Scientific poster sections
Scientific poster sections, specifically the title, introduction, methodology, results, discussion, conclusions, references and acknowledgments, are mandated. Within the mandated sections, some tailoring of organisational elements is optional.
The following advice may be provided to students:
Title: The poster title should be written as a question that briefly conveys the interesting issue, the general experimental approach, and the system (for example, a chemical, a model or an experimental set-up).
Abstract: Inclusion of an abstract on a poster is optional.
Introduction: A one- or two-sentence overview of the purpose of the investigation and why the research question is of interest should be provided. The investigation should be placed in the context of appropriate background theory (including relevant secondary sources of reliable information) and prior investigations and linked to a hypothesis (before a brief description of the experimental approach that tested a hypothesis or research question is provided). Sufficient background information, definitions and relevant formulas should be used to enable a peer to understand the nature of the investigation. Unlike a manuscript, the poster’s introduction is an appropriate place to put a photograph or illustration that communicates some aspect of the research question.
Methodology: The investigation type, apparatus, materials and procedure should be described briefly although well enough to allow others to replicate it exactly. The detail used for a formal practical report is not required; for example, figures and flow charts can be used to illustrate experimental design, a photograph or labelled drawing of a system or setup may be included, and the method that was used could be summarised as a flow chart. This section should clarify why the student performed the investigation in the way that was chosen.
Results: In this section, the student should select relevant raw (i.e. uninterpreted) data generated from the investigation and recorded in the student’s logbook. The student should consider the most appropriate form in which to present the data, for example table form, as an easy-to-read figure or as percentages/ratios. It is not an effective use of poster space to present both a table of results and a graph since they both represent the same information. The following points should be checked in constructing the poster:
- ensure that graphics are clear, easily read, titled and fully labelled
- clearly present data trends and/or relationships
- sequentially number all tables, graphs and diagrams
- use a sentence or two to draw attention to key points in the tables, graph and diagrams
- only provide a sample calculation for repeat calculations.
Although this section is usually dominated by calculations, tables and figures, all significant results should be stated explicitly in prose form, including a statement about whether the investigation generated useful results and whether the hypothesis was supported.
Discussion: This section examines whether the data obtained supports the hypothesis, explores the implications of the findings and judges the potential limitations of the experimental design. It focuses on a question of understanding ‘What is the meaning and/or the significance of my investigation results?’ This involves analysis in explaining what the results clearly indicate, what has been found and what is known with certainty based on results in order to draw conclusions as well as interpretation in explaining the significance of results, identifying ambiguities and further questions that arise, and finding logical explanations for problems in the data.
In this section, the student should:
- Show clearly whether the data supports, partly supports or refutes the hypothesis by stating the relationships or correlations the data indicate between independent and dependent variables. The relationship between the evidence and the conclusions drawn from the evidence should be made explicit. The terms ‘proved’, ‘disproved’, ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ in relation to the hypothesis should be avoided since this level of certainty may be unlikely in a single investigation; terms such as ‘supported’, ‘indicated’ and ‘suggested’ are more appropriate to evaluate the hypothesis.
- Compare expected results with those obtained, analyse experimental design and errors and acknowledge any anomalous data or deviations from what was predicted. Ignoring data that contradicts claims or predictions is a departure from scientific method. Such data should be examined carefully and, where possible, the procedure should be repeated to obtain further data. If replication is not possible then flaws in the procedure or investigation design should be identified and the student should discuss how and why the procedure or investigation design may have affected the data, and how the procedure or investigation design could be changed to eliminate – or minimise the effects of – the identified flaws. If an experiment was within the tolerances, the student could still account for the difference from the ideal.
- Derive conclusions based on findings about the research question and link conclusions to the aim of the investigation.
- Relate findings to earlier work undertaken in the area under investigation. The investigation will be an extension of previous theoretical understandings and investigations undertaken and these should be discussed in relation to the student’s own data. If the investigation relates to a specific theory consideration of how well the theory has been illustrated may be included.
Writing this section generally involves moving from the specific (directly related to the experiment) to the general (how the findings relate to wider understanding of scientific concepts).
Conclusions: The conclusion should state the main investigation result and whether the hypothesis was supported. This should be justified using specific details selected from the investigation findings. The significance of the results should be discussed in terms of how they link to relevant chemical concepts and current scientific understanding, who may find the results of interest and what relevance they have in everyday applications. The conclusion is also where the limitations of the investigation design and suggested improvements could be summarised, possible future work that could be done to refine or extend conclusions could be identified and/or the implications of conclusions could be explained.
References and acknowledgments: Listed references should be referred to in the body of the poster. Any standard referencing format may be followed, for example, Harvard or APA. Individuals should be thanked for specific contributions (for example, access to specialist equipment use, statistical advice, laboratory assistance) and the organisation for which they work and their position should be included. References and acknowledgments are not included in the poster word count.