What is a Research Poster?

Research posters serve a significant role in academia, as they are often used in universities internally, as well as at various conferences. Research posters allow scientists and other academics to share the results of their studies in a standardized format, enabling the members of the academic and research community to easily consume the information. Usually, research posters are classically printed on paper of varying dimensions depending on the requirements of the governing body overseeing the venue, however, there is a growing trend for research posters to also being presented in a digital format. Research posters summarize the studies with the use of words as well as illustrations, with the latter involving figures, tables, graphs, and even just pictures. The presentation of new discoveries or information is conveyed in a summary and often ends with future implications, needs, and contact information.

Poster Contents

A research poster will have components that are based upon the steps of the scientific method, a standard in the industry. There are variations that exist regarding the names of the components, what information may be contained in each component, and even what is required to be on a research poster will vary. Research posters are a great way to display research at conferences and many hold poster sessions for this very reason. When building your research poster, these are the traditional sections that are expected:

The title of a research poster is so important as it informs the reader what the study is about. While the title of a research poster often is the name of the research study and eventually the manuscript, researchers should take some care in choosing a title. This becomes especially important for a research poster considering readers will often make a quick decision on whether to read your poster based upon not only the quick appearance of the overall poster, but also simply on the title alone.

Here are some things to consider when creating a title for a research poster:

        • Keep the title simple and focused
        • Keep it less than 15 words, if possible
        • Avoid biased or sensationalized words or phrases
        • Font should be the largest of any text on the poster (e.g., 50-120 point font)
        • While staying true to the previous points, the title should draw in the reader to want to read more

The title should be the largest object on the poster, and all the research author names should be located somewhere near the title. Include authors’ appropriate affiliations and post-nominal letters (such as PhD).

Authors are typically under the title in smaller font. The credentials often follow the name of the author, though on occasion credentials may be instructed to be left out. The order of authors typically follows the order that would be recorded in a manuscript. While the rules dictating the order will vary across industries, the order of prominence and input are common practices.

An abstract is simply a paragraph that summarizes the results of the research findings. Some authors feel it serves as a good summary for the research poster, as well. Often times an abstract is required to be written as part of the application process for a poster presentation. Strict guidelines for how many words are allowed in the abstract will vary, but are typically between 200 to 500 words. There is an art to writing an abstract that serves to summarize the research study highlighted in the research poster. With that said, it is of the opinion that, unless the abstract is required to be included in a research poster, the abstract should be excluded. The reason being is that a research poster is already a summary of the research study. Having an abstract within a research poster is rather redundant and also takes up a large portion of real estate on the research poster. An Abstract is often not needed on a Poster but will likely be required when submitting your conference proposal.

If you add an Abstract to your poster, consider the following:

        • Explain why your work is important – set the context and pre-empt the question “So what?”
        • Describe the objective(s) of your work. What are you adding to current knowledge?
        • Briefly explain the methods. Unless the research is about methods, this should not be a major focus of your abstract (or your poster).
        • Succinctly state results, conclusions, and recommendations. This is what most people want to know. Do not say “We present the results of our study and recommendations for action” – tell them what you found and recommend!

The Introduction section is often the first narrative section of a research poster, if not preceded by either an abstract or a Background section. An introduction typically provides the background information (if a Background section is not already required for the conference) that enables a reader to know what is needed to overall understand certain elements of a particular study. This section should eventually leads to the purpose and/or goals of the study. Ultimately, the Introduction informs the reader on why the study is so important and what it contributes to the current body of knowledge.

Methods and Materials (sometimes also titled Materials and Methods) serves as a way of conveying to the reader what equipment and tools were utilized to conduct the study, as well as the methodology for how researchers were came to their conclusions.  This knowledge serves to, 1) allow others to reproduce the study by knowing what is needed and by what was done, 2) ability for others to assess and evaluate the methodology of the study.

The results section serves to present the data collected from the study. Often, the data includes figures such as graphs, tables, or charts. While more data is often collected that what is eventually presented on the research poster, the most important results should be highlighted and presented in such a way that is easily consumable by readers. Proper headings, labels, and descriptions should accompany each figure. The importance of the results section cannot be stressed enough in that the results section should answer the question or problem first presented in the introduction section. Ultimately, a reader should be able to just survey the results section and understand what happened in the study. This is why the results section should be front and center on a research poster.

Present your research results and discuss them. Present your findings using data visualization (like graphs, equations, images, etc.) and a few sentences. If your poster is part of a Poster Session, consider what you would like on the poster and what you will say in the presentation so they work together without too much repetition. This section may be just as large as Methods or even larger, depending on how you would like the results presented. Think of Results as the “meat” of your poster.

In some disciplines, it may make sense to have Results, Discussion and Conclusion as separate sections, or all three in the same section. Discussion might be grouped with Results, or it might be grouped with Conclusion. You know your research best, chances are you will know how to separate the information best as well. If you are stumped, talk with a faculty advisor

The discussion section serves to analyze and summarize the data collected from the study. Some comparisons to previously published literature may be discussed, along with highlighting the significance of the study and how it contributes to the current literature. Ultimately, the question that was originally proposed in the introduction should be answered here and discussed in detail.

Just know that some researchers and conferences prefer or even require that the results and discussion sections be combined rather than separate sections. While this may be preference, there are some advantages to this as it can save space on the poster. The advantage for having the two sections separate are that it enables the reader more easily delineate what are the results of the data from what data actually means as described by the researchers and authors. Readers often only spend a few minutes on a poster and want to be able to quickly find the main points of a study.

Like the introduction, keep it short and simple. State the conclusion, the future of this research, and any new hypotheses you developed after the research. A bullet pointed list here is also fine.

The references section, also known as the bibliography, lists all of the sources of information used to construct or support the concepts of the poster. While the development of an entire study may involve fifty or more references, only the sources used in the poster are cited in the references section. A variety of formats may be used, either dictated by the rules and guidelines for the poster or by the preferences of the authors. The in-text citations that correspond to the references will either use a superscripted number or an author’s last name and published year. Obviously, superscripted numbers will use less space.

Just know that the references may also include the author names and journal if the study was published.

If it is cited in the poster research, it needs to be cited on the poster. Follow the citation format used by your discipline. To save space on a poster it is okay to change citations slightly by removing the title from journal articles (but including the title of the journal) and only listing the first author and following that with “et al.”.

The acknowledgments section is where individuals are recognized for contributions made to the completion of the study. This can include coworkers, colleagues, consultants, general members of the community, and even institutions or organizations. Details of funding for the study may also be listed here, such as funding agency, grant number, scholarships, or any fellowships. Consider using logos of the institutions being acknowledged, as well. Acknowledgments do not include any authors on the project.


The design of a research poster typically follows a classical format that includes all of the basic components of a research poster in an understated three or four column structure. Most posters in academia and other industries follow this pattern, usually heavy with text and figures strewn about the poster. Another more modern design, also known as the Better Poster design, has emerged as an alternative design for researchers to consider when constructing a research poster. This more modern design contains the basic elements of a classic research poster, but with less text, a highlighting of the main take away message, and just being visually inviting when compared to the classic research posters. The intent of the Better Poster design is a research poster that is much more direct with the takeaway message of the study, while presenting the information in a less intimidating manner. Audience members who walk through an aisle of research posters hung up next to each other may be more intimidated and less likely to interact with you and/or your research poster if the potential audience member believes the complexity of the research poster is above his or her knowledge or is uninteresting to commit the few minutes required to learn about the study. For more information on the Better Poster Design, click here.

The most important take away message no matter which research poster design is decided upon is to opt for a visually friendly design that is not so heavy on text and enables readers to understand the study the results, and its significance to its respective field.

Template 1


Poster template design: Traditional

48×36 | Virtual – Standard Screen (4:3 Ratio)

Template 2


Poster template design: #BetterPosterDesign

48×36 | Virtual – Standard Screen (4:3 Ratio)

Contact CETL to share your research poster templates.

Poster Dimensions

The different poster dimensions offer a scaled representation when compared to a person standing at a height of six feet tall.


One may need to change the dimensions (i.e., size) of a research poster to meet the specific requirements for a conference. Also, do change the dimensions (size) of your PowerPoint slide before you begin working on your poster to avoid formatting complications involving text and/or images. To change the research poster dimensions (size), you need to do the following:

        1. Open Microsoft PowerPoint.
        2. Open either an existing template or a blank presentation.
        3. Click on the “Design” tab found near the top of the PowerPoint window interface.
        4. Then click on “Slide Size” (found on the top right) followed by clicking on “Page Setup” in the pop-up window.
        5. A dialog box will open. Ensure that the “Landscape” option is selected.
        6. Also in the dialog box, select Custom for the “Slide size for” option and enter the required width and height for your poster.
        7. Then select OK.

Please note: These instructions are for the Mac version of Microsoft PowerPoint 365. While the instructions should still be similar for the PC version or after software updates are applied, overall variations may need to be considered.

    • Check with conference sponsor for poster specifications.
    • White space is important. Avoid crowding text and images.
    • When creating your poster in PowerPoint, take advantage of arranging layers of colors, shapes and text– right-click selected objects within the slide and use the “Send to back” to push it all the way back, or “Send backward” to have it move back only one layer. “Send Forward” and “Send to Front” do the opposite.
    • Use the Format tab: That’s where all the shapes, fills, outline, effects and everything else are!
    • Images: When searching for images to use on your poster, find image files that are PNG instead of JPEG. They will generally be higher resolution, and many incorporate a blank background (so it’s the image only, no white box around it).

Traditional Paper Printing

Printing your poster has two options. Traditionally, research posters are printed on paper which can be done at most copy and print service businesses such as a Fed Ex Office, Staples, or OfficeMax/Office Depot. While WesternU does not have an on-campus service for printing research posters, WesternU has a partnership with OfficeMax/Office Depot to provide discounts for copy and print services. Click here to access the WesternU Copy & Print


Fabric Printing

Another option to consider as an alternative to having your research poster printed on traditional paper is to have the poster printed onto wrinkle-resistant fabric. An advantage of choosing this option is that a research poster printed on fabric is much easier to travel with. The fabric allows for a research poster to be folded like other clothing making it easier to stow away in bags and luggage. This is in contrast to research posters printed on traditional paper as the latter requires transportation inside a large canister, an inconvenience especially when traveling onto a plane. While fabric printing for research posters is becoming more visible at conferences, the one thing to consider is print services usually require a longer turnaround time to complete negating the possibility of same or next-day services. Thus, allowing for appropriate time for printing is important.

To place an order or to learn more about this option, go to Spoonflower for a tutorial.

When and where. The information regarding the location, day, and time for when you will have to present your poster will be sent to you several weeks prior to the day of the event depending on the level of organization and size of the event. Typically, your poster will be assigned a specific location, day, and time for when your poster will be allowed to be posted and showcased for others to review. Also, you’ll be expected to stand in front of your poster for some assigned period, allowing you to present your research and answer any questions.

Hanging your poster. Your poster will most likely utilize thumb tacks or tape to hang your poster at its assigned location.

Dress. Formal professional attire is standard. Be aware that you will be standing during the entire scheduled time, which can last from several minutes to a couple of hours. Thus, comfortable shoes are highly recommended.

What to bring. While bringing yourself and your poster are obvious, things to also consider are business cards, printed copies of your poster, even printed copies of your abstract or references may be appropriate options. While these suggestions are only considerations, some of these elements can also be provided digitally via a QR code on the research poster.


Click Here to watch How to Present an Academic Research Poster

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WesternU Research Resources

External Research Poster Resources

An Illustrated Guide to Poster Design
Rose TM.
Am J Pharm Educ. 2017 Sep;81(7):6423. doi: 10.5688/ajpe8176423. PMID: 29109568; PMCID: PMC5663659.
PubMed               |               PMC


Creating Conference Posters: Structure, Form and Content
Barker E, Phillips V.
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How to Create a Poster That Attracts an Audience
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Am J Nurs. 2017 Mar;117(3):48-54. doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000513287.29624.7e. PMID: 28230691.
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How to Make an Academic Poster
Gundogan B, Koshy K, Kurar L, Whitehurst K.
Ann Med Surg (Lond). 2016 Sep 6;11:69-71. doi: 10.1016/j.amsu.2016.09.001. PMID: 29225822; PMCID: PMC5714380.
PubMed               |               Google Scholar


How to Make an Effective e-Poster
Masters K, Gibbs T, Sandars J.
MedEdPublish. 2015 Jan 1;1:1-9.
Google Scholar


Preparing and Presenting Effective Research Posters
Miller JE.
Health Serv Res. 2007 Feb;42(1 Pt 1):311-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00588.x. PMID: 17355594; PMCID: PMC1955747.
PubMed               |               Google Scholar


Successful Design and Delivery of a Professional Poster
Berg J, Hicks R.
J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2017 Aug;29(8):461-469. doi: 10.1002/2327-6924.12478. Epub 2017 Jun 28. PMID: 28657658.
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CETL Presentations on Research Posters