Climate Crisis

1. the paris agreement.

The Paris Agreement is an international agreement that was signed a little over five years ago. It binds every country to a commitment of carbon neutrality by 2050 - this means that everyone will be taking as much CO2 out of the atmosphere as we emit. Part of the Agreement is that countries have to commit to new, increasingly ambitious plans every five years, and this deadline has just passed.

How did we do, you might ask. While the mid-century goal still stands, the five-year increment isn’t looking fantastic - most countries , including Australia , haven’t strengthened their climate targets. The Prime Minister was even snubbed out of a speaking slot at a UN climate summit, some suggest because of his inaction on climate. None of this has really snatched headlines though.

Is this something that you’ve been following? If not, is it a problem that this news isn’t really getting out there? What can Australia do better with regard to the climate crisis?

The Paris agreement five years on: is it strong enough to avert climate catastrophe? – 08/12/2020 ‍ The Paris Agreement 5 years on: big coal exporters like Australia face a reckoning – 14/12/2020 ‍ Australia records fourth hottest year as it risks being isolated globally on climate change – 05/01/2021

  • Australia needs to be proactive on the Paris Agreement, rather than doing the bare minimum
  • Australia needs to transition away from coal
  • Our country’s lack of climate action is a great source of shame, particularly for young Australians who want a better future
  • The Australian media should take the climate crisis more seriously

2. Environmental Racism

One aspect of the climate crisis we’re starting to talk about more now is environmental racism. The term started in the US , where it was used to describe the disproportionate impacts of environmental problems like pollution on working class people of colour. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply in Australia though - earlier in 2020 , a sacred Aboriginal site was blasted by Rio Tinto in order to expand a mine. Now, taxpayer money is being set aside for fracking in the Northern Territory. This will have an adverse impact on not only the climate, but also the local water quality on which First Nations communities depend.

What can be done about environmental racism? Is it about making changes in government, or about activism from outside the halls of power? If environmental racism is the problem, is there a solution that can tackle both problems at once? Is it even accurate to refer to them as two separate problems?

The young Indigenous woman fighting fracking in remote NT – 11/11/2020 ‍ $50 Million Hand-Out to Northern Territory Frackers – 17/12/2020 ‍ Fighting not just to survive, but to flourish – 21/12/2020 ‍ Making sense of Australia’s climate exceptionalism – 01/01/2021

  • Indigenous land rights is not just a social movement: it could help us avoid environmental disaster as well
  • Politicians are too reliant on fossil fuel companies: we need more grassroots activism around climate justice
  • Fracking is dangerous, its impacts disproportionately affect BIPOC communities and as such it should be banned

3. A Carbon Price?

This topic was kind of on our 2020 topic list , but the debate around climate action has changed a little bit since. A carbon price would make the atmosphere a commodity basically - corporations would have to pay in order to pollute.

But maybe that’s still giving them too much power? If you can just pay your way out of environmental responsibility, who’s to stop you from polluting? Maybe there isn’t a capitalistic or free-market solution to carbon emissions - maybe we need to rethink our entire relationship with land and country. What can and should Australia learn from its First People in this regard?

Australia’s plants and animals have long been used without Indigenous consent. Now Queensland has taken a stand – 16/09/2020 ‍ ‘As an Australian it will affect you. It’s your land as well’: Indigenous tourism’s new online travel agency – 03/12/2020 ‍ What is cultural burning? – 31/12/2020 ‍ The barriers to a carbon fee and dividend policy – 07/01/2021

  • A carbon price is still necessary, but it’s a stepping stone in a larger conversation
  • Putting a price on excessive pollution isn’t the same as creating laws to prevent it: as such, it is no longer enough

1. First Nations Justice

You might recall the huge impact that George Floyd’s death had on conversations about race around the world. Though this erupted in a wave of furore last June, the conversation has been shifting ever since. In Australia, we’ve been grappling in particular with First Nations justice. While the Prime Minister ’s made attempts to unify the country through certain words and gestures, First Nations leaders such as Lidia Thorpe , the first Indigenous senator from Victoria, have been calling for something more substantive. In the meantime, police brutality against First Nations people continues.

Where to from here? What does the future of First Nations justice look like in Australia, and what is the role of leaders like Ms Thorpe? Where do non-Aboriginal folks fit into this? What could we do better?

Lidia Thorpe: Victoria's first Aboriginal senator urges end to deaths in custody and mass incarceration – 09/09/2020 ‍ ‘We have the fight in us’: Lidia Thorpe’s incredible journey to historic place in the Victorian Senate – 23/09/2020 ‍ 'Unfinished business': Senator Lidia Thorpe on fighting for Treaty for Indigenous Australians – 10/12/2020 ‍ Can we breathe? – 31/12/2020

  • Reconciliation is an outdated term; it implies two parties are coming together as equals, when history would tell us otherwise
  • Lidia Thorpe’s election is the first step in a longer journey towards representation, truth-telling and self-determination
  • Even after the #BlackLivesMatter movement in 2020, we still a long way to go with anti-racism
  • Australia is far from a multicultural utopia: we need to learn to treat politicians like Lidia Thorpe with more respect

2. Refugees

In 2019, the ‘medevac’ bill allowed refugees to be brought to mainland Australia for medical care. That bill has since been repealed, but it did allow some refugees to leave their detention centres and receive medical treatment. 60 of them have now been detained in various Melbourne hotels for over a year now. In December, they were moved to a former COVID-19 quarantine hotel, where they will continue to be isolated and detained.

What injustices (plural) are going on here? Did medevac force us to confront our out-of-sight-out-of-mind asylum seeker policy? And if this isn’t the impetus we need to shut offshore detention once and for all, what exactly will it take?

The Mantra 60 should be freed from torture. Here’s why the Coalition won’t do it – 15/12/2020 ‍ Former mayor among protesters arrested as police escort refugees and asylum seekers to new Melbourne hotel – 17/12/2020 ‍ Refugees and asylum seekers moved from Mantra hotel in Melbourne – 17/12/2020 ‍ ‘We are human, we are not animals’: Mantra refugees transferred to another hotel – 17/12/2020

  • Bring back medevac: it was a bare minimum policy to begin with, and it’s unconscionable that it would be repealed, thereby denying sick people healthcare
  • Australia’s refugee policy is as lazy as it is harmful: something needs to change
  • The hotel industry is profiting off detention and we should consider boycotting chains like Mantra

3. COVID-Related Racism

This could’ve gone in the first section, but it poses important questions about ongoing and future race relations in Australia. During 2020, Asian Australians and particularly those with Chinese heritage experienced a sharp increase in racially-provoked harassment. Towards the end of the year, Chinese Australians were asked in a Senate committee hearing to condemn the Chinese Communist Party, which many have described as race-baiting. Many Australians with Chinese heritage have no relation to the Chinese government, so it’s jarring that they’d be called upon to give an opinion like this.

How does race still impact civic life in Australia? If you’re Australian, should you be expected to have opinions about or deny loyalties to foreign governments? Does it matter what race you are, and if so, how is that problematic?

Chinese Australians say questions from Senator Eric Abetz about their loyalties are not asked of other communities – 15/10/2020 ‍ Eric Abetz refuses to apologise for demanding Chinese-Australians denounce Communist party – 16/10/2020 ‍ More than eight in 10 Asian Australians report discrimination during coronavirus pandemic – 02/11/2020 ‍ Too many men in pin-striped suits – 10/12/2020 (this is an interesting one that also touches on gender and class in civic life)

  • Politicians are increasingly out of touch with Australia’s diverse communities because they are just so overwhelmingly undiverse
  • Again, Australia is not a multicultural utopia. When times get tough, the racism really jumps out
  • Australians are yet to confront the reality that there are Chinese Australians (which sounds like a joke, but based on these articles isn’t really a joke) - their behaviour continues to ‘other’ people who actually really are Australian, telling them they somehow don’t belong
  • More people of colour should run for public office; this starts with civic empowerment in schools

1. Representation

As it turns out, journalism isn’t a very diverse profession. When issues about disability come up, for example, they’re often covered by abled journalists in a “pity party” or “inspiration porn” manner. When issues about race come up, it’s also often white people who cover them, usually with racist undertones as well. We started seeing a bit of this in 2020: the stories that kept coming up about people breaking COVID restrictions were often targeting minorities - their names and faces would be splashed across newspaper front pages, while their white counterparts were afforded privacy and forgiven for making a mistake.

How fair is the media landscape towards people from minority backgrounds? What different forms might racism and ableism take in the media, and how can we overcome them? Is it as simple as allowing disabled people to tell their own stories, for example?

Muslims, Chinese Australians and Indigenous people most targeted in racist media coverage – 11/11/2020 ‍ ‘Double standard’: Experts weigh in on publicly shaming only certain COVID rule-breakers – 22/12/2020

  • The media landscape isn’t fair towards minorities: stereotypes can be subtle but persistent
  • Journalism schools should create more scholarships for diverse applicants
  • Australian media should adopt a code of ethics around representation of minorities

This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but young people are also one of the groups that are likely to be underrepresented in the media. A report from the Foundation for Young Australians found that there were not only less stories about young people in the media in 2020, but barely half of them actually quoted a young person.

Again, we return to questions around representation - does the media have an ethical obligation to let young people tell their own stories? How much do you, as a young person, trust the media to accurately depict you? What can be done about this?

Young People Have Been Pretty Much Ignored By The Media During COVID – 28/10/2020 ‍ Research Report: mainstream media either ignores young Australians or castigates them – 21/12/2020

  • Young people can no longer trust the media, and this is detrimental to civic society
  • There needs to be a national youth broadcaster, kind of like the ABC, run by young people for young people

Remember Kevin Rudd? The former Prime Minister has been making waves recently for starting a parliamentary petition for a royal commission into media diversity. The petition was signed by a record 501,876 people, and it looks like the commission - a bit like a government inquiry - will go ahead. The ‘media diversity’ in question isn’t about race or disability though - it’s more about media ownership. In Australia, Rupert Murdoch owns almost two-thirds of metropolitan media circulation. He’s also a climate sceptic , which means a large chunk of his media output is also climate-sceptic.

What is the role of media in democracy, and can it still fulfill that role if one person gets to own so much of it? What are some ways Murdoch has used his influence, and what have been the consequences for the Australian people? What should the royal commission look to now achieve?

Petition calling for media royal commission and setting Australian record tabled in Parliament – 09/11/2020 ‍ Rudd and Turnbull will be called to give evidence at Senate inquiry into media diversity – 11/11/2020  

  • Because the media holds government to account in the eyes of the people, one person owning this much of the media gives them too much power
  • Australia’s climate inaction is a direct result of Murdoch’s media empire, and we need to break it apart to get honest debate and coverage

Pop Culture

In December 2020, the Australian singer Sia was caught in a bit of Twitter beef. She defended casting Maddie Ziegler, an abled actress, in a disabled role for her upcoming film. Disability justice activists argued that autistic people should be able to portray themselves, and that roles for autistic people should be written by them as well. Sia later admitted this was “ableism”, but didn’t back down on her decision.

What is the appropriate way for celebrities and creatives to approach representation? Without debating anyone’s actual identity, how can the film industry do better here?

Sia opens up about lashing out on Twitter to defend her new film – 19/12/2020 

  • Abled people shouldn’t write roles for disabled people, nor should they play these roles; if a disabled person can’t play the role, then it isn’t appropriate in the first place
  • Cancel culture isn’t a thing, given how comfortable Sia feels admitting to ableism and then committing to her decision anyway
  • We shouldn’t cancel people, but we still need new ways to really hold them to account: otherwise, they can still get away with discrimination

The Grammy Awards have been oft-criticised for racial biases, including once again in this year ’s coming ceremony. Black artists like Beyonce are often relegated to subcategories like R&B and rap - of her 24 Grammy Awards, only one was awarded in a major category (Best Music Video in 2017 for ‘Formation’). Meanwhile, she was arguably snubbed for Album of the Year wins in both 2017 (Adele won) and 2015 (Beck won). Now though, the Grammys are hoping to #ChangeMusic and acknowledge the contributions of Black artists to the industry. 

What should this look like? Are award wins all it will take? Is a change for the future enough to fix wrongs of the past? Maybe awards aren’t even that important - is cultural impact what really matters?

#ChangeMusic Roadmap aims to redress racism in music industry – 17/12/2020 

  • The cultural impact of Bla(c)k artists can’t be measured through awards
  • Awards are a necessary first step to acknowledging Bla(c)k talent in the music industry
  • Radios stations should make more of an effort to diversify their sets, particularly when local BIPOC talent in Australia is at an all-time high (think Thelma Plum, Sampa the Great etc.)

Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for more advice on how to write your speech, presentation tips and more. Or, if you really want to dive in further to make sure you absolutely nail your Oral, then you'll definitely want to check out our How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation ebook - it explores essay structure, the written explanation and even has sample A+ essays so that you can learn from past students who have succeeded in VCE!!

Sunset Boulevard is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Introduction

Sunset Boulevard is perhaps the most famous film about film . A darkly funny yet disturbing noir, it follows washed-up screenwriter Joe Gillis being pulled into the murky world of even-more-washed-up former silent film star Norma Desmond, disingenuously helping with her screenplay. Critical commentary on the film industry is obviously included here, but Billy Wilder’s 1950 film digs deeper to explore the blurred line between fantasy and reality, as well as power, authenticity and self-delusion. Crucially, these themes are often shown in the film’s construction , via the cinematic techniques implemented by Wilder in each scene. This blog will explore the most important examples of these cinematic techniques. Remember, VCE examiners are on the lookout for students who can offer a close reading of the text they are discussing, giving specific examples of how its creator has constructed it to support their arguments. Just look at the difference between an essay that says:

' Through the final shot of the film, Wilder shows Norma completely succumbing to her fantasy.’ 

Compared to one that argues:

‍ ‘Through his utilisation of an increasingly glossy and distorted filter in the ominous final shot, Wilder depicts Norma being completely overtaken by her romanticised fantasy of ‘Old Hollywood’.

So read below to learn how to use the most effective and crucial cinematic techniques within Sunset Boulevard.  ‍

Camera Techniques: Shot Types & Angles

Camera techniques are arguably the primary way that a director will intentionally direct the eye of the audience, directly framing how they view a film. The two most basic ways in which the camera is used for this are through the distance between the subject (what the scene is about) and the camera, or the ‘shot type’ and the ‘camera angle’ at which the subject is being filmed. Four key examples of these from Sunset Boulevard are explored below. 

Key Examples of Shot Types

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Our first look at Norma Desmond is within the wide shot above, just as Joe Gillis has entered her dishevelled mansion early in the film. As a rule, the introductory shot of a character is always worth closely analysing, as the director typically establishes their characteristics and place within the film’s wider world. 

Shown above, this distant first look at Norma establishes her distance, both physical and mental, from the world around her. Removing herself from an industry that has long since moved on from her, she is severely out of touch with the reality of the world outside her home. Crucially, as this same shot is from Joe’s perspective, Wilder also foreshadows the more specific character ‘distance’ that will emerge between the two. Here, the audience sees the space Joe will similarly leave between himself and Norma, disingenuously humouring her poor-quality scripts and romantic advances and, therefore, always keeping her ‘at a distance’.

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Another shot conveying crucial information about character relationships is shown when Joe officially ‘loses’ Betty towards the end of the film, refusing to give up his ‘long-term contract’ with Norma. Here, Wilder consciously frames the scene’s subject (Betty) at a distance with a medium shot. Supported by her refusal to make eye contact with Joe and her literal statement that she ‘can't look at [him]’ we again see physical distance between the camera and the subject translating to emotional distance between two characters. The impact of them no longer ‘seeing eye to eye’ is additionally heightened by the clear chemistry they previously demonstrated across the film. 

Key Examples of Camera Angles

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Just like the introductory shot of a character is worth digging into, the opening shot of a film is also incredibly important to unpack. Sunset Boulevard’ s seemingly straightforward opening shot simply includes the film’s title, by showing the real-life Hollywood street. However, notice that we are not seeing a ‘Sunset Boulevard’ street sign (the more obvious choice), but instead a dirty and stained curbside. Further, Wilder shoots this curb from a high angle . Therefore, the film’s opening shot establishes maybe the most central aim of Wilder’s film; offering a critical look at the superficiality and flawed nature of Hollywood. As such, we are literally looking down on the film industry in the first moment of the film, represented by this dirty and unflattering visual symbol of Hollywood. This, therefore, is setting the stage for the satire and critical commentary that will follow. 

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Wilder’s careful use of camera angles is further shown at the end of the film after Betty abandons Joe at the gate of Norma’s mansion. Crucially, this all happened due to the desperate exertion of power by Norma, who called Betty and revealed the details of her relationship with Joe. As such, Wilder shoots Norma at a low angle, as Joe looks up at her haughty gaze. The level of power that Norma has exerted over Joe may seem minimal within the moment, but when we consider what happens next, this shot becomes much more important. On the brink of descending completely into madness and taking Joe’s life, Wilder uses this shot to establish that Joe should be looking up in fear at Norma, and his dismissive and pitiful opinion of her will soon lead to his death.  

Mise-en-scène

Mise-en-scène is perhaps the most deceptively simple cinematic technique. It involves analysing what appears within a frame and where it has been placed by the director. This includes elements such as the actor’s costumes, the props and the design of the set. Often, mise-en-scène is used to reinforce something we are being told about a character already through the film’s dialogue and acting.  

Key Example of Mise-en-scène 1

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We can see a key example of characterisation through mise-en-scène early in the film, where the audience’s introduction to Joe Gillis visually communicates his unconcerned and detached attitude, as well as his tendency to settle for something convenient despite its inauthenticity. His being dressed in a bathrobe with the blazing sun outside (and his debt collectors clearly up and doing their jobs) speaks to his slovenliness and uninvested approach to life. The set design within this scene further characterises Joe, with the script directly describing the ‘reproductions of characterless paintings’ that cover his walls. Here, the set arguably provides a visual metaphor for the profit-driven ‘Bases Loaded’ script he is writing at that very moment, later described by Betty as having come ‘from hunger.’ 

Key Example of Mise-en-scène 2

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Equally, our introduction to the home of Norma Desmond helps establish the key elements of her character. The house is, as Joe describes, ‘crowded with Norma Desmonds’, in the form of countless framed photos of her from her silent film era. These self-portraits constantly looking out onto Norma symbolise the deluded fantasy world she has placed herself in. They both show how this world is based around her still being a youthful and famous actress, and that this delusion is maintained through Norma only communicating inwardly, refusing to face the reality of the outside world.

As ‘symbolises’ is a verb that is very commonly misused, it’s necessary here to provide a very simplified definition:

A symbol is something that contains levels of meaning not present at first glance or literal translation.  

In film, the most obvious symbols are often physical objects that reappear within the story, working to symbolise concepts that develop the text’s key themes. 

The Dead Chimp & The Organ

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One of the more seemingly inexplicable parts of Wilder's film actually contains one of its most important symbols, with Norma’s pet monkey playing a key foreshadowing role from beyond the grave. The chimp, a pet owned and trained by Norma to amuse her, leaves a vacant role that Joe will gradually fill after having unknowingly interrupted its funeral. From this point in the film, Joe is manipulated, or ‘trained’, by Norma to entertain and provide companionship to her. Naturally, Joe also ends up dead within the bounds of Norma’s estate, with this symbol, therefore, foreshadowing the full trajectory of his character. All of this is directly alluded to through Joe’s description of the ‘mixed-up dream’ he has the night of the funeral, imagining ‘an organ [player]’ and the ‘chimp…dancing for pennies’ that he will soon become. 

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This naturally brings us to the organ itself, which serves as a physical reminder of the unflattering parts of the new role Joe must play. Included after Joe wakes from his ‘mixed-up dream’, the shot above frames Max’s organ-playing hands as massive and overpowering, as the much-smaller Joe storms in demanding to know why his ‘clothes and things’ were moved to Norma’s house without his say-so. Crucially, Norma then reveals that she ordered this action and that Joe's apartment debts are ‘all taken care of’, hand-waving his attempt at grasping back some control and dignity by proposing it be ‘deduct[ed]...from [his] salary’. This scene reveals the symbolic role the organ plays within Sunset Boulevard, reminding Joe of the shameful and powerless role of the ‘pet monkey’ that he now fills, as well as what he will be ‘dancing’ for. 

Finally, we come to allusions, one of the techniques that Sunset Boulevard is most famous for. Allusions refer to anytime something from outside the world of the text is referenced, including other texts and real-world people, places, events, etc. Biblical and mythological allusions are commonly found in fiction, but references to something closer to our world can often bring a degree of realism to certain texts, working to strengthen their social commentary. 

Cinematic Allusions

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Being a film about film, Sunset Boulevard naturally contains many allusions to other films. However, Wilder does not shy away from adding an extra level of realism to his references to the film industry. Central to this is the use of the real (and still functional) Paramount Pictures studio to which Joe attempts to sell his clichéd baseball script. Notably, this is the studio that actually released Sunset Boulevard , all of which adds a self-deprecating edge to the satire of the film industry these scenes contain. The scene where the cigar-chomping Paramount executive, Mr Sheldrake, cynically suggests that changing Joe’s film concept to a ‘girls' softball team’ might ‘put in a few numbers’, packs an extra punch due to the use of the real film studio, therefore, showing the effect of this allusion in strengthening the film’s satire. 

Allusions to specific films are additionally used for humorous purposes and character development. For instance, take Joe’s dry observation that the extravagance of the funeral for Norma’s pet means that he ‘must have been a very important chimp’, perhaps the ‘great-grandson of King Kong’. Here, Joe’s sardonic and witty character is revealed to the audience. Additionally, these kinds of references further place the film firmly in the world of real Hollywood , again working to strengthen the satire it offers of this industry. 

Literary Allusions

Similarly, allusions to the world of literature flesh out both the characters and the world of Sunset Boulevard . The most stand-out example of this is the allusion to Charles Dickens’ classic novel Great Expectations . Here, Joe muses that the ‘unhappy look’ of Norma’s house reminds him of ‘Miss Havisham’ from this text. This is a character, who, after being abandoned by her fiance, refuses to change her clothing and lives secluded in a ‘rotting wedding dress’. Havisham directly parallels Norma, being a tragic figure immovably stuck in the past, with Norma's excessive placement of young self-portraits being reminiscent of Havishman’s insistence on keeping her house’s clocks at the exact time she received her letter of marital rejection. Therefore, this comparison to the Dickens character, who engages in a more exaggerated version of Norma’s behaviour, seeks to highlight just how detached Norma is from reality through her attempts to live in the past, implying that what she is doing is just as deluded as refusing to remove a rotting wedding dress. Further, the eventual fate of Miss Havisham within Great Expectations, with her wedding dress catching fire and leaving her as an invalid, foreshadows Norma’s similar descent to invalidity through her madness.

Written by Milo Burgner

The life of an English teacher during assessment time is miserable. This is great for us! If you know how to use their misery to your advantage.

Hello, I am here to teach you how you can claim some easy English points off these poor, poor, professors. Let’s begin 😊

1. Engage with the historical context

This should be a baseline expectation! Yet, if I had a dollar for every student I see launching into an essay not even considering the socio-cultural context in which their book was written, I’d have enough to purchase the VCAA institution and have historical context made mandatory with the punishment being immediate expulsion from VCE.

Just put some historical context into your introduction, it’ll make it beefier and add some spice to your essay. Historical context generally entails listing the form (novella, play, etc…) of your text; the time period in which it was written (Victorian, 20th century, etc…), its genre (Gothic, biographical, etc…), and finally, any of the relevant literary titles it could be classed under (Romantic, Feminist, post-colonial, etc…)

For example: “Mary Shelley’s Victorian Gothic Romantic novella Frankenstein…”

Bonus points if you can actively engage in a set of philosophical ideas that were present at the time, eg: “Age of Enlightenment values”, or the “Feminist movement”.

2. Write a strong introduction

You must impress an assessor within two minutes. With this in mind, what do you think looks better: a little five-line intro vaguely outlining your points and just barely tickling on the structure and context of the texts; or a sprawling introduction which hits the historical context on the head and articulates beautifully the direction your essay is going and how it plans to get there. It’s a simple Virgin vs Chad dichotomy, be a chad, write a strong introduction.

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3. Clear and concise topic sentences

Your topic sentences NEED to be easy to read and easy to follow. Apply the K.I.S.S rule here (Keep it Simple, Stupid). State the point of your paragraph with clarity, there should be nothing too complex or vague about it. For example: “The architecture of Frankenstein enables the story to act as a cautionary tale”. If you feel you cannot encapsulate your topic within a single sentence, then I suggest dialling back the complexity of your paragraph topic. Remember, text response is a process of stating a concept, then proving it – nothing more, nothing less.

You know ‘Grammar Nazis’? Well English assessors are Grammar Hitler’s. Make sure your expression is on point. Avoid run on sentences, break them up with full stops, a comma is not a substitute for a period.

5. Understand language

I’m hoping we all know what verbs, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, conjunctions and etcetera are here? This kind of rather basic English knowledge can seriously pepper up your analysis once you understand how language works. Begin by simply noting how an adjective modifies a verb within a sentence and what affect that has. Once you master this, you can move onto actually classifying the language under specific tones; for example: a pejorative verb, or a superlative adjective of degree. I’ll throw a few free ones your way! A pejorative verb is a doing word with negative connotations, such as: “penetrate” or “molest”. Whilst a superlative adjective is a describing word of the highest degree, for example: “grandest” or “calmest” (as opposed to simply “grand” or “calm”. Although this language seems complex, it’s deceivingly simple once you understand some basic English rules.

6. Write about structure

Structure is the ‘secret high scoring English students don’t want you to know!!’ If you aren’t writing about structure, then you are missing out on an absolute gold mine of analysis. If you understand how structure works within a text and can write it out coherently you’re essentially guaranteed a 40+. Y’all may call that an exaggeration, but knowing how to write about structure in an essay is like crossing the threshold, your eyes become open – you attain nirvana. Structure is the Bifrost which separates the land of Gods from the land of mortals. Some good ways to begin thinking about structure include: pondering how the text begins and ends, does it begin as a jovial and upbeat story and end as a depressing mess, why might the author have structured the text this way? Or, think about which characters we follow throughout the text and what journey they undergo, are their multiple narrators? Why might this be relevant or what may the author be trying to emphasise? Another great one is just looking for recurring themes and motifs across the text, such as a repeated phrase or similarities between characters. The key to writing on structure is understanding how the text has been structured, and then connecting that to a meaning or using it to support your contention.  

7. Structure your essays

PSYCHE I’M STILL NOT DONE TALKING ABOUT STRUCTURE. Structure. Your. Essays. I cannot stress this enough, use TEEL (topic sentence, evidence, elaboration, link), use whatever your teacher taught, but use it! This one is especially important in language analysis, legit, lang anal essays are almost 100% structure, just WHW (what, how, why) your way through that essay. Once you understand how to structure an essay, everything else improves. So, structure your essays!! 

8. Write about allusions

Now we’re getting into the big boy material. An allusion is any reference within a text to another text. So when Peter Griffin from Family Guy pokes fun at the Simpsons, he is making an allusion to the Simpsons. Or when your protagonist happens across a bible verse, that is a biblical allusion. Whenever I hear a student mention a literary allusion, my day improves and so does their mark. Most every text has allusions in it somewhere, do your research. Frankenstein has Rime of the Ancient Mariner, about half the books on the planet have biblical allusions, just ask your teacher or research online and you’re bound to come up with some excellent analysis material. Bonus points for allusions to classic texts such as: the Faust mythos, Greek/Roman tales such as Prometheus, the Bible, Paradise Lost, etc…

9. Reference influential philosophical ideas

This one is eating from the tree of knowledge. Including a philosophical concept in your essay immediately places you in the upper echelons. It separates plebs from patricians. You’ll have to do a bit of research here, but it is well worth it. Once you can mention that an idea is “characteristic of the Romantic period”, or that a concept is “Lockean (referring to John Locke)”, you’re balling, you’ll be hustling A+s in no time. Bonus points for philosophical ideas that were relevant to the time period (historical context, remember). 

10. Authorial Agenda

Referencing the authorial agenda is just minty fresh, it demonstrates a clear understanding of concepts even beyond just the text itself. Guaranteed to put a sparkle in your teachers’ eye. Although adding authorial agenda augments your essay extraordinary, don’t overdo it. 

If you made it to the end of this then great work! Proud of you <3. Including these tips in your essays is a surefire way to push them to the next level. For sticking through, I’ll give you a few quick bonus tips. Have pre-prepared zingers: you should write out and memorise a few bits of analysis that are intensely high quality, (do it in your own writing) this not only helps with ironing out your language, it also ensures you’ll have some mic drops in your essays. Analyse all included images and titles: this one’s just for language analysis, but you should analyse everything, including logos! And finally… RESPOND TO THE ESSAY QUESTION, this should be a given but there are hordes of people just spewing out words which are absolutely irrelevant to the actual essay topic.

 Thanks again for getting this far, unless you just scrolled to the bottom hoping for a TLDR. I wish you all best of luck in your VCE and the exam season, try to make it enjoyable 😊

Whether you revel in the ideas and intricacies of poetry or could not think of anything more monotonous to read, grab a tea (or coffee if it’s one of those nights), your favourite late-night snack, and prepare to be amazed by just how simple it is to absolutely NAIL a poetry essay.

Don’t worry, I know that same overwhelming feeling when poetry can seem as if it’s not even in English, but I can ensure you, learning how to write a poetry essay is like learning to ride a bike…. Once you wrap your head around it you’ll be cruising!

To make these tips even more practical, we’ll be focusing on John Donne’s poetry in relation to the topic below: ‍

‘Donne’s poetry explores the many aspects of human experience.’ Discuss.

‍ 1. Start off with a bang!

I’m sure you’ve heard it before… your introduction sets the tone for your essay and this could not be more true. A shallow introduction is like missing the start of your running race, or even worse arriving at a party just before it ends! You’ll just have so much catching up to do! Without being overly hyperbolic, here are a four essential tips that will ensure your assessor sees you as a high-scoring student right from your first sentence.

- Answer the question in your first sentence (even if it is in a broad manner) and always link back to the essay topic – this will show the assessor that you are answering the question given rather than presenting them with a sneaky memorised essay!

- Utilise the right terminology when outlining the type of poet and era they wrote in (i.e. metaphysical poet, Renaissance era, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth)

‍ - Outline the main poetic techniques for which the poet is known for (i.e. playful wit, rich imagery, language, challenging intellectual argument) as well as the ideas and values they endorse (i.e. elevation of reciprocal love, belief in the resurrection of Christ, celebration of eternal life)

- Wow your assessor with unique vocab (i.e. illuminate, emanate, meditate)

And here’s a sample introduction to help you even more:

John Donne’s anthology, “Selected Poetry” illuminates the human condition and thus provides much commentary on life and death. A metaphysical poet of the Renaissance era, Donne combines a playful wit, rich imagery, and perhaps most importantly language, to challenge intellectual argument and celebrate various aspects of sexual desire, mutuality and faith. Immersed in the Christian traditions of his time, Donne’s exploration of Death emanates from the Elizabethan acute awareness of the brevity and vanity of human life; however, with his sensual elevation of reciprocal love and his deep spiritual belief in the resurrection of Christ, Donne meditates upon his belief and celebration of eternal life.

2. Strong topic sentences are Crucial (with a capital C)

Time and time again students fall into one of two traps. They either try to start each paragraph with a lengthy (and often beautiful) phrase trying to encapsulate every idea they plan to introduce in the paragraph. Or on other occasions, they have no introductory sentence and instead launch straight into their poetry analysis. Your assessor may be blown away with your A+ worthy introduction and then reach this weak opening to your paragraph and have to reconsider! Your topic sentence is the frame for the whole paragraph so please, keep it clear, succinct, and relevant to the essay question.

Here are three ‘DOs’ and ‘DON’Ts’ to consider when crafting one of the most important sentences of your essay (again, sorry about the drama!)

- DON’T mention the poem you will use as evidence in your topic sentence

- DO answer and link directly to the essay topic

- DO use linking words to link the ideas in different paragraphs

And here are three STRONG topic sentences for each paragraph of this essay (note how I always link back to the topic of human experiences and link ideas between paragraphs)

- Rewriting the conventional trope, Donne’s oeuvre explores the joy of erotic love and ones’ lustful desire to engage in these sexual experiences.

- While much of Donne’s oeuvre comments on the pleasure of carnal experiences, his more harmonious poems reveal the beauty of relationships in which one can experience a deep sense of mutuality and stability.

- Silhouetted against the backdrop of the Elizabethan reign, Donne’s more metaphysical poems demonstrate the struggle of the process of dying and individual corruption, and the manner in which it leads to the acquirement of God’s love and grace.

3. Organise paragraphs by IDEAS

What makes a poetry essay so unique is that your paragraphs are based on broad ideas rather than the motifs and behaviours of characters in novels. This means that when planning your essay you must ensure that each paragraph has only one idea and that each paragraph is based on a different idea. From there you can work out which poems best represent each concept to work out which poems you will use for each paragraph. This is why I love poetry essays as planning for them is so easy! All you have to do is think of three or four different ideas for the essay topic and then find your textual evidence by working out which poems best reflect these ideas…. Simple! Right?

Here are the three ideas that I plan to discuss in each of my paragraphs of this essay as well as the poems I would use:

- Sexual/physical human experiences

- ‘Elegy 19: To His Mistress Going to Bed’ & ‘The Flea’

- Mutuality and reciprocity as an experience/element of spiritual love

- ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’

- The innately human experience of dying and being embraced by God in heaven

- ‘Hymn to God My God in My Sickness’ ‍

4. Analyse, not summarise

If there was one thing that was playing in my head over and over while writing a poetry essay it was ‘analyse, not summarise’. It is so easy to fall into the trap of simply summarising the poetic techniques and language of the different poems rather than analysing their meaning and linking this directly to the essay question. Even if you have the best plan and ideas going for you, if an assessor notices you going into summary mode they’ll assume you’re just rewriting a memorised essay rather then answering the exact essay question given…. DISASTROUS! To prevent this utter catastrophe, I urge you to please, link to and answer the specific essay topic EVERYTIME you introduce a new poetic technique/piece of evidence. Verbs such as demonstrates, elucidates, illustrates, exemplifies, illuminates and augments are ‘must haves’ in your poetry tool-box as they will ensure that you are analysing not summarising.

Here is a sample paragraph for you to consider (notice how I always link back to the idea of mutual/reciprocal love and experiences every time I introduce a new poetic technique or quote)

While much of Donne’s oeuvre comments on the pleasure of carnal experiences, his more harmonious poems reveal the beauty of relationships in which one can experience a deep sense of mutuality and stability. The poem, ‘’A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’’ explores the sense of security and harmony which spiritual love and experiences permit. Adopting a hush, reverent tone manifested by the use of sibilance, through the enjambment of the phrase ‘’Dull sublunary lovers love, / (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit / Absence’’, Donne elevates mutual love to a higher plane, one that transcends the lines of poetry. When accompanied by the stability of the ABAB rhyme scheme that works to echo the couple’s settled love, this presents the experience of reciprocity and mutuality of love to be higher than the dull and earthbound nature of love that is solely physical. Hence, Donne reveals the bliss that mutual love permits mankind, given it eclipses the desire for any form of physicality. Further elucidating the strength of mutual love, Donne illuminates how when couples are separated it is ‘’not yet a breach, but an expansion’’, thus celebrating the manner in which deep, reciprocal love not only eclipses the divisions of the clock but how it expands ‘’like gold to airy thinness beat’’ when separated. By connoting spiritual love to the pure and malleable nature of gold, this simile characterizes mutual love to be the prime of human experiences and relationships. Intertwining the elegant conceit of a compass to represent the love that connects the speaker and his mistress, Donne garners the notion that no matter how far ‘’one doth roam’’ the intellectual bond between the couple will remain ‘’firm’’ and enable the pair to overcome any form of physical separation. Hence, Donne illuminates  the complex and impermeable bond that this serene form of human experience can foster.

‍ 5. Vocab and metalanguage are the easiest ways to SHINE

To say it plainly, writing with unique and refreshing vocabulary is enough to send your grade SOARING. It will not only render your ideas and discussion ever more complex, but has the power to enlighten and stimulate your assessor (and this is something we all want to do… right?). Utilising the correct poetic metalanguage every time you introduce a new quote or line of poetry will ensure that your analysis remains both specific and detailed. As seen in the paragraph above, discussing the poetic techniques provided me with another form of evidence (rather than just the quotes from the poem) to elucidate how these different forms of human experience are illustrated in each of Donne’s poems.

To assist you further, here is some metalanguage for the poetic techniques and structures that frequent John Donne’s poetry:

- Sibilance, alliteration, imagery, paradox, conceit, metaphor, simile, personification, rhyme structure, tone, volta, enjambment, metre (i.e. iambic pentameter, trochaic tetrameter), monosyllabic phrasing

- Stanza, verse, quatrain, cinquain

6. Finish with a jaw-dropping conclusion

A mediocre conclusion is like leaving your assessor with an unpleasant aftertaste that unfortunately, will not go away. So please, finally give your conclusion the attention it deserves and follow these five tips to ensure you leave your assessor waiting for that mic to drop!

- Pan out to the broad, abstract ideas that the poet wrestled with

- Discuss the aspects of the poet that set them apart from other poets at the time (i.e. for John Donne that is his intellectual imagery, arresting voice, wit, fusion of passion and logic and the manner in which he challenged intellectual argument and strongly held societal conventions)

- Short and sweet not long and wordy!

- Reinforce the period and society in which the poet wrote

- You can include a secondary quote if you want, however only if it relevant to the essay topic and ideas you discussed

Here is a sample conclusion to assist you:

Railing against the societal value of religion prominent during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the originality of Donne’s ideas about love, death and God along with his strikingly intellectual imagery and rich language incite and interest his more religious readership of the joys of sexual, mutual and religious experiences. The poet and playwright Ben Jonson once wrote that John Donne ‘’was the first poet in the world in some things.’’ Hence, it is through his witty and authentic form of expression that Donne allows us to reflect on and celebrate precisely what it means to be human.

This blog was updated on 23/10/2020.

1. Introductions

2. Characters

4. Literary Devices

5. Important Quotes

6. Comparing Penelopiad and Photograph 51 Video Transcription

7. Sample Essay Topics

8. Essay Breakdown

For a detailed guide on Comparative, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.

Introductions 

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood retells the story of the Odyssey by Homer from the perspective of Penelope, a half mortal and half divine princess who also happened to be the wife of Odysseus, and her Twelve Maids. A retrospective narrative, Atwood opens her mythological tale with Penelope and the Maids in the afterlife reflecting on the events that occurred centuries before. Told in chronological order from her birth, the Maids serve as a traditional part of greek theatre in their purpose of a Chorus as they make commentary on their life.  

Anna Ziegler’s play, Photograph 51 , is set during the 1950s in the age of scientific discovery as researchers are scrambling to be the first to unlock the mysteries of DNA. Its protagonist, scientist Rosalind Franklin is an under-appreciated genius working as the only female in her respective field. As one of her photographs uncover the truth of DNA, her competitors' ambition leads the men around her to success. 

The Penelopiad 

Major characters.

  • The Suitors
  • The Twelve Maids 
  • King Icarius of Sparta
  • Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad) 
  • Uncle Tyndareous
  • Melantho of the Pretty Cheeks 

Minor Characters

  • Theseus and Peirithous
  • Piraeus and Theoclymenus

Photograph 51

  • Rosalind Franklin 
  • Maurice Wilkins 
  • James Watson 
  • Francis Crick 
  • Don Caspar 
  • Ray Gosling 

Both texts explore the use and demonstration of power in its various forms of physical displays of strength to the patriarchal forces that govern each texts respective world. Indeed, the power of men prevailing atop the social hierarchy while displacing those below them is a common theme within both texts. The authority associated with Icarius’ title of King allows his drunken and rude behaviour to go by unquestioned while in Photograph 51 Wilikins embodies the power possessed by white men. The patriarchal power that men possess within each of the respective texts becomes closely linked to fragile masculinity in their exertion of physical strength or intellectual superiority; Odysseus self-proclaimed superhuman strength is equated to Wilkins need for intellectual dominance, especially over the brilliant Rosalind. 

While the men within each text exert their inherent power of supposed supremacy, the women within each world draw are shown to draw on their physical appearance as a source of power or is shown to be disempowered by it. In The Penelopiad , Helens is known for her legendary beauty which she uses to relentlessly taunt Penelope, the proverbial ugly duckling, through which Atwood demonstrates how, like other forms of power, can be used to oppress others. Conversely, Photograph 51 examines how Rosalind is disempowered by her perceived lack of traditional physical beauty. Many of the men around her using her unflattering appearance to ridicule and minimise her and her work. 

While the time periods in which the two texts are set may greatly differ, the notion of identity is still a prevailing theme that is explored. Indeed, the role others perceptions play in each character's construction of their own self-worth and values provides both authors a basis for the examination of how societies enforce conformity while punishing uniqueness. In The Penelopiad, it can be seen that the glowing perceptions of Odysseus from his mother and his nurse nurture and grow Odysseus’ egocentric view of himself as a hero. In contrast Photograph 51 demonstrates the negative effects these perceptions can have on one’s self-identity, as the negative views that surround Rosalind ultimately make her question herself and her actions. 

Not only do others perceptions shape one's personality, but the expectations enforced by Society. Both protagonists within each text feels pressure from those around them to live up to certain expectations; Penelope feels she must constantly encourage Odysseus’ self glorifying tales of heroism, while Rosalind feels similar pressure to follow her father's advice to consistently be right which eventually leads to her unfavourable reputation for being difficult to work with. 

Both Ziegler and Atwood suggest that in order to overcome the pressures and external expectations of society each which of these women must have a positive and strong sense of self. In the case of Photograph 51, Rosalind must adopt a strong self-belief in her work in order to survive the hostile masculine environment around her. By contrast, Odysseus constantly boasts and exaggerates his stories of heroism and the cleverness of his actions. While both Odysseus and Rosalind have a strong self-belief, Odysseus’ is guided by ego while Rosalind’s is guided by intelligence

Women and Misogyny

The feminine figure and roles are depicted in contrasting ways between the texts, but both show how the construction of characters who either adhere to or reject the social constructs of femininity during their era are forced to grapple with the harsh realities of being a woman in both ancient and modern times. One of the biggest examples of femininity shown within each text is the value the patriarchal system places on motherhood and the high expectations they have for mothers and mother figures. Some mother figures in the The Penelopiad demonstrate the gentle and protective qualities associated with typical feminine attributes; the two contrasting figures within the same text, Odysseus’ nurse and mother demonstrate the two extremes of femininity relating to motherhood. Eurycleia is presented as benevolent and dedicated to the mother figure ideal as she is shown to snatch Penelope's newborn son and envision him as her own. In contrast, Penelope's mother an elusive and neglectful Naiad leaves her child to swim around unsupervised. 

In Photograph 51 mothers are depicted as primarily concerned with the needs of their children and husbands as they are shown to identify themselves with their attributes and successes. It can be seen that such characters as Gosling's mother's interest in his PhD suggests that like Penelope she judges her own worth by her child's success. Indeed, while these mothers are shown to be nurturing and caring most of it emphasises their need to control and guide their child's life.

Not only mothers, but wives become another primary source of femininity that is examined within both texts. The Penelopiad’s notion of wives becomes closely related to the idea that within a patriarchal system women are associated with being a possession rather than an equal. Regardless of class and social standing every woman on some level is shown to be oppressed by this traditional and conventional idea of womanhood. Penelope is encouraged to be a doting wife to her husband Odysseus, while in contrast, the Maids remain unmarried yet are still subjects of oppressive mistreatment. Unlike The Penelopiad, wives have little to no significance within Photograph 51, a text heavily focused on the scientific discovery of DNA, Indeed, the woman or the wife is seen as irrelevant in the scientific field while any mention of women outside of Rosalind is confined to the wives of men contained within the domestic sphere. 

Storytelling and The Narrative 

The notion of storytelling and the power of narrative becomes closely linked to such ideas as femininity and womanhood within each text as each closely revolves around women taking back control of their own narratives and stories. The Penelopiad is a story about other stories as it is based off retelling an already famous story. The Odyssey becomes a vessel for Penelope to share her own insights and feelings while her actions of retelling the well-known work is a source of empowerment for her as she is able to negate stories about herself that she would prefer not to hear. This frees her from the burden of being a legend or a myth as she urges women not to follow her example of keeping their mouths shut. In contrast, Rosalind Franklin does speak out initially but gained an unfortunate reputation as a difficult woman in stories about her that are circulated by men. 

Through this, it can be said that the aim of both Ziegler and Atwood is to challenge the historical invisibility of women throughout time. While Ziegler's play attempts to highlight the ways in which stories told by men have worked to minimise or downplay the roles and contributions of women, The Penelopiad attempts to offer new perspective of already well-known stories that intend to give insight into the woman's understanding of life.

Literary Devices

  • Dramatic Irony 
  • Dramatic Monologue 
  • Genre, literary form and its construction 
  • Authorship 
  • Narrative structure 
  • Style and language 

Important Quotes 

“And what did I amount to, once the official version gained ground? An edifying legend. A stick used to beat other women with.” (ch.1) 
“We were told we were dirty. We were dirty. Dirt was our concern, dirt was our business, dirt was our specialty, dirt was our fault. We were the dirty girls. If our owners or the sons of our owners or a visiting nobleman or the sons of a visiting nobleman wanted to sleep with us, we could not refuse.” (ch.4) 
“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.” (ch.7) 
“Oh gods and oh prophets, please alter my life,
And let a young hero take me for his wife! 
But no hero comes to me, early or late—
Hard work is my destiny, death is my fate!” (ch.8) 
“The more outrageous versions have it that I slept with all of the Suitors, one after another—over a hundred of them—and then gave birth to the Great God Pan. Who could believe such a monstrous tale?” (ch. 20)

Photograph 51 

“Dr Wilkins, I will not be anyone’s assistant” (Rosalind pg.13)
“It’s for men only” (Wilkins pg.17) 
“But those are precisely the conversations i need to have. Scientists make discoveries over lunch.” (Rosalind pg. 17) 
“...You don’t have to try and wing me over. In fact, you shouldn’t try to win me over because you won’t succeed. I’m not that kind of person.” (Rosalind pg.35) 
“To Watson and Crick, the shape of something suggested the most detailed analysis of its interior workings” (Casper pg.41)

Comparing Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad

[Video Transcript]

 background.

The play Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler invites us to revisit the events surrounding the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure. While the DNA double helix structure is common knowledge now, in the 1950s many scientists were racing to claim its discovery. Ziegler's title, Photograph 51 is simply named after the X-ray photograph taken of the hydrated B form of DNA, which was crucial in the consequent events that eventually led to the identification of DNA's structure. However, much controversy has surrounded exactly who deserves credit for the discovery, particularly because the Nobel Prize was awarded to James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins - 3 people who did not actually take Photograph 51 itself. Instead, people have argued that Rosalind Franklin should have been one to be award the prize, or at least share the prize as it was her work that led to Photograph 51 and without it, Watson, Crick and Wilkins may not have discovered the DNA structure. Yet what makes this situation even more complicated is that Franklin’s work was shared with Watson without her knowledge in addition to the fact that Franklin died of ovarian cancer 4 years before the prize was awarded. Since the Nobel Prize does not generally make posthumous awards, Rosalind’s work has never shared in the glory along with the other men. Ziegler takes this opportunity to explore Rosalind’s perspective, and gives the audience a chance to peer into her experiences, interactions with others, and strong mindset. The question now begs: if Rosalind’s data had not been leaked, would she have gone on to discover the structure of DNA on her own? If Watson and Crick had not seen Photograph 51 , would they have gone on to discover the structure of DNA on their own?

The Penelopiad is similar to Photograph 51 in that it is written from a women's perspective previously never explored in literature. While in Photograph 51 , Ziegler allows us to be privy to Rosalind’s thoughts - a perspective unknown to media and publications because of her death, Margaret Atwood chooses to write from Penelope’s perspective, a view also previously never explored in Greek literature. Penelope’s reminisces about her life from her deathbed in Hades, the underworld. We learn of Penelope’s key life moments from childhood through to adulthood, such as the psychological damage inflicted upon her when her father attempts to drown her as a child, to her pretending to weave a shroud so that she can delay the decision to choose a Suitor who undoubtedly only wants to marry her so they could take up the throne and treasure. Her narrative is occasionally interrupted by the 12 maids who were killed by Odysseus, Penelope’s husband, upon his return. These maids were wrongly murdered and their presence in Atwood’s story brings attention to their plight as not only females, but as slaves during Ancient Greece. When studying The Penelopiad , I would strongly encourage you to be familiar with its historical context - mainly, you should have a good understanding of the story ‘The Odyssey’, the Trojan War, and the roles of the Gods mentioned in the novel. I’ve created a playlist I’ll link below for you with some videos I believe will be helpful for your studies. 

Common Themes

Women’s reactions to misogyny.

Misogyny is widespread in both Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad, and both writers explore the ways in which females deal with such an environment. Penelope is more graceful in her response, as she is accepting of her place as a woman, as poignantly expressed: "I kept my mouth shut; or, if I opened it, I sang [Odysseus] praises. I didn’t contradict, I didn’t ask awkward questions, I didn’t dig deep.” Meanwhile, Rosalind reacts with snark hostility, "I don’t suppose it matters whether or not it suits me, does it?”. Rosalind refuses to let her womanhood impede her career as a scientist, to the extent that her stubbornness is self-defeating and her being constantly on guard only causes further misunderstandings and tension with Wilkins: “You know…I think there must come a point in life when you realise you can’t begin again. That you’ve made the decisions you’ve made and then you live with them or you spend your whole life in regret."

Misogyny from a male lens

In The Penelopiad, even Telemachus shows a lack of understanding and empathy for his own mother, and wants her to find a Suitor quickly because she is "responsible for the fact that his inheritance was being literally gobbled up." He disobeys Penelope’s wishes and resents being “under the thumbs of women, who as usual were being overemotional and showing no reasonableness and judgement”. Like Telemachus, the men in Photograph 51 have NO sense of what it means to be a woman. They is frustratingly presumptuous in the female psyche, as seen when Crick boasts: "See, women expect men to fall upon them like unrestrained beasts.” The viewpoints of the males in both texts highlight misogyny that is deeply rooted in society, and a demonstration of how far we can be from the truth when we formulate our own assumptions.

Women’s undervalued abilities 

Penelope is clever, but it’s only beauty and sex appeal that is valued in society as so clearly shown by all men charmed by Helen of Troy. Penelope's intelligence, and more widely, all women’s intelligence is seen as a threat to men as she says, 'cleverness is a quality a man likes to have in his wife as long as she is some distance away from him". Unlike Penelope’s era where women usually didn’t actively or overtly fight for their rights, the 1950s sees more agency in women. While Rosalind’s intelligence secures her a job and career, she still faces a hostile, sexist environment. Her fellow male scientists dismiss her credentials. From the get go, Rosalind is expected to ‘assist’ Wilkins, and is disparagingly referred to as ‘Miss Franklin’, rather than as ‘Dr Franklin’ as she is rightfully entitled to. Moreover, her methodical approach to her work drives the frustrated Wilkins to share her confidential research with Crick and Watson, displaying the men's inherent distrust and disrespect of women.

Here’s a tip for you. You may have noticed that the common themes I mentioned aren’t just one-worded themes, like ‘misogyny’. Yes, I could’ve lumped my themes together under the umbrella of ‘misogyny’ but I wanted to go that extra mile. By breaking it down further, I am better able to showcase my detailed understanding of the texts, and you’ll find that adopting this specificity in writing is rewarded in VCE. 

Here’s another tip. At the Year 12 level, and particularly in Reading and Comparing, your assessor expects you to not only understand the text itself, but to understand the real-life implications explored. Here we’re looking at human reactions and responses to our world and experiences. So when you start comparing Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad think about the human condition. For example, on a textual level, you’d be asking yourself: what factors drive Rosalind to act with such hostility towards men? Why is the way she deals with misogyny so different to that of Penelope? Now if we zoom out and look at the bigger picture, you need to start asking yourself: What do these texts say about us as people? What can we learn from these stories?

Obviously there’s so much more you can extract from these books and compare, but I hope this has given you something to think about!

At LSG, we use the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy to help us easily find points of similarity and difference. This is particularly important when it comes to essay writing, because you want to know that you're coming up with unique comparative points (compared to the rest of the Victorian cohort!). I don't discuss this strategy in detail here, but if you're interested, check out my How To Write A Killer Comparative .

Sample Essay Topics

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

Character-based Prompt:

While Rosalind and Penelope are examples of strong female characters, they are both severely flawed. Discuss. 

Theme-based Prompt: 

In what ways do misogyny and expectations impact individuals identity within each text?

Structure-based Prompt:

What structural elements help convey the strength of women within The Penelopiad and Photograph 51 ?

Quote-based Prompt:

“We were told we were dirty. We were dirty. Dirt was our concern, dirt was our business, dirt was our specialty, dirt was our fault. We were the dirty girls.” (The Penelopiad) 

Authorial message-based Prompt: 

What comments do the authors make about the corrupting force of power?

Essay Topic Breakdown

Make sure you watch the video below for extra tips and advice on how to break down this essay prompt!

Essay Topic: The authors of Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad give voice to the women in their stories. Discuss. 

  • ‘Authors’ - means I should talk about their intention and what message they want us to hear
  • ‘Voice’ - power to speak, to story-tell, to share their side of the story
  • ‘Women’ - be sure not to only talk about the main characters such as Penelope and Rosalind but other women in the books
  • ‘Discuss’ - a word like ‘discuss’ gives you a lot of flexibility to discuss any ideas that are relevant to the topic, whereas a ‘do you agree’ style of question is a bit more limiting. With so much more flexibility to ‘discuss’ various ideas, I’m going to touch on topics that most interest me . I feel that this is a great way to get yourself in tune with the book, especially as you start writing. The more you can make the writing interesting for yourself, the more interesting it will be for your reader. 

Contention : 

By giving voice to the women in their stories, atwood and ziegler reveal stories of those previously silenced, and showcase how storytelling empowers women marginalised by misogynistic social constructs. , body paragraph 1: in giving a voice to the females, both atwood and ziegler offer a new, previously unseen perspective on misogyny. .

  • In The Odyssey, the maids are constructed as unfaithful and disrespectful of queen Penelope, Telemachus and other staff. Their own story is silenced and instead, is observed through others, whereas in The Penelopiad, the maids tell their own version of events - mainly that their actions were under Penelope’s instruction.
  • The patriarchal rule is accentuated through their lack of status and rape, which is considered to be a “deplorable but common feature of palace life”.
  • Moreover, we feel sympathy for these three-dimensional characters, as they ’toil and slave/ And hoist [their] skirts at [men’s] command’. 
  • Likewise Rosalind Franklin's version of events has never been revealed because of her early death. In Photograph 51, we learn of the misogyny Rosalind faced as a female scientist "My name is Rosalind. But you can call me Miss Franklin. Everyone else does."

Body paragraph 2: By offering these women a voice, the authors reject social conventions of femininity. 

  • Penelope is cunning and intelligent, foiling the Suitor’s plans to marry her by delaying her decision with the endless weaving of her ‘shroud’. The juxtaposition of unsuspecting men and strategic Penelope thwarts traditional gender roles where women are viewed as inferior.  "They were very angry, not least because they’d been fooled by a woman."
  • Meanwhile, Rosalind is stubborn and resilient nature rebuffs the narrow-minded beliefs of her fellow coworkers who believe that “kindness always works with women” and that "women expect men to fall upon them like unrestrained beasts."

Body paragraph 3: Most importantly, both authors showcase the importance of giving women a voice as a means to control their own narrative. 

  • Penelope opens her reflection with an emphasis on how she “owe[s] it to [herself]” to “spin a thread of [her] own”. She shares how she now has the opportunity to share her side of the story, whereas allowing others to speak of her from their perspective means that “they were turning me into a story…not the kind of stories I’d prefer to hear about myself”.
  • While Penelope is empowered to reveal her story and invites us to an alternate version of historical events, this is not afforded to Rosalind in Photograph 51 . Rosalind is literally sidelined, “…we just hear her lines - a recording, or she speaks from offstage' and therefore unable to control her narrative. The stage direction (/) indicates that the men of past and present talk over her, reducing her opinion and overriding her speech with their own “self-aggrandisement."

To see another essay prompt breakdown for this text pair and a full sample A+ essay with annotations, check out this blog post .

Useful Resources

Compare the Pair- A guide to structuring a reading and comparing essay

The link between your contention and topic sentences in relation to the prompt

Master Reading and Creating

‍ ‍ A Guide to Structuring a Reading and Comparing Essay

Reading and Comparing Essays

Many lawyers today would cite this 60-year-old story as an inspiration—Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is, at its core, the tale of one attorney’s quest against racial injustice in his Deep South home, and of his children coming of age in the shadow of their father.

The novel is narrated in two parts by his younger child, Scout, and along with her brother Jem and their friend Dill, she traces their upbringing as inspired by Atticus’ moral teachings of tolerance, courage and justice. The first part follows their childhood, and their interactions with characters such as Boo Radley, Walter Cunningham, Miss Caroline and Mrs Dubose, while the second part follows the Tom Robinson trial itself, testing the children on the moral lessons of their childhood and disillusioning them to the overwhelming racism of their community.

We’ll be going through the novel’s major themes, and also looking at it a bit more critically within the historical context of civil rights and racial justice struggles.

Before we dive into To Kill A Mockingbird, I'd highly recommend checking out LSG's Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Prejudice and Race in To Kill A Mockingbird

All throughout the novel resonate messages of tolerance over prejudice. However, before any question of race is introduced, the children must confront their prejudices about Boo Radley, a local recluse who was rumoured to have attacked his parents. While they (particularly Jem and Dill) lowkey harass Boo by playing around his yard, re-enacting dramaticised versions of his life, and sending notes into his house with a fishing pole, they undoubtedly get drawn into the rumours as well: he was “six-and-a-half feet tall”, he “dined on raw squirrels” and he had a head “like a skull”.

What is prejudice, after all? In this case, it doesn’t have to do with race necessarily—it’s more about how the children judge Boo, form a preconceived image of who he is, before they really know him.

And this happens to other white characters too—notably Walter Cunningham, a boy from a poor family who Aunt Alexandra straight up derides as “trash”. Even when invited to dinner by the Finches, he is dismissed by Scout as “just a Cunningham”, and this is where Calpurnia steps in as the moral voice, chastising her for acting “high and mighty” over this boy who she hardly knows.

The racial dimension of prejudice is impossible to ignore though—as Atticus says, “people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box”. The word ‘resentment’ has special significance here in the context of the Great Depression (in which the novel was set—more on this in a later section) but the general idea is clear: Black Americans like Tom Robinson were guilty, and therefore doomed, the minute they stepped into a court because the white jury inevitably bore prejudices against them.

At the end of the day, the panacea Lee presents for prejudice is empathy, the idea that only by truly understanding someone, “climb[ing] into [their] skin and walk[ing] around in it”, can we overcome our own prejudices—something that the jury isn’t quite able to do by the end of the novel.

Justice in To Kill A Mockingbird

In the second part of the novel, these moral questions around prejudice and empathy find an arena in the courtroom, where Tom has been unfairly charged with rape and is being defended by Atticus. The court of law is supposed to be this colour-blind, impartial site of dispute resolution, where anybody “ought to get a square deal”, but the reality we see in the novel falls dramatically short; Tom is indeed ultimately found guilty despite the evidence to the contrary.

The intersection of these themes—race, prejudice and justice—forces us to confront the reality that our legal institutions may not be as colour-blind and impartial as we thought. As Atticus says in his closing statement, “a court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.” However, what we see is that the people who make up a jury are not necessarily as sound as he/we would hope—Scout later recognises that the true trial occurs in the “secret courts of men's hearts”, and that racist biases were always going to get in the way of a fair verdict.

Heroism and Courage in To Kill A Mockingbird

All of that sounds pretty dire, so is the novel then purely pessimistic? We’re going to complicate this a little here, and then (spoiler) a little more in the “Past the Basics (II)” section, but let’s say for now that even though the outcome may be cause for pessimism, the novel is not so pessimistic on the whole. This is because of one central moral that stands out from all of Atticus’ other teachings, and that strings the entire story together, namely the idea that courage doesn’t have any one single shape or form, that anybody can be courageous.

In Part One, we find an unlikely hero in Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, who the children describe as “plain hell”—when Jem takes out her flowers, Atticus makes him read to her as punishment. Only when she dies is it revealed that she was a morphine addict who had been trying to cut the habit in her last days, which Atticus sees as extremely brave: “[Real courage is] when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” For all we know, this could’ve been about himself…

Another example of Atticus switching up what it means to be heroic is in the way he puts down Tim Johnson. Don’t stress if you forgot who that is—Tim is the rabid dog. Jem is blown away by his father’s marksmanship, which he had never actually witnessed. Atticus transforms this into yet another lesson about courage: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand."

What we see here is Lee trying to broaden the reader’s imagination of what a hero could be, or what courage could look like, and all of this momentum eventually builds to the trial in Part Two. Even Tim Johnson’s name calls to mind parallels with Tom Robinson’s legal battle, in which Atticus heroically takes up the huge responsibility of protecting the innocent, and in spite of his best efforts, both times he fails.

Yet maybe both times he knew it would be inevitable—courage is “know[ing] you’re licked before you begin”, right?  

Fatherhood vs Adolescence in To Kill A Mockingbird

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This knowledge seems to be one of those unfortunate things that comes with age and life experience. While Atticus already understands this, it doesn’t quite click for his children until the end of the novel. Jem is particularly shaken by the guilty verdict: “It ain’t right”, he cries.

The novel is sometimes referred to as a bildungsroman for this reason: at its core, it’s a coming-of-age story. Jem may have been really idealistic about law and justice and the court system, but this is the first time in his life that he has had to grapple with the reality that all these institutions might be flawed, and that his dad is a hero not because he always wins, but because he’s willing to get into the fight even when he knows he might lose. Even though these messages came through all across the novel, Jem’s personal investment in the Robinson trial brings it all together for him.

Thus, on the one hand, you have this disillusionment and loss on innocence, but on the other, you also have this shift in worldview that may well be valuable in the long run.

It’s also worth noting that Jem isn’t the only character who experiences this though—and also that heroism isn’t the only theme that is affected. Scout experiences similar disappointments, and they both grapple with other questions of conscience, tolerance and conformity throughout the novel.

Past the basics: Narrative Structure

I’ve hinted to this briefly throughout the themes, but the two-part structure of the novel plays a key role in delivering the key moral messages. While Part One isn’t necessarily the story you’d expect (given that it’s very long and almost completely not about the trial itself), many of the characters and their interactions with Jem, Scout and Dill are incredibly meaningful. (Walter Cunningham and Mrs. Dubose are covered above, but try to form some of these connections yourself).

Boo Radley is the key character who connects the two parts of the story. He spends much of the first part in hiding, occasionally leaving gifts for the kids in a tree (chapter 7), or giving them a blanket during a fire (chapter 8). However, he’s also victim to their prejudice and their gossip—they don’t see him as a person, but rather as an enigma whom they can harass and talk about at will. In the second part however, he emerges to save Jem from Bob Ewell and is actually a rather unassuming man. Here, Scout and Jem must reckon with the moral lessons they’ve been taught about prejudice, but also about innocence and courage. It’s through these interactions as well that they come closer to understanding Atticus, and his brave quest to defend the innocent. In many ways, the first part of the novel sets up and drives these ideas home.

Past the basics: Critical Racial Analysis

As foreshadowed, we’re going to complicate the heroism element of the novel here, and I’ll start with a quote from a New York Times review: “I don’t need to read about a young white girl understanding the perniciousness of racism to actually understand the perniciousness of racism. I have ample firsthand experience.”

So is there an issue when a story of Black injustice only elevates white people as heroes? Not to say that Atticus can’t be heroic, but what does it say that he’s the brave, stoic hero in a story about a Black man’s unjust suffering?

I think to best understand these complexities, it’s worth situating the story in its historical context.

  • 1930s : Great Depression; when the novel is set . Economy had collapsed and masses were unemployed; with slavery abolished, Black people were competing with white people for labour, fuelling resentment. Harper Lee grew up in this time, so there are autobiographical elements to the novel.
  • 1960s : Civil Rights Movement; when the novel is published . For the first time in history, Black heroes were capturing national white attention and shifting the needle drastically towards racial justice. It was in this watershed wave of activism and social change that people read this book for the first time, and it was received as a deeply authentic voice within this movement.
  • 2010s : Present day; when the novel is currently being read . We’re closer towards achieving racial justice now, but we’re also in a world where more and more young people are cognisant of these issues. While the novel’s image on the surface (of white kids being blown away by the existence of racism) is fading in relevance, there are underlying messages that are still relevant: racism and prejudice is inevitable, and can occur across and within racial lines; courage and heroism can take many forms (consider how Black characters—such as Calpurnia—also act in heroic ways); and the experiences of young people, whether experiencing racism firsthand or witnessing its divisive impact, undoubtedly shape their values and morals as they enter the adult world.

If the same story was published today, it probably wouldn’t have the same impact, but think about what kinds of messages endure anyway, beneath the surface story.

Essay Prompt Breakdown

To Kill a Mockingbird argues that empathy is courageous. Discuss.

Which brings us to a topic that is a bit knottier than it might first seem. Although empathy is shown to be courageous, particularly in the context of its setting, part of the novel’s message is also that courage can be fluid. This means that you might agree for a paragraph or two, emphasising the importance of context, before expanding on this idea of courage in the third.

  • Paragraph One : empathy can be a courageous trait in divisive times. Atticus says from early on that it’s important to “climb in [someone’s] skin and walk around in it” in order to better understand them. He initially says this about Walter Cunningham, but it’s a message that finds relevance all throughout—which occurs in parallel, of course, with his other lessons about courage, and how it can take different forms (as in Mrs. Dubose). Understood together, Lee suggests that empathy can in itself be a form of courage.
  • Paragraph Two : we’ve blended two themes together in the previous paragraph, but let’s bring in some context here. Empathy only stands out as being particularly courageous because of the historical milieu, in which people were not only racist, but allowed racist resentments to surface in the economic struggle of the Depression. In fact, these “resentments [were carried] right into a jury box” where people failed to display the very courage that Atticus consistently espouses.
  • Paragraph Three : that said, even if empathy is courageous, courage can take on many forms beyond just empathy. Consider Scout backing away from a fight with Cecil Jacobs (“I felt extremely noble”—and rightfully so) or the resilience of the First Purchase congregation in using their service to raise money “to help [Helen Robinson] out at home”. That these characters, Black and white, can hold their heads high and do the right thing in difficult times is also courageous.

In your opinion, what is the most central and relevant message from To Kill a Mockingbird ?

What is the role of innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird ?

Lee argues that legal institutions are fraught with human bias—is this true?

In To Kill a Mockingbird , who pays the price for racism, and what do they lose?

Challenge: In To Kill a Mockingbird , how are isolation and loneliness different, and what is Lee suggesting about society in this regard?

To Kill A Mockingbird Essay Prompt Breakdown Video

Video Transcription

Something that I want you to take away from this video is being able to develop a contention statement that is a complete, solid foundation for your essay. A lot of the time when I ask students what they’re trying to say in a specific section of their essay, they can’t really explain it, they’re just trying to put relevant evidence down. Ideally, it’s worth bearing in mind when you plan that you should be able to follow your logic back to the contention at any given point, even if you’re not that confident with the topic, and even if it wasn’t the topic you’re quite prepared for.

The topic we’ll be looking at is:

To Kill A Mockingbird is a story of courage. Discuss.

So ‘courage’ is the key word here, and the way we define it will shape our entire discussion. It generally means bravery and fearlessness, but what kinds of courage are explored in the novel? It could be anything from courage to do the ‘right’ thing, or courage to tell the truth, or courage to treat people with dignity even when you don’t know if they’ll treat you the same way.

Immediately, we can see that this is a theme-based prompt . To learn more about LSG's incredible Five Types Technique and how it can revolutionise how you approach VCE Text Response essays, have a read of this blog post .

For a prompt like this, you start building your contention based on these definitions, and this is handy if you’re better prepared for another theme. L et’s say you’re better prepped to write an essay on discrimination ...

You could contend that the novel is indeed about courage, as Atticus not only teaches it to his children but also applies it to his defence of Tom Robinson in the face of structural racism. However, courage is also linked more broadly to empathy, which is explored as a panacea for discrimination. A complete contention like this breaks up your points neatly, but also grounds everything you have to say in an essay that still addresses the question and the idea of courage.

For example, paragraph one would start by looking at the forms of courage he teaches to his children . Part One, the more moralistic and didactic section of the novel ends with the idea that “real courage” isn’t “a man with a gun” but rather “when you know you're licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” The section is characterised by these lessons of “real courage”—while Atticus “One-Shot” Finch downplays his marksmanship, he focuses the children’s moral instruction on characters such as Mrs Dubose, who he admires as courageous for fighting her morphine addiction.

The next paragraph would look at Atticus’ actions and also the trial in a bit more detail, as he embodies this idea that real courage exists outside of physical daring . In the racist milieu of the Deep South at the time, juries rarely “decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man.” Yet, Atticus is determined to defend Tom even at the steep cost of his own personal honour or reputation. Not only does he teach his children about the importance of courage, but he goes on to exemplify those very lessons himself. Courage in this case reflects his commitment to the truth and to defending the innocent—“this boy’s not going till the truth is told.”

However, in the final paragraph we might take a bit of a turn. Atticus, in having the courage to see Tom as an equal, is probably reflecting another very important value in the novel—namely, empathy. Though he admires Mrs. Dubose for her “real courage”, the white camellia he gives to Jem represents the goodness he sees within her despite her discriminatory attitudes. Though Jem struggles to empathise with the “old devil”, Atticus posits that it takes a degree of courage to be the bigger person and see the best in others, rather than repeating cycles of discrimination and prejudice. The idea of empathy as a form of courage is also reflected in what he teaches them about Boo Radley. When Scout is terrified by the idea that he had given her a blanket without her realising, she “nearly threw up”—yet Atticus maintains the importance of empathising with people, “climb[ing] into another man’s shoes and walk[ing] around in it” rather than ostracising them. In other words, he sees empathy as a form of courage in being the first to break social stigmas and overcome the various forms of discrimination that separate us.

Now to touch base again with the take away message . We contended that the novel is about courage because Atticus teaches it to Scout and Jem while also representing it in the trial. We also contended that courage is linked to empathy, another key value that he imparts as it helps to overcome social barriers like discrimination. The aim was to build an essay on a contention that clearly props up the body of the essay itself, even when we were more confident with some other themes, and I think this plan does a pretty good job of covering that.

Charlie’s Country  is an Australian drama film directed by Rolf de Heer, starring David Gulpilil. The linear film, co-written by de Heer and Gulpilil, tells the story of Charlie, a middle-aged Aboriginal man living in the town of Ramingining. The audience follows Charlie as he sets off to reconnect with his Indigenous origins; choosing to abandon urbanised society, Charlie flees into the bush to live by his “Mother country”. Much to his demise, Charlie subsequently becomes ill and is admitted to hospital in Darwin. After discharging himself from the hospital, Charlie is quickly arrested for assaulting a policeman. Charlie serves time in prison for his crime and the film’s final scenes show Charlie, free and mentoring young Aboriginal boys in their native cultural traditions. As the audience follows Charlie’s everyday encounters, they gain insight into the harsh realities faced by Aboriginals in modern-day Australia. Through his individual plight for survival amidst illness and poverty, de Heer presents profound political commentaries on this very pertinent social issue, spanning decades in Australian history.

The film's critical acclaim upon its release in 2013 was the impetus in prompting conversations and debates about the politics of Indigenous Australians. De Heer’s depiction of this remote community grappling with issues as a result of government-imposed law serves to capture the oppression and deeply ingrained racism that continues to persist.

Tracks  is one Australian woman’s survival narrative. The 1980 autobiographical memoir by Robyn Davidson, recounts her courageous 1700 miles trek across Australia, beginning from Central Australia towards the Indian ocean. In the effort to escape the monotony of her daily life, Davidson travels to her first destination -- Alice Springs -- in 1973 to start preparations. In the 2 years she spends there, she learns how to train camels and live minimally, the former proving to be a challenge. Despite her vehement will to refuse any kind of donation or financial help, Davidson eventually accepts a writing deal in partnership with National Geographic, providing the much-needed funds to confirm her departure. It's through this deal that she meets Rick Smolan, whom under the conditions of her deal has been recruited to photograph this journey - an unsettling compromise for Davidson which she ruminates on frequently in the novel. With her beloved dog Diggity and her camels, Davidson traverses the Australian landscape, discovering more about herself, her country and the people. 

Fundamentally, this book is as much about Davidson’s internal transformation and personal frontiers as it is about exposing the colonial and masculine ethos that permeates Australian history.

Themes (Similarities and Differences)

At LSG, we use the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy to help us easily find points of similarity and difference. This is particularly important when it comes to essay writing, because you want to know that you're coming up with unique comparative points (compared to the rest of the Victorian cohort!). I don't discuss this strategy in detail here, but if you're interested, check out my How To Write A Killer Comparative . I use this strategy throughout my discussion of themes here and in a later section, Sample Essay Plan.

Isolation and Alienation

Charlie, drawing on Gulpilil's own experiences, becomes profoundly alienated from his Ramingining community to the extent where he serves no major function in the community life. Charlie is alienated both physically and figuratively, not only does he live in a makeshift hut on the outskirts of town, but he is separated from the Aboriginal community in this town and resents the fact that white Australians have assumed power over his land. He is evidently neglected from the wider society, which causes much of the internal and external conflict he experiences in the film, an ordeal which many within the Indigenous minorities can empathise with. 

In his efforts to escape his life within the confines of the intervention, Charlie sees isolation and social rebellion as a mechanism to rediscover his Indigenous roots, spending time in nature to fulfil his journey for self-discovery and to gain the freedom he’s lost. Removing himself from a town permeated by imperial powers provides him with an opportunity to restore his lost sense of self-autonomy. De Heer is intending to reveal the difficulty of assimilation for Aboriginal Australians. He also highlights the importance of human connection and relational harmony for individuals.

“Do you mind if I call you Charlie? I have difficulty pronouncing foreign names.” “Now I’m a foreigner?” (Charlie and the Darwin doctor) 

“It's isolated, it's remote.” (Policeman Luke on Ramingining)

“I work for them catching criminals, they don’t pay me.” (Charlie)

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him… shaming us.” (Pete on Charlie)

Robyn Davidson views complete isolation as a way to detach herself from the commercialism and expectations of modern-day Australia, to connect with nature and to challenge her own beliefs of herself. For her, complete solitude in this journey is a private and personal gesture designed to intentionally preserve the sanctity of the trip. While Rick Smolan’s company appears benign, Davidson’s abrasive attitude towards him as well as her reluctance in ‘selling’ her story is particularly revealing of her attempt to maintain the subjectivity of the trip. The act of breaching this solitude is what Davidson sees as an egregious debasement of the sacredness of the journey, allowing it to be objectified by the eyes of the public. In addition to this, isolation signifies liberation and freedom from a society laden with rigid expectations, Smolan acts as a constant reminder of these external responsibilities. Davidson experiences alienation from the wider society, being a confident, decisive woman trekking independently and defying the limitations imposed on her sex. She also repeatedly expresses her sense of alienation when entering Aboriginal communities and although she is sensitive to the impression she gives, she acknowledges her persistent feeling as an outsider. Davidson is aware of the divide between these two cultures that have resulted from a history of inequality and oppression. In  Tracks , Davidson also demonstrates the need for meaningful connections, however she sources this from her animal companions and nature.

“My aloneness was a treasure which I guarded like a jewel... but like everything [it] had to follow the laws of change.” (p. 40)

“No more loved ones to care about, no more ties, no more duties, no more people needing you to be one thing or another, no more conundrums, no more politics, just you and the desert baby.” (p. 94)

“I could never enter their reality, [I] would always be a whitefella tourist on the outside looking in.” (p. 146)

“I could not be with the Aboriginal people without being a clumsy intruder.” (p. 146)

Charlie’s displacement from his community is the driving force behind his decision to return to the Aboriginal way of life. De Heer uses this depiction of Charlie, to serve as a wider embodiment of the difficulty for the Indigenous people to assimilate and conform to the western lifestyle. After witnessing the limitations he faces under the ‘whitefella’ laws in Ramingining, it is Charlie who first attempts to escape his community. He repeatedly rejects the life of subordination and compliance under the government laws, which as shown in the film has forced many of the Indigenous people to neglect their own traditions and way of life (for example, they must now eat unhealthy fast foods to survive and go through school). Charlie’s individualistic expressions seen through crafting a spear and going hunting are actively suppressed by the white authority, leaving him to conclude that the only way to fully exercise his personal agency is to live in the Australian wilderness, alone. His act of abandoning the car with his belongings and parting with almost nothing in his possession is significant in demonstrating his defiance of the imposition of western culture and his journey for self-reliance. De Heer depicts how conforming to an oppressive society is detrimental and praises the self-transformative effects of embracing individualism rather than blindly conforming.

"Live the old way… …going to my Mother Country.’"(Charlie)

“F--- those thieving…white bastards.” (Charlie)

“The kids go to school now. They don’t care.” (Charlie)

“Why did you come here? From far away… stealing people’s stuff! Is this your land?... F---ing bastards.” (Charlie)

“I’m free now. I have my own supermarket! And this is my country! I can dance with it!” (Charlie)

Robyn Davidson’s decision to leave her normal life in Queensland to cross the Australian desertland is one that becomes the subject of much scrutiny and doubt. Her bold, dauntless approach towards pursuing this journey, specifically as a single, young woman was radically counter-cultural to the perception of women in the 1970s as delicate and docile individuals. Davidson’s indifference and somewhat dismissive attitude towards the derogatory remarks and reductive characterisations are indicative of her acknowledgement of the unjustified prejudice that permeates Australian culture. Additionally, Davidson’s assertive personality and commitment to travelling in the wilderness alone is ultimately an establishment to herself as an autonomous woman, rebelling against the traditional conventions of marriage, motherhood and domesticity that was previously expected of her. Ultimately, Davidson strongly asserts the need for resistance, particularly where there is the expectation for conformity, as well as her experience, is revealing of the cleansing and liberating feelings of embracing individualism rather than conforming.

“(Dropping eyes to chest level). "Where’s yer old man?" "I don't have an old man." (p. 5)

“I was self-protective, suspicious and defensive and I was also aggressively ready to pounce on anyone who looked like they might be going to give a hard time.” (p. 34)

“It was essential for me to develop beyond the archetypal female creature who from birth had been trained to be sweet, pliable, forgiving, compassionate and door-mattish.” (p. 34)

“I wanted to… unclog my brain of all extraneous debris, not be protected, to be stripped of all social crutches, not to be hampered by any outside interference.” (p. 91)

Belonging and Identity

The laconic and monotonous pace of the film is suggestive of a more deeply rooted issue surrounding the identity distortions experienced by Aboriginals, even to the present day. This depiction acts as a personification of the widespread troubles of Indigenous Australians -- the deep struggle between submitting to the institutions of the ‘whitefella’ intervention and clinging to what is left of their traditional heritage, often rendering them feeling separated from both cultures. The mundane nature of his daily activities conveys the social incongruence between Charlie’s struggle to live sufficiently as a ‘traditional’ elder or as a ‘modern’ Australian, finding himself disconnected from both. This internal battle is psychologically taxing for Charlie, as he encounters many contradictions: receiving welfare payments, only to have to give them away to his family, and so he goes without food and later becomes hungry, only to be denied the opportunity to hunt for his own food. Fulfilling one culture means rejecting the other, and freedom in one means rebellion in the other. Thus, Charlie sees social transgression as his only choice of refashioning his own identity. De Heer reveals how freely establishing a secure sense of identity and belonging in their culture is critical in the lives of these individuals, however, the long-term damage that western society has inflicted has made this almost impossible.

“You’ve got a job, and you’ve got a house…on my land. Where’s my house? Where’s my job?” (Charlie)

“We need to teach them… the traditional ways.” (Charlie’s friend) 

“I’ve been away fishing, now I’m home. I’m eating well. It’s my own supermarket.” (Charlie)

In  Tracks , Davidson’s attempt to escape the responsibilities and social pressures to immerse herself in nature is ultimately a journey of self-discovery; to define her own identity irrespective of the expectations imposed on her by the 1970s society. As a solitary female, challenging the restrictions of her sex and exposing herself to unpredictable surroundings, she can curate her own identity as a progressive, post-colonial feminist, seizing and capitalising on the autonomy she has. This endeavour allows Davidson to undergo a form of self-transformation, a search for meaning for herself and others, what she describes as a “desocializing process -- the sloughing of, like a snakeskin”. Furthermore, Davidson is determined to rediscover her place in respect to the desertland, educating herself about the native biodiversity and most importantly, the native people. Although Davidson recognises that she will always be considered a ‘whitefella’, she finds a sense of fulfilment and belonging in engaging with and observing the rural Aboriginal communities. She demonstrates a deep understanding of the distorted identity and loss of belonging for the Aborigines at the hands of imperial white forces and is sensitive to the damage that has been inflicted. Above all, Davidson gains a renewed, stable sense of identity and belonging through her resistance to the imperial Australian racist mentality, challenging the male-orientated culture. However, she is also confronted by the reality of this breakdown of identity within the Aboriginal communities.

“This was my first home, where I felt such a sense of relief and belonging that I needed nothing and no one.” (p. 40)

“From the day the thought came into my head ‘I’m going to enter a desert with camels’, to the day I felt the preparations to be completed, I had built some intangible but magical for myself…” (p. 95)

“I wanted to understand so much… I melted into a feeling of belonging. They were letting me into their world. They asked me if I wanted to dance.” (p. 145)

“Once dispossessed of this land, ceremonial life deteriorates, people lose their strength, meaning and identity.” (p. 167) ‍ ‍

Connection to Nature

The significance of nature to the Aboriginal people is at the core of this film. Charlie embodies this connection through his escape to the Australian wilderness. This first acts as a fresh alternative to the restrictive, repressive lifestyle within his government-intervened community, given. It's an opportunity to rebel against the western lifestyle and restore his traditional way of life, which leaves him feeling free, happy and powerful. However, his struggle to adjust to this change is indicative of the corruption of the intrinsic link between the people and the land. The harmonious, symbiotic relationship that the Indigenous people once had with the land has deteriorated; having been essentially poisoned through the introduction of a progressive white society. As much as Charlie tries to balance elements of both cultures by hunting and quitting smoking, it becomes apparent to him returning to where ‘[he] was born’, is the only way to rediscover his sense of self and truly experience freedom. Ultimately, like much of the wider Indigenous people, Charlie’s unable to fully abandon the constraints of white society and has become dependent. De Heer confronts the audience with the consequences of this irreversible separation through the illness and poverty that the Aboriginal people must endure.

“There’s lots of food in the bush… It's like a supermarket out there.” (Charlie’s companion)

“Then you’ll die in the wrong place… a long way from your country… They’ll be no one with you, no one to look after you.” (Charlie to a friend)

“I was born in the bush. They didn’t find me in the bush.” (Charlie)

“I want to go home now......back to my own country......where my place is...” (Charlie)

The connection to nature seen in  Tracks  serves several functions for Davidson. Contrary to the majority of attitudes of the time, Davidson can recognise the sanctity of the Australian land and is determined to learn about and experience this connection between the Aboriginal people and their environment. Like in  Charlie’s Country , Davidson’s encounter with the rural, minimalist Aboriginal communities is a distinct contrast to the urban society which she leaves behind. It’s a sobering reminder to Davidson of the persisting racism and colonialist mentality which pervades Australian history and confirms the serious consequences that have occurred from the loss of connection between land and people. Even further, her battle to survive and adapt to the unpredictability of the desert is the ultimate test of endurance, which Davidson acknowledges enables lasting self-transformation and consolidates to her the true majesty and reverence of nature. Therefore, this escapism into the desertland is Davidson’s own challenge for personal change and a chance to experience true liberation like Charlie, as well as finding peace with the natives by means of acknowledging the usurpation of their traditional land and rights.

“All around me was magnificence. Light, power, space and sun. And I was walking into it. I was going to let it make me or break me.” (p. 101)

“It is difficult to describe Australian desert ranges as their beauty is not just visual. They have an awesome grandeur that can fill you with exaltation or dread, and usually a combination of both.” (p. 122)

“Besides, no amount of anthropological detail can begin to convey Aboriginal feeling for their land. It is everything -- their law, their ethics, their reason for existence.” (p. 167)

“And just as Aborigines seem to be in perfect rapport with themselves and their country, so the embryonic beginnings of that rapport were happening to me.” (p. 193)

Author Views and Values

Aboriginal rights and the intervention.

Like in any comparison, it is important to understand some of the key events that were occurring at the time of both the text and the film. While  Tracks  and  Charlie Country  are set more than 3 decades apart, the issue of Aboriginal rights is still equally as important in both settings.

In  Tracks , the 1970-80s saw many progressive milestones in Aboriginal history. Just years prior to Davidson’s departure, Australians voted for change in the constitution officially recognising Aboriginal people in the national census. Later, 1976 saw the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which allowed the Indigenous people to assume ownership of land that was acknowledged to be rightly theirs. Many of these legislative changes were indicative of a larger-scale shift in attitudes towards the fairer treatment of Aborigines. While the oppression and racism continued, it was individuals like Robyn Davidson who pioneered the way for greater change and equality. Davidson ultimately intends to highlight the devastation that has occurred to the Aboriginal people following colonisation and aims to shine the light on the persisting issues these individuals face in an ostensibly ‘post-colonial’ Australia.

  • Despite some advancements of Indigenous rights in the 1970s, Davidson is firmly opposed to the ongoing racist attitudes held by white Australians.
  • Davidson sympathises with the deep hardship endured by the Aboriginal people, which was characteristic of the evolving attitudes towards racial equality in 1970s Australia.

In addition to this, was the 2007 ‘intervention’.  Charlie’s Country  is set some years following the introduction of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response. Following reports of child sexual abuse and neglect, the Howard Government unleashed national forces to remote Indigenous communities in the effort to act as law enforcement and impose alcohol and drug restrictions. De Heer examines the consequences of what was described as a ‘last-ditch’ attempt to maintain power; an act that was widely criticised and showed to further exacerbate the suffering of the Indigenous people. Hence, de Heer’s film provides a personal insight into the difficulty of navigating life for Indigenous citizens as a result of the Intervention, and how Charlie’s struggles are representative of the anguish of the wider Aboriginal community.

  • Drawing parallels with the time of 2007 Northern Territory Intervention, de Heer intends to reveal the identity distortions that Indigenous individuals suffered due to the enforcement of westernised laws.
  • De Heer’s depiction of Charlie’s alienation from Ramingining was indicative of the wider Aboriginal population in the time following the 2007 Intervention, which saw the introduction of new restrictions into rural communities in the Northern Territory.

Women's rights in Australia

The 1970s was a critical time for women's rights in Australia. At this point in time, after the first wave enabled women to vote, the second wave of feminism was moving through the nation. Women all across Australia were now fervently advocating for their own autonomy and freedom in the workplace and at home; their efforts directed more to dismantle the rigid social structures and expectations that were demanded from them. Davidson is an avid proponent for this cause and demonstrates a tactful and astute understanding of her image as a white, middle-class woman. She openly reiterates her distaste for the sexist remarks and misogynistic caricatures she faces and is determined to confound the restrictions placed on her sex of being a domesticated and weak female. Overall, Davidson is promoting the principles of breaking through societal expectations, however, also reveals the many challenges she encounters in doing so.

  • Davidson’s defiance of the traditional female image is indicative of the progressive attitudes regarding women's rights in 1970s Australia.
  • Davidson’s embodiment of feminist ideas was synonymous to the 1970s second wave of feminism, where women in Australia were fighting for more freedoms at work and at home.

Comparing metalanguage and film techniques

It can be a bit daunting trying to compare techniques in a novel to those in a film. In this instance, it is crucial to first look at the idea you are comparing. For example, we can observe that both  Tracks  and  Charlie’s Country  show the liberating and cathartic feeling that comes from escaping social pressures. Now, let's look at  how  Robyn Davidson and Rolf de Heer achieve this, albeit in different manners. In  Tracks , Davidson uses  imagery  to describe the desertland she meets, when she says, “It is like a vast unattended communal garden, the closest thing to earthly paradise I can imagine”. De Heer communicates this premise of freedom, however, does this by featuring a variety of  diegetic sounds  of the biodiversity in which Charlie finds himself.

Another example is how intimacy with protagonists is edified. De Heer uses sustained, intimate close up shots and at many times breaks the fourth wall by having Gulpilil look directly at the camera. On the other hand, Davidson employs colloquial language and is liberal with her use of expletives in order to convey a casual, conversational mood between herself and the reader.

Other aspects to consider:

Anthropomorphism  in  Tracks  is   the act of attributing human traits or behaviours to a god, animal or object. Davidson’s use of anthropomorphism to describe the animals around her (specifically the camels and her dog Diggety) is suggestive of the necessity for companionship for humans; the need to establish meaningful connections with others. For Davidson, companionship with animals comes easier than with humans (presuming this stems from her perception of society as problematic and grossly flawed).

  • Davidson on camels: “They are haughty, ethnocentric, clearly believing they are god’s chosen race. But they are also cowards and their aristocratic demeanour hides delicate hearts. I was hooked.” (p. 14)
  • “[The camels] hung around me like flies, shuffling their feet, looking embarrassedly at the ground or coyly through their elegant lashes, acting apologetic and loving and remorseful…” (p. 80)
  • “Diggity had become a cherished friend rather than simply a pet.” (p. 227)
  • “[Diggity] combined all the best qualities of god and human and was a great listener." (p. 207)

Cinematography, specifically types of cinematic shots  in  Charlie’s Country .   Those commonly seen in the film include wide shots (camera captures a wide view of the context or setting), close up shots (camera captures events from a short distance away; involves a character’s facial features and expressions), as well as panoramic shots (camera pans around horizontally, showing surroundings). Directors are intentional in the type of cinematography they employ; therefore it is crucial to observe the context in which these shots take place in order to enrich the analysis. 

  • Several wide angle, landscape shots of nature, both at the beginning of the film and when Charlie first enters the Australian wilderness.
  • Close up shots of Charlie sitting by the fire, and when he is in prison.
  • Panoramic shots of Aboriginal art that Charlie discovers in the wild.
  • Panoramic shot also in the courtroom where Charlie is on trial.

Remember! When analysing, you  must  consider where these occur in the context of the film’s narrative, and the effect they have on enhancing the events/themes/broader ideas being presented in the scene. (i.e. How are the characters portrayed compared to their surroundings? Compared to others? How are they interacting with these elements? Why has the director chosen this angle/shot?)

Sample Essay Plan

Compare how Tracks and Charlie’s Country present the importance of Individualism.

Sample Introduction:

Set amidst an era of significant social and political change, Robyn Davidson’s autobiographical memoir ‘ Tracks’  and Rolf de Heer’s film ‘ Charlie’s Country’  explores the plight of individuals who embrace individualism. Both Davidson and de Heer assert that individualism is necessary for the protagonists, who find themselves marginalised from the wider population. Through their respective journeys to independence, Robyn and Charlie achieve  a sense of empowerment through identity self-refashioning , as well as they express  their disapproval of   the toxic institutions of society . However, the text and the film also demonstrate how at times,  embracing individualism can present challenges to those who pursue it . Ultimately, Davidson and de Heer commend those who do not fully conform to society.

Paragraph 1: Charlie and Robyn gain empowerment through independently establishing their own identity.

Robyn sees the trip as a demonstration to herself of the shedding of the traditional image of white, middle class woman: 

  • “Am I an individualist because I believe I can take control of my own life? If so, then yes, I was definitely that.” 
  • “I had… been sick of carrying around the self-indulgent negativity which was so much the malaise of my generation, my sex and my class.”
  • Describes the experience as a “gentle catharsis” and that “[She] was happy”.

Charlie’s abandonment of the Ramingining community is an attempt to resolve the identity ambiguity he feels as a result of the Government intervention.

  • Charlie appears to receive government benefits only to have to give it away to family, later divulging that “I have no money left… or food. I’m hungry”. When he tries to source food by traditional means, he is punished. All this demonstrates his struggles in balancing two cultures.
  • Going back into his “Motherland” he is joyful, dancing and eating again. Recognises a sense of security in going back -- “That’s what I want”, “now I’m home”.

Paragraph 2: Embracing individualism for the protagonists means resisting toxic societal constructs.

Robyn adamantly condemns the deeply entrenched racism of Australian culture and sympathises with the Aborigines and their hardship. Her determination to learn about the Aboriginal people is an attempt to overcome the wedge that has been driven between the two communities: 

  • “Racism is a daily experience for blacks in Alice Springs. It reinforces their own feelings of worthlessness and self-hate.”
  • “Large mining corporations… lusting after Aboriginal Reserve land.”
  • The dependency of the Aboriginal people termed as a “handy PR stunt” for government and policies equated to “apartheid in South Africa”.

Charlie becomes increasingly resistant against the traditions and policies of the government institutions.

  • Many times he is seen throwing cigarettes into the fire -- his resentment towards the introduction of white customs. "You come from far away and bring us alcohol, ganja, tobacco... all bad!"
  • Charlie rejects the white lifestyle by refusing to eat the food in the community, recognising its detrimental properties. Charlie on illness: “It’s all that… white man junk food we eat."

Paragraph 3: Resisting conformity is challenging for Robyn and Charlie, particularly in an oppressive society.

Robyn is met with harsh opposition and derogatory depictions in the media: 

  • Labelled “the next town rape case.” 
  • Discovers feces on her pillow one night in Alice Springs -- “let my presence be known as if I were a trespasser.”
  • “‘Camel lady’ had that nice patronising belittling ring to it.”

Charlie is constantly shut down when embracing the ways of his culture; ultimately submitting to individualism also unveils his dependency on white society.

  • He is charged with ‘recreational shooting’, and his hunting spear is considered "a dangerous weapon."
  • Charlie’s confession earlier about his false teeth: “I can’t eat with them… I can eat without them” alluding to this dependency on society.
  • The irreversible damage of white intervention is evident in Charlie’s poor health as a consequence of going back to “the old way” -- must go to the hospital.

Additional essay topic and prompts:

‘Resistance to conformity is at the forefront of Tracks and Charlie’s Country ’. To what extent do you agree?

Discuss the ways in which the environment assists the protagonists in their journey for self-discovery.

‘The connection to the land is significant for the characters of both Charlie’s Country and Tracks ’. Discuss.

‘The stories of Charlie and Robyn represent the plight of many others’. To what extent do you agree?

Compare the ways in which characters in Tracks and Charlie’s Country seek to discover what really matters to them.

‘Despite their deep hardship, Charlie and Robyn find transformation in their journeys’. Discuss.

Useful Resources

How to Write a Killer Comparative

Reading and Comparing Tracks into the Wild

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