14 April 2016

Critique and makeover: Gene sequence toolkit

This week’s poster is from Kasey Pham, and is used with permission. Click to enlarge!

Kasey writes:

I’m a student having a little trouble with my first poster presentation. I’d like to cut down the text more so that there's more white space, but I'm already having trouble keeping the story coherent.

It’s certainly nowhere near the worst I’ve seen in terms of amount of text. It seems that the main areas to edit are the introduction and the conclusion. My crack at condensing the intro was to use Randy Olson’s “And But Therefore” template:

“Every individual of a species should share a common ancestor, and this can be tested using public data, but those data are sparse, therefore we created a tool.”

I think I’m closing in on shrinking your four paragraphs down to once sentence. But I don’t know what “sparse” data means in this context, therefore I’m not sure what problem the toolkit solves.

Cutting the conclusions are more important than the intro, because that could give space around the references and acknowledgements, which currently look crowded. I wanted hack down the conclusions from five bullet points to... um... fewer. One paragraph is a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

Editing is always a bear, and the only real way to do it is with practice and constantly reminding yourself to be ruthless.

In other areas...

I’m a fan of consistent reading order, so I don’t like how the middle section switches from the reading down that you see in the left columns (the introduction flows down to methods), to reading across in the middle (Figure 1 flows across to Figure 2, then carriage returns to Figure 3, etc.). That said, the use of a horizontal line between Figures (1 + 2) and (3 + 4) is enough of a cue to prevent the reader from getting too lost.

In the Methods, it looks odd to have only the top box (“Raw XML data”) narrower than all the rest. It would also be nice for the left edge of the flowchart to align with the left edge of the text above.

Here’s a quick and dirty revision that addresses a few of these comments:

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