In this video, I will go over some capstone tips that I wish I knew and I hope will help you when designing your capstone poster for occupational therapy. These tips will help to save you time, money, and most importantly – stress, as we all know capstone can be a fun and rewarding, but also a stressful project as part of your occupational therapy education.
My first tip, which you all probably know or thought about, but may have forgotten about – is to use each team member’s strengths. If one person is good at designing, then they should probably do the designing. If someone is a good writer, then they should probably write out the bulk of the content. Someone else will need to do the editing. And someone else may need to do the coordinating and managing. This of course depends on your group size and if it is small, you may have to take on multiple roles. So remembering each of your own strengths will help a lot and make your capstone poster shine.
Another popular question is what to use. We opted to use Microsoft PowerPoint actually because everyone was familiar with how to use it, it is well established and predictable in how the layout will look, and it is relatively easy to collaborate. You may use Google Slides as well, which is even easier to collaborate. When it comes time to print, you can save the file as a PDF to “flatten” the image for the printer. We chose PowerPoint because google slides can be buggy and it difficult to work with at times. One option is to do most of your work in google slides, such as earlier drafts, and then converting it over to PowerPoint. Other websites are becoming more popular as well such as Canva.com, and I think in time, they will get better and easier to use. Pick what works best for you and ask for input from your professor.
When you start designing your poster, it is important to get the dimensions correct. Check with your local print shop or where you want your poster printed for the exact dimensions of the poster, then create your project file with the same dimensions.
Let’s talk about images. This is often the part where students have trouble. 1 is finding the images that are good enough quality. I would stay away from things like google images because they often are low quality and 2 it may be copyrighted so you won’t have the rights to reprint the image for your own use. So you have 2 options – 1 to take the photo yourself or ask from your research partners. For example, our capstone group asked the association we were partnered with while doing or research for photos of clients that they were permitted to take and pass on to us.
The 2nd option is to use stock images. Oftentimes, stock images can be expensive, but websites like Pexels and Unsplash offer stock images for free. I’ll post a link to them in the description. Sometimes, all you need to do is credit the photographer in your work. The most important thing to do is use images that are as large resolution as possible and then sizing them down to fit in the poster. Never scale the images up or enlarge them digitally. To get a good idea of image quality, a good file size should be in the megabytes, like 1 to even up to like 20 megabytes, not kilobytes. If you open the image up at 100%, it should take up your whole screen or be even larger than it. This will ensure that when it comes time to print, the images don’t look blurry or pixelated – which can make or break a capstone poster.
My next tip is font size. Use a good legible font size, even something like 12 may be too small. Definitely, don’t go smaller than this unless it’s for something that does not matter like credits or copyright information or references. Be sure the text is legible so it should have good contrast. If it is a light background, use dark like black text. If using a dark background, use the opposite like white or light-colored text.
Use an easy-to-read font and not handwritten or cursive ones as this can be hard for readers. Try not to mix or use multiple fonts as this can be distracting. Limit it to say, 2 fonts. Make use of italics, bolding, underline, and bullet points with the font to make it look nice and organized. Remember to use graphics to tell your research story and not put too much text. If you have to use a lot of text, consider spacing them up with line breaks, shorter sentences, and mixing in graphics so it does not look like a page out of a novel.
Of course, check your spelling, but more importantly – punctuation. For example, if you use bullet points, do you end them with periods, and some without? It should be consistent throughout.
Another tip is to be careful of using too many graphs, just because you have a lot of data. Posters that have too many graphs can be confusing and give the reader information overload. Consider which graphs are absolutely necessary and how you can mix up your poster with other graphics instead of graphs. This depends on your research of course, and if it is qualitative, quantitative, or mixed.
Make sure everything is spaced evenly, such as centered both left and right and top and bottom.
My last tip is to create different layouts and ask for input from different students, family members, and friends. A layout may look good to your group, but it may have too many or too little colors, be difficult to follow, or could be laid out better. Remember to save each draft as a separate file so you can always go back to an earlier revision if you change or mind or if you mess something up.
Look online such as on library websites at previous student capstones for inspiration.
Good luck and have fun with it!