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Creating Effective Scholarly Posters: Planning

Step-By-Step guide to creating scholarly posters

Before you open Powerpoint, spend the time to fully script and "storyboard" your entire poster.  This process involves listing all the elements of your poster, then creating a rough-draft version of your poster as it will appear when finished.

In the scripting and storyboard process, you may find it useful to use a whiteboard, notecards, or plain old pencil-and-paper.  The key is to put some thought into what the various elements of your poster will be, and how they will fit together.

IMPORTANT:  Once you have completed your rough draft, have it reviewed by your mentor.  In this way, you can correct any mistakes and make improvements early in the process.

Poster Organization

NOTE:  Does not apply to all types of posters

  • Title-  Keep title as short as possible (1-2 lines) and use a large bold font (70-100 point).  Should be in the largest font on the page.  Doesn't have to be at top, but must be prominent. 
  • Name and Affiliation- bold and smaller font than title.  Include all students and mentors (placed last) involved in the project with the presenter marked with an asterisk*.  Indicate department affiliation.  Use MSU logo or other logos as appropriate.  
  • Abstract- Consider not using an abstract since it is published in the program.
  • Introduction- Provide a brief (200 words) description and justification of your project and state a clear hypothesis (if appropriate ) to draw viewer interest.
  • Materials and Methods- Give a brief description (200 words) of the experimental design, major equipment used, etc.
  • Results- Describe in 200 words or less both your qualitative and quantitative results, use supporting tables, figures, or images. 
  • Conclusions- Important.  State concisely (200 words) if the project supported your hypothesis or objectives.  Discuss the relevance of your findings.  Further research?
  • Literature Cited- (optional)  Be selective, 4-5 citations.
  • Acknowledgments- Thank specific individuals (not mentors) who assisted your research or the agency that helped support the project.

Tips & Hints

1.  Most importantly, give yourself enough time to make multiple drafts before you develop the final product.  Develop a rough draft and have your mentor and a least one other trusted person look over your poster and make suggestions.  Ask them to appraise and honestly comment on all aspects of your design, construction, look and feel, etc.  Above all, work closely with your MSU mentor(s).

 2.  Organize, reorganize, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

 3.  Make your poster readable from 6 feet away, and keep your word count as low as possible.  The most common mistake is putting in too much information and making the poster too busy or wordy.  A total of 800-900 words or possibly less is what you are looking for.

 4.  For your title, use a large (70-100 size), bold font.  The text should be in a serif font such as New Times Roman.

 5.  Organize your poster so that it does not appear too “busy," has sufficient empty space, and is easy for visitors to follow.  Make sure the most important aspects are easily visible.

 6.  Minimize the use of acronyms, since they are difficult for the visitors to remember.

 7.  Be cautious with use of web graphics since they often are not high quality resolution.