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Honors Writing Seminar

HONRH 2023

Yes, You Need Citations!

In an essay, citations come in 2 parts: bibliography + in-text. In a presentation, you have 3 parts: bibliography + in-text + oral.

Same Old Citation Practices

Your presentation should list all your sources at the end -- and don't just fly past them at your conclusion, either.

However, just like your papers, you need to show your work: where did those sources contribute to your presentation? I.e. you still need your in-text and parenthetical citations.



Presentations are supposed to be more visual, with you-the-speaker as the focal point for the information. None of the style guides have strict rules about slidedecks the way they do documents -- there's no double-space, 1" margin, Times New Roman guidelines.

Standard rule of thumb is to not use complete sentences on your slides. So where does a citation that normally comes at the end of a sentence belong? Wherever it makes sense. Could come at the end of a bulleted list, could be tucked in the corner... so long as it's legible and clearly a citation, you'll be okay.

Did You Create That Image, or Did You Borrow It?

Anything not original to you needs a citation except for commonly known facts. This is true of images, as well, which are basically visual direct quotes!

Is it a decorative image?

If a picture is just kind of... flavor to help jazz up your slide, you're probably fine giving an informal attribution, like "Image by user on Flickr." If you're using some Creative Commons-licensed images, just stick with the "CC BY whoever" attribution provided. This can be added in a fine print (but readable; it shouldn't be invisible to your audience) text box below the image, or a note at the bottom of the slide. They would not, generally, need to be listed in a bibliography.

Is it a meaningful, informative image?

If an image (be it historic photo or data chart) came from one of your information sources, keep that citation on there! If it's a standalone source of information and analysis on its own, write a citation for it -- list it in your bibliography and include a parenthetical citation note on the slide(s) where it appears!

Oral Citations While Presenting

Giving oral citations are just like narrative citations in an essay:

  • The first time you cite someone, introduce them.
    • No: "Doe says..."
    • No: "According to Jane Doe"
    • Yes: "According to Harvard psychologist, Jane Doe, who led a study on..."
  • Is the source important? Consider namedropping them. Is the source a random news article, helpful but not groundbreaking? Leave it parenthetical -- seen but not mentioned.

And just like in an essay, sometimes narrative citations aren't enough -- go ahead and include that parenthetical on the slide just to be real clear. This is even more important if the person you're citing isn't the official author of the source in your bibliography.

Style Recommendations for Best Impact

  Bad Better

Font Size

There's a little more leeway for a virtual presentation since no one's at the back of the room in your audience...but still keep it pretty large.

Rule of thumb: no smaller than size 28.

Slide has "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" nursery rhyme as bullet points in a small font. Similar slide but the main text is sized larger to show up on the slide better (between font size 28-32)


Keep a limited palette of coordinated colors. Avoid putting bright colors on top of each other. Red/blue is a notoriously hard-to-read combo.

Color palette is okay but the contrast is too low using black and dark red text on top of a dark grey background.Red text on blue is hard to read. There are too many different colors on this slide, and they don't contrast well with the background.

Use greater contrast in colors, or use a lighter color in between the dark text and dark background,


If you use an image in the background, make sure your text shows up clearly on it. Often this means adding a solid shape behind the text or fading/darkening the image.

If you have a smaller image side-by-side with text, make sure your text doesn't run over into it.

The busy background and color variations makes it hard for the text to be easily read.

The last couple lines of text are longer than the previous four, and they end up overlapping with the slide image.

Darkening or partially covering up the background image behind the text will keep your text readable.

The image and text do not overlap in this configuration. (A solid background was added so that the text wouldn't overlap with a default background design element, too.)

Limit Your Word Count

You shouldn't have lots of text on your slides. Bullet points, not paragraphs.

Lots of text is boring to look at! It takes up space for visuals, as well.

Plus, your audience can read faster than you speak and will be reading ahead -- but will also be distracted by you talking. Lose-lost situation.

This slide has a whole paragraph on it! It could be worse...but it could also be better. This turned the paragraph into a bulleted list of main ideas.