Designing a Research Poster
Need help creating a good poster? Look no further - we have compiled helpful hints and tips for poster creation. Remember, your completed poster needs to visually convey a message, as it will serve as an effective summary of your research.
One size poster does not fit all! Consider your audience and purpose. View the poster as an opportunity to:
- Persuade others of your interpretation or hypotheses
- Advertise your research
- Gain insight or feedback that will help your research to evolve
- Teach others about a topic
Posters in science disciplines follow the scientific method, with headings for each of the steps. All other disciplines should make a “road map” for the viewer by labeling sections, preferably with headings that “talk” (i.e., convey specific information).
Here are some good headings to start with:
- Introduction (with hypothesis or study purpose)
- Interpretations or analysis
The difference between posters and journal articles:
- Posters focus the results and interpretation
- Posters often omit details about the methodology and are more general
- Posters focus more on visuals (graphics) than text
- Posters use an introduction instead of an abstract (unless otherwise required)
Many posters can be designed in common computer applications, like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. However, we suggest using more design-focused programs like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign for a more professional look. Use of these Adobe programs is available to students free of charge in the Media and Digital Resource Lab in Ralph Brown Draughon Library.
- Be sure it is readable. Use large text (at least 18-24 pt.)
- Keep it simple, do not use more than 2-3 font styles total
- Ensure that it’s not “too busy.”
- Use fonts that are easy to read.
- Avoid clutter or unneeded information (avoid too much detail.)
- Use “white space” and headings to separate sections.
- Choose colors carefully and be aware of contrast. If you are not sure, remember that dark colored text on a light background is best.
- Choose a title that effectively captures what your research is about. The title’s text size should be at least twice the size of the regular text. The content of your title should include include:
- Your name
- Presentation number
- Contact information
- Institutional affiliation
- Layout and headings should be visually stimulating (create a visual hook for your audience)
- Develop a user-friendly visual information flow. Make it easy for your reader to discern the order and relevance of your text and images.
- Judiciously incorporate figures, tables, images, and other graphics that support the theme of your poster.
- Ensure that all graphics are high-resolution and easily visible.
- Proof for errors and inconsistencies! This is very important, but often overlooked
- Make use of “figure speak”—that is, it is okay to use fragments or short sentences in captions.
1. Prepare a 2-3 minute presentation and use your poster as a visual tool.
This short presentation is sometimes referred to as an “elevator speech” because it is a talk that you would be able to give to someone during a short elevator ride (3-4 minutes). Thus, prepare a short explanation (an overview of study motivation; why it is important; what you did; what you learned). Engage with your viewer and check to see if the listener is able to make sense of your work and follow the technical aspects of your explanation. Use your poster as a visual tool that will help guide your explanation referring to your graphs, images, figures, and charts as much as possible. Explain your results by using the figures.
2. Don’t read your poster.
Avoid reading your poster to your viewer as it is best utilized as a visual tool that supports your presentation. Reading directly from your poster typically disengages your readers. Your prepared presentation (discussed in Tip #1) will help prevent you from reading the poster.
3. Focus on the main findings of your project.
The poster session is primarily an opportunity for you to convey the main ideas associated with your research project. Due to the abbreviated format, you are not obligated to cover every detail from your research on your poster or throughout your poster presentation. Consider making a two-sided handout with a miniature version of your poster on one side and more related information on the other side. The additional information can include details that are not added to the poster.
4. Be prepared for questions.
One of the most important elements of a poster presentation is the question and answer session that follows the presentation. This opportunity for high-level interaction differentiates poster presentations from traditional presentation formats. Common questions include: what was your primary research question, did your results surprise you, and where will you go from here with your research? If you don’t know how to answer a question, don’t try to fake it. Sometimes you can use a statement like “that is outside of the scope of this research project” or ask the viewer if s/he has some ideas that you might think about. Bring business cards and make the viewer responsible to follow up with you. This will streamline the networking process and free you up to focus on presenting your poster (rather than writing down contact information.)
5. View every interaction as one that can make a difference.
Conversations with other presenters are fine, but remember that your poster presentation experience can provide important networking opportunities. Always be ready to give your attention to your viewer(s) as it is possible that your viewer will be a future collaborator. Interact with the viewers and be courteous; include others if they want to join the presentation and the follow-up conversation.
6. Check the conference website for poster presentation suggestions.
When presenting at a conference be sure to look for poster presentation (and poster design) tips on the conference website. Professional societies may offer tips on poster presentations.
It helps to practice on your friends and family first.
Last Updated: August 13, 2015