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Building Your Academic Toolkit

August 2021

There are so many facets of academia beyond classes, teaching, and conducting research. It can be a challenge to learn how to navigate conferences, present posters, communicate your work, and effectively read research. As the new academic year begins, we wanted to provide you with some tips and tricks to add to your academic toolkit.

In this month’s module, we will discuss tools and tricks to help you through your academic journey.


We hope that you continue engaging with this content beyond the end of the module.


Poster Presentations
August 3 - 9, 2021

Presentations, including poster presentations are one of the most exciting part of research. After months or sometimes years long of work, you get to debut your results to colleagues. Thus, as a newly minted graduate student, designing and presenting an effective research poster is an important skill to master.

There are several keys to making a good poster presentation. Some important ones to consider include:

What are the most critical findings to my research? Remember that less is more! Choose a few findings to highlight


What’s the level of expertise of the people I will be presenting to? This will help dictate the amount of background information to provide


How can I best make my poster stand out in a room of 100s of other posters without overwhelming my audience?


When it comes to putting together the actual poster presentation, appearance matters. Visit Make Signs , Better Scientific Poster, Template Lab , and Mega Print  to find a template to get you started. 

Finally, after you’ve gotten your poster together, listen to this episode of the HelloPhD podcast  on how to effectively present your poster to your audience.


Navigating Professional Conferences
August 10 - 16, 2021

Professional conferences can be a great place for sharing your work and being inspired by the work of others. But they can also be overwhelming! Below we discuss ways to navigate professional conferences including tips on networking with others, how to maximize your time at the conference, and taking time for yourself to decompress

Networking is a big part of conferences. This can be scary, but you can take small steps to build your confidence. Engaging with someone during a poster session is a low stakes way to connect with others. Attending social events hosted by the conference is also a great way to network in a more casual setting. Once you feel comfortable, you can work your way up toward asking someone a question after their talk, setting up a meeting with another researcher or professional in your area of interest, or even organizing an interest group.


Many conferences use social media platforms to engage their attendees. Check to see if your conference has a Twitter hashtag, which can be used to keep up with happenings at the conference or for your own posts about your experience at the conference. You can even live tweet talks you attend! Social media is also a great way to promote your own poster or talk and to network.


Don’t feel the need to go to everything! Go to what’s most important to you. It can help to look at the program schedule ahead of time and mark posters or talks of interest in order to maximize your time.


Be sure to take time to step away and take care of yourself. Explore the city, go out to a restaurant, stay in hotel room and order room service, whatever will help you decompress from the hustle and bustle of the conference.


Wondering to dress? This differs greatly by discipline. It never hurts to err on the side of formal, but most importantly, you should dress in whatever way makes you most comfortable!


Grad school is exhausting, and sometimes we may feel burnt out or stuck in a rut. You can use conferences as an opportunity for inspiration and rejuvenation by engaging with others’ work and learning about the latest innovations in your area of interest.



August 17 - 23, 2021

Writing and communicating your research is the backbone of an academic career. Nevertheless, writing is often accompanied by procrastination and/or displacement activities, resulting in last minute writing and excessive worry such as: “it won’t be good enough!”. Does this resonate with you? Check out our content below, where we will be discussing the process of writing and communicating for different platforms - sharing tips and tricks.

Schedule - Set a time and date in your calendar, that is dedicated to writing, and make it a priority - where meetings and other tasks won’t interfere.


Set smaller deadlines e.g. with your supervisor(s) where they give you feedback.


Be structured about writing by using the pomodoro method for example


Break it down, for instance by making an outline, mindmap and go through it with your supervisor(s). 


Know the field - Do a literature search and review. 


Know your audience - Look at the journal or conference outlet you wish to submit your article to, what are the scope of the outlet, what are the applied requirements, and how are papers from prior volumes set up, and what language are used?  


Formulate your research question, or problem you are trying to shed light on. Know the story you want to tell.


Be accountable, by joining co-working from home on discord #co-working-from-home, where we keep each other accountable while working. The structure we follow, that can be applied to writing as well, is: 1). We each set individual goal, and share what we will be working on e.g., writing 10 lines about the experiment setup, 2). we set a timer for 45 minutes, 3). work separately, 4). once timer is up, we take a round evaluating and have a small break before continuing. Another method is having a writing coach, where you send them a daily email or message reporting your progress like how much you have been writing.


Set a reward for example a hot beverage, a walk, a tv-show etc.


Motivation is triggered by action” (Gardiner and Kearns, 2012): Kickstart your article writing by speed writing or free writing where you write as much as you can in 15 minutes without editing! 


Effectively Reading Primary Research
August 24 - 30, 2021

Research papers are the best way to know whether or not what we’re working on has been done before.  However, research papers are rather daunting (no matter what the field) and feel really overwhelming at times.  Check out the content below where we have gathered tips and strategies for reading research papers effectively.


Humanities article structure

abstract, article

STEM article structure

abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion

Tip: some steps will be skipped based on time, take notes, and check out references for more papers!

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