10 Tips on Writing a Research Poster

by on 23rd of October, 2007 in Writing, Publishing & Presenting
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Nick Oswald started Bitesize Bio on a Macbook on his kitchen table in 2007 while in his 7th year of working as a molecular biologist in biotech. He made it his day job in 2010 and has been loving it ever since.
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Poster presentations are a great way to show off your hard work, especially if you are just starting out in research.

They are much less stressful than oral presentations, but still provide great networking opportunities and valuable practice at talking about your work.

Follow these simple tips to create an attractive poster that will draw readers in and get people talking (to you!)

  1. Choose your content wisely. The information you can get across on a poster is very limited. Choose a single aspect of your research that you think you can explain fully in a small amount of text and graphics and focus on that alone.
  2. Use Powerpoint to set out your poster. The great thing about this is that your Powerpoint file can be sent directly to the printers for printing when you are done. posterpresentations.com have some great layouts that will help you. Choose a layout that fits the space allocated to you by the poster session organizer.
  3. Make your layout flow. The flow of your poster should be natural and obvious to the reader. eposters.net have lots of posters that have been deposited there by their authors. Take a look at them (especially the award-winning ones) and work out the type of layouts you think work well. You could also deposit your finished poster there for others to see.
  4. Avoid the simple, classic mistakes. Don't use color schemes that are bold or whacky, don't use more than two font types and DON'T USE UPPER CASE! A personal request from me: Please don't use ridiculous fonts like Comic Sans for communicating serious work… maybe I think about these things too much!
  5. Get the title right. The first thing passers-by will look at is the title so make it as interesting and informative as possible. Use a font that can be read from 10-15 feet; a font size of around 60-90 point should suffice.
  6. Make it visual. Your brilliant title has drawn the attention of the passer-by. The next question that comes into their head will invariably be "how long will it take me to read this thing". To keep them there, make sure your poster is primarily visual, mainly using figures to tell your story. Make sure your figures are self-explanatory so that the reader does not have to read the text to work out what they mean.
  7. Edit your text, then edit it again. In a poster, text is your enemy because people need to get into your story quickly or they will tend to walk away, so work hard to have as little of it as possible. Write the text then go over it again and again, taking out anything that is not completely necessary. Short sentences and bullet points are good.
  8. Use space. Don't cram your poster full of information. Blank space is good as it makes the poster seem less complicated and more approachable. Blank space can also be used to accentuate important parts of the poster e.g. the conclusion. Less is more, as they say.
  9. Ask a friend to look at your poster before you print it, preferably a scientist who is not familiar with the exact subject area. Take on board their comments about the poster's readability and overall appeal.
  10. Stay at your poster and talk to people. There's no point in making a great poster and standing in the bar during the poster session. Stay with your poster and offer to talk people through it. Don't miss this great networking opportunity. If you have business cards, pin them to the poster board so people can catch up with you later if you are not around.

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