Some ideas work better than others, though. Don’t treat a talk like a paper. It isn’t.
A surprisingly common strategy is to go through the talk (sometimes with no references apparent on any slide), and say at the end, “And here are my references...”
...show a slide full of small text, but flick through it in less than a second...
...because you have another slide. And that stays up only a second...
...so you can get to this one, end the presentation, and ask for questions. (Those are slides from an actual talk, incidentally.)
This is a horrible way to give references! Yet, I see this frequently. This is the wax fruit of academic citations: no matter what it looks like, you still can’t eat it. Academics are obsessed with citations because they allow other people to fact check. Giving references like this does not do the job.
You cannot put up slides this dense with text, flash them on the screen for less than a second, and expect anyone to get any usable information out of them. You could put in a list of Harlequin romances in the references and nobody would know.
There is no context for the references. In a paper, you can flip back and forth, so you can see that Simon et al. (2004) is given as supporting a particular claim about the infectious pathway of an organism, rather than providing information about the relevant statistical techniques. On slides, you can’t expect to remember that the reference to Simon et al. (2004) was on slide #3 that you put up twelve minutes ago, and that you shouldn’t confuse it with Simon et al. (2005) that was on slide #8, which made a totally different point.
If you want to give references in a talk, it needs to be:
- Complete enough that someone can track it down, and
- Given at the point of need.
In practice, this means you can’t just put “Simon et al. (2004)” and expect people to know what paper you’re talking about. Heck, I can’t even remember the year for some of my own papers. My suggestion is something concise, so a human being can quickly scribble a note. Something like:
Simon et al. 2004. Mol Biol Evol 21: 1409.
Now, put it on the slide where you’re making the claim, not at the end.
There are advantages for you the presenter as well as to the audience. For a long time, I resisted putting references on my slides. I wanted to maximize the signal, and my strategy was to just say what the important sources were. Over time, however, I have often found myself going back to old slides without references, and going, “Argh, where did I find that? There was something else good on that site I want to us, and now I can’t find it!” Putting references on your slides will make it easier for you in the long run.
References on posters
Thanks to Jacquelyn Gill, Travis Saunders, Annie Rauh, Meghan Duffy, and David Shiffman for discussion about this on Twitter.