How to Design a Research Poster

Presenting your scholarly work and research can take a number of different formats, all of which have pros and cons associated with them. While some fields use live performances or oral presentations to display their work, others use research journals or written manuscripts, while others still implement the use of research posters or gallery displays. Below is a comparison of some of the more common methods for displaying and presenting research and scholarly work.

Oral Presentations/Live PerformancesWritten ManuscriptPoster/Gallery Display
Done once, and then completeMay require months/years to be publishedEngage individual audience members at their level of knowledge, understanding and/or interest
Typically, very current informationCan provide very detailed informationDoes not need to be linear
Linear style and format (usually)Archived/accessible for a long period of timeImmediate, direct feedback and discussion
Maybe one-way conversation/limited feedbackReader can go back over (and over) your workMay be more current than a manuscript
Audiences have varying levels of knowledge and/or interestNo direct feedback from wider audienceCan be very visual
Can be difficult to present clearlyDo not need presentation/display spaceLimited amount of space and detail provided

Creating an effective research poster

We have provided a 6 step guide for you to follow. We also encourage you to attend one of our workshops “Presenting Your Research I: Story Design” and “Presenting Your Research II: Poster Design” for assistance. You may find the dates/times for these workshops (along with others) in MU Engage.

This short 5-minute video takes you through some pointers on how to create a research poster.

Consider the following questions before designing your poster. Depending on your event/audience, the poster content may be different. Presenting your work at a discipline specific conference means an audience who will have more understanding of the terminology and processes used in your work – meaning more use of discipline specific vocabulary. Whereas, presenting at an event with more laypeople (think the Spring Forum), means that most in the audience will not understand discipline specific vocabulary or graphics, so your poster content would be different as it would need to be understood by that audience.

Take time to brainstorm what you want the viewer to get from your poster (whether you are standing by it to present the information or not).

  • What is your goal?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the most interesting/compelling part of your work?
  • What will be interesting to others?
  • How can you make it interesting to others?

Before you can begin designing the poster, you have to consider a few things. And the first thing is:

Poster Size

Before you go plugging in data, text and images you need to decide on the overall size of YOUR poster. Some conferences/events have specific size limitations – VERIFY THIS FIRST! Otherwise, you may find yourself scrambling to redesign a poster last minute.

Here, however is some standard information for you to consider:

Mizzou’s Spring Forum – the boards and easels used are 2 sizes: 45in x 45in (square), or 36in x 60in (wide rectangle). Poster sizes vary, however we have found that 36in x 42in, or 42in x 48in are typical.

Poster Orientation

Your poster may be a rectangle in portrait orientation (‘hotdog’), or landscape orientation (‘hamburger’); OR, you may have a square poster. This is where you consider how to communicate your work and how it will best ‘flow’.

Mizzou poster templates

Mizzou has some poster templates (branded with Mizzou logos and colors), that you may download to use. You may find them at the Mizzou Branding & Licensing website here (scroll down to ‘Research Posters’ and please note that they are automatically sized to 56in x 36in – so you should resize them based upon what YOU want your poster size to be. You do NOT have to use these templates, but you may find them helpful. Check with your mentor.)

Now that you have determined what you want to communicate to your audience, and the poster size in which you will do this – you have to consider the content itself. How will the information be placed on the page to best flow and be understood by the viewer?

Consider the following items to include:

  • Abstract, if appropriate
  • Background/Introduction
  • Research Question/Problem/Hypothesis
  • Methodology (Materials & Methods)
  • Data
  • Conclusions, Future Studies
  • Acknowledgements

Remember to:

  • Make it easy for the reader to follow
  • Anchor your information with something familiar
  • Label figures and images
  • Use sections, headlines
  • What can be visual about your work?
  • What needs to be explained? (And can it be explained more clearly using visuals?)
  • What context do you need to provide?
  • Visual components that can be included:
    • Biography/influences on your authors
    • Lists, timelines
    • Key quotations/text
    • Cultural context
    • Graphs, charts
    • Maps
    • Photos
    • Illustrations
  • Resist temptation to overuse color
  • Use color for meaning and significance
  • Use color to highlight important content
  • Consider color for
    • Background
    • Frames around poster components
    • Bullet points
    • Headlines of text, headings
  • Check the University of Missouri Identity Standards website to download Mizzou logos and confirm your color of “Mizzou gold.”
  • Determine title that is understandable to an audience outside of your field/major
  • List authors of poster
  • Consider font type, size, color, etc.
  • Include the MU logo (and other logos depending on the nature of your work)

You should plan for your poster to take a minimum of 2-4 business days (48-72 hours) to be printed. You must plan in advance for your poster pickup – we recommend that you consult the printer and ask for their timeline as you are not their only customer, and each printer will have different turnaround times.

Poster printing costs range depending on the size and type of material which you select for your poster – the average poster costs about $60.00.

BEFORE YOU PRINT! Check your poster for typos and grammatical errors. Has your mentor given you the ‘okay?’

  • MU Print and Mail Services. Select ‘Posters’ from within the ‘Student Services’ drop-down.’
  • FedEx/Kinkos (25 S. 6th St.).
    • FedEx has partnered with us to provide presenters a special price for printing posters. To get this special price you MUST use this online portal to submit your poster, in PDF format. You will required to provide your contact information and pay for your poster in advance by credit card.
    • This is the special FedEx pricing:
      • 36in x 48in poster (landscape or portrait layout) = $30.00
      • 36in x 36in poster = $22.50
      • Custom size poster, the price will be $2.50/sq foot
  • Staples (115 Conley Road)
  • UPS Store – 3 locations
    503 E. Nifong, Ste H
    2000 E. Broadway
    2101 W. Broadway #103
We also recommend that you view past posters in your category to get a sense of what has been done. Click here to view the 2020 and 2021 online Spring Forum presentations.

Other Resources