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Writing in the sciences...: Posters

How to design a research poster Part 1

What is a research poster?

Research posters are used to summarise information or research findings in a concise and visually attractive way. Poster displays are used to describe experiments and show research data.

The poster is usually a mix of short pieces of text, images, tables and graphs.

Before you start work on your poster ask yourself:

  • What are the most important / interesting findings from my research?
  • How can I share my research visually?
  • Should I use images, photos, graphs, charts?

Have a look online for some inspiration

Follow the brief / guidelines you have been given for your poster

  • What are the size parameters?
  • Orientation: should my poster be portrait or landscape?
  • When is the submission deadline?
  • Do I need to get my poster professionally printed or mounted?

Who is the intended audience?

  • Think about what information you need to include to get your message across to your target audience
  • Your poster should tell a story
  • Does the audience have any prior knowledge of the topic?

Think about including leaflets to accompany your poster and make sure that your contact details are on them so that any interested parties can take one with them if they want to.

What makes a good poster?

  •     Start with a good Idea / interesting topic
  •     Keep the title concise and to the point
  •     Do a mockup of your poster to try different ideas
  •     Carefully select your information and visuals
  •     Use language that your audience will understand
  •     Word count should be between 300 – 800 words approximately
  •     Your poster should flow and be easy to read
  •     Choose a font that is simple and clear
  •     Using bullet points, numbering and colour make it easier to read
  •     Make sure there are no spelling mistakes
  •     Avoid using acronyms
  •     Include acknowledgements, your name and institutional affiliation

The following are usually included in a poster:

  •     Title
  •     Author, affiliations and contact details
  •     Introduction or background
  •     Materials and methods
  •     Results
  •     References (cite key references integral to your study and use a smaller font to the main body text to save space).
  •     Acknowledgements

What software should I use?

PowerPoint is a good place to start

Creating a research poster using PowerPoint is a multi step process.

  1. Starting your poster:
  2. Create your poster on ONE single slide; choose your page size (your desired print size). You must complete this step before creating your poster.  On the top left hand side of your PowerPoint toolbar go to design, page setup and select you paper size or put in the the size you want your poster to be.  Leave a 1- inch margin around the edges of your poster to prevent having to crop it later.

  1. Flow of your poster:
  2. Your poster should read from top left to bottom right. It is important to maintain a good contrast between the background colour and the text.
  3. Some gradient colour fill backgrounds especially black, will print poorly and may have thin visible lines that you cannot see on your computer. 
  4. Remember the colours you see on your monitor may not be the exact same as your printed poster as monitor colour settings vary.
  5. Try to stick to 2/3 main colours.
  6. Choose  colours that are not too harsh on the eyes.
  7. You can insert objects / shapes to display your text and fill with colour to make them stand out.


  1. Graphics:
  2. Images copied from the web are low resolution (72 dpi) and are not proper quality for a printed poster. Limit image resolution to 150 dpi to ensure printability. 
  3. All pictures (e.g. tif or gif for transparency, jpg for non-transparent images) should be inserted directly into the PowerPoint, not linked from another program.
  4. Jpeg is the preferred image format if you do not need a transparent background.  If you have graphs or charts from Excel, simply copy and paste into PowerPoint. 
  5. Do not enlarge images after they have been inserted into PowerPoint. 
  6. To adjust an image and retain proper proportion, hold the shift key on your keyboard, click, and drag the corners to scale.
  7. Always remember: if you use a graphic from another source you must cite the source.

  1. Text:
  2. The title should be the entire width of your poster with the main text broken into multiple sections. Section headings are useful for guiding the reader. 
  3. Sans-serif fonts like Arial or Times New Roman work well for posters, play around with different fonts to decide which one best suit your poster.

Times New Roman:  ABCDEFG

Arial: ABCDEFG  

  • For consistency, make all the headers the same size, and use the same font size throughout the poster for all body text. 
  • The size of the font depends on the amount of text on your poster, however it's best not to use a font size smaller than 18 points or the text will be too difficult to read.
  • If you are copying your text form another file (e.g. word document), make sure you paste it into a text box in PowerPoint so that you will be able to edit it if you need to.

5. Saving to PDF

  • Printing services will require a PDF file set to your custom page size for printing, so after you have proofread and edited your poster "save As" a PDF file.

If you don't want to use PowerPoint you could try other open source alternatives online.

·Piktochart – Infographic Creator

·Poster My Wall



Useful Sources


Scientific Poster Tutorials

Graphic Design Tips

Example of poor poster design