Dipping your toes into research

Dipping your toes into research

Nicola Roberts, Senior Lecturer, Glasgow Caledonian University

So you think you might want to try and present a poster at a conference?

If you are new to research or presenting research the first step is to think about the conference you want to attend, you want to start off your introduction to academia carefully, smaller conferences like ARNS and PCRS can be more informal and a great way to get started and then with a bit more experience the BTS, ERS or ATS can be a great way to network.

The abstract or summary that you submit to the conference needs to be UNPUBLISHED work, this can be about a service evaluation, qualitative work that you have done, small pilot study  etc.  Some conferences (particularly the more medical ones) will be tougher to get accepted to but it is still worth a shot!  In most cases you will need to have some results included in your abstract.

When you submit an abstract to the conference organisers they usually give you categories to tick around so think about it carefully as to what you are trying “sell” and where the best place for this is.  Is your work about delivery of care, service development, or is it about new treatment or innovations or it is more disease/condition specific etc.

Image: ERJ Open Research 2015 1: 00002-2015; DOI: 10.1183/23120541.00002-2015 Highlights from Munich ERS conference

  1. Find out about other posters/abstracts in your topic area that have been presented elsewhere. Twitter is a really good place to be informed about current research and all of the conferences usually have their own hashtag so you can see what others have done previously i.e. #ERS2019 #BTSWinter #PCRS2019
  2. Speak to colleagues and find out what conferences they have presented at, which ones were better and more importantly get a template or their electronic poster with the correct sizes for the poster board which you can use to draft your poster on!
  3. Save the abstract that you submit to the conference somewhere safe. I usually paste this onto my Powerpoint slide as a starting point where I can find it again.  It may be many months before you go to find it again!   You can always email it to yourself (with a logical filename) so that you can always access it
  4. Make sure you follow the instructions on designing your poster (if you haven’t managed to acquire a template from a colleague). The instructions are usually pretty specific about the size and shape of the poster i.e. landscape or portrait and the dimensions to fit the poster board.
  5. Consider putting your photo, your twitter details or email address on the poster. Some people have put QR codes on their poster as well (a bit too fancy for me to be honest).  You could also consider having some print outs (A4 size) of your poster for others to take away.
  6. Probably the most important tip, network! Chat to the people with posters next to you, take time to walk round the poster areas and introduce yourself to the other presenters.  Try and ask others about their work and ask everyone at least one question. Get email details, twitter etc for those you are interested in knowing more about their research and obviously be enthusiastic!
  7. This one is more practical, you can now get your posters printed off at a lot of the bigger conferences (can be costly) but there is also the option of printing the poster on fabric which makes it foldable for luggage. Having had to run through airports to retrieve a large poster tube (distracted by shopping) I highly recommend having a poster inside your luggage, ideally your hand luggage.
  8. Do make sure you promote your poster at and after the conference. Twitter is great for dissemination but see if you can put up your poster in your workplace to showcase your work, offer to do departmental talks etc and think about writing up your findings as a paper (that can be a subject for another blog 😊)

If you want some inspiration about designing a poster.  There are a lot of good resources out there, here are a few generic details and some specific details for the conferences I have mentioned.  I look forward to seeing your posters at a conference in the future!


https://ers.adobeconnect.com/_a748908266/p3yka1d6b02?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal (Webcast from European Respiratory Society

https://conference.thoracic.org/speakers/resources/2016/poster-guidelines.pdf (American Thoracic Society guidelines)

https://www.pcrs-uk.org/sites/pcrs-uk.org/files/Designingaposter_October_2016.pdf  Top tips for posters from the Primary Care Respiratory Society

This could be you at our next conference in May 2020, please look out for details on how to submit an abstract.  The conference is in Liverpool on the 15th and 16th of May – Save the date!






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