Introduction to Level 2 by Tony Eng

Video Transcript: I worked for a startup for a number of years doing research. Most of the time I had to talk to people who both didn’t understand what I was doing but also didn’t have a technical background. So they would sit there and say, “Why should I care about this?” “Why should I give this the time of day?” And, I found that one vehicle for conveying the “why?” is the use of a narrative. That is the topic of this week’s assignment. I’d like you to struggle with how to create a narrative to illustrate the motivation behind the problem that your research is trying to solve. The difficult part of this assignment is to come up with a narrative that is short and to the point. Are you ready for the challenge?


Narrative is an excellent vehicle for conveying context and “why” your work is important. Furthermore, the use of a narrative at the start of a presentation can grab the audience’s attention, motivate your work and help the audience quickly understand, and maybe even relate to, a problem that your research might solve.

It is an excellent tool to use when communicating with a non-technical audience (but also useful for a technical one as well) and sets the stage for you to talk about your work.

Your job is to create a short narrative for your research to help a non-technical audience understand how their research might affect/change their world.  Anyone should be able to understand your narrative

Complete The Following Steps

  1. Read through the assignment details & Rubric (Below)
  2. Write a draft of your narrative down on paper.
  3. Read it outloud and make edits.The final version should be no long than 3 minutes (or less) in length.
  4. Find at least 2 friends to present your narrative in front of. Gather feedback from them according to the peer feedback section below. 

Assignment Notes

Note the attention to jargon in the sample assignment.  I could use a narrative for a technical audience as well, in which case I would be more liberal with biological terms and don’t have to take so much care when introducing the term “sequence” for example.

The difficult part of this assignment is delivering your narrative in such a way that a viewer feels like you are talking to them and connecting with them.

A word on delivery.  Delivery is just as important as content.  You could have award-winning research results, but if your delivery is poor, no one will understand or pay attention to what you have to say.  So for this video, we’d like you to work on the following aspects of verbal and nonverbal delivery:


  • You should minimize your use of filler words. (Filler words are meaningless words like “um”, “uh”, “so”, “like”, “you know”, etc). If you are tempted to use one, just stop and pause.
  • Your voice should be clear (which means good volume, enunciation and pacing).


  • Look directly into the camera in order to make eye contact with your viewer.  You don’t have to memorize your narrative, but neither should you be reading it.
  • Also do not fidget with your body – no repetitive gesturing or body movement that do not complement your narrative.



Peer Feedback Instructions

Perform the narrative for a non-technical audience, and ask them the following questions:

Regarding the narrative:

  1. Was the language used understandable and appropriate?
    • (It omitted technical details/jargon and only used common everyday words.)
  2. Was the narrative relatable?
  3. Was the narrative attention grabbing?
    • (Did it leave them wanting to hear more about your work?)

Regarding verbal delivery:

  1. Was the presenter’s voice clearly understandable?
    • (i) good volume
    • (ii) good enunciation
    • (iii) good pacing (not too fast and not too slow.)
  2. Did the presenter maintain a natural, conversational tone?
    • (They felt like they were being “talked to”.)
  3. Did the presenter use any filler words?
    • (Meaningless words like “um”, “you know”, “like”, “uh”, etc.)

Regarding nonverbal delivery:

  1. Did the presenter make consistent eye-contact while presenting?
  2. Did the presenter use any body movement (hand and body) to complement their message? Were there any distracting movements during the presentation?


  1. Does the audience have any additional constructive and specific feedback for improvement?

Model (s)

Finished Model 1

A narrative for a non-technical audience for this assignment might be:

“Some strategies for fighting diseases relies on finding molecules that bind to one another.  Suppose you have a virus that you are trying to target, like the Zika virus. One way to detect whether or not someone is infected is to find a peptide molecule that binds to any one of a number of viral proteins present on the surface of the virus.   If you can find such a peptide, you can find a way to detect whether the virus is present. Well, to find such a peptide, you often resort to trial and error — you attach the virus to a fixed surface and you then expose it to whatever peptides you can find until you find one that binds. Suppose you happen to find such a peptide, then you have to figure out what the peptide is made up of (i.e. its sequence) so that you can mass produce it. This is where our research comes into play – we make it easier to perform this sequencing, especially of any peptides that may be unknown and hence have never been sequenced before.”

Finished Model 2

Finished Model 3

Finished Model 4

Finished Model 5

Case Study: Elena Glassman & Tony Eng On Starting Research With Narrative