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Preparing An Effective Scientific Poster. Presentation given by Dr. Lasse Lindahl, Chair of the UMBC Department of Biological Sciences July 5, 2007 Summer Undergraduate Research Seminar Series (PowerPoint  presentation updated by Kathy Lee Sutphin on July 12, 2007).

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preparing an effective scientific poster

Preparing An Effective Scientific Poster

Presentation given by Dr. Lasse Lindahl, Chair of the UMBC Department of Biological Sciences

July 5, 2007

Summer Undergraduate Research Seminar Series

(PowerPoint presentation updated by Kathy Lee Sutphin on July 12, 2007)

why give scientific posters
Why give scientific posters?

“Criticism and testing are of the essence of our work. This means that science is a fundamentally social activity, which implies that it depends on good communication.”

-Hermann Bondi1

1Quoted by Robert A. Day in How to Write & Publish a Scientific Paper. The Oryx Press (1998) p. ix.

why give scientific posters3
Why give Scientific Posters?
  • To serve as a basis for communication with scientists and the public
  • To convey findings in scientific research
  • To share ideas with colleagues
  • To serve as an alternative to longer oral presentations
  • To learn how to organize and effectively present research data
what is the best format
What is the best format?
  • Various formats can be used successfully
  • There is no single “ideal” format for poster presentations
  • Software programs, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, can be helpful in creating a professional display
  • UMBC Illustrative Services offers a 36” x 46” template to use for one sheet posters and another template for 36” banners to use with multiple panel posters
effective posters share the following traits
Effective posters share the following traits:
  • Viewer-friendly style with large (not small) typeface & informative subheadings
  • Small offerings of information vs. long paragraphs of text
  • Logical and orderly progression of presentation of information
  • Summary statement(s) of key aspects
  • Easily understood language with no jargon or undefined acronyms
step 1 create the elements of your poster
Title Page/Banner

Author(s), Department(s) and Affiliation (UMBC) - and your “home” affiliation, if you wish

THINK BIG - can you read the title from 15-20 feet away?

STEP 1 - Create the Elements of Your Poster

The Title of a Poster is the First Thing a Visitor SeesThe goal is to be professional and attract visitors to your poster.

fonts and colors
Titles: 90 pt for long titles; 100 pt for short titles

Typical Affiliation line= 65-70 pt

Text = 24-36 pt

Colors: Use normal, dark colors. No light colors.

Background: Avoid background colors, except for watermark designs.

Many posters include the abstract as a beginning element. Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words. The suggested content for abstracts includes:

 Background

 Research question

 Approach and experiments

 Conclusion

core poster elements
Overview/Background of the topic area

Statement of the project’s purpose

Definitions of technical terms, if needed



Interpretation and discussion of findings


Summary of major findings

Core Poster Elements
and don t forget to
Acknowledge individuals who contributed to the project

Acknowledge organizations and agencies that contributed to the project, especially through funding support

And don’t forget to…
step 2 plan the poster layout
Plan using the size allotted for each poster presentation; the 2007 SURF preferred maximum size is 36” wide by 46” long

Plan the layout of the elements

It is not necessary to fill all of the space - do not “clutter” your poster

STEP 2 - Plan the Poster Layout

Two Basic Poster Layouts

Vertical- sequential elements in columns


Two Basic Poster Layouts

Horizontal - sequential information in rows


Two Basic Poster Layouts

Which layout is best?


Two Basic Poster Layouts

Vertical - When information is presented in columns, this layout enables the poster elements to be viewed in progression and helps to prevent traffic jams


Poster Layouts

Helpful Hint: The most important elements of a poster should be displayed at the viewer’s eye level - which is often about one foot from the top of the poster board


Poster Layouts

When the layout is finalized, sketch it on a piece of paper to use as a helpful reminder when assembling the poster

tips for effective posters
Tips for Effective Posters

Use a


font size of


If it is too small, people will move to next poster

tips for effective posters19
Tips for Effective Posters

Make the




to educated


tips for effective posters20
Tips for Effective Posters

Identify and include the “take home” message for the poster - the one thing you would like a visitor to remember.

tips for effective posters21
Tips for Effective Posters

Include a summary of the poster’s most important points

Use bullets and/or boldface to emphasize important information

tips for effective posters22
Tips for Effective Posters

Define all technical terms used throughout a poster

(Hint: An element listing these definitions can be very helpful to visitors.)

tips for effective posters23
Tips for Effective Posters

Minimize Text -

Maximize Illustrations and Cartoons

(Hint: A poster is not a research paper.)

tips for effective posters24
Tips for Effective Posters

Avoid long blocks of text and

Use small chunks of information

(Hint: Edit, Edit, Edit to get to the core messages of the poster.)

tips for effective posters25
Tips for Effective Posters

~ 2 inch Border

For Multiple Panel Posters: Mount each element on a piece of colored cardboard. Some presenters use page protectors, which guard against moisture and allow for quick revisions.Consider having a 36” banner printed with your title information for your presentation.

(Hint: Some presenters number the backs of the mounted elements in sequential order)

Panel #1

Panel #2

Panel #3

tips for effective posters26
Tips for Effective Posters

For One Sheet Posters:

Use the 36” x 48” template available on the UMBC Illustrative Services website:

tips for effective posters27
Tips for Effective Posters
  • Reed over for errrors nd ommisssions
  • Use the cheek sppellling feetures on youre komputer
tips for effective posters28
Tips for Effective Posters
  • Make sure to include an approved acknowledgement statement at the conclusion of your presentation, such as:

EMBARC: “This investigation was supported, in part, by UMBC and the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites Program Award DBI-0453294.” OR

SPCB: “This investigation was supported, in part, by UMBC and the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites Program Award DMS-0354034.” OR

tips for effective posters29
Tips for Effective Posters

STEP-UP BSURE: “This investigation was supported, in part, by UMBC and the National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health), Award 1R25DK078380-01.”OR

MARC: “This investigation was supported, in part, by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service (NRSA) Award GM 08663 to the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U*STAR) Program at UMBC.”

presenting the poster
Presenting the Poster
  • Dress in business attire (no jeans)
  • Chewing gum detracts from your presentation
  • Stand beside your poster during your entire scheduled session - don’t block the view of your work
  • Be aware of all visitors
  • Relax and enjoy the opportunity to share your research project
presenting the poster31
Presenting the Poster
  • Prepare a 10-30 second introduction to your research to engage visitors
  • Explain why your research project matters, especially to the general population
  • If there is interest, offer a quick tour of one-to-two minutes and
  • Remember to point to relevant poster elements during the quick tour
  • Don’t forget to emphasize your “take-home” message in a 30-second summary.
presenting the poster32
Presenting the Poster

If you have additional supporting data that cannot be included in your poster due to space limitations, feel free to put it in a booklet to share with engaged visitors.

(This is optional!)

important notes
Important Notes

For the first time, participants will use the SURF website to register for the CNMS Summer Undergraduate Research Fest at UMBC and to submit their abstracts by the submission deadline of midnight, Wednesday, July 25, 2007.

Research Mentors, UMBC faculty, guests and other guests are asked to use the website to register their planned attendance as soon as possible and by August 1, 2007, so that an approximate number of attendees can be given to UMBC’s caterer.

important notes38
Important Notes

Tenth Annual UMBC Summer Undergraduate Research Fest

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Seventh Floor,

Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery

Details and poster assignments will be posted on the SURF website closer to the event. Please visit:

abstract submission
Abstract Submission

All participants must prepare their abstracts using Microsoft Word (using the extension ‘.doc’)

The abstract should fit on one 8.5” x 11” page and use 12-point text and one inch margins on all four sides.

There is a 300-word maximum for the body of the abstract not including the acknowledgement. Abstracts can be less than 300 words but abstracts longer than 300 words will be returned to the student for rewriting.

abstract submission40
Abstract Submission

All abstracts must be reviewed and approved by each student’s research mentor or by an individual authorized by the mentor to review and approve the abstract. The mentors must confirm to the SURF Review Staff that they have reviewed and approved the abstract with the understanding that the abstract will appear in an event program book and may be posted on-line. This can be done on-line at:


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

abstract submission41
Abstract Submission

Students should submit their abstracts to their research mentors so there is sufficient time to edit the abstract. Talk about this now so that you know what deadline to use for your mentor’s review of your work to ensure you meet the July 25th SURF abstract submission deadline for 2007.

Use the Student Presenter’s First Initial and Last Name Plus the word “Abstract” as the file name for the student abstract.

Example “SutphinKAbstract.doc”

  • Use the Internet to discover a treasure trove of information about creating effective scientific posters
  • Seek advice from your research mentor and members of your research lab as your poster reflects their work
  • Practice giving your poster presentation with colleagues

Remember, it is essential for you to ask and receive permission in advance from your mentor for any and all additional presentations of your summer research. This is critical!

Special thanks to Zoe Warwick, Ph.D. and Stephen Miller, Ph.D. for the assistance provided to this presentation. Presentation created by Kathy Lee Sutphin - updated July 12, 2007 ©