R01 Boot Camp: Chalk Talk Presentations

The purpose of the Chalk Talk is to obtain critical feedback from experienced researchers to help shape the aims of your R01 proposal. In some cases, mentees may have different objectives; please work with your Coach and Internal Subject Matter Expert (ISME) to make sure your Chalk Talk accomplishes your specific goals.

How is a Chalk Talk different from a typical research seminar? Chalk Talks are:

  • One hour
  • Given without slides
  • Utilize a chalk board or dry erase board to write your aims;
  • Actively revise the aims on the board as suggestions are made.

Your ISME will be present to help capture the main points of the discussion.

Before the Chalk Talk:

  • Work with your Coach and ISME to develop a list of key attendees and schedule the meeting so that they can attend.
  • Send copies of Specific Aims and hypotheses to attendees with enough time for them to review
  • Inform attendees of logistics, e.g., location, time, duration, etc.
  • Arrive early and write your aims on the board. If you have associated hypotheses, list them also. A simple model to describe your aims may be helpful.
  • Invite a statistician if applicable to your study

During the Chalk Talk:

  • Introduction: Express gratitude for the attendees’ interest and feedback. Ask that when the discussion begins, only one person speak at a time so that you can benefit from all input.
  • Present (verbally describe) the bigger picture, including:
    • significance and rationale of your planned research
    • if you feel it is necessary, distribute a sheet with simple graphs to explain your preliminary data; otherwise refer to data in general, e.g., “…this is supported by data from our pilot tests.”
    • a sentence that states your project’s long-range goals
    • what institute you will apply to and what study section will review
  • Present aims/central hypothesis that are written on the chalk board
  • Present planned techniques and approaches you will use to achieve aims
  • Present access to collaborators and necessary resources
  • Revise your aims on the board as needed

DISCUSSION POINTS: The ISME can assist with moving the discussion forward to ensure that the attendees address the following:

  • Is this an important problem? Significant field? Potential impact? (i.e., so what?)
  • Do the aims adequately test your hypothesis/hypotheses?
  • Is this project feasible?
  • Is it focused?
  • Are the endpoints defined?
  • Is there a good degree of uniqueness/innovation?
  • Can aims be accomplished with the resources and time allotted?


  • Practice talking, writing on chalk board
  • Expect to be interrupted and to explain – questions are good!
  • Don’t get defensive, try to get the most expertise out of every attendee
  • It is okay to think for a few moments before answering a question
  • Keep the discussion focused on your needs
  • If a particular aim/approach is noted as problematic by one person, encourage others also to address the same issue from their perspective. There may be differences of opinion that will be helpful to hear about.
  • You may have several participants speaking at the same time; your ISME may be able to help control the discussion.