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Creating Scholarly Posters in PowerPoint: Sections of a Poster

What is a research poster?

"A large-format poster is a document that can communicate your research at a conference, and is composed of a:

  • short title
  • an introduction to your burning question
  • an overview of your novel approach (methods)
  • your amazing results
  • some insightful discussion of aforementioned results (conclusions
  • a listing of previously published articles that are important to your research  
  • and some brief acknowledgement of the tremendous assistance and financial support conned from others"

Colin Purrinton, Swarthmore College


Not all posters have each section - it depends upon what you are communicating.

If you get close to the word counts listed for each section (not counting the title, references, & acknowledgements) you will have about 900 words.  Therefore, brevity is a must as you convey the most salient points about your research.

Section I: Title & Authors

The title of your poster should be:

  • Meaningful enough to create interest in your project
  • Not so long that it is difficult to fit in the space
  • Avoid acronyms and jargon

Goal:  be catchy so as to draw in the passer by's eye and be no longer than 2 lines long.

Font size:

Title:  about 70 pt

Authors should be listed just under the title.

Font size:

Authors:  about 55 - 60 pt

Section II: Introduction

Your introduction sets the stage for the project and serves to give the reader an overview.  It should peak their interest.  Best practices include:

  • Put your topic within context of published literature
  • Provide description and justification of experimental approach
  • Hint at why your subject is ideal for such research
  • Give a clear hypothesis
  • Minimize the background information and definitions - include just what is highly relevant
  • Don't repeat your abstract

Approximate word count goal:  200 words  

Font size:  

Headings: about 40 - 44 pt

Main text:  about 30 - 36 pt

Section III: Materials & Methods

As it sounds, this is the place to describe your experimental equipment and the research methods you used - but in brief.  In addition to the text, you might want to add:

  • Figures or tables to help describe the design
  • Flow charts to describe the experimental procedures
  • Photographs or labeled drawings of the organism or the equipment used

Shoot for about 200 words in this section.

Font size:  

Headings: about 40 - 44 pt

Main text:  about 30 - 36 pt

Captions:  about 24 - 28 pt

Section IV: Results

Did it work or not?  Cut to the point and add additional details about what was observed as well as the data that support your hypothesis.  Key items to include are:

  • Data analysis
  • Supporting charts, figures, images, or tables - don't forget to refer to them in the text
  • Legends that can stand on their own - assuming that the reader skips to the pictures first

This is the largest section of your poster.  Your images & charts will speak volumes so the goal here is to keep the text to approximate 200 words.

Font size:  

Headings: about 40 - 44 pt

Main text:  about 30 - 36 pt

Captions:  about 24 - 28 pt

Section V: Conclusions

This is the place to sum up and remind readers of your hypothesis and the results.  A few things to cover include:

  • Focus on the take home message
  • Was your hypothesis supported
  • Why the results are conclusive & interesting
  • Relevance of the findings to other published work
  • Future directions

For this section, you may have lots to say.  The text of this section will be a little longer - shoot for about 300 words.

Font size:  

Headings: about 40 - 44 pt

Main text:  about 30 - 36 pt

Section VI: Literature Cited

Your research is based on what is already known.  You may have a long list or a short one.  The poster whould have a concise list of extremely pertinent articles.  If it is a long list - have a reference list as a handout to your poster.  Keep in mind:

  • Be consistent and be precise
  • Follow the format exactly - pick one you know or you may need to use a specific one (like with a manuscript)
  • Consider using a handout if you have more than 10 citations   

Font size:  

Citations:  about 24 pt

Section VII: Acknowledgements

Not always necessary.  You may not have been funded or used anybody's assistance, but it is nice to comment when you have.  Include:

  • Thanks for any individual who made specific contributions to your project (mentor, professor, etc)
  • Thanks for research subjects
  • Mention funding source

Be brief, keep it sincere and a tad formal.  Content varies, so no specific word count for this one.

Font size:  

Thanks:  about 24-28 pt