Research posters are one of the many ways to present research and information at professional and academic conferences. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with poster presentation formatting and guidelines if you plan to attend graduate school or enter into the professional arena in the future. For seniors and graduate students, posters provide an opportunity to introduce your research activities effectively and efficiently while trying to negotiate the, often times intimidating, atmosphere of an academic conference. In addition, many academic associations hold student poster competitions and provide awards for the ‘winners’ such as travel funds and waiving costly conference fees. At professional conferences, posters can act as an ice-breaker or catalyst for networking and making professional contacts in your field.
A research or professional poster should communicate information to the viewer without the accompaniment of a speaker. In most cases, a viewer will spend only a few short minutes observing the poster, so it important that the poster conveys the most significant information or details in an efficient manner. This is why it is essential that the poster is clean, well-organized, and concise.
The research poster to the right presents findings from ecological research conducted in Glacier Bay National Park by students and faculty at the University of Alaska. Consider the attributes that make this a successful poster.
Right away the title of the poster conveys a significant amount of information. We know immediately that the research addresses the sleeper shark, and that the shark is a potential predator of the harbor seal. We do not need to look for the researcher’s names, and the inclusion of a photo of the researchers give us additional, albeit superficial, information about them. The University of Alaska and National Science Foundation logos tells us about the hosting institution for the research and their funding sources.
The logos are an excellent example of the way that an image can provide a more effective means of communication information than words, especially under circumstances with limited space such as a research poster. The poster makes great use of graphics to communicate research data, pinpoint the location of research on a map, illustrate the environmental setting, and capture a moment in the research process. Images are a great way to break up text so that it does not overwhelm the viewer.
Too many words, or dense text, and disorganization will discourage the viewer from attempting to read and digest the information in your poster. This is why it is important to ensure that the elements on your poster are clean, clear and well-organized. In English reading cultures, most people read from left to right. It therefore makes sense to organize the elements in your poster from left to right beginning with the introduction and ending with the conclusion. If aesthetics and design is not your thing, there is no need to worry. Programs such as Powerpoint include a wide range of templates that you can download for free. In addition, many universities publish templates with tips such as this template provided by the University of Minnesota. The University of Illinois also provides an excellent online tutorial entitled, How to Create a Successful Research Poster.
It does not matter which program you use to produce your paper, provided you can save the image as a jpg or pdf. Powerpoint, Microsoft Publisher and Prezi are simple and powerful tools to use. (Prezi has a bit of a learning curve.) Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop can produce amazing posters, yet they are not easy to learn within a short amount of time. Given the limited amount of time available to produce the poster during a summer term, it might be best to stick with a program you are already familiar with. Click on the icon or link below to watch poster-making tutorials.
Powerpoint (.ppt) is the most widely used presentation software programs in American Colleges and Universities, and if you are taking a face-to-face class, your professor is probably using Powerpoint to present their lectures as a series of slides. If you do not have a version of ppt on your computer already, you should be able to find it on any campus computer. To create a poster, you will compile all of your information on ONE slide that will serve as your poster. When your poster is complete, you must save it as a jpg or pdf using the ‘Save As’ drop down menu. Important: always save your poster as a ppt first, so you can go back and revise it. If you only save as a jpg or pdf, you will not be able to edit it. Click on the Powerpoint icon here to watch a brief tutorial to get started.
MS Publisher (.pub) offers a quick and easy way to create publications such as banners, brochures and posters. It provides more graphic design opportunities than Powerpoint, yet it is less complicated than graphic software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. When your poster is complete, you must save it as a .jpg or .pdf using the ‘Save As’ drop down menu. Important: always save your poster as a .pub first, so you can go back and revise it. If you only save as a jpg or pdf, you will not be able to edit it. Click on the Publisher icon here to watch a brief tutorial to get started.
Prezi is a relatively recent online program used to create non-linear presentations. Rather than a series of slides, the prezi presentation moves across the screen and zooms in and out of graphics and texts. It is a GREAT way to present face-to-face, and may also be used to create a poster. However, Prezi is a unique and complicated program that may have a longer learning curve than ppt or pub. If you are waiting until the last minute, Prezi may not be the best option. It is also important to remember that yo are NOT presenting, you are creating a poster – you will not be able to zoom in and out or move across the screen. You must export your Prezi as a jpg or pdf, and it must have the same qualities and features as a regular poster. Click on the Prezi icon to watch a brief tutorial.
Easelly is a free online software program to create info graphics. You can either start anew and build your own poster from scratch or use one of the many existing templates available on the site. Keep in mind that the existing templates may not meet all of the criteria specified here, and you will need to modify it accordingly. Click on the icon here to learn more about easelly.
After you have decided on the program that you will use, review the assignment description on the Final Project webpage to be sure that you include all of the expected elements. Use the checklist below to ensure that you do not forget anything. Every semester at least one student forgets to include their name – one of the most important elements. It is also important to include the date. By now you should know that cultures are dynamic and always changing – yet your poster will remain the same. By including the date, you are referencing your information to a particular time and will enable your poster to remain useful for many years to come.
Final Poster checklist:
- Title & Subtitle
- Introduction / Overview (organize components from left to right)
- Background: Socio-Historical Context
- Diversity (identify diversity within the group)
- Cultural Expressions (tangible & Intangible)
- Graphics (maps, charts, graphs, images, video, etc). Be sure to cite all images. For free-use images, visit Freefoto and Flickr Creative Commons
- Citations, References
- Name (photo optional)
- Major and University
- Class (Peoples & Cultures, etc) and date
As you create your poster, keep in mind that it is not necessary to include everything from your paper. Think of the poster as the movie trailer to your paper. It should only include significant tidbits as a way to bait and hook your viewers by compelling them to read your paper. Obviously, your coursemates will not have access to your paper, but you can launch them toward conducting their own research about your selected community (starting with the scholarly references that you included in your poster) and thereby opening their mind to Peoples & Cultures of the World. If you have any questions, please post them on the ‘Class Communication’ forum so that your classmates can benefit from the information.
For Discussion: Find an excellent example of a research poster online – do NOT use an example from the student gallery. Upload the poster to the discussion and using the material in this lesson explain exactly why it is an excellent example.