Writing Tools


"Entice the viewer with clarity, simplicity, and pictures." (Briscoe, p. 140)

A poster session is visual, interactive forum. The research topic is conveyed graphically in a informal setting with each presenter standing next to her/his poster prepared to answer questions or clarify information. The poster itself IS NOT your enlarged paper. so analyze your research and identify the central, key issues you need to convey to your audience.

Posters can be created with computer software:
  • Microsoft PowerPoint - familiar tool, assemble individual "slides" on a poster board
  • Adobe Illustrator - a graphic design program (intended for designing posters)
Remember: The poster is a visual representation of your topic.
  • Use color to inform, not detract.
  • Use simple shapes.
  • Use the "white space" to isolate and emphasize.


You will usually be given the overall dimensions of the poster board. Sketch a rough layout to visualize how your information will be arranged. In general, our eyes scan left to right and top to bottom, with the top left hand corner the most important location of the poster. Take this behavior into account when you plan your layout.

Possible layout for a horizontal poster:
horizontal poster layout

Possible layout for a vertical poster:
vertical poster layout


Your poster should be readable from 3 to 5 feet away. Resist the temptation to squeeze in more information by making the text or illustrations smaller. Use a plain font such as ARIAL, HELVETICA, or other "sans serif" font.

  • Title - all caps, font size=36+ point. Can be >BOLD.
  • Text - caps and lower case, font size=24 to 30 point. Use a plain font.

Graphs and Charts

Use charts and graphs to convey information. Enlarge to a minimum of 8.5 X 11 inches. Keep axis labels short and simple.

  • To quantify, use bar graphs. Use different colors or patterns to separate bars.
    bar graph
  • To represent change over time, use line graphs - no more than four lines. Line graphs will draw the eye in the direction of the line, so watch for placement on the poster.
    line graph
  • To show percentages or parts of the whole, use pie charts - no more than ten slices.
    pie graph


Use color to emphasize and make the poster interesting, but don't overdo it. Yellow does not display well from a distance. Take into consideration red/green deficiency ("color-blindness") when blending colors and avoid using colors that are opposites on the color wheel.

Internet Sites


  1. Briscoe, Mary Helen. Preparing Scientific Illustrations. Springer-Verlag: New York, 1995. (Geology, Physics, Steenbock: Q222 B75 1996: Library Catalog record)
  2. Marin S. Robinson. Write like a chemist : a guide and resource. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c2008. (Chemistry QD9.15 W75 2008: Library Catalog record)
  3. Robert A. Day and Barbara Gastel. How to write and publish a scientific paper. 6th ed. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2006. (Ebling, Geology, Steenbock: Library Catalog record)