Academic Writing

How to Design a Research Poster

A well-designed research poster will often attract collaborators, boost visibility in a topic area, and establish your expertise. To ensure your poster communicates your research accurately and effectively, there are a few guidelines to consider. A research poster often includes more tables or pictures than words, and is organized into columns that read from left to right. The poster should be simple and visually appealing, follow a logical format, and be self-explanatory. Although conference instructions may vary, a research poster often follows the sections of the accepted abstract (e.g., use it as an outline).

Poster Sections

  • Title and Authors: Displays poster title, authors, and institutional affiliations in a heading distinct from the rest of the poster, usually positioned at the top.
  • Background or Introduction: Introduces the research problem, gap in literature, and its importance.
  • Objective or Purpose: Clearly states the study aim, hypothesis, or objective(s).
  • Methods: Describes how the research was conducted succinctly and clearly.
  • Results: Presents key study findings using combination of text and figures, tables, charts, or graphs.
  • Conclusions: Summarizes the main study takeaways and future research directions.
  • References: Lists only the essential literature cited in the poster.
  • Acknowledgments: Acknowledges any assistance or financial support for the research.
  • Further Information: Includes author contact information or additional details about the project.

As you design the poster, decide which outcomes you will highlight. What is the main hook of your study – Scope? Population? Hot topic? Pretty picture? Practice a 30-second speech that articulates the most important and interesting findings of your project.

Design Considerations

  • Use one of your University PowerPoint templates, as they have been assembled according to specifications, as well as recommended font, spacing, and color formatting. 
  • Be sure to read the conference poster instructions, which often include the poster board size. It is often recommended to make your final poster size one foot smaller than the board size on each side, but keep printer regulations in mind. Posters can be printed on thick paper, fabric, or vinyl.  PowerPoint is considered the best program to create your poster.
  • Use bullet points, numbering, font and bold formatting, and color strategically to emphasize key points. Use consistent sizing for all headings and body text, no smaller than 30-point font. Allow at least 30% of the poster to be white background space.
  • Use a combination of tables, figures, and images to highlight key information. All tables and figures should have titles, axis labels, legends, and unit increments. All images should have clear titles and legends. Ensure significant results are clearly denoted on figures and add notations, arrows, or circles to guide readers to the most important information. Keep colors consistent throughout the whole poster. Images must be the property of the authors or cited appropriately.
  • Be sure to name and save your presentation file according to conference requirements. Be sure to save the print version in PDF format to preserve formatting and resolution.

During the conference, stand with the poster and present your findings to viewers. Consider providing printed supplements next to the poster board. These can include copies of the abstract, references, or your business cards. Also consider including a QR code that viewers can scan with their smartphone camera, linking them to a webpage with the previously listed supplement suggestions and a copy of the poster.


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Further Reading