The purpose of a poster is to provide a visual summary of your research project that outlines your key message or argument as well as the key points or findings from your research. A poster uses very few words - usually 300 - 500 max combined with appropriate visuals and graphics. You want your poster to get noticed and you want it to showcase your research, so aim to make it eye catching, clear and succinct.
As with any piece of academic writing, the key to a good poster is a clear message and structure to support that message. This will enable you to get your message across to your audience in the clearest possible way.
Your poster is telling a story - the story of your research. A story requires a narrative with ideas that connect to each other. The parts of the story will differ from project to project and between disciplines but the main parts will be the following.
- Title - this is very important as it catches the audience's attention and attracts them to read on.
- Introduction - Give very brief background context and an indication of the issue, problem or research gap. What is significant or particularly important about your research?
- Aim - what is the problem that you are addressing? Hypothesis?
- Methods - how did you go about your research?
- Results and findings - what were the key results?
- Conclusion - did your results support your hypothesis? What did you find out regarding the problem/question you were addressing? What message do you want the reader to take from your poster?
- Other - this will depend on the particular context. You may need to include acknowledgements, further information, contact information etc.
Layout and design
A poster is by its very nature visual so you need to make it visually appealing. Keeping the design simple and minimalistic will help to showcase your research. In terms of the information that you have decided to include, work out if you can use visuals instead of words, such as the following.
Don't forget to include appropriate captions and references to your visuals.
Where you do need words, consider using dot points. Break the text into sections or small chunks that you can place strategically around the poster. Use a large font. When designing your poster, ask yourself if a viewer will find it appealing and easy to understand.