Written papers are the traditional way to share research results at professional meetings, but poster sessions have been gaining popularity in many fields. Posters are particularly effective for sharing quantitative data, as they provide a good format for presenting data visualizations and allow readers to peruse the information at leisure. For students they are a great teaching tool, as preparing a good poster also requires clear and concise writing.
Making a poster is easy, but making a really good poster is hard. I have found the guidelines below helpful to students. The most important piece of advice, however, is the one true for all writing—write, read and revise; write, read and revise; write, read and revise!
- Make your poster using PowerPoint. This will allow you to put in text via text boxes as well as to paste in charts, graphs, tables, maps, and pictures. It is easy! To get your pictures and text boxes to line up consistently, use snap to grid. In the Format tab choose Arrange>>Align and then Grid Setting. Select to view the grid and to snap to the grid. You can set the grid size here as well.
- Use a single slide. In the Design Tab pick Page Setup, select custom, and then set the width and height to maximize your slide, given the locally-available paper size. At Grinnell the paper width available is 36”, so we set the width to 45” and the height to 36”. Use “landscape” for your orientation.
- As in a written paper, have a descriptive title. Put the title (in 68 point type or larger) at the top of the poster. Place your name and college affiliation in slightly smaller type immediately below it.
- The exact sections of the poster will vary some depending on the project, but include an abstract placed either under the title or in the upper left column.
- As in a written paper, be sure you have a good thesis and present it early in the poster, support it with evidence, then remind your audience of it as you conclude. Finish with a minimum of citations and acknowledgements in the lower right hand corner.
- Posters should read sequentially from the upper left, down the left column, then down the central column (if you have one) and finally down the right column. Alternative layouts are possible, but the order in which the poster is read must be obvious.
- Use a large font–a minimum of 28 point.
- Limit the number of words. Be concise and think of much of your text as captions for illustrations.
- Use lots of charts, graphs, maps, and other pictures. Be sure to label your figures and refer to them in the text.
- Make your poster attractive. Use color. Pay attention to layout. Do not have large empty areas.