Why you should submit and present research at a conference
Enhancement of CV
Just the fact that your abstract is selected for a presentation (poster or oral) is a big deal on its own as hundreds of abstracts are submitted to national and international conferences. It indicates that your research is novel and of interest in comparison. These factors, along with attending the conference, are major plus points to your CV. Enhancing your CV will help with applying for further research opportunities, internships and preferred jobs.
Provides extra points when applying for foundation jobs
It is important to remember that in a few years time, we will all be applying for foundation programs for FY1/FY2 training. The application process is rigorous and highly competitive. Presenting work at conferences certainly adds an extra edge and gives you additional points on the application, setting you apart from the rest of your peers.
Some conferences offer the opportunity to publish the presented research work (in the form of abstracts or entire paper) in journals. The publication happens very quickly compared to separate submissions made directly to journals. Publications are always a good thing and further add on to your credentials.
A motivational boost
Participating and presenting at conferences provides the satisfaction that spending the summer doing a research project was really worth it at the end. It provides you the motivational boost to continue researching, ask more questions, and explore the academic side of medicine. It makes you a well-rounded individual who is knowledgeable in both clinical and scientific aspects of medicine.
Enhances communication and interpersonal skills
Presenting at conferences involves conveying information in a constructed, concise, and attractive manner. Whether it is a poster or oral presentation, you will have to deliver your message effectively within a few minutes. Conferences also provide you the opportunity to interact with other students, clinicians and researchers with similar interests as you. With practice (by attending several conferences), you can train up your confidence in presenting and discussing your work. Building up communication and interpersonal skills is of great importance in the long run as these are key attributes in making a good doctor.
How to write a scientific abstract for submission to a conference
An abstract is a short summary of a research study. Abstracts are a required piece of work for a majority of research grants, research proposals and most importantly, scientific confer- ences. It carries a small but precise amount of informa- tion to stimulate and attract the reader to further look into the corresponding research work/study.
The body of the abstract is commonly structured with the following subheadings: Background/introduction/objective/aims/purpose, Methods, Results and Conclusion. The length of the abstract varies anywhere from 150 words to one page depending on the journal, article type, or scientific meeting/conference.
The title should be an accurate representation of the contents of the abstract. It should cover as much as possible about the study context and the aims of the project. Ideally, the title should comprise of 10-12 words and the words should be easy for the reader to read and understand; hence, unfamiliar terms, acronyms, and abbreviations should be avoided.
The authors’ list should be comprised of the individuals who conceived the idea, gathered data, carried out the study, and analysed the results. The principal investigator, who oversaw the study and is presenting at the conference, should be listed first, followed by the others. All the individuals in the authors’ list should read and approve the abstract prior to submission.
An effective and valuable abstract should clearly answer the five following questions in the corresponding sections:
Introduction: Why was the study started?
A one or two sentence summary of the current knowledge specifically related to your work should be acknowledged.
Aims: What was the purpose of the study?
The aims of the study should be stated very briefly along with a short statement of the proposed hypothesis.
Methods: What did you do?
A concise description of the methods should be stated. All details should be omitted. The reader would like to know about the things you did in a few sentences.
Results: What did you find?
The main results of the study should be stated clearly. Tables and figures are not included. Sometimes if you have many results, you might have to choose only the most relevant and important finding that you would like the reader to know.
Conclusion: What does this all mean?
In a sentence or two lines state the importance of the study; its potential implications should be stated (based on the finding of your study).
How to make an effective poster
Scientific posters are great tools to take to scientific meetings and conferences as they are an effective way to display and present your research. They will be seen by people in the same and related research fields, whilst others may have no clue in what you’re talking about. Hence, it is important to create an attractive poster that can effectively convey your research findings to others.
There is no doubt that scientific posters can be challenging and time-consuming to make. Hence, we have compiled some tips to make things a little easier.
Follow the rules of the conference
Most conferences specify certain requirements for posters such as size (A0 or A1) and orientation (portrait or landscape). Remember that this varies between conferences and must be acknowledged prior to starting.
Split it up into sections
A short and effective title that immediately sells your work. A brief introduction that sets the scene. An overview of the key methods used. Relevant results. An insightful discussion that ties everything together and indicates future plans. A list of references that were used as part of your research.
It is important to minimize writing and maximize visuals. Remember to write concisely and only include the relevant information as too much text can easily bore the reader. Avoid long sentences and huge paragraphs as this can immediately put off people from actually reading your poster. Your poster should be like an abstract, as a a succinct summary of the motivation, hypothesis, results, and conclusions.
In order to make the poster, you need an “easy to use” software program for compiling and designing the poster. The ideal software to use to make the actual layout is PowerPoint. Any figures/images used can be altered on Photoshop and then copied to PowerPoint to maintain clarity, whereas tables and graphs can be directly transferred from Excel or Word.
The time and money it takes to print a poster are important factors to consider. Printing the poster might take a few days and cannot be done on the day of the conference. Many universities have an in-house production capacity, but if you are not eligible for this, other printing centres (i.e. Staples) will be able to get your poster printed. In all cases, the bigger the poster, the more expensive the printing cost, something that should be considered if you are self-funded.