Best Poster Award – A PGR Reflection

The post below has been kindly written by Emma Bartlett:

During my PhD journey I’m trying to take advantage of as many learning and networking opportunities as I can while studying and learning, even if they push me a little outside of my comfort zone. I’m also using the opportunity to connect as much as I can with recent developments in my profession, occupational therapy, because when you are working full time, it is not easy to keep up with new developments. I’d never created or presented a poster before, so doing this could tick a few boxes.


At the time the call came out for posters/papers I was early on in my PhD and was working on my literature review. I’d used the Kawa model (a recently developed Occupational Therapy model which can be used to assist assessment with people) as a lens to consider the literature for my study and wondered if I could also use it to reflect on my PhD journey. I liked the idea that a poster using this model would be very visual and should appeal to everyone viewing.

Designing the poster was a learning curve. I used my friend ‘google’ to assist! I found that there was lots of advice available about how to set up a PowerPoint slide to create a poster, so I was off.  [There is also a research poster design workshop available for PGRs at the University of Huddersfield by booking through SkillsForge].

I thought about what the key message should be. I wanted to use the poster for a few different events if possible, so it needed to be easily understood and without technical professional jargon. I decided my key message should be ‘If I can do (and enjoy) research, so can you’. I would use the poster to illustrate the skills that I bring (that others have too), the challenges I face, and the support I use.

I used the Kawa river metaphor to reflect on this and designed my poster. It took many attempts, but I dipped in and out over a few weeks. I used my own pictures/photos, or licence free ones from the internet.

On the day of the PGR conference I was relieved to see that it had printed well and looked good amongst the row of posters. There were people looking at it, but I was too nervous to go and find out what they were saying about it. I knew that the room was full of people from across the University, and probably no one with an Occupational Therapy background. ‘What if no one understood it?’ What if they were standing there and saying ‘what is that all about?’ I saw a couple of people taking a photo of my poster, so started to think it might be OK then!

When I won best poster at the end of the day, I was so surprised and thrilled. After I’d collected my award, a few PGRs (who then knew who I was) came up to me to say, ‘That’s my journey too!’ At that point I knew that I’d achieved what I’d wanted – a poster that could be understood by all.

I have since taken my poster to a few more conferences, and proudly stood beside it to discuss my PhD journey to hopefully inspire new researchers. The highlight being the OT Show, where I met Michael Iwama, the academic who wrote the Kawa river model. He later posted this on Facebook! I’m so glad I took the plunge and tried something new!


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