Poster Design with PowerPoint

This post offers some guidelines on the design and printing of academic conference posters for Holy Cross students, staff, and faculty. While it focuses on the use of Microsoft PowerPoint to create posters, it is not a general treatise on how to use PowerPoint. For that, see the PowerPoint Help Center. Here we offer a few tips on how to tweak PowerPoint for optimal poster printing. The examples are shown as they appear on the Mac, but users running PowerPoint under Windows should find similar functionality. We also briefly discuss the use of LibreOffice Impress and Google Slides in poster design.

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RStudio as a Research and Writing Platform

R ( is a programming language and software platform for statistical computing and graphics, widely used in academia and industry (see Introduction to R). RStudio is an integrated development environment for R. RStudio makes R easier to use, and it also enables the creation and rendering of plain-text documents that contain embedded R code. With RStudio, you can encapsulate the code and data for your analysis within the text of your paper, fostering research transparency and replicability of results. An increasing number of scholarly journals are requiring that authors submit such replication materials as a condition of publication (see, for example, The AJPS Replication Policy: Innovations and Revisions), and are providing guidelines for data archiving in support of reproducible research (e.g., Reproducible research and Biostatistics and The Role of Data Repositories in Reproducible Research).

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Research Tools for Google Docs

Google Docs ( has evolved to the point where it is a viable alternative to desktop word processors (see 10 Reasons to Love Google Docs and 6 Tips for Writing Your Thesis in Google Docs). It works completely in the cloud, so that you can access your documents from anywhere, on any device, even without an Internet connection. Documents are easily shared and editable by multiple people simultaneously. In addition, an increasing number of add-on tools make Google Docs an even more powerful solution for writing research papers. This post discusses some of the tools and add-ons that will help you write your research paper using Google Docs.

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The Plain Text Workflow

(Microsoft Word must die.)

The Plain Text Workflow is an alternative to writing with a word processor. Mind you, I said writing, not typesetting or formatting, which is a major part of what word processors do. The idea of the plain text workflow is that you separate the act of writing from that of producing a formatted, typeset final document. You initially capture your words using a plain text editor, perhaps using a lightweight formatting language like Markdown. Then, using freely-available software such as pandoc, you translate your plain text document into whatever file format you need to provide (to a colleague, reviewer, literary agent, journal editor, blog post, email, website, etc.), be it Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, PDF, HTML, or whatever. You might also bring this translated file into your word processor to continue tweaking the formatting. However, your original words are captured in one or more plain text files, which remain the source from which various other document formats flow. With the plain text workflow, you work in plain text, and all of those other document formats are outputs from your plain text source document.

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