|Creating An Effective Scientific Poster Presentation|
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In the preface to his 1990 study "Scholarship Reconsidered," Ernest Boyer wrote, "the most important obligation now confronting the nations' colleges and universities is to break out of the tired old teaching versus research debate and define, in more creative ways, what it means to be a scholar." Eight years later, the Boyer Commission concluded its report by declaring that, "research universities need to be able to give to their students a dimension of experience and capability they cannot get in any other setting, a research experience that is genuine and meaningful." Leading research universities across the country have embraced this idea by providing increased research opportunities for their undergraduate students and by implementing initiatives for enhancing synergy between the university's research and undergraduate education missions. The curricular goals of this project are related to three of the ten recommendations outlined in the Boyer Commission's Report:
Specifically, I propose to create a web-based tutorial that will introduce undergraduate researchers to the key principles of designing and creating an effective poster presentation. Since the advent of commercially available large-format printing technologies, printing a poster on a single large sheet has become the "standard" professional method of creating posters for scientific conferences. Traditional methods of poster assembly, in which sections of pre-printed text, graphs, and photographs are manually laid out and fixed with adhesive onto colored poster boards, have been almost entirely replaced by computer-based methods for laying out text and graphics into a single large "page."
Because the cost of commercial large-format printing is prohibitive for the student budget, workshops and online information about poster design have focused on presenting the traditional and more affordable poster layout methods, rather than computer-based techniques. To make large-format printing technology more accessible to students, the College of Biological Sciences has invested student technology fees toward the purchase and operation of a large-format printer. The cost for a student to print a poster at this facility ( $15 to $20) is significantly less than at a commercial printing facility ($100-$150). With the acquisition of affordable large-format printing technology for students and development of this online tutorial in computer-based methods, students with little or no prior experience in digital poster design will be able to become proficient in state-of-the-art poster design. This tutorial will focus on skills students need to create a professional-quality digital poster using PowerPoint.
The intended learners are undergraduate students engaged in life sciences-related research projects at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The students are invited to describe their research in the form of a poster presentation each spring at the Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium. For students in the final stages of their project, the symposium provides a capstone experience and closure to their projects. Students in the CBS Honors Program, for example, present a poster at the symposium during their senior year, in addition to submitting a written thesis describing their research. Participating in the symposium is also a valuable experience for students whose projects are at a formative stage, by producing valuable insights and perspective through discussions with scientists who stop by to view their poster.
For most students, the symposium is their first opportunity to present their research to a general audience and their first poster presentation. Faculty mentors play a lead role in educating students to effectively communicate their research results, in encouraging students to participate in the research symposium and other conferences, and in the particulars of effective poster design. This tutorial will supplement the faculty mentor's role by providing students with enough basic information and technical proficiency so they will be more confident and prepared to discuss details of the scientific content and optimize the effectiveness of the presentation with their faculty mentor.
Past experience has shown that students who register for the symposium are highly motivated to create an effective poster. In recent years, about half of the participants have attended an optional two-hour poster design workshop held two weeks before the symposium and reported that the workshop was a valuable experience. By making information available to students online, an even larger number of students will be able to take advantage of the learning opportunity. The efficacy of the tutorial will be be measured by assessing the number of student presenters that (1) visited the tutorial, (2) spent time covering information or skills they were unfamiliar with, and (3) reported that the material they covered was informative and that they would recommend the tutorial to others.
Students who complete the tutorial should be able to:
Basic computer skills, knowledge of concepts such as "file size," "saving a file to your hard disk," and "using the shift key to select multiple objects."
Access to PowerPoint
Access to image editing software, such as Macromedia FireWorks or Adobe Photoshop.
Access to a high speed internet connection.
Know how to acquire and save a digital image on your computer. Common ways of doing this are (1) using a scanner, (2) using a digital camera, and (3) using with an image, such as a graph, that was created using computer software. This tutorial uses examples from FireWorks MX2004.
Sources and references used in the development of this tutorial are listed here.
Begin Tutorial : Introduction