Tag Archives: powerpoint

Graphic for reducing plagiarism in lectures

Plagiarism examplesThere are multiple reasons why students plagiarize more these days, but one cause that is never discussed is that students spend all day watching their teachers do it.  So, if you happen to be in position of minor influence in the education world, here’s a graphic to use in your next lecture, to get lecturers to better model the use of quotation marks and citations to their students. Following the conventions detailed on the slide certainly adds to the visual elements of a slide, which is annoying, but I argue that it’s important to send the message that lecturers value other people’s intellectual work. By the way, the quotation example is from Donald McCabe (PDF), who does great research on plagiarism. I chose the quote so that the slide can do double duty, communicating to teachers that their apathy has consequences. Also by the way, I made this graphic for my “Preventing plagiarism” page. If, by chance, you have no importance in the educational world, please consider sending this to those that do.


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Templates for portrait-style science posters

Just a website update for those who care about scientific posters: added two Powerpoint templates with portrait-style orientation. The one on the left is for people who love columns. But I like a big space for results so that you can show off the big finding, so I prefer the one on the right. I call that big space the “Results arena.” But the disadvantage of the one on the right is that your conclusions are moved down low, and taller viewers have to bend their necks a tad to read it. But if your results stand nicely on their own, it can work well. Both versions, like all my templates, nudge you to put logos at the bottom (ideally, delete them altogether … you don’t need logos). Find the downloadable PPT files in my Designing conference posters page.

Powerpoint templates for portrait-style scientific posters

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Poster page revisions

I finally got around to making some long-needed changes to my page on designing conference posters: http://colinpurrington.com/tips/academic/posterdesign.  For those who care, the poster-like file with poster tips is now just a PDF, not a Powerpoint template.  This PDF will hopefully be useful to those who want to both an example layout and tips on how to craft a poster. Teachers can print this PDF out on a large-format printer and pin it to classroom wall a month before student posters are due.  The second big change is that the Powerpoint templates are now text-light, which will make them easier to use as templates (i.e., no need to delete all the annoying “tips” text that was there previously).  Templates now come in a few different flavors, too (and more coming).  Finally, lots of minor changes to the page itself, though just as long-winded, with apologies. If you know of somebody who needs poster help, please feel free to send them the link.

Advice on designing scientific posters

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Adding image credits to lecture and research talk slides

I made this page because, if you’re a typical scientist, you don’t think crediting photographers is necessary, just like teenagers don’t worry about sharing music and movie files with each other. But you should provide attribution: it’s just like citing a quote in a journal article.

It’s really not that hard to do. Here’s one way: add a black box with grey text at the bottom of your image.

The above detail might be overkill, of course, but all that information is potentially useful to an audience member who is actually interested in the photograph. At the very least put the photographer’s full name. And, sure, the grey text is a tad hard to read, but that’s sort of the point: audience is supposed to be paying attention to you, not reading all the photo creds.

You can also tweak box color,


and orientation:

Slide09The problem with vertical text, of course, is that it’s annoying to edit. But it’s perfect if you have images with 4 x 3 aspect ratio.

And don’t be lazy about tracking down the photographer information when you find an image that’s perfect for making your talk interesting. Use Jeffrey’s Exif viewer, Tineye Reverse Image Search, and Google Inside Search to track down the source of images you might stumble upon. Note that just because somebody else use the image without credit doesn’t mean you should do the same. If all fails, provide the URL where you found the image … though providing that won’t protect you from being sued if the photographer finds you’ve published your slide deck somewhere.

If you have a room full of impressionable students, please pause once during your lecture (or semester) to comment about your image credits and how it fits with academic honesty policy. Students might have noticed, but it doesn’t hurt to be clear. Tell them you work hard to find this information because, like quotations and charts from others, it’s important to be honest and humble about sources. They will absorb what you did and model that behavior when they give their own talks.

And regarding the strategy of an “end of talk” image credit list: don’t do that. The fleeting moment the audience might be interested in an image’s source is when the audience is looking at the image

Finally … is it OK to share slides online? The answer is almost always, “no”. Even if you had permission from a photographer to use an image in a lecture, he/she probably doesn’t want that image being shared with the world for the rest of time. If you have to post it online, make sure it’s hidden behind Blackboard or Moodle CMS. Or put the file inside a .htaccess folder on your website, to restrict to just your campus.

Useful reads:

  1.  The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons,
  2. Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare,
  3. Washington State University Fair Use Guidelines,
  4. UCLA Drops Copyrighted Videos From Course Web Sites After Legal Threat,
  5. The TEACH Act.
  6. Cite and Attribute Your Sources.

UPDATE 02/22/2016: please also see “Image attributions in presentations“, by Catherine Scott at the Small Pond Science blog.

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Example of bad scientific poster

When I give lectures on poster design, I show examples of horrific posters I’ve found on the internet. To be honest, almost all posters on the internet are horrific, so all I really have to do is choose a few. But I fear that someday the author of a poster I’m critiquing is going to be in the audience, in the front row, and carrying a concealed weapon, so I thought it was time to construct my own bad poster. The result is, “Pigs in space: effect of zero gravity and ad libitum feeding on weight gain in Cavia porcellus.” I’m especially ashamed of the bad logos, which I designed so as not to anger actual entities like NSF, SpaceX, and the Corn Refiners Association. A partial list of why the poster is awful is below the image.

Example of bad scientific poster (copyright colin purrington)

Why this is a terrible poster:

  1. Too much text (I’ve been on mission to push for 800 words).
  2. Background image is distracting (distracts from illustrations).
  3. Text box backgrounds are dark, which makes text really hard to read.
  4. Text box backgrounds are all different colors, for no reason (distracting).
  5. Text boxes are different widths (distracting, hard to follow flow of poster).
  6. Some text boxes too wide (aim for 45-65 characters per line).
  7. Text boxes not separated from each other by pleasing “white” space.
  8. Text box edges not aligned (distracting).
  9. Text justified, which causes bad inter-word spacing. Also makes reading harder (brain uses jaggedness of left-justified text).
  10. Logos are distracting, useless, crowd title.
  11. Title word art distracting, hard to read, juvenile.
  12. Title is in all caps, which is harder to read and obscures Latin name.
  13. Title is italicized, which also obscures Latin name style conventions.
  14. Author font and color is annoying (comic sans should be reserved for comic books).
  15. Author font color is too loud relative to other text.
  16. Results are presented in sentences instead of visually with charts.
  17. Section headers have too much formatting (big font, bolded, italicized, underlined, and colored — ack!).  Choose one. [Note: I forgot to number the sections…that would have been even worse.]
  18. Terrible graphic of Guinea pig on scale. Need one of the actual set up (pigs eating while weightless, for example).
  19. Inclusion of an Abstract consumes space needlessly. Abstract section should be banned from posters. Posters ARE an abstract.
  20. Plus the science is terrible! (Bad science is correlated with bad graphic design, by the way.)

I encourage teachers to print the poster and hang in a hallway a month prior to when students’ posters are due. Here’s the PDF. More details at “Designing conference posters“.

Believe it or not, the poster got published in the journal Nature. And yes, that street number is a horrific gravity reference. Sorry.

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