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Poster Presentations - Designing Effective Posters


Poster Presentations - Designing Effective Posters

The poster presentation is a dynamic communication tool evolving over the past four decades, as a means to accommodate the increasing number of researchers, especially graduate students, seeking a means for scholarly presentations of their research. Since then the poster session at many conferences is a major component of meetings of professional associations and societies in many disciplines used to highlight research results and discuss their significance in an informal and interactive setting. Often posters have their own special location and times for presentation; have their abtracts and presenter contact information list in program booklets or proceedings. Recently, dynamic links to the poster itself are provided for full-poster online viewing. The poster presentation is a highly-used communication tool for students (undergraduate and graduate) to display and discuss their research experiences in class and laboratory settings. This guide provides a variety of resources assisting individuals or teams in designing an effective poster and presenting it in a professional, informal, and rewarding setting, whether it is an upper division undergraduate class or at a local, national or international meeting of a professional association or society. fstoss@buffalo.edu


Designing Effective Posters


Disclaimer & Permissions

If you are involved in planning a poster session for a conference, symposium, or meeting, consider posting this site to your own program’s Web site to assist those considering submitting a poster. So, elease feel free to create a link from your own pages to this site and suggest this site to others, especially those planning or organizing a poster session.

Fred Stoss University at Buffalo Libraries

"It takes intelligence, even brilliance, to condense and focus information into a clear, simple presentation that will be read and remembered. Ignorance and arrogance are shown in a crowded, complicated, hard-to-read poster."

Mary Helen Briscoe

Colin Purrington provides a remarkable guide, "Designing Conference Posters." This is the single-best resource for helpful hints in designing effective poster presentations.


A. Introduction

The rate at which scientific and technical information grows continues to increase. National and international conferences provide a mechanism to facilitate the rapid communication of scientific ideas in the form of poster presentations. The poster presentation is NOT the pasting of a scholarly article on poster board or foam-core and standing by to defend the results reproduced in miniature on the "poster." However, it is far too often that one attends a conference poster session and finds this format to dominate the method of poster presentations. The poster presentation should represent a “...well-designed, eye-catching, and engaging... display of research or scientific information.” The poster should convey the results of research activities as to promote the scientific achievements of the poster's presenter. There is, unfortunately, a lack of presentation standards or authors' and presenters' lack of adhering to such standards, even when loosely defined. This guide provides an inventory of print and Internet resources that provide guidance and instruction for the presentation of scientific and technical information in the form of a poster presentation. This guide includes information resources in the forms of journal articles, books, book chapters, and Internet sites that focus on the planning, design, construction, and presentation of a scientific poster. If you find a resource you feel would be useful to include on this site, please send your comments to Fred Stoss.

The origins of this site come from an in-class lecture for a general physiology course taught at the University at Buffalo, Using Posters in Case Studies: The Scientific Poster as a Teaching Tool. This case study prepared by Charles R. Fourtner, Mary Bisson and Christopher A. Loretz from the Department of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, describes the rationale and mechanics of introducing undergraduate biology majors to actively engage in a project to conduct bona fide library research and to then "express themselves in their own discipline." These researchers/educators "adapted the scientific poster as a mode of learning and instruction for our departmental majors" through a General Physiology course. The specific goals of this teaching strategy are to instruct the students:

  • in researching the primary literature and topical reviews on a specified subject
  • in the evaluation of the methodologies, technologies, and experiments serving as the basis of the research they have read
  • in determining the pertinent data and analyses leading to the conclusions reached by experts in the field
  • in concise and logical preparation of data for presentation in a poster format
  • in the oral defense of the material they have presented on their posters
  • in the importance of group discussions and interactions as they develop their formal presentation

B. Background Readings

Some resources on the shelves (locations in UB Libraries indicated):

  • Block, S.M. Do's and Don'ts of Poster Presentation. Biophysical Journal. 1996. 71 (6): 3527-3529. (Online)
  • Briscoe, M.H. Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications, (2nd ed.). New York: Springer; 1996. Posters; p 131-149. (SEL REF Q222.B75 1996)
  • Brown, B. S. Poster Design--Six Points to Ponder. Biochemical Education.1997. July; 25 (3): 136-137. (Online)
  • Davis, M. Scientific Papers and Presentations. San Diego, Academic Press: 1997. Poster presentations; p 174-185. (SEL T11 D324 1997)
  • Davis, M. Scientific papers and presentations (Rev. ed.).
  • Burlington, MA: Academic Press: 2005. Poster presentations; p 181-204. (SEL T11 D324 2005)
  • Day, R.A. How to Write & Publish a Scientific Paper (4th ed.). Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press; 1994. How to prepare a poster; p 148-151. (SEL T11.D33 1994)
  • Gosling, P.J. Scientist's Guide to Poster Presentations. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Press; 1999. 139 pp. (SEL REF Q179.94 G67 1999)
  • Hailman, J.P. & Strier, K.B. Planning, Proposing and Presenting Science effectively: A Guide for Graduate students and Researchers in the Behavioral Sciences and Biology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 1997. How to present research: posters at scientific meetings, p 112-115. (SEL QH315.H25 1997)
  • Hartman, K.J. Designing Effective Poster Presentations. Fisheries. 1996 . 21 (7): 22. (SEL Per SH1 .F815). New York :Guilford Press
  • Kline, Rex B. “Poster Presentation,” Becoming a Behavioral Science Researcher :A Guide to Producing Research that Matters. New York :Guilford Press. (LML BF76.5.K54 2009)
  • Knisely, K. A Student Handbook for Writing in Biology (3rd ed.). Gordonsville, VA: W.H. Freeman: 2009. “Poster presentations,” p. 137-146. (SEL QH 304. K59 2009). Sample posters and form for evaluation of poster presentations are at www.sinauer.com/knisely/.
  • Koning, R.E. Standards for Effective Presentations. In: Salisbury, FB, editor. Units, symbols, and terminology for plant physiology: a reference for presentation of research results in the plant sciences. New York: Oxford University Press; 1996. p 188-201. (SEL REF QK710.5 U55 1996)
  • Pechenik, J.A. A Short Guide to Writing about Biology, 3rd ed. New York: Longman; 1997. Writing a poster presentation; p 258-265. (SEL QH304.P43 1997)
  • Salisbury, F.B. editor. Units, Symbols, and Terminology for Plant Physiology: A Reference for Presentation of Research Results in the Plant Sciences. New York: Oxford University Press; 1996. Some suggestions about scientific writing; p 163-187. (SEL REF QK710.5 U55 1996)
  • Schowen, K.B. Communicating in Other Formats: Posters, Letters to the Editor, and Press Releases -- Tips for Effective Poster Presentations. In: Dodd, JS, editor. The ACS style guide: a manual for authors and editors, (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; 1997. p 27-47. (SEL REF QD8.5.A25 1997)
  • Scientifically Speaking: Tips for Preparing and Delivering Scientific Talks and Using Visual Aids. 2005. The Oceanography Society. tos.org/pdfs/sci_speaking.pdf Silyn-Roberts, H. Writing for science and engineering: Papers, presentations and reports. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2000. A conference poster; p 151-166. (SEL T11 .S529 2000)

C. Designing Tips


D. Resources/Guides

E. General Remarks

F. Examples

G. Classes & Tutorials

If you know of sites, especially from professional associations and societies providing examples of posters send me the URL - fstoss@buffalo.edu

Subject Librarian

FredStoss is the subject librarian for Poster Presentations - Designing Effective Posters. He provides workshops or lectures on effective poster design for 40- to 90-minute, and is available for research consultations, instruction, curricular support & purchase requests. Contact fstoss@buffalo.edu , phone: 716 645-1337.