By: Melissa Talley
Have you ever felt intimidated by reading an abstract? Imagine how it would feel if you were assigned to write one! “I never wrote an abstract before, how am I supposed to do this right?” I thought to myself. As a born perfectionist, I wanted to do everything not only correctly, but flawlessly. When our director mentioned we would be presenting these abstracts at multiple conferences, that made me that much more eager to have an amazing product to share with my peers and judges. And while writing an abstract, creating a trifold board, and presenting it at various conferences was hard work, the experience was priceless and is something I will carry on with me throughout my career.
Between the months of April and May, my classmates and I were fortunate to display, present, and discuss our abstracts at three different conferences, the MDDHCC (Maryland Dietetics in Health Care Communities) conference, DC MAND (Maryland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), and the University of Maryland Department Poster Day. Through these events, I was able to thoroughly explain my abstract posters and learn how to do so in a timely manner to interested attendees and judges.
After completing this year with abundant experience in abstracts, here are a few things I learned along the way of my abstract developing journey:
Deciding on a topic was one of the hardest things for me to do. I jotted down a list of possible abstract topics and spent some time reflecting on what would make a great topic. I chose to write about The Fall Harvest Festival because I thought that the combination of local foods and helping college students eat healthier was an interesting topic and it presented a nutritional challenge. Once I selected the topic, I was excited to begin writing.
Drafts, Drafts, Drafts
I wrote numerous drafts to tailor my writing into a polished abstract. Writing drafts not only helped me with grammar, sentence structure, and spelling, but it was a great way to get my ideas out when I was just starting. Abstract writing is different than other forms of writing because you have a limited number of words and have to be concise. I had to remind myself: I can always cut things out later!
Once my abstract was finalized, I started on the poster. A good quality printer and paper makes all the difference, so I gathered my pictures and “large-font” abstracts in one place and headed over to my local university printer. This was important because I wanted to draw my audience in with a visually appealing poster. Having several graphics helped convey a lot of information in a way that people can absorb well. I selected my colors because they were fall-themed since my topics was about the Fall Harvest Festival.
Before my first conference, I reviewed my project again and prepared what I would say when someone wanted to talk to me about my abstract. I jotted down a few key notes on a notecard and memorize main points to bring up. Practice makes perfect!
With writing abstracts comes writing skills, strategic thinking, and condensing. The overall experience helped me build those skills along with fostering creativity with making my poster and public speaking skills while presenting. With all of this hard work, I am grateful that I received the training and experience in abstract writing and presentation to carry with me into the professional world after my dietetic internship!