Outlining the project

Brief Description

In this activity students get together all of the information they need to begin authoring a poster – notes, reports from other activities, data, graphs, etc. Then students think through the ‘storyline’ of their project and outline the elements that will be on the poster.

Information that should be included on a poster will incorporate all previous units and should tell the research story. The following poster guide is available for students as a printable .pdf.

Parts of a Poster:

Title and Authors What are you going to call your project? Have a catchy title that’s not too cute. Also, list all of the people who worked on the project, and their affiliation (school).

This section tells the reader why you studied what you did – Who cares? Why is nitrogen important? What important research question were you asking?

What was the hypothesis (Use the If, Then… Because structure for the hypothesis)? Think back and use notes from Units 1 and 2.

Materials and Methods This section tells readers – briefly – how you did the project. Use photos and maps if you can. If you used any novel methods, describe those in more detail; otherwise, keep it very brief – just a few bullet points. Refer to Units 3 and 4.
Results The results are ‘Just the facts’. Start with your graph and your basic statistics. Display those, and say what they are in words. Refer to Unit 5, Classroom Activity 3: Data Presentation.
Discussion For each result, say what it means with respect to the hypothesis or research question- make the argument about HOW the results support or do not support your claim. This is the last part of Unit 5, Classroom Activity 4: Data Interpretation.
Conclusions Here is where students can describe what went right – or wrong – with the study. Were they confident that their evidence (data) supported or did not support the hypothesis? What would they do differently next time? What should next year’s class investigate? What new questions do they have?
Literature Cited If any reports, web sites, journal articles, or books were used, list them here.
Acknowledgments Students should thank any project funders, scientists or experts who helped with the project, labs that analyzed samples, anyone who helped in some way or made the study possible.



Students understand:

  • That they must communicate their research
  • Outlining creates a framework to streamline a process


  • Students will create an outline to tell their research story in linear fashion

Where does this lesson happen in the Project?

This lesson is the first in Unit 6: Discussing and Presenting your Research Results

Getting Ready

Begin with the list of information that should be included in a poster.

Print out or make available electronically the Poster Questionnaire.


  • Poster Questionnaire
  • Parts of a Poster
  • Access to the poster gallery on participatoryscience.org website

 Handouts (see also Lesson Resources)

    Poster Questionnaire
    Parts of a Poster

Student Prerequisites

Students need to understand that they will be telling their research story, including the interpretation of their results.

Time Needed

One class period.

Doing the Activity

Explain to students what a poster is. Show an example. See the Poster Gallery for student presentation examples.

Encourage students to think of their project as a research story – and envision they are telling the story of their project to someone who has no idea what they’ve been doing. Tell them the goal is to explain what they’ve done to other people who didn’t follow along and have no clue what the project was about. Good advice is to imagine they are explaining the project to a family member. How would they tell her what they did? What are important pieces of information, and what are extraneous details?

Working in research groups, or as a class (as appropriate), have students fill in the questionnaire. This will serve as the outline of their poster. Encourage students to refer to notes and results from other activities.



Circulate; ensure that the parts of the poster are all getting worked on.


Collect outlines, ensure that the story being told is linear and contains all of the parts (see above)

Lesson Resources

    Parts of a Poster
    Poster Questionnaire

    More tips can be found at (these are not necessarily appropriate for students, Dr. Purrington’s is full of references to the more social aspects of a poster session):

“Advice on designing scientific posters” - http://colinpurrington.com/tips/academic/posterdesign

“Creating effective poster presentations” - http://www.ncsu.edu/project/posters/NewSite/index.html





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