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Poster content

What is a poster and what goes into it?

A poster is a snapshot of your research. It is neither as detailed as an article nor as brief as an abstract. The goal is to provide enough information so that a detailed discussion can be carried out based on it, yet remain short enough that someone can scan the poster in a few minutes and understand what your research is about. It is important to think about the audience when designing a research poster. 

There may be some differences between posters created for the sciences versus the humanities but the goal is the same.

A good poster should have:

  1. A catchy title. The title is one of the first things that someone might see when passing by your poster. A catchy title can entice someone to stop and spend a few minutes at your poster. In addition to the title, the header of your poster must also contain the author name(s), the name of your school (and logo, if you have permission to use it).
  2. An introduction. This section can contain your thesis statement, the goals or objectives of your research, your motivations for carrying out the research and a brief literature review.
  3. An overview of the methods. This section should discuss the methods used. You may also discuss the rationalization for your method or why it is suitable for this kind of research.
  4. Results/discussion. This section shows the data you collected and/or an analysis of the data. Charts, graphs, pictures can be used here to show trends that might be hard to see if a data table were used instead. The idea is to highlight the key aspects of your data or data analysis in a way that is easy for anyone to see.
  5. A strong conclusion. This section highlights the important aspects gained from this research. It can also highlight the importance of the work as a whole. Researchers who intend to continue working on this project will also add some further direction in this section to give a preview of what aspect they may research in the future.
  6. A references section. Don't forget to cite any sources used, including images or graphics that you used that were not yours. Ensure you know the copyright laws regarding images since your poster will be displayed in a public area.
  7. Acknowledgements. It is important to thank those that contributed to your research, including your professor or supervisor, the institution and any funding-related sponsors you may have had.

See the resources linked below for more tips on presenting various aspects of your poster content.

Poster design

Poster design is important

Unlike an oral presentation, people will need to be visually enticed to stop at your poster. Additionally, a poster is a visual medium. The visual aspects and organization of your poster can have a significant impact on the success of your poster presentation. 

  1. Organize your information into sections. Resist the temptation to use too many words. Use only as many words as needed to get the message across.
  2. Ensure flow between sections. It is thought that people scan a poster in either a Z format or in columns. Whichever style you choose, make it obvious for the reader so they know how to follow along. Clear section headings or numbering your sections can help.
  3. Use pictures, graphs or charts to display data or trends. They say a picture is worth a thousand words or in this case, numbers. Make it easier for your reader to understand why the data is important.
  4. Use color appropriately. The use of color requires balance. Too much color can overpower your poster and too little can make it visually bland.
  5. Font size is important. Remember that most people will initially stop between 5 and 10 feet away from your poster. If they can't read your poster from that point, they may just choose to move on. 

The posters below are samples to give you ideas on how to approach your poster's design. 

 The resources linked below have excellent tips on visual design and many include pictorial examples.

Sample Posters

The sample presented below are to give you a visual idea of what a poster might look like and to spark your imagination. The best posters are created when you use your own sense of creativity and style.

Humanities poster sample
Click below for larger image
    Science poster sample
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How to Design Better Research Posters

From Visually.

Presenting your poster

You submitted an abstract, got accepted, did the research and created the poster and now you stand beside your poster waiting for a visitor or adjudicator to ask you about your research.

Tips for answering questions about your poster (graciously provided by Anne Scrimger)

  1. ​Listen to what the person is asking. Are they asking you for an overview, or do they have  a specific question? Listening is an important skill. If you don’t listen, you cannot answer the question correctly.
  2. Do you understand their question? If you’re not sure then clarify it repeating it back in a different way and look for affirmation from your visitor.
  3. Answer the question using a general three-point format: a) Introduction: Introduce yourself (by name) and what you studied and what motivated your research. b) Results: Describe the relevant results that help to answer the question that they asked. c) Conclusion: Explain how the results supports your case, state any missing pieces of information and describe any further research you intend to do that may add to the answer in the future.
  4. Ask the visitor if they would like to know more about anything you described and whether you answered their question.
  5. Think about your audience. Avoid jargon and acronyms unless you are sure the person knows the terminology.

We would like to acknowledge the work of Zahra Premji, who created the inaugural version of this guide in 2016

Copyright - Do you have permission to reuse an image?

In-class presentations and public presentations off campus have different copyright rules. While it may be OK to use an image you found on the Internet and cite it for an in-class presentation, presentations shared publicly online or off campus should only use images where the copyright holder has given permission for their reuse (for example, the image is licensed CC-BY).  Visit the Copyright Guide or reach out to the MRU Copyright Advisor at for more information. 


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Cari Merkley

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