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How Do I Create a Poster?

A poster presentation is a visual display of research findings that is typically presented at academic conferences or professional meetings. Poster presentations are a great way to share your research with a large audience and to engage in one-on-one conversations with other researchers.

Posters can be presented in person as a printed large format (usually 3’ by 4’) or digitally.

What makes an effective poster?

  • Easy to read – font size should not be too small
  • Eye catching – images and text should draw attention
  • Concise – text should extract the important ideas and summarize your findings

Follow these 4 steps to create a poster

Step 1: Assess

The first step before creating the actual poster is thinking about where the poster is being presented and the type of audience that is likely to visit your poster. Here are some questions to consider:

What will be expected and required of you at the presentation?

Who will be the target audience for your research project? How would you describe it to

  1. a general, non-scholarly audience?
  2. a scholar from a different field?
  3. a scholar from your field?

What do you hope to accomplish with your poster presentation? Are you trying to

  1. inform your audience?
  2. persuade your audience?
  3. establish yourself as a reputable researcher?
  4. All of the above?

Step 2: Develop Content

Keep in mind that the sections of a poster usually resemble the sections of a research paper, but with much less text and more graphics. While posters are not uniform, most generally include the following sections of content.

  • Title telling the name of the project, the people involved in the work, and their affiliation. The title should be large font, descriptive, and concise.
  • Abstract stating what you set out to do, how you have done it, the key results, and the main findings and conclusions.
  • Introduction that includes clear statements about the problem you are trying to solve, the new ideas or items you are trying to discover or create, or the proofs that you are trying to establish. Note the background work that has led up to the current status of your research of creative work in this area. These should then lead to the declaration of your specific project aims and objectives.
  • Theory or Methods section that explains the basis of the techniques that you are using or the procedures that you have adopted in your study. You should also state and justify any assumptions so that your results can be viewed in the proper context.
  • Results section that discusses the main findings of your investigation and their value.
  • Conclusions section that discusses the main findings of your investigation and their value.
  • Further Plans section that contains recommendations and thoughts about ow the work could be continued.  What kind of things could be done next? What are some possible long-term goals or outcomes?
  • Acknowledgements section that allows you to thank organizations that might have provided financial support of the individuals who donated time to help with the project.

Step 3: Organize

  • Consider the space on your poster as valuable real-estate. Extracting important ideas and organizing information efficiently is essential to the poster-design process.
  • The research story: A poster is “the story” of your research. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader and think about the most effective way to share this story. Is it best told as a timeline of events? Does it lend itself to a question-answer format? Can you begin with the big picture and narrow it down?
  • Layout: While a landscape layout is common, portrait, 2-column, 3-column, 4-column layouts are also widely used. Columns help break up text into smaller chunks that are easy to skim. When choosing a layout, remember that a readers eyes will read from top to bottom, and from left to right.

Step 4: Design


Determine the size of your poster before you start.
With Undergraduate Research Showcase (URS) and Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research (ICUR), the required poster size is 36 inches tall and 48 inches wide.

How to change your poster size?

In PowerPoint:

  • Navigate to Design tab.
  • Click on the “slide size” button.
  • Select “Custom Slide Size…” from the drop-down window.
  • Choose “Custom” in the “Slides sized for:” window.
  • Enter your desired width and height for your poster (e.g. Width: 48 in & Height: 36 in).
  • Click “OK” button.

Fonts and color

  • The use of Boise State University logos, colors, typography and other elements of the university’s graphic identity in student research posters are not required, but encouraged.
  • If using these elements, adhere to the university brand guidelines to ensure an accurate representation of the Boise State brand.
  • Keep the material simple and concise with plenty of clear white space.
  • Use colors sparingly to emphasize, differentiate, and add interest.

Images and graphs

  • Pictures, graphs, and charts can be helpful in communicating a message quickly.
  • Think about image resolution, acronyms and hard to read numbers and data.
  • Equations should be kept to a minimum, be large enough to read, and accompanied by definitions to explain the significance of each variable.
  • Label any diagrams and drawings.
  • Clipart may be used for interest as long as it’s not distracting.

Font size and formatting

  • Font size should be such that a reader can stand at a distance of 5 feet and read the text. To check this, in whatever program you are using to design your poster (e.g. PowerPoint), set your view to 100% and walk five to six feet away. Can you read all of the text? Can you see the figures? If not, increase your font size.
  • Play with formatting to emphasize words and phrases (e.g. bold face, italics, underlined text, or combinations to emphasize words and phrases.
  • Proofread carefully. It can be helpful to print a “proof” of your poster on an 8.5″ x 11″ paper to double check grammar and spelling.
  • Hint:  Make draft versions of your poster sections and check them for mistakes, legibility, consistency in style, and various layout arrangements. Ask your mentor, professor, or peers to review to make sure it’s your best work.

Adapted from Utah State University Office of Research

Additional components

  • Conferences may require mandatory components such as logos, funding statements and contact information
  • References and citations are important to acknowledge sources but may also take up valuable space on your poster. Consider the use of QR codes to direct readers to a webpage.

Sharing Your Poster Digitally

Follow these tips to share your poster digitally

If you are sharing your poster digitally, there are a couple steps you can take to ensure everyone can access the information in the same way.

Describe Images, Charts, and Graphs

Not all users can perceive images in the same way. Adding a short alternative text description allows all users to interpret the meaning of your images. For directions on adding alternative text in PowerPoint, see Add alternative text to a shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic, or other objects.

Use Accessible Colors

Having accessible colors on your poster ensures everyone can read your content easily. Use colors that have enough contrast between the background and foreground. You can check if your colors have enough contrast with a Contrast Checker like the one available from WebAIM or use one of the pre-designed templates available from Boise State.

Check Accessibility

Before saving your final draft, use the “Check Accessibility” feature in PowerPoint. Select File, Check for Issues, Check Accessibility and follow the recommendations in the report. Most likely this will include adding alt text to any images you may have missed.

Save your poster as a PDF, PowerPoint, or an Image File

When you finish designing your poster, save a copy as an image file (JPG or PNG), a PDF, or a Slide Deck (Google Slides or PowerPoint). Your choice of file type depends on where you are sharing your poster. We currently host posters on a specialized research platform called Fourwaves. Fourwaves accepts files in .png, .gif., .jpg, .jpeg or .pdf formats.

Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Online artificial intelligence tools are increasingly being used to generate concise abstracts, striking images and even catchy titles for posters. Before you use these tools to create your poster, obtain permission from your faculty advisor and understand your department/college’s AI policies.

For posters that are submitted for Boise State research conferences (VIP Showcase and the Undergraduate Research Showcase), also see the IFITS statement on the use of AI.