I am a first year PhD student in Psychology and I messed up. I submitted an abstract for a poster presentation before I had results in my hand thinking I will have it all done in time for the actual presentation. My advisor was very encouraging. I started analyzing the data a week ago and I feel very lost. I have made some minor progress, but I don't have a real "story" to say about my research, and I am worried its a dead end. I'm not sure what to do. How intense do poster presentations get? What does a bad poster presentation look like? Should I back out of the poster presentation? Or should I go ahead with it in the hopes that I find some minor interesting thing to say?

  • 9
    Welcome to the poster/talk conference experience that, well, everybody has had at some point or another. At the worst, the poster will be about your planned experiment, data gathered, and preliminary results (good or not) with a bit on what is next. A pretty standard poster by an early PhD student. Chat with people, own up to where you are, ask for advice, relax and have fun.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 0:38
  • Have you spoken to your adviser about how the analysis is going and your concerns about the poster?
    – anything
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 1:42
  • 2
    @JonCuster That looks like an answer to me.
    – user68958
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 6:55

1 Answer 1


Don't worry. Poster presentations often showcase early work that needs further development. Think of it as a beta test to get some feedback, in order to develop a complete product. Negative results are also results, and they help deciding future directions of work.

You could mention what you attempted to do/prove, and why that would be important. List out what approach/analysis worked and didn't work,. You could spend time understanding why those things worked/didn't work, and put those on your poster. Based on these learnings, you could chalk out some directions for future work.

  • 1
    +1 At the poster session people walk around with a glass of wine in their hand, chatting here and chatting there. If I would see such a poster on a conference, especially from a beginning PhD student, I chat with the presenter to see if we could figure out what can be done to move your project forward. Getting stuck is normal, especially at the beginning of your PhD, but publicly admitting it takes courage. So I would not see such a poster as a sign of weakness. People differ, but at the conferences I attend there are enough constructive people around to make such a poster worth while. Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 7:36

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