Designing a Research Poster

Posters are the standard format for science conferences and can be used to present research in any academic discipline.

Poster Prep Session

Undergraduates who register to present a poster at the Wetterhahn Symposium are invited to attend the Symposium Overview and Poster Prep Session in May. Information on date, time and location will be posted in April.

Poster details

Posters allow a maximal number of researchers to present their work. They are most often used to present work in progress or recently completed research.

Role of the poster presenter

  • Provide a “guided tour” through the poster
  • Answer questions about the research

Poster Format

  • Design and print a large-scale poster
    • The required dimensions for the Wetterhahn Symposium are: 36” high by 48” wide
  • Software options: PowerPoint (easiest method), Adobe Illustrator, others

 Posters typically include

  • Title: project title
  • Authors: your name, faculty mentor’s name, other collaborators & department
  • Purpose (or Objectives or Introduction)
  • Methods
  • Results or Findings
  • Summary/conclusions
  • Acknowledgments: include any sources of funding you received

Design Tips

Before Starting, Check Out These Links

Keep It Simple!

  • arrange your material in a logical progression
  • arrange materials in columns
  • don’t try to cram too much onto the poster

Selecting Colors and Fonts

  • Use only two or three colors in the poster: too many colors can be distracting
  • Select font colors and background colors to maximize contrast: A dark font on a light background is more easily read than vice versa
  • Choose a font size and style that can be read easily from several feet away
  • To emphasize a point, use bold or italics rather than underlining as underlined words can be more difficult to read


  • To add text, click on “insert” on the menu bar and choose “text box.” Then click where you want the text box to be, and start typing.
  • Text boxes can be resized by clicking on a corner and dragging.
  • Avoid large blocks of text and limit or eliminate jargon and technical terms
  • Organize and reduce text by using subheadings, keywords, bullet points
  • A figure or graph often convey information more efficiently than paragraphs of text

Pictures and Photos

  • Pictures and photos can be added with copy and paste commands or by importing.
    • To import: select Insert on the menu bar, then choose "Picture" or "Photo" (depending on your version of PowerPoint). Select the option that includes the phrase "from file" and then select the file from wherever it is stored on your computer.
    • Images should be at least 100dpi and the same size they will be on the poster.  A resolution of 150dpi is ideal (smaller resolution will result in a pixelated image, and larger resolution will result in excessive file size).
    • Save the image as a “JPG” as this format is easier to insert into PowerPoint.
  • Pictures and photos can be edited using the picture tools. Access to the picture tools varies by PowerPoint version; use the help menu if you are having difficulty finding the picture tools. 
    • Resizing: click on the corner of the picture/photo and slide the mouse to resize
    • Cropping: choose the crop tool and crop from any side
    • Framing: click on the picture to select it, then choose "colors and lines" or "border" (depending on which version of PowerPoint you are using).


  • Graphs can be added with copy and paste commands or by importing (same as pictures)
  • Keep graphs simple. 
    • Avoid “chart junk”: 3-d, shadowing, multiple grid lines, labeling every tick mark
    • With multiple graphs, combine information (e.g. share axis labels, titles, legends)

Creating a poster with powerpoint

Before getting started, check out the links in the green slider box to the left. There are three links -- click on the dots to move from one to the next.

  • Start PowerPoint and open “new presentation”
  • From the menu bar, select File > Page setup.
  • In the box that appears, the first section is “size.”
  • Next to the heading “slides sized for,” select “custom” from the pull-down menu
  • Required dimensions are 48” wide by 36” high. Click “OK.”
  • You will see this prompt: “the current page size exceeds the printable area of the paper in the printer.” It will offer three options: cancel, OK, and fix. Click “OK.”
  • Set the slide layout to "blank." This is done differently in different versions of PowerPoint. If you are having difficulty, type "layout" in the PowerPoint help menu, and you will find instructions on how to create or change slide layouts.
  • You can look at the poster at different sizes. Using a smaller size (e.g. 25%) will allow you to see the whole poster at once. Using a larger size (e.g. 75%) will allow you to read your text more easily.
  • If you find it difficult to keep track of what you are doing, create a second PowerPoint file, with a regular sized PowerPoint slide presentation. You can make a series of slides and then copy the text boxes and pictures from those slides into the custom poster file