Research Aids

How To's and Tips

Abstracts serve as a brief summary (typically around 250 words) of the author’s research objective and key findings. It must be tailored to communicate with the anticipated audience. For instance, consider whether you will be speaking to the public, an educated layperson, or another expert in your field of study. The language you will use in your abstract will depend upon who will be listening. Advice on how to write an abstract or proposal varies widely among disciplines and authors. There are, however, some common threads that appear in most good examples.

  • Introduction – Unlike the comparable section in a longer paper or article, the introduction in an abstract need only briefly identify the topic or general area of study. Introductory statements in abstracts can be as short as one sentence.
  • Problem Statement – What problem or question does your research address? Unlike the “inverted pyramid” approach you might follow in a longer paper, the research objective in an abstract should be stated up front and can be as short as one concise sentence.
  • Relevance/Significance – Why does this research matter? Why do we care about the problem and the results? Why has no one else adequately answered the research question?
  • Approach (methodology) – Explain how you addressed the problem or explored the question. Did your research use quantitative data collection and analysis, theoretical inquiry, or qualitative exploration?
  • Results – Briefly explain and summarize the study’s main findings and/or what can be done with these results once the data is collected or the project completed.
  • Key Impact – In a single sentence, what is the key impact of your research? Answer the “so what” question. What is the significance of your findings? Why should other people care? Did you discover something that has not yet been discussed or reviewed?

Need more help?  The Communication Across the Curriculum office offers free writing tutoring.  Click here to schedule an appointment.

Thank you for your interest in creating a poster for LSU Discover Day (or another presentation)! Please use the information on this page to help create a good poster. Your completed poster should visually convey a message and serve as an effective summary of your research. Remember to create your poster so that the average college student will be able to understand your work! Clear organization and large font (readable at least 4 feet away) are going to be key in creating your posters.

Audience

One size does not fit all! Consider your audience and purpose. View the poster as an opportunity to:

  • Persuade others of your interpretation or hypotheses
  • Advertise your research
  • Gain insight or feedback that will help your research to evolve
  • Teach others about a topic

Organization

Posters in science disciplines follow the scientific method, with headings for each of the steps. All other disciplines should make a “road map” for the viewer by labeling sections, preferably with headings that “talk” (i.e., convey specific information).

  • Introduction (with hypothesis or study purpose)
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Interpretations or analysis
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • References

The difference between posters and journal articles:

  • Posters focus the results and interpretation
  • Posters often omit details about the methodology and are more general
  • Posters focus more on visuals (graphics) than text
  • Posters use an introduction instead of an abstract (unless otherwise required)

Poster design tips

Overall layout:

  • Be sure it is readable, use large text (at least 18-24 pt.)
  • Keep it simple, do not use more than 2-3 font styles total
  • Ensure that it’s not “too busy”
  • Use fonts that are easy to read
  • Avoid clutter or unneeded information (avoid too much detail)
  • Use “white space” and headings to separate sections
  • Choose colors carefully and be aware of contrast. If you are not sure, remember that dark colored text on a light background is best

Title:

Choose a title that effectively captures what your research is about. The title’s text size should be at least twice the size of the regular text. The content of your title should include:

  • Your name
  • Contact information such as an email address
  • Institutional affiliation 

Organization & Graphics:

  • Layout and headings should be visually stimulating (create a visual hook for your audience)
  • Develop a user-friendly visual information flow. Make it easy for your reader to discern the order and relevance of your text and images.
  • Judiciously incorporate figures, tables, images, and other graphics that support the theme of your poster
  • Ensure that all graphics are high-resolution and easily visible
  • Make use of “figure speak”—that is, it is okay to NOT use complete sentences in figure captions

Lastly, don’t forget to proof for errors and inconsistencies! This is very important, but often overlooked.

Need more help?  The Communication Across the Curriculum office offers free consultation/coaching on how to build and present posters.  Click here to schedule an appointment.

Remember, posters are an active presentation, so you should be prepared with a summary for visitors using your poster as a visual guide. Below are some guidelines for how to prepare for your poster presentation:

1. Prepare a Short Presentation

This short presentation is sometimes referred to as an “elevator speech” because it is a talk that you would be able to give to someone during a short elevator ride. Thus, prepare a short explanation (an overview of study motivation; why it is important; what you did; what you learned). Engage with your viewer and check to see if the listener is able to make sense of your work and follow the technical aspects of your explanation. Use your poster as a visual tool that will help guide your explanation referring to your graphs, images, figures, and charts as much as possible. Explain your results by using the figures.

Beware of using acronyms and jargon. Assume your audience has a limited understanding of your area of work.

2. Don’t read off your poster

Avoid reading your poster to your viewer as it is best utilized as a visual tool that supports your presentation. Reading directly from your poster typically disengages your audience. Your prepared presentation will help prevent you from reading the poster. It is also difficult for  your audience to hear you if you are reading off your poster and not speaking towards them.

3. Focus on the main findings of your project

Your presentation is primarily an opportunity for you to convey the main ideas associated with your research project. Due to the abbreviated format, you are not obligated to cover every detail from your research on your poster or throughout your poster presentation.

4. Be prepared for questions

One of the most important elements of a poster presentation is the question and answer session that follows the presentation. This opportunity for high-level interaction differentiates poster presentations from traditional presentation formats. Common questions include: what was your primary research question, did your results surprise you, and where will you go from here with your research? If you don’t know how to answer a question, don’t try to fake it. Sometimes you can use a statement like “that is outside of the scope of this research project” or ask the viewer if they have some ideas that you might think about.

5. View every interaction as one that can make a difference

Conversations with other presenters are fine but remember that your poster presentation experience can provide important networking opportunities. Always be ready to give your attention to your viewer(s) as it is possible that your viewer will be a future collaborator or perhaps your viewer is a judge. Interact with the viewers and be courteous; include others if they want to join the presentation and the follow-up conversation.

6. Check the conference website for poster presentation suggestions

When presenting at a conference be sure to look for poster presentation (and poster design) tips on the conference website. Professional societies may offer tips on poster presentations.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice! 

It helps to practice on your friends and family first.

Need more help?  The Communication Across the Curriculum office offers free consultation/coaching on how to build and present posters.  Click here to schedule an appointment.

Writing a personal statement is an important part of your application to graduate school. It’s your first (and perhaps only) chance to show the admissions committee who you are as a person, beyond your transcript and test scores. Think of it as your “professional autobiography,” where you tell a story about yourself to communicate to the committee why you’d be a good addition to their academic community.

Of course, it’s not an easy task to communicate who you are in an engaging, professional, and accurate way, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to craft your statement.

How to write an effective personal statement:

Know Yourself
Here are some important reflective questions you should ask yourself as you start the process. Take some time and write out your thoughts. Give yourself several pages—the more you write, the more you have to work with as you draft:

  • What do you think is most important for the admissions committee to know about you?
  • What’s distinctive, interesting, or unique about you and your experiences?
  • When did you become interested in this field? What experiences or events have lead you to your this field of study?
  • What special qualities or skills do you have that could help you be successful in their program? How did you develop those qualities or skills?

Know Your Audience
Know where you’re applying – Be sure you’ve done some research on the programs to which you’re applying and (when appropriate) tailor your statement to each program. Moreover, be sure you’re answering the appropriate question (or questions) asked—some schools (especially MBA programs) ask for multiple essays with specific prompts.


Be Engaging and Clear
Admissions Committees read many, many applications. Figure out what makes you stand out! But also remember to respect the committee’s time and patience—you don’t want to “stand out” in a negative way.


Be Professional
Investigate your field. Talk to your professors and other professionals—learn what “professional” means in this context. You want to present yourself as ready to move beyond your undergraduate experience and enter into a new intellectual community.


Draft, Get Feedback, and Revise

  • Give yourself time for multiple drafts.
  • Do not be the only person to read your statement. Get as many people to read it as possible.
  • Proofread very carefully.
  • You can also visit the Olinde Career Center for more help with your personal statement.

"Do's and Don't's" for writing your personal statement:

Do:

  • Tell a story — This will help you show your audience who you are, not just tell them.
  • Find an angle — If you have particular struggles in your life, obstacles you’ve overcome, or issues you’ve addressed, these events can help show your audience who you are and why you’d be a good addition to their program.
  • Be specific — Use tangible, specific details of your experience to communicate your story. Don’t rely on vague generalizations.
  • Concentrate on your opening paragraph — Your audience has many, many personal statements to read. Catch their attention early with an anecdote or “hook” that engages your reader while setting up your point about who you are.
  • Be sure you’re answering the question — This seems obvious, but be sure you’re clear about what you’re responding to—especially if you’re applying to multiple programs.
  • Tell what you know, not what you think people want to hear — you are representing yourself—be honest. It will come across best.
  • Give yourself time to reflect and write — Your story, your angle, your details, and your opening “hook” are unlikely to appear magically the first time you sit down to write. Give yourself time to think back on your experiences, draft out your ideas, and revise.
  • Get feedback from mentors and peers at every stage of the process — Talk to professors about what it means to be a member of your chosen academic community and about what in your experiences would be relevant to your statement. Have as many people as you can read your drafts and give you feedback. The CxC Writing Center will be very glad to help!

Don’t:

  • Use clichés — You may want to be a doctor because you always wanted to help people, but you want to find a way communicate that idea in an honest and tangible way. Basically, avoid saying “I’ve always wanted to be….” And don’t start with quotes from other people, even famous ones, unless you can think of a particularly engaging way of doing so.
  • Be negative — especially about your institution or other institutions. It can give your audience a general bad feeling—and worse, someone on the admissions committee may know who you’re talking about.
  • Include everything that ever happened in your life — You have limited time and space. Be selective! And definitely don’t rewrite your CV. Be sure you’re telling a story that communicates who you are as a whole, not just listing your accomplishments.
  • Talk about high school — You risk looking immature.
  • Talk about hot-button social/political issues — You risk alienating your audience. Of course, the story you want to tell may demand you do both these things—but be sure you have a very good reason to do so.
  • Go over the page or word limit — Respect your audience’s time and energy. Don’t overload them.
  • Mispell words or use bad grammar — You can lose your audience instantly. Don’t risk it.
  • Be the only person who reads your proposal besides the committee — Try to have at least two other people read your statement. If one of them is a faculty member or professional in the field, that would be best, but anyone can give you useful feedback and help check for surface errors. The CxC Writing Center is there for you!

Click here to watch a recording of our Personal Statement Workshop.

Click here to schedule an appointment with CxC to have your personal statement draft reviewed.

 

Campus Research Resources

Resource Description
LSU Communication Across the Curriculum ( aka, CxC) CxC is a program that works to improve the writing, speaking, visual and technological communication skills of undergraduates at LSU
LSU Libraries tutorials The LSU Libraries offers many tutorials. This new tutorial helps you through developing a topic, using information ethically and more! 
Office of Strategic Initiatives OSI is home to many undergraduate research programs, awards, and opportunities such as McNair Scholars and LA-STEM.
Lynda Campus Video-based online courses for software, design, and business skills training.
Mathematica Online Mathematica is a computational software program used in many scientific, engineering, mathematical and computing fields, based on symbolic mathematics.
Microsoft IT Academy The Microsoft IT Academy Program is a world-class online training resource which includes over 300 e-learning courses, many of which can also lead towards Information Technology industry certifications.
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) Free online writing resources, including style guides.
Education Resources Curriculum materials collection provides exposure to selective materials representing a variety of teaching concepts and methods.
Digital Resource Collections Online resources on various topics; digital collections and projects to enhance scholarship and research.
LSU Libraries Research Guides Research guides on various subjects, courses, and topics.
LSU Online Learning Strategies Workshops Our online workshops teach students simple strategies to improve studying and learning. Workshops have interactive quizzes and track your progress.
Council on Undergraduate Research CUR hosts a Registry of Undergraduate Research to facilitate matchmaking between undergraduates with research experience and a desire to pursue an advanced degree, and graduate schools seeking high quality students who are well prepared for research.