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Guidelines for Poster Presentations: Table of Contents
To access a full description for each proposal guideline topic, click on the corresponding link below. You may also want to view student presentation submissions from 2011 and 2012 to help further inform your proposal.

I. The Proposal
 
 
 
 
Guidelines for Poster Presentations: Instructions
 
Celebration of Excellence: Guidelines for Writing a Proposal
 
   1. Proposals will not be accepted if they are not endorsed by an Illinois College professor.You
   must include the name of your faculty sponsor on the proposal application
 
   2. Proposals must be typed and submitted via the online proposal application form.
   Handwritten proposals will not be accepted.
   3. Check over your proposal carefully before submitting it. Make sure it is clear,
   well organized, and free of grammatical and spelling errors.  
   4. Proposals should be no more than 200 words. This word count comes from the
   National Conference of Undergraduate Research presentation proposal guidelines.
   5. Near the beginning of your proposal, you should include a clear thesis that indicates what
   your are going to demonstrate or argue in your presentation. The statement should contextualize
   your arguments within the scholarship or creative expression in your field.
   6. You should summarize the major points or arguments you will make in
   your presentation.
   7. If you are proposing a performance or exhibit, specify the subject/concept, how it will  
   be embodied in the work, and the length of the performance and/or the number of artworks to
   be presented. Also note if there will be multiple participants. 
 
 
Writing a Research Abstract 
 
Basic Format: Your abstract should be between 50 and 200 words. The goal of the abstract is to convince the reviewers you have something interesting to say and that you can support the points you will be making. The abstract is also a summary of your entire research project and should include the following brief sections: 
 
   1. Introduction. In one to two sentences, briefly introduce your topic and indicate why it is important.  
   2. Thesis. Clearly state your thesis or hypothesis. 
   3. Methods. Briefly describe the methods you used. Research methods vary considerably
   across disciplines, so speak to your advisor if you are unsure how to present research methods
   in your field.  
   4. Results. State your findings.  
   5. Implications. In one to two sentences, indicate the importance of your research results.  
 
Other Important Rules:  
 
   1. Do not use first person voice. This means the following words should not appear in your
   abstract: I, me, myself, we, our, ourselves, and us. For instance, do not write, "I tested 150
   undergraduate students using 3 measures of self-esteem." Instead, you could say, "150
   undergraduate students each completed 3 measures of self-esteem."
   2. Avoid too much technical jargon. Write for an educated and intelligent audience, but do
   not assume every reviewer will know all of the terminology you use within your discipline.
   Remember, the goal is to clearly communicate the excitement and importance of your work to
   others. Do not dazzle them by your ability to obfuscate.
   3. Proofread your submissions very carefully. If your proposal has several grammatical or
   spelling errors, it may not be accepted. If it has a few errors, it may be sent back to you and
   your advisor for revision. If your proposal is accepted, it will be printed and displayed online
   with the conference proceedings. 
   4. Your advisor must read and approve your abstract before it is submitted. This is not
   only a requirement, but it is also very important to have someone else proofread your work.  
 
 
 
   Why are poster presentations valuable? Scholarly posters allow people to engage in a
   different way than an oral presentation. Posters are a way to communicate graphical or visual
   results, so they can be examined in detail and discussed by many people. An oral presentation
   allows one to comment upon and interpret one's research, but there is very little time for
   comments from the audience members. Furthermore, the rapid nature of an oral presentation
   allows little opportunity for an audience to study your ideas in depth. As a presenter, you guide
   your audience to the points you feel are the most important. A poster presentation can be
   studied at leisure, and the presenter and observer can discuss many different facets of the thesis
   at length. 
 
   Poster Presentations are also excellent opportunities for networking.They are usually
   viewed as a social time that is more casual than oral presentations. The poster presentations at
   the Celebration of Excellence are an opportunity for you to share your results with a wide
   audience, including your peers, faculty, and staff.  

How to make a poster: Poster Template
. To help create your poster, utilize the following PowerPoint template: Poster Template.
 
      1. FontMake text legible enough to be seen from a few feet away18 point subheading or
      14 point font for the body of the text. Dark text on a light background is most legible. 
 
      2. Acknowledgments. Be sure to thank any funding sources that supported any part of your
      work. It is also appropriate to acknowledge people who are not authors but assisted you in
      completing your project. This may include those who gave you technical or statistical
      help, provided or helped you gather necessary materials, engaged in data collection/entry
      tasks, provided editing of your work, or helped you refine your research ideas or methods.
      Use the titles Dr. or Professor, if appropriate. (Usually, Mr., Ms., etc. are not necessary.)
 
      3. References/Works Cited. Requirements for listing references or works cited vary by field;
      although, in general, fewer works are cited on poster presentations than in written reports.
      Talk with your research advisor about choosing which works to cite. If you use an image,
      map, or figure that is not your own, you must provide the source. 
 
      4. Figures. The figures are the main feature of the poster. They should be clear and legible.
      Remember to number the figures (stating the methods figure if you used one). 
 
      5. Figure Legends. The figure legends should take the place of much of the results section of
      a written report.  The figure legends should be clear and concise. The figure legends should
      describe the image but also indicate its significance.
 
      6. Conclusions. Give the conclusion of your work as a short paragraph or a list of  
      bullets. You can also provide a list of follow-up work or new questions to be addressed in
      the future.
 
 
      1. Title. Your title should be descriptive and summarize your main finding(s). For example,
      consider a survey of Basidiomycetes (i.e., mushrooms) on campus that found there was higher
      than expected species diversity. 
  • An unhelpful title would be, "Survey of Mushrooms."
  • A better title would be, "High Species Diversity of Basidiomyctes on a Midwestern Campus."
      2. Authors. List all of the authors in the appropriate order. Be consistent about using middle
      initials or middle names. Use people's full names: Jenny should be listed as Jennifer; Bob
      should be listed as Robert. Do not use titles. (i.e., Dr., Ms., Professor, etc.) on the list of
      authors. 
  • Different subfields of the sciences and the social sciences have different conventions for ordering the authors. For example, in chemistry and molecular biology, the most senior author is listed last, while in ecology, the most senior author is listed first. Your research advisor can help you place the names in the appropriate order.  
      3. Address. Provide the department, institution, city, state, and ZIP code for all authors.
      Street addresses are not necessary. A poster given by members of both the Biology and
      Psychology department would have the following address: 
  • Departments of Biology and Psychology, Illinois College, Jacksonville, IL 62650. 
  • The order of the addresses should reflect the order of the authors. 
  • Be sure to provide the correct addresses for all collaborators outside of Illinois College. 
          4. Abstract. The abstract of the poster should be the same text submitted to the committee. If
          there are substantial new findings between the time the abstract was submitted and the printing
          of the poster, you should revise your abstract to reflect these findings. However, you should
          not revise your hypothesis in order to "better fit" your results. 
     
          5.  Experimental Methods. Rather than a text description of your methods, it is more
          effective to use a figure or list of bullet points. A flow chart can be particularly helpful. You
          will leave out many of the details you would include in a written materials and methods
          sectionit is most important to be able to communicate your research process. 
     
          6. Results. When explaining your results, you should use text sparingly. You can often
          effectively illustrate your findings by using tables, graphs, or figures. If you do need to use text,
          try to also illustrate your findings in some manner. There are many tools available on campus
          computers to help create interesting and informative visuals. When using these tools, do not
          attempt to make them overly fancy; remember, your goal is to illustrate your findings to your
          audience in an efficient and accurate fashion. 
     
     
          1. Title. Your title should be descriptive and should summarize your main finding(s).
          For example, consider a paper on the relationship between suppression of music and types
          of governmental systems in the years preceding the Arab Spring.
    • An unhelpful title would be, "Music and Mayhem."
    • A better title would be, "Suppression of Popular Music as a predictor of Uprisings during the Arab Spring." You can probably come up with even better titles, but a good title should rarely be longer than fifteen words. 
          2. Address. Provide the department, institution, city, state, and ZIP code for all authors.
          Street addresses are not necessary. A poster given by members of both the History and
          Theatre departments would have the following address:
    • Departments of History and Theatre, Illinois College, Jacksonville, IL 62650.
    • The order of the addresses should reflect the order of the authors. 
    • Be sure to provide the correct addresses for all collaborators outside of Illinois College. 
          3. Abstract. The abstract on the poster should be the same text submitted to the committee.
          If there are substantial new findings between the time the abstract was submitted and the
          printing of the poster, you should revise your abstract to reflect these findings. However, you
          should not revise your thesis or hypothesis in order to "better fit" your results.
     
          4.  Research Methods. Rather than a text description of your methods, it is more effective
          to use a figure or list of bullet points. A flow chart can be particularly helpful. You will leave
          out many of the details you would include in a written materials and methods sectionit is
          most important to be able to communicate your research process. 
     
          5. Results. When explaining your results, you should use text sparingly. You can often
          effectively illustrate your findings by using tables, graphs, or figures. If you do need to use text,
          try to also illustrate the findings in some manner. There are many tools available on campus
          computers to help create interesting and informative visuals. When using these tools, do not
          attempt to make them overly fancy; remember, your goal is to illustrate your findings to your
          audience in an efficient and accurate fashion. 
     
     
    Some Tips for Making it Professional 
     
       A. Content 
     
          1. Thesis statement. Near the beginning of your presentation, you should include a clear
          thesis statement indicating what you will demonstrate or argue in your presentation. 
          2. Relationship to your field. Specifically tell your audience how your work relates to the
          scholarship or creative expression in your field.  
          3. Limit quotes. While it is important to demonstrate your familiarity with other scholars, the
          direct quotes you use in your presentation should be limited. Your presentation should focus
          on your contribution to the subject. Using long quotes or frequently quoting can make it
          choppy and difficult for your audience to follow.  
          4. Length. Your presentation should be between twelve and fifteen minutes long, which is
          approximately six to eight double-spaced pages. It should not be so long that you have to
          rush to finish in order to fit into the allotted time. If you speak rapidly and slur your words, you
          will lose your audience.  
          5. Organization. Make sure your presentation is well organized and that your audience can
          follow it. When you practice your presentation in front of others, ask them what they were or
          were not able to understand.  
     
       B. Verbal delivery 
     
          1. Practice. You should show evidence of preparation and practice as well as
          professionalism. Practice several times, including in front of others, before you give your
          presentation. 
          2. Presence. Exhibit a strong presence: appear poised and confident with a smooth delivery;
          avoid "ums" and unnecessary pauses. 
          3. Eye contact. Make frequent eye contact with the audience; bring them into your
          presentation; talk to them.  
          4. Avoid distractions. Refrain from unnecessary fidgeting and weight shifts.  
          5. Speech. Speak clearly and loudly enough, so people in the back of the room can hear and
          understand what you are saying. 
          6.  Don't put your audience to sleep! Avoid a monotone delivery by using an appropriate
          variety of pitches, rates, and volumes. 
          7. Quotes. When quoting someone else, say "quote" at the beginning and "end quote" at the
          end, so the audience can clearly distinguish between when you are using your own words and
          when you are citing others. 
     
       C. Visual Aids: PowerPoint Usage
     
          1.  Do not reproduce your speech on PowerPoint slides. If the audience can read the
          presentation on the slides, there is no need for you to be up there giving the presentation. 
          2. PowerPoint outline. Put a skeleton outline on PowerPoint slides using bullet points and
          concise titles.  
          3.  Reinforce message. The PowerPoint should reinforce the message you want to
          communicate in the presentation. You may want to display key quotes, words, and/or images
          that will stick out in your audience's mind.
          4.  Review slides. Review your PowerPoint ahead of time and view the slides from the back
          of the classroom. Can you clearly see the images and easily read the text? If not, you should
          alter the color of the letters and/or background and/or change the size and font. 
     
       D. Answering questions.  
     
          1.  Honesty. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not make something up or
          provide information you are not sure about. Providing false information can come back to
          haunt you if someone decides to check on your answers. 
          2. Responding to constructive criticism. If someone questions your conclusions or results,
          bring in additional information to defend your point. If you feel unsure of how to respond, you
          can state that you will take the comments into account as your continue to develop the
          research.You can also ask the person what she or he suggests. 
          3. Further research. In the above situation, you can also conduct additional research and
          find out the answer. After the session is over, you can ask for the person's contact information
          in order to correspond with additional information as your project progresses. 

        
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