Poster Design Instructions

Overview: The purpose of a research poster is to convey the research's central problem and key findings. To be effective, however, the poster must be visually attractive. The presenter's aim is to create a poster that stands out from other posters and captures the audience's attention. In most cases, the audience will decide within seconds whether to read the poster. Therefore, the poster should include compelling visuals and clear, succinct prose that communicates effectively.

Below are recommendations for creating posters for both Virginia Wesleyan's Undergraduate Research Symposium and off-campus academic conferences. These instructions are intended to be interdisciplinary, and therefore, they might have to be modified  for specific disciplines or projects.


  • Program: Posters should be designed in POWERPOINT. The poster should be designed as a single PowerPoint slide.
  • Set-Up: To be printed on VWC's printer, posters must follow specific design parameters. The PAGE SET UP (which is  located under DESIGN in PowerPoint) should be set as follows:
    • Height=24"
    • Width=36" to 48"


Content should be of high quality and follow professional and disciplinary standards for research presentation.

Here are some guidelines:

Posters should include the following content sections:

  1. Research Project Title. The title should clearly communicate the project's purpose and significance. It should answer the first questions that a  viewer might pose (i.e. research type and project's significance).
    Attending to the title's syntax is important to communicate the project's main findings. In general, the title should include a subject, verb, and predicate that communicates either cause and effect or relationships between research elements. While it's appropriate to incorporate disciplinary language into the title, any student in that discipline should be able to read the title and understand the problem that the research addresses.
  2. Name of Student(s)
  3. Course Information. Posters that are presented at VWC's Undergraduate Research Symposium should note the class number, title, and professor(s) with whom you worked on this project. Posters that are presented at academic conferences might not include this information.
  4. Abstract. The abstract should provide a brief synopsis of the research. This synopsis should explain the research's main problem, its method, and its key findings. In some disciplines, the findings refer to the research's argument. In most disciplines, the abstract should be written out in full sentences (not bulleted).
  5. Introduction. This section should explain the specific questions that the research addresses and include a brief overview of the key literature in the field. The introduction might also lay out the particular research context and include a hypothesis.
  6. Method. This section should explain the method or approach the the research employed. It might note scholarly literature that provided a model for the research.
  7. Results. Quantitative studies might include a results section that reviews key data analyzed in the research process. (Note: A results section might not be included on the poster if space is limited.)
  8. Discussion. The discussion section should explain the most significant findings of the research. It might also suggest future areas of research based on these findings.
  9. Works Cited. This section should provide full citations for 3-6 key sources that the research incorporated. Citations should be formatted according to disciplinary conventions.
  10. Acknowledgements. Posters should recognize people and institutions that supported the research project. Include full titles in the acknowledgements.
  11. Visuals. Incorporate visual aids to illustrate key points. Be sure to label all visuals, complete with references.
  12. VWC Logo. Posters should identify Virginia Wesleyan College as the institution where the research was conducted. You may simply include the VWC logo on the poster.

Recommendations for Text:

The text should communicate ideas clearly and succinctly. While the poster should include the above content items, it's also important to limit the amount of text, as few people will read a poster that contains mostly text.

  1. Avoid long sentences.
  2. Incorporate language that explicitly shows either cause and effect or relationships between elements.
  3. Use the active voice.
  4. Additional important information (i.e. results/data or a full bibliography) may be made available as a supplemental handout during the poster session.


It's important that the poster follow certain design parameters to make it visually interesting and effective. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Margins: Avoid putting content elements at the margins of the Powerpoint slide because these might get cut off in the printing process.  In other words, leave a large margin on the slide.
  2. Clearly Define Content Sections. Place key content is separate sections that are visually separated from other content sections. Each section should include a clear title that explains to the audience what the section does.
  3. Blank Spaces. The poster should include ample blank spaces that set off content sections. If the poster contains too much content (especially text), the viewer might feel overwhelmed and thus reluctant to read the poster.
  4. Poster Coherence. To enable the viewer to read the poster with relative ease and understand the relationship between its sections, the poster should contain visual coherence. In particular, related content sections should be visually aligned in such a manner that they flow from one main point to the next. This provides a path for the viewer to follow. Graphic hierarchy, such as larger to smaller font or color coding, also helps the viewer to interpret the project's significance quickly.
  5. General Background Color: The background should be light colored (but not necessarily white). If you use other colors, just make sure that they are a lighter shade of that color. Gradient coloring looks good.
  6. Section Background Colors: Posters that include separate backgrounds for certain elements look good (i.e put a different colored background on only the abstract). However, be mindful that the poster does not include too many competing colors.
  7. Background Images: In most cases, posters should not include background images, as they tend to compete with the content and make the poster look busy, which might confuse the viewer.
  8. Font Size: Posters should use a variety of font sizes to draw more/less attention to certain elements on the poster. The largest fonts should be reserved for the project's title, the section titles, and the abstract. The minimum setting for the font size is 24 point; however, the font sizes generally should be larger than 24 point.
  9. Font Color: The font color should be dark. This sets the font off from the light-colored background.
  10. Presentation of Text: Bullet most of the text to make information easy to read (although the abstract should be written out in complete sentences).


Posters may be printed out at VWC's Copy Center. Allow a minimum of a 3-day turn-around time.

  1. It's important to recognize that VWC's Copy Center might not be able to guarantee the 3-day turn-around time during the final 2 weeks of the spring semester when it receives many printing requests. The earlier you can send a print request, the better. Posters should be sent electronically to VWC's Copy Center at
  2. There is an expense associated with printing posters. Students should consult their faculty mentor about how to pay for the poster.
  3. Students wanting the highest quality posters, especially if they are presenting to off-campus audiences, might print their posters at a professional print shop.