Creating a poster presentation: the basics

by Erin

As our readers should know from Clementine’s post last Thursday, there is going to be a Children’s Literature Open Day on May 12th at the Faculty of Education. Part of this event will include poster presentation sessions. Current M.Phil and M.Ed students have been encouraged to create posters to showcase completed or forthcoming research. As I attempt to assist the students in the poster-preparation stage, I recognize that this mode of sharing research is often lesser known. I hope that this blog post will be of help to those preparing a poster!

To begin, we might ask, ‘what is the purpose of a poster presentation? In a typical conference presentation, the researcher has twenty-or-so minutes to convey the essence of his/her research thesis using a mix of visual and oral techniques. Poster presentations share a similar aim: to present an argument clearly and succinctly. Conference presenters, for the most part, use power point slides to lead the audience through the argument, which are then expanded upon. With a poster presentation, the audience will spend a few minutes observing the poster, and will be able to trace the researchers argument through to a conclusion using both text and visual cues. While the researcher is present, the poster is mostly self-explanatory.

In order to ensure that this aim is achieved, what should be included on the poster? In order to write this blog post, I did a bit of research on Google about posters (there are heaps of websites and resources out there). Most of them suggest that, as you would find in a written research paper, posters should include basic elements such as a title, an introduction, the methods utilized, a discussion, and a conclusion. In other words, the poster should be broken down into stages, so as to make it clear what the research entailed. It is suggested to use bullet points or short sentences, as too much text makes the poster cluttered and too detailed. Text should be accompanied by images that make the argument clear. For example, if your poster depicts your work with children reading picturebooks, you might include the children’s illustrations (with consent) or images from the picturebook that you focused on. Most importantly: the person ‘reading’ your poster should know what your research question was, how you attempted to answer the question (theoretically? Empirically?), and what results/conclusions you can potentially offer.

How should the poster be produced? Most importantly, you want to ensure that your poster stands out. Most of the guidelines online suggest using larger fonts for headings and the title, to ensure that it can be read from a distance. Remember that it will be in a room full of other posters, so you want to ensure that it is eye-catching. How exactly you do this will be partially up to the conference organizers. For example, do they want the posters professionally printed, or done by hand? Do they want a consistent size paper or font to be used by every presenter? If such specifics are unmentioned, then it is up to you as the researcher to present the poster as clearly and creatively as possible!

What is your role as the researcher? Once you have produced the poster, it is your job to ‘sell it’ to the audience. On most occasions, you will stand beside the poster, ready to answer any questions posed, and to provide clarity. While the poster should be able to stand for itself, it is important that the researcher is able to ‘speak to the poster’ to make it even more effective. This is your opportunity to convince your audience that your research is valid, and worthy of attention!

Poster presentations are a great way of sharing your research effectively, if they are produced well. I hope that this blog has, in some way, made the process more clear. I look forward to sharing posters with you on May 12th!

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