If students are presenting on a text, I require them to at minimum identify:
– the topic of the text.
– the thesis of the text, and locate where in the text it is stated by the text’s author.
– how the author uses sources, not simply in the manner of copy and paste, but as part of a dialogue with others.
Students usually meet the first two requirements fairly easily, but occasionally stumble on the third. I advise students to try to answer the question “What message is the author trying to get across about her or his work in relations to that of others?”
If the historical or academic setting of a text is unfamiliar to students (and most are), I ask them to include some type of dramatis personae in their presentations. I want them to elaborate on how the people or ideas discussed in the text connect to each other and to specific places and/or times that may be implicitly or explicitly referenced within it.