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Poster Presentations

A guide to researchers preparing posters or presentations for scientific conferences

Health Sciences Librarian

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Peter Johnson
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What are Research Posters?

Poster presentations disseminate research in a visually appealing way. This visualization of data allows researchers to share their findings in memorable and much more interesting way.

A study conducted by JR Goodhand in 2011 showed that the more visually appealing a poster is, the better the perceived scientific merit and originality appears to be. It also found that  the factors which increased a posters' visual appeal included their scientific content, picture/graphs and limited use of words" (Goodhand, 2011)."

So, when planning your poster remember the saying, "quality over quantity!"


Goodhand JR, Giles CL, Wahed M, Irving PM, Langmead L, Rampton DS. Poster presentations at medical conferences: an effective way of disseminating research?. Clin Med (Lond). 2011;11(2):138–141. doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.11-2-138

Poster Outline

Start by creating an outline for your poster. To focus your topic, answer the following questions:

  • What is your main message?
    • Narrow it down to a sentence and that is your title
  • What are the objectives of your study?
    • This can be highlighted in your introduction or the main body of your poster
  • Who is your target audience?
    • Scientists? Physicians? - Use high level medical and scientific terminology
    • Peers? Undergraduates or the general public? - Use less complex terms and explain it to laymen

Section I: Title and Authors

Titles should be:

  • Meaningful enough to create interest in your project
  • Not so long that it is difficult to fit in the space
  • Avoid acronyms and jargon
  • Make the title catchy to draw in the passer by, but limit it to 2 lines long 
  • Title font size: about 80 pt

‚ÄčAuthors should be listed just under the title.

  •  Authors font size: about 60 pt


Section II: Introduction

Your introduction sets the stage for the project and serves to give the reader an overview.  It should peak their interest.  Best practices include:

  • Put your topic within context of published literature
  • Provide description and justification of experimental approach
  • Give a clear hypothesis
  • Minimize the background information and definitions - include just what is highly relevant
  • Don't repeat your abstract

Approximate word count goal:  200 words  

Font size:  

Headings: about 44 pt

Main text:  about 32 pt

Section III: Materials and Methods

This is the place to describe your experimental equipment and the research methods you used - but in brief.  In addition to the text, you might want to add:

  • Figures or tables to help describe the design
  • Flow charts to describe the experimental procedures
  • Photographs or labeled drawings of the organism or the equipment used

This section may be about 200 words.

Font size:  

Headings: about 44 pt

Main text:  about 32 pt

Captions:  about 28 pt

Section IV: Results

Did it work or not?  Cut to the point and add additional details about what was observed as well as the data that support your hypothesis.  Key items to include are:

  • Data analysis
  • Supporting charts, figures, images, or tables
  • Legends that can stand on their own - assuming that the reader skips to the pictures first

This is the largest section of your poster.  Your images & charts will speak volumes so the goal here is to keep the text to approximate 200 words.

Font size:  

Headings: about 44 pt

Main text:  about 32 pt

Captions:  about 28 pt

Section V: Conclusions

This is the place to sum up and remind readers of your hypothesis and the results.  A few things to cover include:

  • Focus on the take home message
  • Was your hypothesis supported?
  • Why the results are conclusive & interesting
  • Relevance of the findings to other published work
  • Future directions (optional)

The text of this section may be 200-300 words.

Font size:  

Headings: about 44 pt

Main text:  about 32 pt

Section VI: References

Your research is based on what is already known.  You may have a long list or a short one.  The poster should have a concise list of extremely pertinent articles.  If it is a long list - have a reference list as a handout to your poster.  Keep in mind:

  • Be consistent and be precise
  • Follow the format exactly - pick one you know or you may need to use a specific one (like with a manuscript)
  • Consider using a handout if you have more than 10 citations   

Font size:  

Citations: about 24 pt



Attribution (LibGuides Collaboration)

The authors would like to thank The University of California San Diego Library, the National Institute of Health, and the University of Michigan Library for allowing us to adapt material from their LibGuides and presentations.