One of the first questions you are asked at any conference or networking event is often one of the hardest to answer:
"Tell me a bit about your research…"
This can be a tricky question to answer, as the more involved you become in your project, the harder it gets to explain your work in a nutshell. We've found the following activity helpful in the past at getting to the heart of our own research projects, and in figuring out what the key information is for a non-specialist audience:
It is likely that your dissertation or research project will have multiple objectives and strands, particularly as you begin to analyse your data and offer different interpretations and explanations for any patterns or findings you have uncovered. Your poster should have a single, cohesive narrative that the reader can follow from start to finish. This may mean sacrificing some elements of your work for the sake of clarity - perhaps presenting on just one of your research aims or trends from your data set, rather than the project in its entirety.
Find alternative ways of communicating these ideas - you could include a bullet point in the 'conclusions/future research' section of the poster, or make part of your verbal presentation when networking or speaking to attendees about your work.
Prioritise your methods over the methodology
Most readers will be able to infer whether you used a qualitative or quantitative approach based on how you present your data and results. Focus on the key steps and practical tools used to collect your data: interviews, surveys, coding for variables. If you are using specialist experimental or scientific methods, focus on the 'what' of your research, rather than the details of the 'how'.
The poster below uses a flowchart and icons to represent the different phases of data collection and synthesis in a project on tackling knife crime through education. Use the magnifying glass icons to zoom in on different design elements:
Here are our top tips for reducing your word count:
Study guide aims:
"A lesson developed by the Home Office was delivered across 130 schools by class teachers" (15 words)
Home Office lesson: delivered in schools by teacher (8 words)
Note: Feel free to use colons, semi-colons and dashes more than you would in standard academic writing.
Try to be objective and present facts rather than opinions, for example "a
stark contrast", "a distressing difference", "a grave concern".
See the next section for more information on this.
Rather than highlighting sections of text to delete, start a new word document and copy across each sentence that your decide to keep. This can help you to build the document from the ground up, rather than feeling like you are sacrificing content.
Get someone else to read through your content when it has been shortened - ask what they have taken from it? Can they pick out your key themes? You can use the 1-1s before the showcase to test out your ideas on the showcase tutors.
For more tips on how to cut down your content, we'd recommend reading this short resource from the University of Adelaide.