How to be an academic rock star via poster presentation

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose“

(Zora Neale Hurston)

As psychological researchers we have to ask ourselves the big question of WHY we are conducting research; a question that some might argue may be even more important than questioning HOW we go about it. From starting with a research idea to concluding the research process certainly takes longer than most people would think. However, it does not stop there. While some may say that they are conducting research because it is part of their degree or job, most of you will know that, in an ideal case scenario, we conduct research in order to make the world (or at least the world of psychology) a little richer. This is certainly a privilege that we enjoy when being active in a discipline such as psychology.

There are generally two good ways of disseminating one’s research and therefore to ensure that it can make a difference: publishing it in a journal and presenting it to those who may be affected or inspired by it. In my post I want to talk about the latter. One of the most common ways of presenting your research is through the means of a poster. Similar to posters advertising concerts of rock bands (e.g. U2) that you would find around the streets, I believe that posters presenting research need to be exciting, attractive and informative. The reason for this is that, when at a poster presentation, you want people to be naturally drawn to YOUR poster.

When preparing for my first poster presentation I kept this is mind and I came up with a formula that, in my opinion, helps to accomplish the goal of making your research be seen by other people:

rock band poster – journal article = a good scientific poster.

The beauty of a poster presentation is that you are right there to elaborate what people can see and, even more importantly, you can get their direct feedback on your work. This is why it is important to make a poster that is interesting to look at, gives the viewer the most important information and is a foundation for you to interact with your audience. Thinking about the last post I wrote, it is almost like an instant peer-review.

So here are some tips that I think are useful to keep in mind when designing a poster:

  • imagine your poster to be an illustrated abstract and do not clutter it with information
  • keep in mind who your audience will be and what they would be most interested in
  • if you are presenting graphs make sure that they are nice to look at and easy to understand
  • use PowerPoint – it’s one of the simplest software tools for designing posters
  • use appropriate font sizes
  • make sure that your pictures have a nice resolution (e.g. use png)
  • put your contact details on the poster – you never know who might find them useful;
  • and finally use colour (!) but do not overdo it

(Cornell Centre for Materials Research, n.d.)

I have found that the moral of this experience is short and powerful – if you want your research to have a purpose, make sure that it is seen and heard, be an academic rock star! Make use of the power of suggestion coming from your audience, it may develop your research in ways you could not possibly imagine. Last but not least – return the favour to others presenting posters which is an unique opportunity to develop yourself and others within the research community.

References

Cornell Centre for Materials Research (n.d.). Scientific poster design: How to keep your poster from resembling an “abstract painting”. Retrieved July 17, 2012 from http://www.cns.cornell.edu/documents/ScientificPosters.pdf.

 

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Julia Ouzia is a German national who has lived in the United Kingdom for over seven years. Since then she has completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Child Psychology. Julia is currently interested in bilingual learning and cognition doing a PhD in Brain and Cognition at Anglia Ruskin University. She has also been part of the Executive Board and the Board of Management of EFPSA.

About the author

Julia Ouzia

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