Making Good Posters: Step by Step

In general, the text in a poster is much briefer and less detailed than that in a research paper. Your audience will be walking around looking at several posters, perhaps from 2-3 meters away. Write your text with this in mind. Keep everything simple and clear. Your audience can ask for details. Make text and charts large. A photograph or other illustration can be nice, but donít clutter the poster.

  1. Decide on a clear, simple main message. This is your title. Put your names after it.
  2. Use one sentence to say what you did (no details). Use one sentence to say what you found out. You can use another sentence for another major finding. These 2 or 3 sentences are your abstract.
  3. Write a short paragraph explaining why you did your experiment. State the hypothesis (or hypotheses) you are testing. Use one or two references to show what is already known or has already been done. Use proper citation form. This is your introduction.
  4. Briefly explain what you did. This is your methods section.
  5. Use Excel or a similar program to make a graph to illustrate your main findings. Your message should jump out at the reader, so use summary data such as a mean (average) rather than points for each subject unless you are looking at a correlation. Use the correct type of chart. Avoid tables. Avoid 3-D effects and other "chart junk" that will distract or confuse the reader.
  6. Write a brief paragraph about what you found. Refer to your graphs. Include statistical results here. "This difference was statistically significant (t test, P < 0.03)." This is your results or data section.
  7. Write a brief paragraph explaining what your data mean. Remember that while you can support or reject a hypothesis, you canít prove it. Mention anything a future researcher might want to do differently or point out a new avenue of research suggested by your work. This is your discussion.
  8. List your references using proper APA or CBE style. See the Guide to Writing in Biology for examples.
  9. Now print all these elements in large, readable fonts on separate pieces of paper. Trim the paper to the text. Arrange the elements on your board in a logical order. If it wonít all fit, throw out illustrations and make your text more concise. Get everything how you want it before you start gluing.

Last update: 4/18/02 by Rebecca Burton, Dept. of Biology, Alverno College