Poster Presentations — Classroom Workshop
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Poster Presentations — Classroom Workshop


Hi! I’m Mary Beth. And I’m David. And we’re consultants at the Texas A&M University
Writing Center. The writing center is here to help Texas A&M students with any writing
or public speaking project. If you’d like to find out more about us, you can visit our
website at writingcenter.tamu.edu. Our topic today is research posters. We are
going to help you think about writing, designing, and presenting your research posters. The
first thing you want to think about is how your poster will be used. Poster sessions
are often in a large exhibit hall with many other posters and presenters, so your poster
needs to stand out and attract your audience. You also want to think about what kind of
a conference this will be presented at. So before you even begin designing or putting
together your research poster, you really need to consider who your audience is. Will
your audience be made up primarily of experts? Or will it be made up of mostly non-experts?
If your audience is made up of experts, you might use more facts and figures, and you
might talk a little bit more about the specifics of your methods. Whereas if your audience
is made up of mostly non-experts, you might focus a bit more on the significance or the
general applications of your research. Who your audience is will reflect in the tone,
the format, the content, and the style of your research poster. Okay. Once you are aware of the venue and your audience, you can start thinking about
layout. IMRAD, or introduction, methods, results, and discussion, is a helpful way to think
about organizing your poster. Sometimes posters include an abstract, which would summarize,
in a nut shell, the main points of your poster, but since your poster, in a way, is a visual
abstract, this might not be necessary. In your introduction section, you’ll want to
talk about important background information as well as your specific research problem.
In the methods section, you’ll talk about how you set up an experiment or how you carried
out the research. And in your results section, you’ll talk about what you found out. In
the discussion section, you will discuss the importance of your research, the implications
of your findings, and how this can be applied to other disciplines or even in your field.
This is a general guideline; however, just like abstracts, sometimes references and acknowledgements
might not be included on your poster. Notice that on the example we have here, instead
of “introduction,” they have a background section, and in addition to their discussion,
they also have a conclusion. But you will notice that they don’t have an abstract,
references, or acknowledgements, so it is important that you are sure of the requirements
of your discipline. So, in addition to layout, you also want to
consider the style of your poster. So style would include things like white space, whether
you use italics or bold face to highlight your text, whether you use headings to draw
your reader’s eye to certain sections, or whether you use bullet points to make your
text a bit more concise, which is something that’s desirable on a research poster. You
want to make sure you are using short paragraphs and concise sentences so the reader or audience
can get the gist of your message without having to read a lot of text. Also, this is more
of a grammatical point, but make sure your lists are parallel, meaning each item on the
list should have the same grammatical structure. If one item is a noun, all of the items in
the list should be nouns. And we’ll see an example of a parallel list on the next
slide. So again, you want to make sure your text is short and sweet. So, this is an example
of a sentence that might have been in the conference paper or research proposal and
how we can spin it to make sure it’s a little bit more appealing on the research poster.
So in the original it said, “The ideal anesthetic should quickly make the patient unconscious
but allow a quick return to consciousness, have few side effects, and be safe to handle.”
On your research poster, you might make that into a bulleted list. Notice how it has a
bold-faced heading, “Ideal anesthetics,” and then a bulleted list of nouns, “quick
sedation, quick recovery, few side effects, and safe to handle.” Another important aspect of style is font type and size. So, when you’re deciding
on what font type to use, you might sans-serif fonts for headings, something like Calibri
would work well there. And for the body text you would use serif fonts like Times New Roman.
You want to avoid more obnoxious fonts like Bauhaus or Brush Script or Comic Sans. These
can be distracting and might actually sort of turn your audience away from your poster.
Font size is also important. Titles should obviously stand out and be much larger than
the rest of the text, whereas a heading would just need to be slightly larger than the body
text. But whatever you choose, make sure that you use font sizes and types consistently
throughout your poster. So you also want to consider the visuals that
you use on your poster. So first, they should be decipherable from a distance; you want
to make sure you’re attracting different audience members from different parts of the
room. Also, they should be designed to convey the gist of your message. Whatever visual
you use, whether it’s a table or a figure or an image, make sure that it supports something
in your text. Make sure that it’s relevant to your research. Also, all of your visuals
should be properly cited and labeled in the text. Meaning that if you have a figure or
table, it should be labeled and referred to in the text. So, just as visuals can be used to convey the gist of your message, color can also be
used purposefully to help guide your readers through your poster, to help show connections
between important points, or highlight important key terms. You can also use it constructively
to create a mood or suggest a theme. For example, if your poster is about breast cancer awareness,
you might choose pink. If it’s about ecology or the environment, maybe you would pick green.
But whatever you do, make sure that you’re careful of your color choice. Just as fonts
can be distracting, so can color. If it’s overly obnoxious or if it just doesn’t make
sense. So now let’s go back to layout a little
bit. You want to make sure that your layout is easy to follow. In general, especially
in the scientific disciplines, posters will have a left to right flow using columns. So
in the example here on your left, the columns are separated out using borders and in the
example on the right, the columns are separated out using white space. Whichever visual method
you decide to use, make sure that each column is distinct and that it’s clear how the
poster should flow. And in general, it will probably flow from left to right. Also, when
you’re considering the layout of your poster, if you are trying to make your columns more
distinct, you might also use contrasting colors. Now in the following slides we are going to
present several different examples of posters actually presented, so take what we’ve talked
about so far and think about, or discuss with someone, both the positives and negatives
of each example. So take a moment to pause your video and either
discuss with your classmates or consider on your own what the positives or negatives of
this poster would be. [Video paused] So, first of all, the poster has a good balance of white
space and there are pretty distinct headings that they separate out using color. The visuals are also labeled properly, the figures and the tables, and they seem to be more appropriate
for an expert audience. In terms of the negative aspects of the slide, the headings probably
could be a bit more concise, and maybe more lists should be used instead using big blocks
of text. Take just a minute to look at the positives
and negatives of this poster. [Video paused] This poster has a very clear title and each
of the sections are labeled very clearly. Also, the methods are numbered and easy to
follow, and they are probably understandable for even a non-expert. There is also a good
use of white space and each of the columns are very clearly separated. However, some
of the negatives might be that if this is intended for a very expert audience, then
maybe the methods are just a bit too simple. Also, the tables are very difficult to read
even up close. If visuals are supposed to be decipherable from a distance, then it’s
going to be hard to convey the gist of your message if they can’t even read them up
close. So take a moment to pause the video and discuss
or consider the positive and negative aspects of this research poster. [Video paused] We thought the color was a bit overwhelming, it could be a little bit more subtle but would
get an audience’s attention. It also uses “I,” or first person, which is generally
okay for the Humanities. The visuals, especially the arrows, might be a bit confusing to some
people. There is a good and clear research question. You will notice that the poster
doesn’t follow the IMRAD format because it’s not the same kind of study. Again,
it’s from the Humanities, so the format might be a little bit different. Make sure
that all of your visuals serve some kind of specific, clear purpose. Now take just a minute to review the University Writing Center’s poster about research posters. [Video paused] You can see that it’s a very clear title and each of the sections are labeled
very clearly. Also, in the middle section there is a good balance of both text and visuals.
The color choices seem appealing. Although, on the negative side, it might not seem apparent
why certain colors are chosen, or why, for instance, is there a black backboard with
white text or a green background with black text. Also, because it’s a research poster
about research posters, it’s a little bit difficult to figure out how you are supposed
to proceed through the poster. There are two intro sections, two methods sections, and
two discussion sections, and then the results are also in the middle, but it’s not really
clear what the middle section’s supposed to be. So once you’ve put together your research poster, you want to start considering how
you plan to present your research when you’re standing next to your poster. So you’ll
probably end up practicing two different presentations. One would be a shorter version, which might
be about 2 minutes, and one might be a longer version, which would be about 10 minutes.
The shorter version of the presentation might be geared a bit more toward non-experts, so
you might talk more about the general applications of your research. Whereas the 10 minute presentation
might go a bit more into detail about your methods or results, and this would be geared
more toward an expert audience. Also, try to anticipate questions that your audience
might ask when you’re putting together your presentation. Once you’ve practiced and prepared, you’ll feel more confident when it actually comes
time to present your poster. So stand next to your poster. Make sure you’re not blocking
it. Point out figures and use them in the explanation, though. It can help guide your
reader through your discussion. And then at the end, make sure that you have some sort
of 2 to 3 sentence summary so that your presentation doesn’t end abruptly. And here are some resources that might help you when you’re putting together your research
poster. The first link is for North Carolina State University. They actually have a website
devoted to research posters where you can look at examples of research posters with
details about the strengths and weaknesses of each. Also, if you’d like to download
a poster template, you can go to posterpresentations.com, or you can actually go to brandguide.tamu.edu
if you’re a Texas A&M University student and download templates from there or download
Texas A&M University official logos to use on your research poster. Also, some departments
at Texas A&M might have templates for you to download. For instance, this template is
from the Texas A&M Health Science Center. So check with your specific department or
program and see if they have templates available to you. If you need more help with research posters or any other sort of communication, you can
visit our website or call us to schedule an appointment. We can help you with the construction,
design, and style of your research poster.

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