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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research Posters : Step by step

Poster sessions at conferences and professional meetings are a way to visually convey the details of your research or conclusions. This guide will offer you the basics in design, content and printing resources.


You have two choices when creating a research poster:

  1. You can create your poster from scratch by using PowerPoint, Adobe InDesign, or a similar design program. 
  2. You can use one of the University of Illinois Research Poster Templates.

Sizing your Poster

  • If you are presenting for the Undergraduate Research Symposium, resize your slide to width 48 inches by height 36 inches.
  • If you are presenting at a professional conference, your instructions should indicate the size limits of your poster. Standard U.S. conference poster size is 48" by 36". 

***IMPORTANT: You must change the size of your slide before you start working on your poster. This will ensure that your images and text do not become pixilated when the poster is printed. See below for specific instructions. 


How to correctly size your poster in PowerPoint:

  1. Select the "Design" tab
  2. Click "Slide Size"
  3. Select "Page Setup"
  4. Under the "Slides sized for:" dropdown menu, select "Custom"
  5. Set the "Width" and "Height" to what is needed for your poster
  6. Click "OK" 

How to edit PowerPoint slide size image



How to correctly size your poster in Adobe InDesign:

When a new document is created in Adobe InDesign, a dialogue box prompts you to enter dimensions:

screenshot of Adobe InDesign create a document menu

  • Change the dimension metric to inches from the drop down box.
  • What to enter for margins, bleed, and slug?
    • Margins are intentional space from an object to the edge of the poster, intended not to be trimmed. You can set this to 0 inches on all sides unless you have a specific plan to use margins in your design.
    • Bleed shows the printer where to trim white space that occurs when printing color onto white poster paper. If you are printing your poster, include at least a 0.25 inch bleed on each side; remember not to place any content in the bleed as it will be trimmed by the printer.
    • Slug is a space for the creator to leave any notes for the printer. You can set this to 0 inches unless you have notes. 

If you ever want to change your poster dimensions after starting the poster, you can do so through the Document Setup Menu.


Using multiple font styles can really make your poster stand out and look professional. Consult this graphic to understand different font styles, what fonts work best together, and what fonts to avoid.


Sticking to a color scheme can help your poster look professional. Consistent use of color can help your viewer understand how information is organized on your poster. Not sure where to start with color?

  1. Try a free color palette generator:
  2. Use Illinois branding colors

Not sure what to do with the hex code from a brand guide or color palette generator?

Always check that your text is accessible on background colors using WebAIM's free contrast checker.

If printing your poster, it's a good idea to do a small-scale test print of your poster before getting it printed. Colors often appear brighter and more vibrant on a screen than when printed. There still might be some variation in color depending on the color scale the printer uses, but it will be a closer match on paper than what you see on screen.


All posters MUST have: 

  1. Title: Make it catchy and use at least 72 pt. font. 
  2. Your name and contact information.
  3. Institutional affiliation, see the Illinois logo tab above.

You many also include:

  1. Research question or hypothesis: Do not copy your abstract if it is included in the program. 
  2. Methodology: What is the research process that you used? Explain how you did your research.
  3. Your interview questions.
  4. Observations: What did you see? Why is this important?
  5. Findings: What did you learn? Summarize your conclusions.
  6. Themes: Pull out themes in the literature and list in bullet points.
  7. Consider a brief narrative of what you learned - what was the most interesting/surprising aspect of your project?
  8. Add interesting quotes from your research.
  9. Data: Use your data to generate charts or tables.
  10. Images: Include images (visit the Visualization & Images tab in the guide for more information). Take your own or legally use others.
  11. Recommendations and/or next steps for future research.
  12. Citations: Only list 3-5 on your poster. If you have more, put them on your handout.
  13. Acknowledgements: Don't forget to thank your advisor, department, or funding agency.

More helpful tips

  1. Read Colin Purrington's suggestions for successful poster design.
  2. Be creative in your display, think beyond the text of your paper. You can use boxes, formatting, font, and images to break up the sections of your research poster.
  3. Think carefully about your title. If you would like a longer, more descriptive title, consider a subtitle. Brainstorm several titles and have a peer/colleague/friend/teacher rank them. The title needs to highlight your subject matter, but it does not need to state all your conclusions. Some good titles simply ask questions, others answer them.
  4. You can section your poster according to the major points about your research you want to convey. For example: title, abstract, methodology, data, results, and conclusion. Consider the flow of your poster--these should be in a logical, easy-to-read order. Remember that most people read from left to right and top to bottom.
  5. Qualitative data (e.g. quotes from references and/or interviews) can also be shared on your poster. Make sure you include captions, legends, annotations, citations, and footnotes, if necessary.
  6. Design your poster as if you were designing for a professional publication. Be consistent with your layout, color choices, fonts and sizes.
  7. All text of your poster should be *at least* 24 font size and an easy-to-read font style (e.g. Arial or Verdana). Anything smaller is too difficult to read.
  8. Remember the “KISS Principle”: Keep It Simple, Stupid! In succinct, brief, jargon-free terms, your poster must explain: 1) the scientific problem in mind (what’s the question?), 2) its significance (why should we care?), 3) how your particular experiment addresses the problem (what’s your strategy?), 4) the experiments performed (what did you actually do?), 5) the results obtained (what did you actually find?), 6) the conclusions (what do you think it all means?), and, optionally, 7) caveats (any reservations?) and/or 8) future prospects (where do you go from here?).
  9. What is the number one mistake made in poster presentations? Too much information! Try to keep your poster to the point and and clear. You can always include more information in your handout or on a website.