Tips & Tricks

Abstract

ABSTRACT REQUIREMENTS

The most important function of your abstract is to show that you have a valuable contribution to the congress and secondly, to lure the audience to your presentation. Abstracts will only be taken into account for the abstract selection procedure when they are written in English and do not exceed a maximum of 350 words. Furthermore, unfortunately, we cannot accept case-studies, reviews and literature studies (except for meta-analysis).

* Note: Preliminary results are allowed in your abstract.

Abstracts should contain the following subheadings:

  1. Title
  2. Introduction
  3. Methods
  4. Results
  5. Conclusion
  6. Keywords

There are no strict rules for writing an abstract, although these guidelines might help you take your abstract to the next level. Before considering these guidelines, keep in mind that the maximum number of words is 350.

How long should my abstract be?
The limit is 350 words. The key is to state the important aspects in your abstract as brief as possible. Be sure it remains understandable.

How much background information should I assume my audience has?
Although it is important to know who your audience is, in general, it is best to assume little knowledge. This often requires simplifying your abstract to some extent. Be careful that you do not alter the facts in your abstract in the process of making it accessible to others.

Which parts of an abstract are especially important?
The two most important parts of an abstract are the title and the conclusions. These are important because they are often the only chance to interest people in your study and to clarify what your abstract is about.

How do I create a proper title?
Make it short and clear. Formulate a clear research question and, if possible, what the major result was. Make the title interesting in order for people to continue reading. Consider these three titles for the same study:

Treatment of eczema in children.
or
Probiotics in the treatment of eczema in childhood: a randomized controlled trial.
or
No effect of probiotics in the treatment of childhood eczema: a randomized controlled trial. 

The first is too general and therefore uninformative. The second is much more informative than the first, but the third is the best because it gives the outcome away to the reader.

What is important in the conclusion?
The conclusion should not only state your findings, but also what this implies. Remember that most readers will, if your title has peaked their interest, read the conclusion next. Be careful not to conclude more than your results allow, but do state what your results imply.

Introduction
State in the introduction clearly how the study contributes to society. Give background information why this study was done. It is of great importance to clearly state the aim of your study. Be specific. Once your researchquestion is clear to the reader, the rest of the abstract is easier to understand.

Extra information
In the methods, make sure the comparisons between variables are explained. In the results, avoid hanging comparisons:

BAD: children treated with probiotics had lower eczema scores at the end of the study

The reader will ask: lower than who or what? 

GOOD: children treated with probiotics had lower eczema scores at the end of the study than those treated with placebo.

Find someone to read your abstract whose unfamiliar with your work. It will help you identify confusing passages for which you have become “blind”. And last but not least, check your abstract for grammatical errors and misspelling.

Statistics

Section “Methods”:
This is where you mention the statistical methods you applied and which software was used.

Section “Results”: inferential statistics
Confidence intervals are more informative than P-values. For example: the difference between the mean blood pressures of the groups is significant (P < 0.05) with the 95% confidence interval for the difference between the mean blood pressure of group 1 and the mean blood pressure of group 2 ranges from 3.14 mm Hg to 8.68 mm Hg. Be concise in the description of preliminary activities, like checking assumptions. Give the results of all relevant statistical tests you performed. Be sure to answer your main research question(s). Give estimates, and standard errors of these estimates, of the coefficients in your final regression model(s), if any. Give the interpretation of the coefficient(s) of the most relevant explanatory variable(s) in words.Section “Conclusions / Discussion”
Repeat the main result(s) from the Results section without the statistical details. Give a brief answer to your research question. Do not present any numbers that were not mentioned in the results section.

Poster presentation

A poster presentation has three main goals: it stimulates interest and discussion, it provides you with feedback for following research and it generates contacts.

Presenting time:
5-7 minutes: keep it short and simple (KISS), know the goal. The goal of a poster presentation should be clear. You are not going to explain every bit of your research, only a couple of things. What is the message you would like to give to the audience? What should they think when they walk away?

Poster dimensions at ISCOMS:

  • A0 poster size
  • Portrait

Content

Title and name of authors:
1. keep your title short, a poster is like an advertisement for your work.
2. It is best to avoid acronyms and jargon when presenting for a general audience. It should be readable from a good distance: a size 85pt for the title is advised.
3. Never use ALL CAPS in titles; emphasize titles in one way: boldface, italics, or underline, but never use all three at once.
4. Do not forget to name the authors on the poster.
5. Example of a ad title: “Mural architecture of planula larvae of a cniderian might be suggestive of the central nervous system’’. Example of a good title: “The first brain”.

Abstract:
1. Write a concise abstract that communicates what you have learned on this one concept and how it relates to the greater picture of your field.
2. The abstract should be large enough to be readable from 2-3 meters away.
3. For more information see ‘’abstracts’’.

Introduction:
1. Define your audience. The amount of background material needed for a small subject-specific meeting will be very different from that needed for a large scientific meeting with many thousands of attendees. You are going to a student congress so you will need more explanation on the poster, as the audience is less specialised.
2. Consider whether you need to include every piece of data or supporting work — you do not need to tell the whole story on paper because you will be there to fill in the gaps.

Materials & Methods:

1. It is almost always useful to include a simple description of how you retrieved your data.

Results:
1. Highlight the peak, through, or other comparison of interest with an arrow containing the value of that data point. It is better than making a reader work out the value from the axes.
2. Legends or keys to multi-coloured line graphs give a viewer one more thing to interpret. If possible, annotate your data with labels directly on the image.
3. Use graphs rather than tables; avoid cluttered figures; arrange experiments to tell a story, not in the order they were performed; include enough data to defend your hypothesis; keep about a 50/50 ratio of graphics to text
4. Titles are the best way to quickly tell readers what they are supposed to take away from your data. Always title your graphs.

Conclusion:
1. Even though it is the most important part of the poster, the conclusion is often placed at the bottom, where it is at people’s feet. We suggest placing it at top of the rightmost column—or, if you feel daring, start the body of the poster with it.
2. Make sure your conclusion is more than a restatement of your results. It should directly address the hypothesis you lay out in the intro or abstract.
3. Limit bulleted lists to the conclusion section, if possible. There, lay out 4–5 summary statements that capture what your data means and its wider implications.

Make your poster visually appealing:
1. Sketch! A poster is in his very essence a visual medium. Make a sketch before you are going to work on it in a computer program. Know how it is going to look and see whether or not you like the sketch. Will the reader be focussing on the same thing as where they should focus on?
2. Make a good distribution. Aim for 40% empty space, 40% images and 20% text.
3. Dump PowerPoint’s colour pallet. Many people use PowerPoint to create their poster, but the program was designed for projecting images in a darkened room. The deep blues and fluorescent greens that look good in that setting often produce posters that are too dark and difficult to read. Stay away from primary colours on primary colours (no reds on blues, or reds on yellows). Choose more muted colours for a professional look.
4. Logo’s on a poster can interfere with the poster’s ability to communicate. Logo’s chew up vital space in a situation where every square centimetre counts.
5. Do not place everything in a box
6. Human faces and circles are effective focal points, they will directly attract attention.
7. Use high quality pictures.

Text:
1. Keep text to an absolute minimum: write down what you feel like is the absolute minimum, then force yourself to leave out half of that.
2. Long lines of text are more difficult to read, which is why magazines and newspapers always break up their text into narrower columns.
3. Left justifying text makes for an easier read.
3. Consider your font. You do not have to stick with just one. Adding a little variety, and even downloading a font that is not available on PowerPoint, can make your poster stand out. But never use more than two or three fonts. Fonts that are often used are Sans serif fonts like Helvetica or Gill Sans for the body and a Serif for the titles. Use anything but comic sans, which makes everything look amateuristic.
4. Consider your font size: in low light conditions, or when scientists are reading over other people’s shoulders, larger fonts are essential. Guidelines are a font size of 85pt for the title, 36–44 for the headers, and 24–34 for the body text.
5. Stick with black as the text colour.

Checklist before printing:
1. Give it a test run: project your poster on the wall of your lab and run through your presentation.
2. Check your file size: make sure you have not inserted a 500 MB image, or one that has low resolution.
3. Are your axis labelled?
4. Colour check: make sure the colours you have chosen are readable in low light. It is hard to predict where your poster will be placed, so make sure your choices work in different settings.
5. Check the given dimensions: A0 size, portrait.

References and more information on posters:
http://www.tos.org/pdfs/sci_speaking.pdf
http://rrresearch.fieldofscience.com/2012/04/conference-social-skills.html
http://the-scientist.com/2011/09/01/poster-perfect/
http://www.nature.com/nchem/journal/v4/n2/full/nchem.1266.html#/ref8
http://betterposters.blogspot.com/

Oral or plenary presentation

There are a few rules for a good plenary or oral presentation. Before considering these rules, it is important to check the presenting time. For ISCOMS the presenting time for a plenary presentation is 9 minutes) and for an oral presentation 8 minutes. After both forms of presentation there will be time for the audience to ask questions in the next 3 minutes.

Structure of a presentation

Title:
Draw the attention of your audience with your title. Make sure it is brief and that it covers the contents of the presentation.

Introduction:
The introduction starts with what is known, followed by what is unknown about the subject. Remember: just give simple, necessary background information to explain your research question.

Hypothesis/ Research question:
State your hypothesis/research question as clear as possible! Use a separate slide for it.

Materials and Methods:
Explain your experimental design for answering your research question. Clarify what experiments/techniques you used in order to answer your research question. State the function of every technique/measurement and if necessary, explain why you have chosen certain techniques. Remember to keep confined to essential details.

Results:
Only report results that are relevant for your research question. Give percentages rather than exact data when possible. Also, use graphs for your most important findings.

Conclusion:
Give the answer to your research question. With this, repeat the question you stated in your introduction. Do not use more than one or two slides.

Discussion:
Explain the answer to your research question. If relevant, state some conditions that could have influenced your data.

Future prospective:
State the future prospective of your research shortly.

References:
Show the references you have used and when necessary also the funding.

Key points for a better PowerPoint presentation

Slide design:
Use key terms instead of whole sentences on your slides and. When possible, summarise your text using bullets. Watch out you do not use more than 6 bullets per slide and 6 to 8 words per line.

Colours & contrast:
Make sure the background colour of your PowerPoint contrasts with the colour of your font. It is common to use a light and simple background colour. For lettering, choose a contrasting colour differing from your background.

Font:
Use a simple font (for instance Arial, Verdana or Calibri). The size should be at least a 28 font for titles and at least 22 point for the text. Consistently use the same font face and sizes on all slides.

Check:
When you are almost done, check your slides. Make sure there is not too much information on your slides. Avoid typing errors or ask a friend to check your slides, since errors are easy to miss.

Key points for a better talk

Talk freely:
Never read your slides, but talk freely. Remember that your slides are only there to support your words, not to replace your talk! If you read your slides and you do it slow and badly, the audience will get bored and stop listening.

Be self-assured:
Speak with confidence, loud and clear. Do not speak too fast and do not be too informal. Many speakers tend to make remarks during there presentation disparaging their own data and visual aids. Try to avoid this. Maintain eye contact with the audience. Use the laser pointer if you want to designate something on your slide.