Posters, Posters, Posters

Next step in the presentation process – creating your poster. Not a huge deal since you already have your oral presentations (aka PowerPoint’s) in hand. These obviously are a feeder of content. The poster is simply another form of expression.

While we are certainly here to help and guide you in this process, you are ultimately responsible for the final product and all of its magnificent depiction of your work and the bigger framework within which your work is connected. Unfortunately, this may also include unprofessional typos, confusion and even boredom if you aren’t careful to put in the time and effort necessary to craft something really cool and something that you, your mentor and McNair can be ultra-proud of. That’s the goal!

A quick Google of “poster presentations” will lead to all sorts of sites brimming with full out instruction as well as tips, tricks and samples galore. In particular, Susan Koskinen, a physics-astronomy librarian @ Berkeley has a nice site that leads you right through the process (it’s geared toward the sciences, but the basic pointers are relevant across the board). Check it:

Research Poster Guide

Susan stresses three points that your poster should achieve >>>>

convey your research quickly and clearly

express your findings succinctly

draw your audience in with design, figures, graphs and illustrations

Creating Your Poster

A common format for poster presentations involves creating one large poster using PowerPoint. This essentially entails formatting ONE SLIDE according to the specifications below. You’ll create various text boxes and insert images and graphs as appropriate. We require that you have your poster printed according to the standard dimensions of 48×36 inches, as this size is likely to work in most settings.

1. Open a new PowerPoint presentation and access the Page Set-up menu (File – Page Set-up)

2. Designate the width as 48 inches and the height as 36 inches

3. Change the slide to a landscape orientation and close the window

4. Create and format text boxes to contain titles, headings and content of your poster

5. Insert images by using the Insert – Object, Picture, etc. menu options

6. Graphs and charts may be created either through PowerPoint itself, or through Excel and inserted as an image

Design Tips

>> A poster is a visual storytelling. Make it eye-catching and easy to read so people will stop to look.

>> Use a basic font like Arial or Times Roman; don’t use dark backgrounds.

>> Your poster should be able to be read at a distance of 4 feet.

>> Use pictures, graphs, tables, charts and drawings; avoid a lot of text.

CRITICAL POINT: images must be of the highest resolution possible so that they print out clear –
we DO NOT WANT fuzzy, pixelated images – that’s just tacky!

>> Each part of the poster should be self-sufficient; most people will only read a portion.

>> Poster should be symmetrical and balanced and look good up close and from a distance.

>> Leave white space around your material; use bolding and italicization to organize content.

>> Keep what text you have to short sections; use an outlined form and bullets for easy reading.

>> Introductions should get to the point quickly and draw in the reader.

>> All figures should have a full legend with the conclusion clearly stated.

>> Conclusions/summary should be in bullet form for “fast-food reading” of your poster.

>> Be sure to acknowledge your sponsors (if any) and base institution (i.e. CMU).

Here is a LINK for print-quality CMU word marks.

>> You may want to include key bibliographic sources used in your research.

>> Proof! Proof! Proof! – There are no excuses for typos and it makes you appear unprofessional; formatting must also be consistent throughout (bullet points, indents, text boxes properly aligned etc).

>> Be available and friendly to attract people and conversation; be prepared to discuss the material on your poster and answer questions; you should have a prepared “five-minute walk through” of the highlights.

You are in luck!


To make this process even more streamlined, straightforward and easy peasy lemon squeezy … you have access to “specially curated samples” from previous McNair scholars that you can simply use as templates.

Go to our “McNair Scholar Sample Work” Trello Board for access.

Click HERE to access Brooke’s handout on posters – more good tidbits and ideas.

Click HERE to access Kim’s handout – the nitty gritty – all good stuff!

Good luck! Take this exercise seriously (READ: put in ample time and effort) because having a kick-ass research poster is one of the best ways to get people excited about your work – let them know why it’s important – and to showcase YOU.

Poster Sample

Sample research poster by previous McNair graduate assistant – Brian Siers – in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

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