How to create a great research poster!

Research posters are a multi-modal communication genre combining text with graphics, colour, as well as speech and interaction with audience, to convey meaning. Posters are useful because they convey meaning efficiently, and they can facilitate more informal discussions between presenters and peers than other research communication modes. Posters are typically used in the sciences, but they may also be used in the social sciences. They may be used in academic conferences as well as workplaces or other settings.

Posters should convey the meaning on their own, and, when verbally explained by presenters, their meaning should be communicated economically, enabling discussion beyond the immediate outline of the research. There are three aspects of a good poster presentation: visual display and organisation, research content, and the presenter's attentiveness and communication with viewers. Some tips and resources for designing and presenting an effective poster are provided below. 

Watch a YouTube on how to create a great poster! Click the image to view.

Posters good and bad


Ensure key information can be comprehended in approximately five to ten minutes (less than 1000 words).

Checklist: Visual features of a well-constructed poster

  • Use colour, bolding and other visual aspects to foreground important points.
  • Ensure images, graphs and figures, and text complement one another to communicate key messages.
  • However, ensure images, graphs and figures, and text are not dependent on one another for meaning.
  • Use large type (should be readable from approximately one metre).
  • Limit the number of words to convey only essential information.
  • Use white space around text boxes and figures.
  • Make text boxes 45-65 characters wide (shorter or longer is harder to read).
  • Avoid dark backgrounds for text boxes (dark text on white is easier to read).
  • The text reads from left to right (because most people read like this).
  • Convey complex methods as a flow chart or diagrammatically.
  • Ensure key information can be comprehended in approximately five to ten minutes (less than 1000 words).

Order of content

Research posters follow the same story line as all research communication. The order of content is as follows:

  • title at the top in large text, approximately one inch high;
  • author name, author affiliation, and affiliation logo beneath the title;
  • brief statement of purpose;
  • method, subjects, procedure (for empirical research);
  • results or main findings;
  • conclusions;
  • individual contact for questions and photograph of yourself;
  • acknowledgement of any assistance of financial support received to produce the research;
  • literature cited.

Steps in putting together your poster 

  • Consider the context. Where will the poster be displayed? This will influence how big you make it, and perhaps your choice of colours (chosen so that the poster stands out from the background colour.
  • Decide on the software program you will use for your poster (see below).
  • Decide on the information you want to provide, and go ahead and produce the text.
  • Decide on the images, graphs and figures you want to use and what software program you will use to produce them.
  • Now you can think about the design of the layout of your poster.
  • Consider what headings to use to break-up the content.
  • Print your poster using durable paper. Consider having it laminated.
  • Go to your conference and present your poster!
  • Hang your poster in your School or office after the conference. 

Tips for presenting your poster face-to-face 

  • Convey only the basic information in a summary form, enabling the presenter and viewer to explore the research further in conversation.
  • Point to the poster to explain or illustrate your summary.

What software should I use?

Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign are good for posters, including lots of high-resolution images, but they are more complex and expensive.

Advice for using PowerPoint

Watch a YouTube on software for posters! Click the image to view.

Watch a YouTube on software

Open source alternatives

OpenOffice Impress is a free alternative to PowerPoint in MS Office.

Inkscape and Gimp are alternatives to Adobe products.

Gliffy or Lovely Charts are good for charts.

Glog is a visual learning platform that enables text, graphics, images, wallpaper, audio, video and web ($29 for individuals, $390 for 10 teachers/250 students).

Useful web sites

University of Brighton and

Colin Purrington :

Useful references for different disciplines

Block, S.M. (1996). Do's and don'ts of poster presentations. Biophysical Journal 71, 3527-3529.

Bracher, L., Cantrell, J., & Wilkie, K. (1998). The process of poster presentation: a valuable experience. Medical Teacher 20, 552-557.

D'Angelo, L. (2010). Creating a framework for the analysis of academic posters, Language Studies Working Papers, 2, 38-50.

Denzine, G.M. (1999). An example of innovative teaching: preparing graduate students for poster presentations. Journal of College Student Development 40, 91-93.

Hay, I., & Thomas, S.M. (1999). Making sense with posters in biological science education. Journal of Biological Education 33, 209-214.

MacIntosh-Murray, A. (2007). Poster presentations as a genre in knowledge communication. A case study of forms, norms and values. Science Communication 28, 347-376. 50

Matthews, L.D. (1990). The scientific poster: guidelines for effective visual communication. Technical Communication 37, 225-232.

Miracle, V.A. (2003). How to do an effective poster presentation in the workplace. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing 22, 171-72.

Naerssen, van M. (1984). Science conference poster presentations in an ESP program. The ESP Journal 3, 47- 52.

Powell-Tuck, J., Leach, S., & MacCready, L. (2002). Electronic poster presentations in BAPEN: a controlled evaluation. Clinical Nutrition 21, 261-263.

Waehler, C.A., & Welch, A.A. (1995). Preferences about APA posters. American Psychologist 50, 727.

Wang, J.C., Yoo, S., & Delamarter, R.B. (1999). The publication rates of presentations at major Spine Specialty Society meetings. Spine 24, 425-427.

Woolsey, J.D. (1989). Combating poster fatigue: how to use visual grammar and analysis to effect better visual communication. Transactions in Neurosciences 12, 325-32.

Wright, V., & Moll, J.M. (1987). Proper poster presentations: a visual and verbal ABC. British Journal of Rheumatology 26, 292-294.