Thursday, November 16, 2017

#NCA17 Poster Share

"Would you care to dress our professor?" At #NCA17, my co-presenters and I tried something a bit different with our #ILookLikeaProfessor presentation. We asked passersby to "dress" our professor.

Our research, More than Tweed Jackets and Beards, looked at tweets from the #ILookLikeaProfessor hashtag campaign from 2015. Participants posted about their frustrations, diversity, appearance and themselves, in an effort to broaden the concept of what a professor looks like, and open a larger conversation about the professoriate.

While people decorated our professor with pink high heels, tattoos, and clothing options (mentioned by real profs in the tweets), we were able to chat about our research. The interactive element was a plus, and one I'd like to try again in future poster presentations.

A big thank you to Dr. Tracey Holley for her mad paper doll clothes designing skills and Doug Hanna at Tarleton's CII for his gracious poster printing service.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Squeezing into a 250-word abstract

Serving as a reviewer for a journal or conference gives you a glimpse behind the curtain of decision-making. Recently, I served as a reviewer for a conference that required a short abstract submission. Yes, it's hard to squeeze everything into 250's also very hard to judge a paper's potential in that amount of words.

How authors handled the 250 words was illuminating. Some made great use of the space and others wasted too much time on introductions. This brings me to my list of tips/observations about submitting an abstract (especially a short one) for a conference's paper competition:
  • Don't waste too many words on an introduction. If you end up with words to spare, you can add a short sentence that introduces your topic. Have you ever been to a presentation where the "introducer" spends more time speaking than the speaker she is introducing?
  • Lit Review. Include some sense that you have reviewed the literature and have a strong understanding of where your study fits. Mass cites and "e.g." can help save you some words. Here's a sample: "This work adds to the foundations of framing theory (e.g. CITE) by expanding..." You can do this in 1-2 sentences.
  • Theory in a nutshell, a tiny one. Quickly mention the theoretical foundation for the study. You can weasel this in an introductory phrase like "Based on XYZ theory" or "Using ABC theory." That only takes 3-4 words from your 250 words.
  • Research question(s). This is a short-form way to get to the heart of your study/project.
  • METHODS. This is where I would spend a few more of your precious words. This particular reviewer (me) is looking for the strength of design. Were the methods suitable to address your research question(s). At the least, give reviewers words like "case study, experimental design, qualitative, quantitative or mixed method."
  • Use shorthand when possible. To explain your sample size, (N=124) does the trick.
  • Why it matters. End with what the study will offer to the public, readers, practitioners, academics, etc. 

So, my list is 243 words. It can be done. As always, read the instructions. Some writers neglected to hit the three questions the instructions specified. If it's a study in progress, you can say that.

How do you squeeze into a 250-word abstract?