Skip to Main Content
Ask A Librarian

How to Prepare for a Poster Session

This guide provides information to help you become prepared for a successful poster session.


Before Getting Started

  • Determine size and layout requirements for your event. 48 inches by 36 inches is fairly common, but check with the organizers to make sure you have the right size. 
  • Make an outline of your research project. This will help you determine how to effectively convey your research with different sections on your poster.
  • Think about your take home message: What's the most important thing you want people to learn from your poster?
  • Sketch out a rough design of your poster with pen and paper to help you brainstorm how to best arrange your poster.


The details of your specific project should dictate what type of content to include on your poster, though all posters should include a title, author information, background, research question, and a conclusion. To determine what additional items to include, think about what is most important for your audience to learn.

  • Title: Something interesting and catchy that will grab people's attention. Avoid lengthy titles, and the use of technical terms or discipline-specific jargon when possible. Most people will determine whether to come learn more about your research based on its title, so try to come up with something that will pique their curiosity. The title should be legible from a distance, so use a large font (around 72 point). 
  • Authors: Include the names of all authors, your institutional affiliation, and your contact information. Do not use titles like "Dr." or "Professor." 
  • Background/Introduction: Provide some background or introductory information that provides context for your project. This will help those unfamiliar with your field better appreciate the significance of your research.
  • Research Question: Include your research question or hypothesis. What question were you trying to answer? What claim were you trying to test? 
  • Findings/Conclusion: What was the answer to your research question? Did your research support your hypothesis?
  • Methods: How did you go about answering your research question? How did you test your hypothesis? Although we typically associate research methods with the sciences and social sciences, all researchers employ methods of some kind. If you're having trouble figuring out what your method was, ask yourself, "How did I carry out my research?" Perhaps you analyzed 19th century literature, or visited an archive to examine primary source documents.
  • Observations: These could be observations from a laboratory setting, or field observations. Whatever might be applicable to your research.
  • Data: In many disciplines, it's important to show your data. Consider using visualizations to make it easy for people to take in your results. 
  • Images: If you've taken photos during your research, you may want to include a couple on your poster. 
  • Recommendations for future research: How will you continue developing your project? How might others build on your work?
  • Acknowledgements: It's particularly important to acknowledge any funding you've received, as well as support from advisors and colleagues. 



  • Arrange your content top to bottom then left to right.
  • Strike a balance between text and visuals.
  • Arrange your content symmetrically. 
  • Include some white space to separate columns and sections.


  • Keep text to a minimum - use bulleted/numbered lists rather than lengthy paragraphs. Posters are supposed to be visual.
  • It's okay to use phrases instead of full sentences.
  • Your main title should be around 72 point font. Headings should be around 36, and your body text should be around 24.
  • Use jargon-free language that can be understood by general audiences, not just specialists in your field.
  • Left-justify text and use a serif font for most text (it's easier to read). Sans-serif is okay for titles and headings.


  • Should be large enough to be viewed comfortably from 3 feet.
  • Keep it simple and easy to understand for general audiences.
  • Avoid using photos as background images.
  • When using third party images and graphics, check the licensing to make sure you are permitted to use the material.


  • Use light colored backgrounds and dark colored letters for contrast.
  • Limit yourself to two or three different colors that go well together.
  • Avoid extremely bright colors - they may draw people's attention, but they can be straining on the eyes.
  • Be mindful of people that have difficulties differentiating colors. A common difficulty is distinguishing red and green from one another.


Software options include:

  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Adobe InDesign

While PowerPoint is the simplest to use, Publisher and InDesign may be useful for those who wish to have a more customized design.