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Step 1: Choose Software

These are the most common programs students use to design posters. If you do not have access to these on your personal computer, many are available on campus computers or in the Digital Union.

  • Microsoft PowerPoint (used by majority of students)
    Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Illustrator

Step 2: Get Organized and Draft Your Poster Text

Make an outline of all the information that you want to include and begin drafting the written sections in a word document. The basic elements:

  • TITLE:  The title concisely summarizes the idea of your research. Use the same title that you used for your abstract. Keep it to about 10 or fewer words.
  • NAME OF INSTITUTION, SCHOOL, AND AFFILIATIONS: Include your name and the names of the people who contributed to your project (such as your research advisor.)  It is appropriate – and usually expected – to acknowledge the institution where the research took place as well as the affiliation(s) of all who contributed to the project.
  • INTRODUCTION/BACKGROUND: A short paragraph that summarizes why you did this work, and why the work is important. The introduction includes background information on the project, what others have found, etc.
  • METHODS: Describe how you did your work. Let your audience know if you interviewed historians, if you used specific assays to analyze microbial samples, if you traveled to another country to observe a threatened species, if you conducted a survey, etc.
  • RESULTS: What did you find? Many students use graphs and images in addition to text to help interpret their findings. Accompany each graph or image with a one- to two-sentence summary that describes the information. If your research is still a work in progress, make sure to present findings to date.
  • CONCLUSION: A concise summary of your interpretation of the results, plus suggested directions for the future of this work.
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Here is where you give credit to additional people and/or organizations that assisted you, such as funding agencies, an administrative associate who edited your copy, etc. Keep in mind that the people included in the acknowledgements did not actually conduct the research.
  • REFERENCES: A list of all the literature cited in your poster

Step 3: Design and Format Your Poster

While you ultimately decide what your poster will look like, there are general guidelines to follow.  For one, size matters. Some forums have strict size requirements, and it’s best to check with forum administrators for the specifics. A common size is 36” tall by 48” wide. The easels at the OURCI's Denman Undergraduate Research Forum and the Fall Forum call for a maximum poster size of 48" x 48". Branded OSU poster templates are available here, and basic non-OSU templates are available here.

Place all of your information from step two on the poster in a logical order, making it easy for someone to follow. Don’t go overboard with text – it tends to turn viewers off! Keep main text fonts at 24 points, minimum. Experiment with text size. Stick with one or two styles of font, otherwise a poster can look messy and confusing.

Using photos and graphics can help you to make key points about your work and therefore minimize the amount of text you need. Graphs and photos also encourage questions.

Color adds spice and visual interest to your poster. To keep the focus on your research, choose a pattern with few colors. Color is great, but readability is fundamental.

The PosterXpress website offers useful tips, design considerations, and templates for poster production.

Step 4: Print Your Poster

  • on-campus printing options:
    • For detailed information about on-campus printing options, read this article by the Digital Union.

    • Some departments have poster printers which are available for student use. Talk to your research advisor or an administrator in your department to find out more.

    • Medical Visuals in the Health Sciences Library offers fabric posters (great for traveling with a poster)

    • UniPrint will frequently offer specials on poster printing for the Denman and Fall Forum

  • off-campus printing options:

    • FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinko’s),as low as $5/square foot. Please convert poster to PDF before printing. Various locations. Allow 24 to 48 hours for project completion.

    • Fast Signs. Various prices and options. Call or email specific location for a quote.

View examples of other student posters

Advice from students who have been there, done that

  • Start at least two months before your deadline, and set your own due date at least a week before the presentation.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to create a poster, from start to final printing. Allow ample time to proofread, edit and revise.
  • If you know someone who has already created a research poster, ask for their file to get you started. Poking around in their file can give you good ideas for your poster.
  • Make the results the focal point of your presentation.
  • Know your methodology and data backwards and forwards. No one will believe anything you say if they doubt your data.
  • Concentrate on the main points you want the viewer to walk away with. Scrutinize your graphs and images. Don’t intimidate the viewer with jargon and complicated graphics. You want your audience to learn and appreciate the material without making them feel like they also need two years of immersion in the data to really understand it all.
  • Save your poster as a PDF before printing and double check that all of your alignments are correct. Sometimes the printer can shift alignments slightly and there is nothing worse than spending a lot of time and money on a poster to find out that it printed a differently than you planned.
  • Put a thin black border around all of your pictures otherwise the edges look fuzzy.
  • Remember people who are color blind when making a presentation. Using different hues isn't enough; you must use different patterns and contrasts in brightness to ensure everyone can understand your graphs and tables.
  • Ask the printer for a full-size proof before printing your final version. A full-size draft is great for finding mistakes and to practice presenting.
  • Practice a presentation for those in your field and to those who only have a basic knowledge of your research topic.
  • Do not forget to acknowledge those who helped you conduct your research including any funding that you may have received.
  • Do not print your poster at the last minute.
  • Double check everything!