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Health Information Management

Steps for Creating Your Poster

These steps are described more fully in each box

  1. Write an outline or abstract for your project.
  2. Check the poster size guidelines for the conference, meeting, or assignment.
  3. Download appropriate size poster template (resource suggestions available below)
  4. Use your abstract as a guide to arrange your information in pre-formatted sections.
  5. Have poster printed, as needed.
  6. Print handouts for attendees if desired.

Writing an Abstract

  • The abstract is what will appear in the conference program.
  • Check the word count limit for your abstract. Abstracts are typically limited to 250 - 300 words.
  • Consider the audience. Who will be reading your abstract? Target the abstract to the audience. (E.g. if you are submitting the abstract to a conference attended by critical care clinicians, emphasize how project results could be used in that specific setting; if submitting to a managerial conference, emphasize results or implications of interest to that group - quality improvements, cost savings, etc.) 
  • Use action verbs when writing
  • Abstracts typically Include the following sections:
    • Title - be creative, use the title to grab the reader's attention, but it should also clearly and concisely explain your project
    • Background - why is the project important? What are the issues? What is the purpose of project?
    • Methods - setting, population, study design / type, how the data was analyzed (statistical methods used)
    • Results - outcomes, findings
    • Conclusions - summary of why the findings matter, implications for using the research
  • Keep a copy of the abstract for your records
  • The abstract should guide the content for the poster

Poster Content Tips

General Guidelines:

  • The abstract should guide the poster content not be part of the poster itself.
  • Sections should be concise and to the point - avoid extra words. Text should not be more than 800 words in total.
  • Check conference instructions for allowable poster sizes and any required sections.
  • Double check grammar, spelling, and punctuation - then ask a colleague to review

Poster Sections

Header - the header contains the following elements

  • Title: this is the most important part of the poster. It should grab viewers' attention but also clearly and concisely explain the project. This is what will attract viewers as they walk by and scan posters.
    • Do not make the title too long - it should be easily readable at a glance
    • Bold and use a large font  - make the title the largest font size of the poster to grab reader's attention
    • Use sentence casing or Title Casing as it is easier on the eye - Avoid all caps (UPPERCASE); it is too hard to read
  • Authors
  • Author Affiliations go directly under author listing and include all institutions or organizations represented by the authors along with the Institution or Center at which the study was conducted if not already included in the listing
  • Contact Information - provide a method for viewers to contact the research team (E.g. email and/or phone number)
  • Logos - optional; can include institutional or organizational logos. Ensure logos do not compete with the title for attention.

Main Body

  • Should be logically structured, similar to the sections of a research article.
  • Use bulleted points and phrases if possible.
  • Be concise. Wordy posters are overwhelming.
  • Use figures, charts, graphs, tables, etc. rather than words to present the information when possible.
  • Ensure images and graphics are clear and relevant.
  • Save poster space by using a small font size for references and acknowledgements.

Background / Introduction: Why was the project important? Provide just enough information for readers to be able to understand. 4 -8 sentences is ideal (approximately 25 - 50 words).

Purpose / Research Question ( PICO) / Hypothesis/ Aims (for QI projects): Highlight the purpose by giving it its own section. 1 or 2 sentences will do.

Methods (optional): Not necessary for a poster presentation unless the method was unique or the instrument, tools or equipment used were uncommon. (approximately 25-50 words)

Results: Include primary, statistically significant, interesting findings. If including multiple results, separate them and provide a descriptive title for each. Prefer figures and graphs over text when possible and include brief explanatory captions. (approximately 100-200 words)

Conclusions and Implications: Briefly summarize results again and indicate how the findings effect practice, policy, or further research. Consider including a statement about whether the project answered the research question or if it supported or disproved the hypothesis. (approximately 100-200 words)

References and Acknowledgments: Include references for 3-5 sources that were crucial to the project or that might be useful for readers wanting more information. Provide acknowledgements for specific contributions like funding. (approximately 25-50 words OR use a QR code to send readers to the reference list).

Poster Design Tips


  • organize the poster elements for intuitive reading: left to right and top to bottom
  • divide information proportionally into 3 or 4 columns - should look visually balanced
  • align the boxes vertically within the columns and horizontally when possible (especially the 1st row of boxes). Misalignment distracts from your content.
  • carefully align the text within each box:
    • main text within each box should be aligned left or centered
      • 1 or 2 lines of text can be centered - 3 or more lines should be left justified
  • open space around tables and images should be even and consistent
  • spacing between boxes should be even
  • balance the positive (text, tables, images) and negative (background) space
    • do not overcrowd content but also do not leave too much empty space
    • poster should have about 25% open space


  • Text should be readable from 4 ft away
  • Recommended font sizes include:
    • title = 72 point
    • authors = 48 point; affiliations = 36 point
    • subheadings = 48 point (1.5 to 2x larger than the body text)
    • text = 24-36 points
    • graph text  = 28 points
    • references = 20 points OR QR code
  • Font style should be consistent in the body and the headings / title - do not mix fonts
  • Text should be easy to read (e.g., Sans serif fonts are easy to see from a distance: Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, Century Gothic, Tahoma, Verdana
  • To emphasize text, use bold or italics. Avoid underlining and ALL CAPS
  • Serif fonts should be used for headings or titles only: Times New Roman, Garamond


  • background color should be light: white, very light grey, light blue, etc.
  • in the poster itself, use 2 colors only - a main color (dark grey or black) and an accent color (that contrasts with white or other background color)
  • Strive for high color contrast: 4.5:1 (there are free color contrast analyzing tools like Color Contrast Analyzer)  
  • prefer cooler colors like blue, brown and green over warm colors like red, orange, pink, etc. Do not use colors that distract from the content

Photos and Graphics:

  • should compliment poster content and add meaning
  • use high resolution images with colors that will stand out from the background colors

Tables and Graphs:

  • use to highlight key points. Bar graphs can be used for data trends and pie charts can help visualize content.
  • Excel can be used to create graphs and tables: See INSERT tab, then Charts section in toolbar

Excel image

Which Would You Rather Read?

Crowded Poster Example image


Balanced poster example image

Carter, M. (2012). Designing science presentations : A visual guide to figures, papers, slides, posters, and more: Academic Press. (p. 318)

Tools for Creating a Poster


Use Power Point or Google Slides to create your poster. Save yourself some time - Download a template from online. You should be able to modify the size, colors, and fonts as desired. See some suggestions below.

FREE Downloadable Poster Templates

                  sample poster presentation image


Google Slides:


Need to find an image for a presentation, poster, or other assignment? Select the link to the Guide below

decorative image

Photo by V. Sapazhnikova, K. Sokolov, R. Richards-Kortum,

           National Cancer Institute \ M. D. Anderson Cancer Center; Rice University

Printing Your Poster and ePosters

printer image


  • Have a colleague or 2 review the poster - checking spelling and grammar and visual appeal
  • You will need to know what file format the printers will need, some will require pdf.
  • Choosing glossy paper over matte. It enhances the color contrast (Carter, 2012).

Printing Services:

  • Websites: Make Signs,, and Genigraphics listed above under Free Downloadable templates print and ship same day
  • Retail: FedEx printing, Staples, Wallmart, UPS Stores, and Office Depot all offer poster printing services - sizes available and prices vary
  • Detroit Mercy: Collaborative Design Center (School of Architecture) or Student Life


  • designing and creating an e-poster is the same as for a traditional poster

Poster Resources Used for This Page and Additional Resources