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Academic Poster Resources: The Basics

Effective posters created by UC Davis undergraduate student researchers


When deciding how to design your poster, you will want to think carefully about the most effective way to visually present your research to your expected audience. What is the “take-home message” of your work? How will you draw people in?


The Basics

Posters are widely used across academic disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities to display information and to generate discussion. Presenting a poster can be a great way to share research findings with a scholarly community or to get feedback about new work at an early stage in the research process.

Many academic conferences include poster sessions as a part of conference programming, although academic posters may also be displayed in stand-alone events such as poster fairs. In a typical poster session, presenters stand near their posters prepared to speak with interested attendees about their work. Different venues may have rules or requirements around poster presentations, so be sure to check with the place you are planning to present your poster about any specific requirements. Many times when submitting for a poster presentation, you need only submit an abstract. 

There are few absolute rules for designing effective posters. Nonetheless, the best posters typically…

  • Highlight the main point so that it can be read and understood from a distance.

  • Limit the amount of text to 300-800 words -- less is more!

  • Include meaningful images, graphics, or charts to convey information.

  • Make use of basic visual design principles.

  • Are accessible to as many people as possible.

  • Include researcher names and affiliations, references, and funding acknowledgments (if applicable).

Academic posters often follow the basic form of an academic journal article, with distinct sections for the Introduction and/or Problem Statement, Methods, Results or Findings, Discussion, and Conclusions. However, in recent years some scholars have criticized “traditional” poster templates and formats, leading to a proliferation of alternative designs.