Social Voting Tools Come To Cureus

Social Voting Tools Come To Cureus
Without self-promotion, PSY would still be bartending on a Korean cruise ship

The best science has to be read in order to be appreciated. Physicians deserve for the world to know what they do in the course of their training and career. You work hard, so don’t be shy about sharing how that hard work is applied.

You don’t have to become a Dr. Mehmet Oz or Dr. Drew Pinsky type of promoter, but it’s in the interest of every medical student and physician to learn how to do some basic self-promotion.

Over the coming months, Cur&#275us will be delivering a host of reputation management tools for medical students and doctors. Today I want to highlight one designed for our poster competition entrants.

You put a lot of hard work into your poster and now you have either entered it into the Cur&#275us Fall 2012 competition or you’re thinking about doing so. (if you are a med student or resident and have posters sitting on your hard drive, you owe it to yourself to enter them…there is zero downside unless fun and money are not attractive)

To provide a little context to the strategy ahead, I’ll note that Fall 2012 competition is off to a very strong start with hundreds of posters already entered from all over the US and Europe. Over 25 medical schools are represented. So, the question is how do you develop visibility for your work? This is similar to the challenge of differentiation at a conference, or when you eventually begin publishing papers in a journal, but each venue and context has to have a slightly different strategy.

Cur&#275us has just introduced “social voting” tools to help you promote your work. When someone votes for a poster, they can share their vote to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or all of the above. The idea is for your peers, professors and family to help promote your poster by inviting their social networks to vote for you. Remember, the winners of the poster competition are selected from the top 10 vote recipients…so in order to possibly finish in the top 3 you need to be able to promote your poster into the top 10.

The starting point is to take the link to your poster (copy the url from your poster information page) and email it to as many people as you know and ask them to vote for your poster. The link brings them straight to your poster page where they may vote. (they can also see how many votes and views you have received) At present, the top posters have earned just over 50 votes….you can do that in a day if you get to it and encourage your friends to leverage the social voting features.

Promoting your poster is just a microcosm of promotion, but it’s a useful exercise to both drive toward some of our competition prizes and get a little exercise in minor self promotion that benefits all


Lessons Learned From Winning a Poster Competition

Lessons Learned From Winning a Poster Competition

Competing For Eyeballs of Those Passing By

    1. You are competing with everyone for the attention of a few (1 minute of their time – MAX)
    2. Catchy titles! Lure in the reader with a title that stands out from the crowd
      • E.g., One title I used was “The Panic Disorder Patient who Cried Wolf.” Clearly, this is not the title for the manuscript I eventually published (which was about information-processing biases and auditory perception in anxious individuals), but, it certainly piqued the curiosity of convention-goers.
    4. Bullet-pointed text (similar to a talk). A few points of interest or “talking points,” but let the quality of your tables and graphs/images speak to the quality of your data!
      • No one has the time to read tiny text boxes (if the reader has to squint…you lose)!
      • Consider leaving out the abstract (so many words, and these words are redundant with what your poster will convey LOUDLY AND CLEARLY, also the abstract will be published in the Conference Proceedings anyway. On Cur?us, the title of your poster will be directly linked to your published abstract.  In essence, your poster IS the abstract plus some cool graphic design effort!
    5. What to include?
      • Background and Rationale
      • Specific Aims and Hypotheses
      • Methods/Design
      • Results
      • Graphs/Tables
        • Summarize results in bullet pointed text
        • Don’t add a single bullet under a point. What’s the point in the bullet if the bullet IS the point?
      • Conclusions/Discussion
      • Implications/Future Directions

Most of all, have fun with your work, have confidence in it, and BE CREATIVE!

Poster Sample (above): Spinal Chordoma by Stefan Norbert Zausinger

Medical Posters — Talking To Your Audience

Medical Posters — Talking To Your Audience

The Cur&#275us video team brought our cameras out to the Stanford University School of Medicine to start a conversation with students about why the process of creating Medical Posters is so important.

“For me posters are usually very useful for preliminary versions of figures and really to serve as a sounding board for ongoing research that will later be put into manuscripts —so it’s nice to be able to get that feedback.” Kail Miller, MD, PhD told Cureus.

Special thanks to Robert Lober, MD, PhD, Kail Miller, MD, PhD — MD canditates Abdullah Feroz and Marc Carmichael, PhD for participating in our video conversation.


Things I Wish I Knew When Creating My First Poster

Things I Wish I Knew When Creating My First Poster

I made my first scientific poster for the 2007 Society for Neuroscience Annual meeting in San Diego, which is recently enough to remember just how clueless I was about creating an effective poster for a scientific conference.

I was fortunate enough to have the guidance of my incredibly patient research advisor, Amherst College’s Professor Stephen George. Of course not everyone is lucky enough to have an advisor like him, and at every meeting I’ve ever been to at least one presenter shows up with a completely disorganized poster filled with cramped text, or a poster that is printed on a series of different pieces of paper. This is why I’m writing down a few things every first poster maker must know, starting with the most obvious.

A poster is a mini article, presented in bullets and pictures rather than text. Don’t re-invent the wheel; start by looking at successful posters and use their formatting and style as a loose guide for what works.

In time I hope that Cureus will become a resource for poster-makers to collaborate on poster design in addition to sharing scientific ideas. One of the most popular and basic poster tools is Microsoft PowerPoint, although many other software programs can be used as well. If using PowerPoint, make a 60 inch wide x 36 inch tall slide within the page setup menu, and use approximately font size 72 for titles and approximately font size 18 for body.

Organize your poster in a way that is broken down logically to tell a story and to sell a conclusion. Many posters break the presented information into “Background”, “Methods”, etc. In general you should be able to read all of the text in a poster in less than five minutes. Prof George once told me that if my college roommates couldn’t sit still long enough to understand what my poster was about, it probably had too many details and too much text.

Finally, give yourself lots of time to design your poster, even if all of your bullets and figures are ready to go. Formatting a visually attractive poster takes a lot of time.

Stylish Academic Writing – A Book By Helen Sword

Stylish Academic Writing – A Book By Helen Sword
Helen Sword

If academics write mainly to be published it’s no wonder that much of academic writing is difficult to read, full of jargon and unengaging. Helen Sword, associate professor at the Centre for Academic Development at the University of Auckland, has written Stylish Academic Writing  to help academics to “aspire to write more engagingly and adventurously.”

The Weekly Standard’s review of Stylish Academic Writing covers various reasons why academic writing is what it is today.

Academics in the humanities and the social sciences, it’s sometimes suggested, too often wish to give their fields the legitimacy and public authority of science, and so write in highly technical, jargon-laced prose.

Academics in the hard sciences, for their part, are too concerned with factual correctness to worry about making their productions agreeable, even to co-specialists. Then, of course, there is the really uncharitable interpretation: Many academics simply haven’t got anything useful to say, but if they say it in a sufficiently complicated fashion and use all the vogue terms, they’ll get credit for having said something without saying anything worth defending.

To get a closer look of what Helen Sword means by Stylish Academic Writing, here is a blog post in which she discusses “seven secrets of stylish academic writing” that is a useful guide to help your writing. The first one, not surprisingly, is

Start with the title

The titles of academic articles are typically abstract, technical, and utterly uninviting, such as:

“Social-Organizational Characteristics of Work and Publication Productivity among Academic Scientists in Doctoral-Granting Departments”

To send a more welcoming signal to potential readers, try phrasing your title as a question (“Why Are Some Scientists More Productive Than Others?”), a provocative statement (“Productivity Hurts”), a metaphor (“Productivity: Holy Grail or Poisoned Chalice?”) or other memorable phrase (“The Productivity Paradox”).

Wherever possible, opt for simple, concrete language.

“Snakes on a Plane” is an inviting title; “Aggressive Serpentine Behaviour in a Restrictive Aviation Environment” is not.

You can read the rest of the seven secrets here.

Overcoming The “Freeze Effect” Part III

Overcoming The “Freeze Effect” Part III

Matter your lightsaber size does not. How you use it will
–- Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Keep it simple for the reader; your own thoughts and ideas and statistics and theoretical ponderings can meander, but when you publish, simplicity and clarity always win out! Publishing an academic paper is simply not a junior high or high school essay test, where answers are memorized and expected to be regurgitated in a lined “blue book.”  Similar to Strunk and White (1979) [1918], your writing will prove most effective, when it is “used” efficiently!

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell
– Strunk and White, 1918

I will never forget the words of my graduate school mentor.  She wrote largely on a blank 4 x 6 index card, in all capital letters in black ink. She handed me the card in silence and told me to tape it to my computer; she then returned to working away at her own computer. I am quite certain she has never sat on her hands. The card read: 2) “LESS IS MORE.”

Stay tuned for Episode III: Using “The Force” for traditional peer review, Cureus differences are emerging…


Overcoming the “Freeze Effect” Part II

Overcoming the “Freeze Effect” Part II

“Matter your lightsaber size does not. How you use it will”
–Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

There may be several possible interpretations of Yoda’s adage; likewise, there are several possible interpretations of everything you are writing or are about to write!

Consider the following interpretation so that we may apply the quote to publishing:

How you use it.  Craft your manuscript as you would have others craft a manuscript for you.  Your thoughts are incredibly powerful!  And negative or worry-thoughts often lead to avoidance behaviors.  Therefore, if you worry about the size or length of your paper before you begin, you will very likely not begin!

Tell your story and do so in a way that others will learn something and not be distracted by fluff.  Make sure the goals and aims/hypotheses are clear from the “get-go”; and remind yourself as you write that every single section of the paper is meant to support those initially detailed hypotheses.  If you lose track of your principal aims, then there is no way a reader or reviewer can keep track of them.

Think about your paper as a story.  Your manuscript IS telling a story…a story of those aims you so clearly outlined; a story with a beginning, middle and an end.  Draw in your reader the same way you were drawn to pursue those goals and aims in the first place!

Write your aims/hypotheses clearly at the beginning of each section. You can always delete them afterwards, but this will make it implicit to yourself why you are writing each section. This in turn builds confidence and confidence bolsters momentum. Forward momentum pretty much negates the “freeze effect”!

Keep reading… Episode II, Part 3