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Creating a Research Poster

This is a guide based on one from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University Library

Preparing your poster

There are three components to your poster session:

  1. Your poster
  2. You
  3. A handout

All three components should complement one another, not repeat each other.

Poster: Your poster should be an outline of your research with interesting commentary about what you learned along the way.

You: You should prepare a 10-30 second elevator pitch and a 1-2 minute lightning talk about your research. This should be a unique experience or insight you had about your research that adds depth of understanding to what the attendee can read on your poster.

Handout: Best practices for handouts - Your handout should be double-sided. The first side of the paper should include a picture of your poster (this can be in black and white or color). The second side of the handout should include your literature review, cited references, further information about your topic and your contact information.

Creating your poster by answering 3 questions:

  1. What is the most important and/or interesting finding from my research project?
  2. How can I visually share my research with conference attendees? Should I use charts, graphs, images, or a wordcloud?
  3. What kind of information do I need to share during my lightning talk that will complement my poster?


  1. *Title (at least 72 pt font).
  2. Research question or hypothesis (all text should be at least 24 pt font).
  3. Methodology. What is the research process that you used? Explain how you did your research.
  4. Your interview questions.
  5. Observations. What did you see? Why is this important?
  6. *Findings. What did you learn? Summarize your conclusions.
  7. Pull out themes in the literature and list in bullet points.
  8. Consider a brief narrative of what you learned - what was the most interesting/surprising part of your project?
  9. Interesting quotes from your research.
  10. Turn your data into charts or tables.
  11. Use images (visit the "Images" tab in the guide for more information). Take your own or legally use others.
  12. Recommendations and/or next steps for future research.
  13. You can include your list of citations on your poster or in your handout.
  14. *Make sure your name, and Cal Poly Humboldt University is on your poster.

*Required. Everything else is optional - you decide what is important to put on your poster. These are just suggestions. Use the tabs in this guide for more tips on how to create your poster. 

Poster Sizes

You can create your poster from scratch by using PowerPoint or a similar design program.

Resize the slide to fit your needs before you begin adding any content. Standard poster sizes range from 40" by 30" and 48" by 36" but you should check with the conference organizers. If you don't resize your design at the beginning, when it is printed the image quality will be poor and pixelated if it is sized up to poster dimensions. 

The standard poster sizes for ideaFest are 36" x 48" and 24" by 36".

To resize in PowerPoint, go to "File" then "Page Setup..." and enter your dimensions in the boxes for "width" and "height". Make sure to select "OK" to save your changes.

To resize in Google Slides, go to "File" then "Page setup" and select the "Custom" option in the drop down menu.  Enter the dimensions for your poster size and then select "Apply" to save your changes.

Step Four: Final checklist

Final checklist for submitting your poster for printing:

  1. Proofread your poster for spelling and grammar mistakes. Ask a peer to read your poster, they will catch the mistakes that you miss. Print your poster on an 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of paper - it is easier to read for mistakes and to judge your design. 
  2. Make sure you followed Step 3 and resized your PPT slide correctly.
  3. Does your poster have flow? Did you "chunk" information into easily read pieces of information?
  4. Do your visualizations (e.g. charts, graphs, tag clouds, etc.) tell a story? Are they properly labeled and readable?
  5. Make sure that your images we not resized in PPT. You should use the original size of the image or try an image editor (e.g. Photoshop). Did you cite your image?
  6. Is your name, department, and affiliation on your poster?
  7. Did you want to include acknowlegments on your poster? This may be appropriate if your advisor and a graduate student provided leadership during the research process. 
  8. Most importantly- Save your PPT slide to PDF before you send to the printer in order to avoid any printing mishaps. You should also double-check the properties to make sure it is still sized correctly in PDF.