Design & Design Principles
1. The Parts of a Scientific Poster
Jump to Section: The Basics | Poster Anatomy | General Tip
I have my research completed; but now what?
If you've made your way to this PowerPoint Research Poster Tutorial, you're probably already familiar with scientific posters, but need some help making one yourself. If this is your first time creating a research poster or just need some pointers to take your poster to the next level, you've come to the right place.
Scientific poster presentations1 are usually large posters that students and professionals use to effectively communicate research at a scientific meeting. Remember those poster boards used in elementary school for book reports? Research posters are generally a bit larger and designed on a computer with software such as PowerPoint, and then printed out on a wide-format printer.
"Scientific posters" is a term used loosely since not all contain scientific information or even research. Regardless of the content, the presenter's goal is to display information in a clear, concise manner, while generating interest to engage in a discussion. Poster conferences usually host rows and rows of research posters, so the poster should be able to be easily scanned by passersby. Most poster sessions suggest that the poster should be readable from six feet away and able to be completely read in ten minutes.
The Anatomy of a Scientific Poster
If your poster is clear and concise, an individual should be able to read it in less than 10 minutes.
The content of a research poster is generally broken up into a few sections. The heading usually contains a short title, author, and affiliation. A school, company, or organization logo is also a nice touch. Depending on what applies to your topic, you could break the content into the following sections: an introduction to your research question, an overview of your approach, a discussion regarding your results, your conclusion, references for the materials that you have used, and an acknowledgment of the support and assistance from others.
A well thought out title will attract viewers and will clarify the subject matter of your poster. Assuming the overall look of your poster has gotten their attention, you need to make sure that the title keeps it. Make sure to keep the length of the title as brief as possible without taking away crucial information. The title should be no longer than 2 lines.
Most meetings will require you to submit an abstract2 for approval before admitting you to present for their poster session. Many times the abstract is also made available in a “meeting catalogue” or online database for later viewing by meeting attendees. The majority of posters we print do not contain an abstract. However if you have to include an abstract on your poster, make it very short; remember, the poster itself is already a condensed report of your work.
When constructing your introduction try to keep it to 1-2 paragraphs. (Roughly 150 words).
Avoid using technical definitions unless absolutely necessary. The introduction section is here to introduce your issue, so be sure to not bore your readers right away with excessive information. You can even include graphics if they will help the viewer understand the work that you have done.
Materials and Methods
In this section you will cover the materials and methods (shocking!) that you used in your research process. Feel free to include any images, charts, or graphs here that will help the viewer better understand your process. Also, don’t forget to provide a rationale to explain why you chose these methods! This is just as important as the steps you took.
It’s always a good idea to begin the Results section with an initial summary of your results. Don’t address your research question just yet; instead, just address the general aspects of the data you collected or the number of valid data obtained.
In your next paragraph, you can discuss the relationship between the data and your research question. What exactly does your data mean? Be sure to include any graphics that can help show you data visually, as the readers can understand graphics more easily and quickly than blocks of text.
Sometimes less is more. Be selective when deciding what images, charts, and graphs make it onto your poster!
Charts and graphs are usually more effective than tables, but whatever you choose to use, make sure everything is labeled clearly! A graph with missing labels or a table without a title will just leave the reader confused. Also, carefully consider what type of chart or graph will best show your results. K. Broman, professor of Biostatistics & Medical Informatics at the University of Wisconsin Madison has written a great article titled, “The Top Ten Worst Graphs.” (http://www.biostat.wisc.edu/~kbroman/topten_worstgraphs/) For more hints of graphs and tables visit our section on effective graphs & charts.
In your conclusion section you want to briefly review your research questions and the results you obtain. You also should add why your results are interesting or significant. TIPS: Relate your results to other published research in the field. This will give your research more impact on your readers as well as show your professionalism in the study. You can also suggest continuing research that would build upon your current study.
If you have an extremely extensive list of references, you may want to break it into 2 columns.
It is very important to follow the format required by the conference you are attending. It is common to shrink the font of the References section if it becomes overbearing and long.
You can acknowledge people who have helped you with your work, such as other members of your research group or your funding source. If there are any conflicts of interest regarding you and the work you have presented, be sure to include that here. It is always important to keep you and your work above reproach. Keep this section as short as possible. Fewer than 40 words is best.
A lot of posters include this section so the readers are able to contact the author later or read more about the research. You can include your email or website address, links to relevant resources, or even a QR code that viewers can scan to go directly to your website or a PDF version of your poster. If you choose to include this section, keep it very brief.
Once again, regardless of the content, keep it simple and don't overload with text. Brevity is key! Summarize your information and remember the goal is to make your poster easy to scan over quickly, so use bulleted lists whenever possible. While you may not be a graphic designer, think about how you could present the information in a more visually interesting way. Use charts and graphs wherever possible instead of harder to read tables or paragraphs of text. Creative infographics have become increasingly popular and are a great way to convey information more attractively.