This is the second of two posts on how to field questions after your paper at an academic conference. The first one, which covers preparing for question time and knowing your main point, can be found here.
Get to know the main types of question
If you want to know how to answer any given question, it is useful to have a sense of the different types of question that are customarily asked at conferences. Here are the main types of question I have heard asked over the years:
- “Can you explain…” Someone is genuinely interested but simply didn’t understand something you said. You answer by going back to the point in your paper to which they are referring and fleshing out your point at more length. Simple. If you have an example or illustration, use it. When you’ve finished explaining, ask if the explanation made more sense second time round. If the questioner is asking about something very technical that most people in the room will not understand, keep your response brief and offer to chat further with them later in the day.
- “Have you thought about X?” This can be three sorts of question masquerading under the same words.
- The first sort is benign, and its tone is “hey, I think there’s a book or article you might be interested in”. You don’t need to defend yourself or elaborate on what they have said, just thank the questioner and note down their suggestion.
- The second sort of question masquerading under the formula “Have you thought about X?” has more the tone of “I’m struggling to understand your paper, but something you said reminded me of X, whose work I do know. Could you talk about them please?” If you have something to say about X then great, go for it. If not, then perhaps ask the questioner to let you in on their thinking a little more: “what was it about my paper that put you in mind of X?” or “what, specifically, are you thinking of in X’s work that resonates with my paper?” The more concrete and specific the questioner gets, the easier it will be for you latch on to something to talk about.
- The final sort of “Have you thought about X?” question is the most aggressive of the three. Reading between the lines, the questioner is saying “I’m surprised you haven’t read X, because he/she/it completely undermines everything you have said!” The first thing to realise here is that X almost certainly does not undermine everything you have said, unless you begin with X’s assumptions and use X’s concepts. So don’t panic. Again, invite the questioner to be as concrete and specific as possible and try to find the point at which the axioms or commitments of your own position differ from those of X. You might end up with a response something like “I can see that, if you start where X starts, then my position would indeed seem to be as you describe. But that’s not where it starts. Let me explain…” Read more on christopherwatkin.com >>
My review of Kevin Hart’s Poetry and Revelation in Los Angeles Review of Books
My review of Kevin Hart’s Poetry and Revelation has now been published in the latest edition … Continue reading My review of Kevin Hart’s Poetry and Revelation in Los Angeles Review of Books
Helping students to approach language learning as a way of life, not a slot on the timetable
Mastering a language is not like learning any other Arts faculty subject: to learn a … Continue reading Helping students to approach language learning as a way of life, not a slot on the timetable
Research Hacks #24: What we think about when we think about academic impact
No-one working in academia today needs me to point out the importance of the impact … Continue reading Research Hacks #24: What we think about when we think about academic impact
If my brain is damaged, do I become a different person? Catherine Malabou and neuro-identity
A couple of years ago I had the privilege of teaching in a joint Monash-Warwick … Continue reading If my brain is damaged, do I become a different person? Catherine Malabou and neuro-identity
French Philosophy Today paperback now shipping
I just received my copy of French Philosophy Today in paperback. You can find it … Continue reading French Philosophy Today paperback now shipping
Download the handout for my live-streamed paper on Serres and alterity this coming Tuesday
If you are planning to follow my live-streamed paper on Michel Serres and alterity on Periscope … Continue reading Download the handout for my live-streamed paper on Serres and alterity this coming Tuesday
Reflections on live streaming academic papers with remote Q&A
First of all, some good news: Deakin have given me the go-ahead to live stream … Continue reading Reflections on live streaming academic papers with remote Q&A
I’m planning to tweet live video of my research seminar on Michel Serres and the Question of Alterity next Tuesday
Next Tuesday I will be giving a seminar at Deakin Univesity, Melbourne, on Michel Serres’s … Continue reading I’m planning to tweet live video of my research seminar on Michel Serres and the Question of Alterity next Tuesday
Research Hacks #23: Three Microsoft Word macros for quick mark-up of articles, essays and thesis chapters
I have the pleasure of reading a lot of student essays and supervising a number … Continue reading Research Hacks #23: Three Microsoft Word macros for quick mark-up of articles, essays and thesis chapters
Research hacks #22: Come to terms with a new theory or thinker by using an ‘assumptions pyramid’
After a few posts on planning and presenting research findings, it’s time to return to … Continue reading Research hacks #22: Come to terms with a new theory or thinker by using an ‘assumptions pyramid’
Guest Post: Albert Camus and Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree
By Jess Phillips, Honours Candidate in Literary Studies, Monash University. Jess’s thesis explores the use of … Continue reading Guest Post: Albert Camus and Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree
French Philosophy Today paperback now on Amazon pre-order
I am delighted to announce that the paperback edition of French Philosophy Today is now … Continue reading French Philosophy Today paperback now on Amazon pre-order