Skip to Main Content Library Homepage College Homepage
Research Guides

Research Posters in the Social Sciences: Poster Guidelines


A research poster is a visual representation of your research paper. Posters are usually presented at poster sessions, often as part of a conference or research symposium.  As presenter, you give a short 1-2 minute talk to others as they stop by your poster, allow them to study it, and answer questions they have about your research.

An effective poster is:

  • A concise summary of your research.
  • Organized and self-explanatory.
  • Visually pleasing, including images or figures and text that is easy to read.

Content Guidelines

The typical sections and organization of a research poster mirror the sections of the research paper, but may be somewhat merged.  For example, the most important takeaways from your literature review can be included in your poster's introduction.

Sections of the Research Poster

The title of your poster should be prominent and interesting, drawing attention and making it easy to tell what your research is about.

Beneath the title, include your name and department.

Posters presented at conferences should also include your contact info (email), advisor's name, and your institution.

The introduction provides the context for your research. What basic background information might your audience need? How does your research fit into the scholarly conversation (literature review)?

What is the question that guided your research and that you answered?  This section might also be framed as your research objectives.

Outline the methods you used to conduct your research.  Depending on your research methodology (survey, field research, experiment, content analysis, secondary data analysis, etc.), include: sampling method and size; instrument; experimental design; materials; data analysis, etc.  The viewer should have a clear (and concise) idea of how you collected and analyzed your data.

Outline your findings.  Save discussion of their significance/implications for the conclusion.

The conclusion is your key message and should stand out.  What is the answer to your research question?  What is the significance of that answer?

Include all the references from your paper.

For any images you included on your poster, put credits under each image rather than with your other references.

Design and Visual Guidelines

  • Use a columnar format, read left to right.
  • Effectively use white space (empty space around the edges, between columns) to prevent visual overload, and avoid using too much text.
  • Text should be readable from 3-5 feet away.
    • Use at least 24-pt. font.
      • The title and section headings should be larger than the body text.
      • For your reference list, you can go down to 18-pt. if necessary.
    • Using different font styles can help distinguish between headings and body text.  Do not use more than 2-3 different font styles--and do use fonts that are easy to read.
    • For emphasis, use bold rather than italics.
  • Color 
    • Use color, but keep it simple. Try not to use more than 2-3 colors.  It should add interest and visual appeal, but not be distracting.
    • If color is important for interpreting parts of your poster (i.e. color-coding in a chart), avoid combinations that could be difficult for color blind readers (e.g. red and green).
  • Images/figures
    • Use images to reinforce your message and add interest.
    • Cite your image sources.
    • See box in upper right for more guidelines on using images.

Constructing Your Poster

PowerPoint is often used to design posters.  Customize slide size to the dimensions of your poster (if printing on a large-format printer), or to the size of paper you will put on a separate poster board.

Tri-fold poster boards work well when you don't have a separate poster stand to set up your poster on.

Geisel Library has a color printer that can print on letter- and legal-sized paper.

The campus print shop can print on paper 12x26" for $2 each.

Using Images

Including visuals such as charts and images helps to convey your message in a concise way, as well as to add visual interest.

Visuals should be carefully designed/selected to support your message and be related to the text they appear next to.

Remember, you must credit images you got from elsewhere.  Image citations go immediately beneath the image, not in your bibliography with your other sources.

For more info, see our Finding and Using Images Geisel Guide.

Citing Sources in ASA Style

For help with citing sources in ASA style:

Your Librarian

Profile Photo
Melinda Malik
Geisel Library
Saint Anselm College
100 Saint Anselm Drive #1746
Manchester, NH 03102