The topic for your research project may be related to the efforts of an already established organization (Habitat for Humanity, GreenPeace, etc.) or it may be simply in an area that you feel could be made better. You will first need to fully research the topic so that your are well-informed about all aspects of the situation. Then you will write an abstract stating that problem and your design intentions towards a solution. The research process for designers has some distinct similarities and differences with other academic disciplines.


Design Abstract Requirements:

You must address each of these points within the 300 word limit. Do not  write 2/3 of the abstract stating what the problem is. You will not have enough words left to address the other points listed below.

  • What is your topic?
    • this is the general area that your project is in.
  • What is the problem? (Identify this specifically. It may be in the form of a question)
    • This is the “thing” that seems unfair, wrong, or just plain bugs you about a specific aspect within the general topic area
  • What do you intend to do to address the problem?
    • This is your thesis statement/question.  (it is your purpose, your idea, your theory) It is arguably the single most important aspect of the abstract.
    • This is where you say what your unique vision, style, technique is and how your individual unique aspect will make a difference.
    • It is what you believe may be a solution if your project is put in place
    • It is what you believe will happen if your project is a success
  • How will you plan to do it? (your design strategy, the design applications)
    • Campaign
    • Series
    • Video
    • Public Service Spots
    • Installation
    • Community project
  • What will be your Process? (the steps you take to create your project)
  • What is it you intend to accomplish? (what you want in the end)
    • conclusion, new knowledge, new product, results
  • Who is the intended audience? (identify a specific group to aim your message)
    • otherwise know as your target audience or market
    • this group should be specifically defined
    • Target Audience— how to define a target audience and build your brand
    • 6 Steps to Define Your Audience—how to define your target audience
  • What will be your call to action? (what you want your target audience to do)
    • a piece of content intended to induce a viewer, reader, or listener to perform a specific act, typically taking the form of an instruction or directive (e.g. buy now, go to this website, call this phone number, or click here, etc.). 
    • What do you want your intended target audience to do?
    • How do you intend to motivate them
    • How will you incentivize them to do the right thing?
  • How will you motivate your audience to do what you want them to do? Factual information is not enough to motivate (unfortunately). (incentivize, compelling, motivational strategies)
    • You must somehow indicate to your audience how doing the right thing will directly affect them personally (increase sales within their business, increase readership on their website, grow their customer base, lower crime rate, lower costs that they now have, etc).
  • How you will measure or determine the effectiveness or impact of your project? (how you will be able to tell that your project made a difference)
    • survey comparisons—pre and post survey, factual data, measurable change in behavior
  • What type of relevant knowledge/skill you, as a graphic designer, will be applying to this problem? (skills and knowledge that would be absent if the same problem were addressed by a none designer)


  • “Immigration” might be a topic area.
  • Within that topic, a problem might be “illegal border crossing”.
  • A thesis might be, “Better education of employers that own companies along the border can reduce the number of illegal crossings.”
  • Your plan might be to create a visual campaign including a website, app, posters and flyers
  • Target Audience made of the employers and workers at companies  at one specific town along the border.
  • The call to action would be for employers to
    • visit your website for more information,
    • contact congressmen to change their vote, 
    • be aware of the steps towards legal immigration.
  • The design specific knowledge/skills of following a “form follows function” model, employing visual grouping and hierarchy to the ordering of information and grouping all within a unifying visual brand.
  • The motivation would be showing how a balanced approach to immigration will
    • lower crime rates
    • increase their business
    • lower existing business costs
  • The success would be measured by comparing statistics before and after as well as comparing statistics from the target town with other border town companies.

NCUR Abstracts Requirements:

Abstracts should:

  1. Clearly state the central research question and/or purpose of the project.
  2. Provide brief, relevant scholarly or research context (no actual citations required) that demonstrate its attempt to make a unique contribution to the area of inquiry.
  3. Provide a brief description of the research methodology.
  4. State conclusions or expected results and the context in which they will be discussed.
  5. Include text only (no images or graphics)
  6. Be well-written and well-organized.

Abstract Format Requirements:

  1. Complete the abstract using appropriate formatting
    1. Title of paper in capital letters
    2. Enter your first name, middle initial and last name (and co-authors if there are any). Enter S. Brett DeBoer as your faculty sponsor in parentheses. Enter the Department of Art and Graphic Design and University of the Pacific as the location where the research was conducted.
      • Your Name (Professor S. Brett DeBoer), Department of Art and Graphic Design, University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Ave Stockton, California 95211
  2. E-mail address for each faculty mentor and co-author
    • bdeboer@pacific.edu
  1. Undergraduate Research Office Coordinator (UROC) name, e-mail address, and phone number.
    • Dr. Lydia K. Fox, Ph.D.
      Director of Undergraduate Research
  2. Presentation type: oral, poster, visual arts, or performing arts
    • Most of the time this should be Oral Presentation for graphic design.
  3. Select Graphic Design as the Field of study (See here for the complete list.)
  4. Check your spelling.
  5. References are allowed within abstracts, but not required.
  6. The on-line NCUR submissions form will not process unique formatting and special characters (e.g., scientific symbols). Therefor, use plain text format for your abstract. There is space in the form to include a link to online documentation, formulas, images, music files, etc. in support of your submission. You may use that space to provide a link to a location to view your abstract in its original form if you like.
  7. Abstracts are usually 200–300 words long with no paragraph breaks. MAXIMUM LENGTH = 300 WORDS!
  8. There is a limit of two abstracts submitted per primary presenter for NCUR.
  9. All abstracts will undergo a rigorous review by a panel of faculty reviewers. Abstract reviewers will evaluate submissions based on the criteria listed above and will assess overall merit within the context of the specific academic discipline for NCUR.

Sample Abstracts

More Sample Abstracts

Sample Abstracts


Seng Moua (Professor S. Brett DeBoer), Department of Art and Graphic Design, University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA 95211

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive technology (AT) provides technology to allow physically or speech impaired individuals to communicate. Some examples of current AAC and AT methods and technologies are: flipbooks, gestures, speech generating devices and communication boards. With the utilization of AAC and AT, these methods and technology give a voice to those who are not able to speak for themselves. It also allows them to fully participate in the community in ways that they could not before. The current technologies such as iPad or mobile applications are just as effective as the previous methods and technologies. The power of mobile device applications make a positive impact on AAC and AT communities and are simpler and easier to use.

iPad and mobile device technologies are a constant and valuable market. Apps are one of the most accessible types of technology in the market today.  I want to investigate whether or not iPad or mobile applications can help those who cannot verbalize their needs to others. Are they easy to use? Do they provide the client with their specific personalized and individualized needs? How effective are these applications and how successful are they compared to other technologies or methods currently in use?

The apps on the market today can be improved to more effectively meet the needs of the physically impaired individual. Two weaknesses of the current apps on the market are that they are created by groups who do not consult Speech Pathologist/Communication experts or have any sort of background in these fields, and the apps are not customizable for clients, which limits the client from being able to communicate effectively.

I want to develop an app that is individualized, incorporates informed research from speech pathology experts and is easy to use and teach with. I will include a short survey or review for individuals who use the app to show whether or not the app has been successful. With these changes, I believe that the results of communication will be markedly better.


Berenice Calvario (Professor S. Brett DeBoer), Department of Art and Graphic Design, University of the Pacific 3601 Pacific Avenue Stockton, California 95211

Crossing the street can be potentially dangerous for an individual who is visually impaired. Orientation and mobility specialists provide much of the formal training that make lives easier for the visually impaired by teaching them how to use assistive technology, such as white canes in order to promote independence. However, there seems to be a lack of awareness on the part of the general community of what a white cane represents. As cars are being manufactured to be more environmentally friendly and have quieter engines, the visually impaired individual has increased difficulty being aware of an oncoming car. The consequence of the oncoming driver’s misinterpretation of what a white cane represents could be life threatening.

My research has shown that there are no continuous white cane awareness campaigns other than a single annual celebration known as National White Cane Day, which has taken place every year since 1964 on October 15th. Addressing the problem should not be limited to an annual event only and should be treated with the same level of attention as drunk driving, and other driving awareness issues since nearly 10 percent of the population (21.2 million adult Americans) are visually impaired. Previous efforts to raise awareness have usually taken the form of white cane walks: marches hosted by the visually impaired community to raise awareness. What makes my project different from previous efforts is that I will be actively targeting an audience of first-time drivers so that they will be aware of the White Cane Law and abide to its precautions towards the visually impaired. The purpose of this is so that drivers can identify and take precautions when encountering a visually impaired person in public.

Phase one of the design plan would be to further research by providing a baseline of current knowledge about the white cane, through the use of a pre test survey. The second phase would be to implement informational design to inform the public. A billboard to target active drivers, and posters placed in high schools as well as the DMV in order to target newer drivers. After some time has passed, the final phase and the deciding phase of the project’s effectiveness would be to re-implement the original pre-test survey and observe whether or not our campaign was successful.

I feel that our campaign will make more people aware of what a white cane is just through mere exposure.  My intention is to raise awareness of the white cane as a symbol of blindness and as a tool of assistive technology for the visually impaired. White cane awareness can only bring about good for the sighted and visually impaired community by saving lives.

  • White Cane Red Hatters, Stockton Community Center for the Blind.
  • raising volunteer counts?


Maria R. Boyle (Professor S. Brett DeBoer), Art and Graphic Design, University of the Pacific 3601 Pacific Ave Stockton, California 95211

The purpose of this project is to assess the reasons behind one’s reluctance to take the first step needed toward the path of recovery and addiction and apply that assessment to a campaign that is designed to help people feel comfortable initiating a plan of recovery. In general, people have a hard time helping themselves. Recovery Cafe is an organization in Seattle that focuses on a life of transformation. It focuses on people who struggle with homelessness, drugs, alcohol, and other destructive behaviors. It not only holds regular 12-step supportive meetings that most organizations hold, but it also holds various events and activities that members can get involved with, such as writing circles, yoga, walking clubs, academic tutoring, and acting. These extra activities show the organization’s interest and commitment to bettering the lives of the people it works with.

However, this incredible organization is not known as widely as I believe it should be. The most remarkable thing about this organization is the way it really cares about each individual and about bettering its community as a whole. These attributes are what I believe need to be emphasized. As a designer, I would like to create a campaign revolving around the reasons that make this organization so special — its interaction with its members. The fact that Recovery Cafe offers events and activities that its members can enjoy together, strengthening its inner community, are what make it unique. In addition, I want to research the psychology behind why it is so difficult for people to take the first step towards recovery and ask for help. I will obtain this research using three steps. First, I will create a survey for friends and peers to participate in, asking for them to anonymously share their experiences with homelessness, drugs, and alcohol, and asking for them to explain the process that was taken in order to guide their loved one to a healthier lifestyle. After having gathered this information, I will read papers and books written about addiction itself to further understand the chemical effect it has on the body in order to understand the mental effect it has. These hard facts will help me in my third step, in which I will go into the field and survey people who are currently struggling with homelessness and addiction. This will be my final step because I want to be sure I have all of the information I need in order to understand what these people are going through so I can be as sensitive to their situation as I can be. Many of my participants will be from Recovery Cafe since my project is specifically involving them, and physically seeing how Recovery Cafe has changed their lives will be very beneficial to my project. This information will aid in the creation of an awareness campaign that relates to the audience and will motivate them to become involved with the Recovery Cafe community. Guided by this information, possible design applications include postcards to place in church bulletins, flyers to place at small, local Seattle businesses, or newspaper ads, all of which are places the homeless or those who struggle with addiction are most likely to look

I will be working directly with the president of Recovery Cafe, and plan on measuring the success of my design by drawing conclusions based on attendance statistics that he will provide for me. I believe that a campaign focusing on the events Recovery Cafe holds, while making sure to appeal to those who have a hard time taking the first step toward recovery, is what this organization needs in order to increase the number of people actively working toward a more promising future.

Oral Presentations:

Display Table, Overhead Projector and Screen,
CD Player,
VCR, Computer, Internet Connectivity, Data Projector, Slide Projector, Presentation will have to be accessible through the Internet with CD backup or on CD.

Performing and Visual Arts Presentations:

Piano Accompaniment, 
Dance Space, 
Drama Space
, Music Stand and Chair
, Display Table
, Wall Space

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