Repurposing and Reformatting Content

The professor for my Kepler Space Institute class provided a rather detailed and specific outline for my final class paper. I was in the process of developing and writing that paper when a friend suggested I submit it to the Interstellar Research Group (IRG) conference in September. This required some reformatting/retooling of the content. Today I’ll be talking about how to repurpose content for other audiences and applications.

Academic to Professional

My original paper (Arts and Recreation on Mars: Contributing to Quality of Life in the Leominster Community) had an obvious slant toward a specific, fictional city on the planet Mars. The upcoming conference is focused on human beings traveling out of the solar system to other stars. While the content wouldn’t change too much, a title change seemed appropriate. Thus was born, “Arts and Recreation on Mars: Contributing to Quality of Life in Off-Earth Cities.”

Another thing I did was alter the flow so it more closely matched a conference format. The class paper format ran something like this:

Overall Research Question
Research Sub-Questions
Hypothesis
Decision Makers
Problems to Solve
Assumption/Givens
Research Methodologies
Hoped-For Benefits 

A conference paper looks more like this:

Background
Problem to be Solved
Methodology
Conclusions

The result was a lot of content shifting to give the paper more of a “story” flow.

Formal Proposal to Poster Session

After doing some digging through my emails, I discovered that I was not, in fact, giving a formal presentation, but what’s called a “poster session,” where you put a condensed version of your paper on a poster mounted on foam board (or laminated so it stands up straight) atop an easel. You then stand in a room with a bunch of other people with similar posters and wait for people to walk by so you can give one-sentence or longer explanations of your paper, depending on the individual’s interest.

While my paper content, again, remains the same, the presentation of it will differ. I’m looking at compressing a rather hefty 74 pages into a single 28-by-22-inch (71-by-56-centimeter) piece of paper. I also have to change my presentation style. Instead of assuming a room full of people and a 40-minute time limit, I will instead by dealing with individuals one by one and having only a few seconds to wow them. This will be a challenge, but it’s one that’ll keep me entertained between now and the conference next month.

In this case, I will need to hit the high points, make certain they make sense, and still have the details in the back of my mind should someone ask specific questions. This will mean cutting and more cutting until I’ve got my message honed.

Paper to Book

The poster-session activity isn’t even the last thing I will do with my paper. Because it got so lengthy and multi-faceted, I see the potential for a book-length treatment of my topic. That means making things longer, pursuing certain questions in more depth than I felt I had time for in my class, and adding even more citations than I found for the paper. Items that had been only a one-sentence idea can reach the paragraph level.

Nonfiction to Fiction

Who knows? At some point, I might write some fiction based on all this research. Of course that will require a different type of writing and development, as I’ll need to create characters to fit the fictional world I’ve been elaborating. Artists and athletes on Mars? Sure, why not?

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
This entry was posted in editing, education, fiction writing, personal, presentations, science fiction, technical writing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Repurposing and Reformatting Content

  1. Bart, for your poster session, can you use eye-catching imagery and your problem to be solved and then have a more detailed double-sided trifold flyer as a bandout?

    • Bart Leahy says:

      I don’t think they mandated a format. Honestly, my paper was more writing than imagery, but I have a cowriter who can do the wow stuff if needed. Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. Pingback: Evolution of a Poster | Heroic Technical Writing: Advice and Insights on the Business of Technical Communication

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