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Poster Presentations: Some Advice and Examples

By Barbara Gastel | Oct. 13, 2008

As I walk through the buildings at my university, I often see posters presenting research. Researchers prepared most of these posters for conferences. Then, after returning, they hung the posters near their laboratories or offices.

Some of these posters are excellent: informative, clear, and attractive. Others, however, are not so good. Probably most of my colleagues, like most researchers elsewhere, never received guidance in preparing effective posters. 

Last week, TheScientist.com called attention to to a Web page providing such guidance. Titled “Advice on designing scientific posters,” this Web page was prepared by Colin Purrington, a biologist at Swarthmore College in the United States. 

This Web page includes sections on various aspects of preparing and presenting posters. Among the aspects discussed are layout, sections to include, presenting a poster at a conference, and mistakes to avoid. 

“The number one mistake is to make your poster too long,” Purrington writes. I agree. At conferences and at my university, the most common problem I see is that posters are so crowded that they are hard to understand. 

A good poster presents only the main points from the research.  It should contain relatively few words, and it should contain plenty of white space. It shouldn’t be a journal article hung on a wall. 

Purrington’s Web page on posters includes links to examples of posters. I suggest reading Purrington’s advice and looking at some of the posters. What do you like about the posters? How could they be improved? Maybe the answers can aid in your own work.


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