Western Washington University’s Wilson Library will host the first "Showcase of Undergraduate Research in the Humanities" from 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 in the Reading Room.
The showcase will host 28 sections of English 101 (Writing Your Way through Western) and three sections of English 302 (Technical and Professional Writing). Nearly 350 posters will be on display throughout the day, highlighting diverse undergraduate research.
The best posters of the day will receive awards funded by Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, Gautam Pillay.
Andrew Lucchesi, Western’s director of Composition, said the event is modeled around Scholars Week and other events that feature Western student research. Instead of demonstrating their research in essay format, students will present their research on a poster that they will accompany at the showcase during different timeslots throughout the day.
Assistant Director of Composition Katie Weed said posters can be a great snapshot tool to show scholarly work in a different way, and thanked Western's Hacherl Research & Writing Studio for providing the materials and insight to help instructors teach the research poster genre.
“The demands of a research showcase give students the opportunity to practice many kinds of communication and compositions,” Jo Hurt, WWU Composition instructor, said. Conducting first-person research, experimenting with visual design, and defending and discussing work in-person are all skills students have strengthened through preparing for this showcase.
Early in the quarter, students brainstormed ways to connect their interests with the general topic of literacy to form a research question. Some questions involve analyzing the type of writing used in dating app bios and restaurant menus, while others look at how serious topics like mental health and disability affect literacy. Anna Szabo of Billings, Montana, and Emmy Gregg of Palouse are researching how social media can affect time spent on reading for pleasure and study habits.
“Creating a fun poster allows you to be creative and you don’t have to talk about your research in such a serious way,” Szabo said. “When you give a presentation, you can be more connected with who you’re presenting to.”
Though both Gregg and Szabo prefer a poster presentation over writing an essay, they still face a far too familiar difficulty – word count. With research finished, the students are focused on making a poster that isn’t too text heavy.
“The difficulty is that you need enough information on the poster so that someone could look at it with no one there to explain anything to them and they know what is going on,” Szabo said.
Maneuvering this issue is one of the things that English instructors appreciate about this new twist on the presentation of scholarly work.
Presenting research in a medium other than an essay forces students to the multiple ways people interact with and present information, said instructor Megan Lucchesi. For example, using fewer words on a poster means supplementing the space with research-based infographics and visuals.
While students struggle with the poster’s visual components and word count, instructors have their own issue to handle – print scheduling.
With nearly 800 posters needing printed in time for the showcase, scheduling printing is difficult. Weed said she is grateful for the assistance from the Student Technology Center throughout this process, saying this event would be impossible without its support.
With limited printer availability, Andrew Lucchesi said he hopes the English department will one day have poster printers of its own, in order to encourage more visual projects like this one.
“I just love the idea of first-year writing classes being an event every year,” Lucchesi said. “Classes are here not just to be taught, but to do something amazing with our impressive resources.”
Both students and instructors are excited to reveal what this quarter’s work has produced.
“These posters show the public what students are choosing to learn more about, and many times the more interested the student is in their research, the more compelling the project is,” said Weed.
While Gregg looks forward to showcasing their research about social media use to other college students, Szabo appreciates the enhanced general research skills this showcase has provided her with.
“Research is usually associated with a hard science like chemistry or biology, but anybody and everybody can do research,” she said.
This showcase is the first of its kind on Western’s campus and if the event goes as planned, could potentially turn into a quarterly event.
“The public can benefit from what these students know. This isn’t just another homework assignment,” said Lucchesi.
For more information on “Showcase of Undergraduate Research in the Humanities,” visit https://wp.wwu.edu/researchposters/.