Creating and Presenting a Poster

Poster presentations are the primary format used at the annual Student Research Day by students to present their advanced majors, honours, or graduate work.  Although guidelines are suggested below, students are encouraged to utilize a format that best suits what they are working on. Please keep in mind that posters should be created to fit approximately one-half a poster board.  Dimensions cannot be specifically given as the poster boards used vary in size.

When creating your poster the following things should be kept in mind:

Posters can be an effective way to present research findings or works in progress.  Increasingly, they are a popular format used at conferences because they promote a relaxed atmosphere and allow for effective two-way dialogue between presenter and audience.  They also can be useful for obtaining feedback on your research results and ideas – and thus are good practice for your thesis defense!

Posters come in many shapes and sizes, though the exact format is usually dictated by the meeting organizers.  Most often, they are printed on a single sheet of drafting paper where facilities exist, but can also be prepared using several 8.5" by 11" panels that can be arranged attractively.  Regardless of the format you’ve chosen (single large poster or many pages systematically arranged), the following guidelines should be adhered to:

1. The display board surface is approximately 1.2 meters by 1.2 meters (half of a poster board).  The title, author(s), and department should be prominently displayed across the top border with lettering height between 2.5 to 5.0 cm.

2. Poster displays busy include the ABSTRACT (in the upper left hand corner) and other TEXT NARRATIVE.  Depending on the focus of the research, one also typically includes some or all of TABLES, FIGURES, ILLUSTRATIONS, PHOTOGRAPHS, and LEGENDS.  These materials will be viewed from about 1 meter distance, so choose large type or print font and points that can be read from that distance.  For example, a Times font in 18 point that results in 11 characters and spaces per horizontal inch, and 4 lines per vertical inch, works well.

3. There are many effective materials to use for your display, ranging simply from paper, to paper and photographs mounted on thin poster board, to having the display printed on a 1.2 meter by 1.2 meter scroll (approximately - ideally, your poster should be slightly smaller than the poster board it is displayed on).  Avoid mounting material on thick or heavy backing, as the push pins will not be able to secure it to the display boards.

4. Include and arrange your material so a coherent and straight-forward story is told without your presence.  Emphasize the most important points and avoid overwhelming the viewer with too much detail.  Specific recommendations include:

     * In the INTRODUCTION, - briefly summarize the necessary background that led to this work, clearly identify the purpose or specific aims of the present experiment, and identify the questions asked or hypothesis(es) tested.

     * Provide sufficient detail of the EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN and the METHODS employed to do the work, including the number and necessary demographics of the human or animal subjects studied.

     * RESULTS can be effectively presented by table, figure, illustration, and/or photograph.  Make each stand on its own, so the viewer doesn’t have to refer elsewhere on the display to understand the important message(s).  For each table, figure, etc., a lucid INTERPRETATIVE LEGEND will go a long way in highlighting and briefly discussing essential points.

     * SUMMARY and CONCLUSION – briefly, what are the vital “bottom lines” of your work.

     * ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – identify funding source(s), institutional support, individuals who have contributed significantly but what are not listed as authors, etc.

5. In addition to the need for larger and dark lettering, other fundamentals to consider:

     * Keep tables and figures simple and uncluttered

     * Strong visual contrast is a must.  Many people have difficulty distinguishing closely related colors, like green from blue, or among subtle shades of a primary color, particularly against incompatible background colors.  Keep in mind that up to 10% of people who view your work will have some degree of color blindness.

     * Most graphic software programs have innumerable options for color and symbol shape.  Although many are terrific options, it may also be the case that other choices that look reasonable on your computer screen will be ineffective when printed.  Depending on your specific needs, don’t forget that there is much to be said for using large and unique symbols or shading patterns to distinguish groups and conditions, with a more sparing use of color to make these distinctions.

There are many useful online resources for poster layout and design. Some are targeted at Microsoft PowerPoint and Word users, and others mention fancier graphics programs that can be used if available (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw).  Have a surf online, assess what tools you have available and start organizing your thoughts.  You'll find that it will be done in no time!