Creating Research Posters

Consider Your Message

Before you begin building your poster, ask yourself: What is the central message I'm hoping to convey with this poster? This could be why the research that you did was important, a particularly surprising or interesting result, or how you plan to expand on the research in the future. As you begin to design your poster, keep that message in mind; the choices you make about the poster's content and, to a lesser extent, design should be made to support that central message.

General Research Poster Formatting

Research posters, by and large, follow a general set of guidelines without all being the same, much in the same way that research papers often follow a familiar structure:

An example of the general formatting for a research poster

  1. The poster's title (centered at the top) followed the names of the authors; each author is usually listed with their associated department or academic institution, along with perhaps an email address
  2. The poster's content, broken up into 3 or 4 columns or equal (or nearly-equal) width
  3. The content of the poster is broken up into different sections, each with an accompanying heading, just like a research paper

Create a Visual Outline

It's a good idea to outline the key points you'll need to include while making a rough sketch of the poster.

A photograph depicting a poster being sketched out on notebook paper

Image from Indiana University's IT Training Tips blog

This will help you figure out how much information you'll be able to include, what kind of graphs or charts you may need to make, and how the content will look one the poster when finished. No need to get fancy, this is just a visual outline to get you thinking about the process.

Finding Poster Examples

It's not always easy to find examples of research posters, especially in a specific subject area. A good resource for tips, examples, and critiques of existing academic posters is the Better Posters blog run by Prof. Zen Faulkes of University of Texas Rio Grade Valley:

Another option could be to check repositories such as DigitalCommons, which is primarily used for articles but does also contains some research posters. There is a list of subject categories at the bottom of the page and, once in the chosen subject area, a search for "poster" should bring up relevant results. The Undergraduate Research Commons is a section of DigitalCommons specifically for undergraduate research, and posters there can be found in a similar manner.

The #betterposter Model

In early 2019 Mark Morrison, at the time a doctoral student in psychology at Michigan State University, posted a video to YouTube detailing his concept of a "better" research poster. This model explicitly states the central message in extremely large letters at the center of the poster, with all other information pushed to a much smaller portion of the poster.

Morrison has posted PowerPoint templates for landscape and portrait-style posters to the Open Science Framework: