AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | Poster

Hello there!  Liz Zadnik here – I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a few of the authors at this year’s poster presentation and reception.  I asked some to share their experiences with poster creation, and will also add some of the innovative strategies I noticed folks using.  

What would you tell a colleague or conference attendee about creating a poster?

Heather Clark (Texas A&M School of Public Health – “Evaluating a Service Learning Project for Undergraduates: The BVYEAH! Project”) “I’ve created a lot of posters over the past 15 years and the key thing to remember is that with too many words on the poster, no one will ever be willing to stay and want to read…Keep things to the highlights.”  

Sarah Egan-Reeves (NASA Glenn Research Center, Office of Education & Paragon TEC, Inc. “Evaluation Playbooks: Creating a comprehensive evaluation strategy for your organization.”) “We started with the theme of football, since the subject was playbooks, to bring everything together.  I don’t think you have to be gimmicky – I just feel like [imagery] brings it all together and unifies the content without too many words.”

Lesson Learned: Creating a poster brings together a number of skills, namely loving your subject and being able to create something visually-appealing.  Balancing text with relevant images will help you tell the story of your data and program.

What did you enjoy most about creating your poster?

Corliss Outley (Texas A&M School of Public Health – “Evaluating a Service Learning Project for Undergraduates: The BVYEAH! Project”) “I really enjoyed highlighting different methods – both quantitative and qualitative, so that individuals can hear the voices of the students who participated in this project.”

Jamal Muktar (PACT MERL Officer, Kenya “Peace and Stability Index: A mixed-methods evaluation design for a peacebuilding and conflict resolution program in Somalia”) “I liked pulling out the truth of the evaluation and telling [its] story.  What is most important?  You also hope that people will see what’s most important and appreciate that.”

How did creating a poster enhance your understanding of this year’s theme, Evaluation+Design?

Sarah Egan-Reeves “It’s a form of professional development – being able to tell your story and thinking about how to tell that story, visually…We know there are many different types of learners so being able to tell that story visually helps us reach more people.”

Hot Tip: Break out of the box!  (Well, not literally, keep the poster size to specified dimensions!) I saw so many ingenious approaches to visually engaging visitors.  Marlon Mitchell, of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, not only had a great poster (and project) but added texture to the mix.  He printed his poster on cloth – for easy transportation and aesthetics!  

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


My name is Brad Coverdale and I am a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am interested in researching post-secondary access as well as success initiatives for students, particularly first-generation and/or low income. One of these initiatives that was very dear to me was Upward Bound. As such, I conducted a program evaluation for my Master’s thesis using data from The National Educational Longitudinal Survey of 1988-2000 (NELS 88:2000).

Rad Resource: Because NELS 88:2000 is a longitudinal study, it met my data needs perfectly. This survey started with a cohort of 8th graders in 1988 and attempted to track their academic pursuits through 2000. By asking the students many questions including whether or not the students participated in pre-college programs like Gear Up and Upward Bound, I was able to create a treatment group and comparison group by matching similar characteristics through propensity score matching. This dataset has also been useful for analyzing psychological responses and educational objectives, finding the highest predictors for particular subjects, among other research questions. Best of all, the dataset is FREE to use.  All you have to do is send an email to Peggy Quinn, the Publication Disseminator ( with your request for an unrestricted copy of the Data and the electronic codebook.  NCES is in the process of putting together an online application for analysis but for now you can just use Data Analysis System, a product developed for NELS analysis, if you are familiar with the program by going to this link and selecting the NELS 88/2000 data.

Hot Tip: Remember to use either the panel weights if you are tracking students over time or cross-section weights if you are only interested in a particular study (1988, 1990, 1992, or 2000). Also, be wary as to what students are included as well as excluded from your analysis. Data from students that drop out of school or are removed from the study are not included in the overall results. You may want to consider appending them specifically to your data source.

Want to learn more from Brad? He’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2010 Conference Program, November 10-13 in San Antonio, Texas.

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