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Interdisciplinary & Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Posters

A resource for student researchers and their faculty mentors.

Poster Presentations

Poster sessions at conferences and professional meetings are a way to visually convey the outcomes and findings of your research. 

Typically, there are three components to your poster session:

  1. You
  2. Your poster
  3. A handout

All three components complement one another, not repeat each other. Therefore, it is best to outline all three before designing your poster. 

 

You 

  • Prepare a 3-4 minute lightning talk about your research. This could be a unique experience or insight you had about your research that adds depth of understanding to what the attendee can read on your poster or it could be a quick overview of our research.
  • Carefully consider the audience for your poster session. Unless you are presenting at a discipline-specific conference, your talk should be in layman's language - don't assume your audience will understand the jargon in your discipline.
  • Prepare to answer questions about your research.
  • Practice your talk with several people from inside and outside your discipline, if possible. 

Poster

  • Keep in mind - your poster is not a research paper. A guideline is, whatever content you want to include on your poster, cut it in half.
  • Use bullet points whenever possible and stay away from long, narrative paragraphs.
  • Your poster should be an outline of your research with interesting commentary about what you learned along the way. It should also balance visuals and text. Your poster is essentially a prop for your presentation. See the Examples tab for some example posters. 

Handout

While a handout is usually not required, it can help remind people of your project later and is an easy way to give your contact info to others in your field. Think of it as a business card. An easy, low-key handout is to just print copies of your poster on printer paper. As long as your text isn't too small, it should still be readable. If you want to make a handout that complements, but doesn't copy, your poster, use these tips:

  • Include the title, your name, and contact info, program if applicable, name of the event, and date(s).
  • If your poster doesn't have a bibliography, include it here, or expand the bibliography if necessary.
  • Have an abstract or summary of your work. 
  • Include important data and the results of your experiment.

Some best practices for handouts -

  • Your handout should be double-sided.
  • The first side of the paper can include a replica of your poster (this can be in black and white or color).
  • The second side of the handout can include extraneous information such as your literature review, cited references, further information about your topic, and your contact information.
  • Your handout can be a single sheet or 1/2 sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 inches. 

Using PowerPoint

Most posters are created on PowerPoint. To use PowerPoint to create a post, the slide must be resized to match the size of the poster before images, text, and other information is added to the poster. Otherwise, the poster will not print properly. To resize a PowerPoint slide, follow these directions:

  1. Open PowerPoint
  2. Select the "Design" tab
  3. Open "Slide Size" and select "Custom Slide Size"
  4. Enter the width and height in the boxes, using inches, and click "Ok." The typical poster is 36" high and 48" wide. NOTE: If you are printing at the University Printing Services, set the margins to 35.4" x 47.2" to account for the margin area of the printer. Otherwise, your poster will be more expensive.
  5. Select "Ensure Fit"
  6. Your poster is now ready to be worked on

Image capture of PowerPoint with slide resizer.

You can also download PowerPoint templates online, just be prepared to customize them for your specific needs. 

Image and Visualization Resources 

Here are some resources for creating visualizations and inforgraphics for your poster, such as word clouds, maps, and graphs.

 

Important Considerations When Using Images on Your Poster

  • Make sure that you don’t increase the photo from the original size. If you copy and paste the image and it’s too small, enlarging it will only pixilate your photo and it will not print properly on the final poster. 
  • Many images on the web are protected under copyright and should not be used on a poster. You can legally use photos in four ways:
    1. Find photos that are licensed as Creative Commons (flickr),
    2. Ask permission from the photographer 
    3. Buy your photos from a stock photo site (e.g. iStock ) 
    4. Take your own photos
  • Photos as background images rarely look good. The image tends to overpower the text and make the poster hard to read. (If you must, you can fade out your image by using image editing software.) Instead, try using a background color or boxes to set off your text and images.

Three questions to ask yourself when designing a poster

  1. What is the most important/interesting/astounding finding from my research project?
  2. How can I visually share my research with conference attendees? Should I use charts, graphs, photos, images?
  3. What kind of information can I convey during my lightning talk that will complement my poster?

Elements of a Poster

These are the recommended parts of a poster. Depending on your topic, you may need more or fewer sections than are described here. Don't be afraid to deviate from the outline, which is meant to provide the elements of a typical poster. 

Information

  • Your name should be present on the poster. Also consider including the name of the event, your contact info, the year, and other "citation" information. 

Title

  • Your title should be descriptive and take no more than two lines. Choose a capitalization scheme, such as All Caps (every letter is capitalized), Title Case (capitalize every major word, like in book titles), or Sentence Case (capitalize the first word and proper nouns). Try to make your title catchy as well, as it may be the only thing people will read before deciding to whether or not to read your poster. 

Abstract

  • At some events, you may be required to have an abstract section on your poster. If you are, have an abstract. If you are not required to have an abstract, consider not including an abstract and instead think of the whole poster as an abstract of your work. 

Introduction

  • Include background information in this section, and get the audience interested in why your research is interesting and important. This is a hook to encourage the audience to read further. It may also be a good place for an illustrative photo or image. 

Method

  • Describe your experimental procedure here, and use figures, charts, diagrams, etc., to make the method clear to the audience. Be clear and concise. 

Results

  • Lead with whether or not your experiment was successful and a short description of the data. Then expand on your results and include appropriate figures and graphs. Sometimes, this may be the only section of a poster someone will read, so make the data and results clear. 

Conclusion

  • Again, state the major outcome of the experiment or study. Remind people why the topic is interesting and important, as well as mentioning possible future directions for research, the importance of the topic in relation to major work on the subject, etc. 

Bibliography

  • Cite any item referenced in the poster, as well as other major works in the field. Include a complete bibliography on a handout. 

Acknowledgments

  • Thank mentors and advisers here, and if you have received funding thank the person or office in charge of the funds.

Further Information

  • Include your contact info for people who want more information. If your project includes a website or a link to download a pdf of your poster, link it here (just make sure the link isn't blue and underlined on the poster). 

Tips & Tricks

  • When possible, break up paragraphs into numbered lists or bullet points.
  • The default tab or indent size is often too large. Use the ruler to reduce tab size, or indent manually using spaces. 
  • Correct bibliographic formatting is very important, so pick a citation style, stick with it, and double-check your citations. See our APA Citation and MLA Citation guides for help, and/or contact your friendly librarian. 
  • Keep the number of font styles down. One type for the title and section headings, with another for the body text, is usually sufficient. Generally, serif fonts (with "feet") make smaller fonts easier to read. 
  • Body text should be in 24-48 point font. The title and other headings should be larger. Make the title visible at a distance, and the body text readable from 4-6 feet away. To check, size your PowerPoint to 100%, center it on a paragraph, and stand five feet away from your poster. You should be able to read the text with no difficulty. The font size for the title should be around 72-120 point font with headers about 36-72 point font
  • Before sending your poster to be printed at full size, print off a mini copy on regular printer paper. The change in format can help you check for mistakes.
  • Be aware of the common colorblind combinations, such as red and green, and avoid them in your poster.
  • If you have a colored background, or one with an image, make sure the text is easily readable and that the overall effect isn't too busy. 
  • When choosing images, make sure they aren't pixelated when the poster is at 100%.
  • Be consistent in your design choices. If one text box has a border, they should all have borders, or if one section heading is bolded they should all be bolded, etc. 
  • Know your audience when choosing which subject-specific jargon to use. People who can read music know that forte means loud, and a fencer will know that the forte is the lower third of the blade, but for most people, it means an area of strength. 
  • Graphs, charts, etc. should have informative titles and labels

For more helpful tips read Colin Purrington's suggestions for successful poster design. 

Remember the “KISS Principle”: Keep It Simple, Stupid! In succinct, brief, jargon-free terms, your poster must explain: 1) the scientific problem in mind (what’s the question?), 2) its significance (why should we care?), 3) how your particular experiment addresses the problem (what’s your strategy?), 4) the experiments performed (what did you actually do?), 5) the results obtained (what did you actually find?), 6) the conclusions (what do you think it all means?), and, optionally, 7) caveats (any reservations?) and/or 8) future prospects (where do you go from here?).

The number one mistake made in poster presentations is often too much information! Try to keep your poster to the point and clear. You can always include more information in your handout or on a website.

Poster Printing Checklist

  1. Student presenters are often responsible for printing and bringing their posters to the Symposium at the time they are scheduled to present. 
  2. If you created your own template, make sure you resize the PPT slide BEFORE adding any text or images. This will prevent pixelation when the poster is printed.
  3. Save your file as a PDF before sending it to be printed
  4. Print a copy of your poster on an 8 1/2" X 11" sheet of paper to make sure everything is proportional and correct.
  5. Have someone read over your poster to double-check all spelling and grammar. Once your poster is printed in a large size, mistakes will be very noticeable.
  6. Make sure your visualizations are labeled correctly and add value to your poster. 
  7. Do not laminate your poster or have it printed on the poster board. Almost always, a poster tube will cost extra and you will only need this if you are traveling.

Example 1

 

Example 2

Sports Team Brand Commitment Poster

Example 3

One Day Through Stranger Trauma

Attributions

The content on this page has been borrowed from Illinois University Library's Libguide on Research Posters and University of Idaho Library's Libguide Poster Presentations.