Friday, 20 February 2015

Make a poster.. These were my instructions... How hard can it be?

I've been reliably informed that creating an academic poster was a great way of getting your research 'out there' with the point being to communicate a summary of a  research project attractively and concisely.  Before starting this course I had never really considered the concept of an academic poster and to be honest, I've never really clocked them at conferences before but it's funny how once you are made aware of them, you see them all over the show! I envisioned a therapeutic, calming, gentle exercise.. I would find some pictures, throw in a few words, mabe even a flow chart if I was feeling flashy... Oh how naive I was.... 
I've looked at a few posters and some of them have the capacity to convert the most devout insomniac whilst others are really eye catching and interesting leaving me saying words like... where's the person that made that bit of research sound/look interesting... That's super clever.... I wonder is this person got their teenage child to help?


Molly did give me permission to use this picture....Honest....

The best ones I've seen have been colourful, not too wordy and have some pictures that either make you cringe (what midwife doesn't like a bit of gore?) or are pretty. I'm aware that I'm a simple creature when it comes down to choosing what I want to read or look at and am coming to the conclusion that most of the people attending conferences are just the same, some are just better at looking interested than others. 

So I decided to go for it, my abstract for the post graduate research conference at the university was accepted and I had a few weeks to work on it... then, oh dear, a blank realisation that I had absolutely no idea where to start..  I have Microsoft publisher installed on my uni laptop alongside draw, word and a whole range of other bits of software I haven't even looked at, but how to I create a poster?? Turns out that the best way to do it is to use PowerPoint, who would have guessed that? Not me obviously, just goes to prove you don't have to be particularly clever to do a PhD, just be willing to slog away at it.   Luckily I have some fabulous PhD colleagues who were happy to share their previously displayed posters (thank you Wendy and Dana) so I had a template to work with.
Thank my lucky stars for the study day entitled "how to create an academic poster, presented by Dr Julia Taylor, this was perfect timing and really helpful. It was a good day with some clear ideas about how to put a poster together, here were just a few of the points for consideration:
  • What is your key message?
  • is there a logical sequence for the information that you want to display?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Will it be legible from 2 metres away?
  • Simplicity is the key - is it too busy?
  • Let graphics and images tell the story
Then the really practical stuff like:

  • Making sure you name the right people on your poster (In my case, my supervisors, Bournemouth University and Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust) and attach the correct logos.
  • How big it should be and what format it should be presented in (841mm x 594mm PDF).
  • Being careful about copyrighted images.

Another really interesting thing that I learned was about how we have a particular pattern to the way we read.  It's called 'reader gravity'.  If we organise our posters in a way that defy reader gravity it will confuse viewers.  There have been eye tracking studies that have analysed the way we read and have identified the areas that gain the most attention on a webpage or on a poster.  You may notice that when you look at a webpage your eyes move in a Z shape... This explains the concept a little....

This image is thanks to this website, take a look If you want to know more:
I find myself looking at layouts now in an effort to understand how I am being manipulated, similar to placing products at eye-level in a shop. 

Now to figure out how to actually use the programme properly, at this point, I had plans to draw my resident teenager out of her bedroom to enlighten me, with rolling eyes, many tuts and bribery I was able to make a start.  I was feeling decadent as this was done over the Christmas break so made my bed the office for the day with the excuse that the new onesie I got from santa is ridiculously comfortable and needed breaking in.  Fuelled with mince pies, chocolate coins, coffee and turkey sandwiches that inevitably left crumbs in all sorts of places I created my masterpiece!

I didn't need to steal any images, that pregnant belly is all my own work... (sorry I had to edit this point once my husband read it as he highlighted that he had helped!).

So the actual conference arrived, I was nervously wondering how it would be received but the subject of maternal obesity is quite topical and also currently in the news:
so in that sense I was aware that it should generate some interest. I eventually found my poster tucked away in a corner, not the best spot but someone was actually reading it and this was the whole point so did a little happy dance when no-one was watching.  I won no prizes and received no great accolades but hopefully this is my first of many and it will evolve, for now I am just pleased I had something to show for all of the crumbs in my bed....


1 comment:

  1. Summarizing the text means to rewrite he original text in a shorter form using your own words and with the main key points in mind. See more academic posters examples