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Health Services Administration

Steps for Creating Your Poster

These steps are described more fully in each box

  1. Write an 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


Sherman, R. O. (2017). Writing abstracts for podium or poster presentations. In Saver, C., & Sigma Theta Tau International (Eds.), Anatomy of writing for publication for nurses (3rd ed., pp. 287-305). Sigma Theta Tau International.

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 600-800 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 on either side of the title. 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 rather than paragraphs, if possible.
  • Be concise. Wordy posters are daunting. Aim for about 100 words per section.
  • 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.

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.

Results: Include primary, statistically significant 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.

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.

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.


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

Gundogan, B., Koshy, K., Kurar, L., & Whitehurst, K. (2016). How to make an academic poster. Annals of Medicine and Surgery (2012), 11, 69–71.

Redulla, R. (2021, June). Creating a compelling poster. American Nurse.

Poster Design Tips

Poster Layout:

  • organize the poster elements for intuitive reading: in columns
  • divide information proportionally into 3 or 4 columns
  • organize content from top to bottom and left to right
  • use borders to segregate sections
  • 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


  • Recommended font sizes include: title=72 pt; authors=48 pt; affiliations=36 pt; subheadings=48 pt; text=30 pt; graph text,=28 pt; references=20 pt
    • Text should be readable from 4 ft away
  • Font style should be consistent and easy to read (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, Century Gothic, Tahoma, Verdana)
  • To emphasize text, use bold or italics. Avoid underlining and ALL CAPS


  • prefer cooler colors like blue, brown and green over warm colors like red, orange, pink, etc.
  • background color should be subtle

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



Redulla, R. (2021, June). Creating a compelling poster. American Nurse.

Sherman, R. O. (2017). Writing abstracts for podium or poster presentations. In Saver, C., & Sigma Theta Tau International (Eds.), Anatomy of writing for publication for nurses (3rd ed., pp. 287-305). Sigma Theta Tau International.

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:


The following list of resources contain images that are in the public domain or are under Creative Commons licenses that permit free use.

Check the copyright information for the image on the website. Even if images are free to use, they must still be attributed. Many times the site will include attribution information that can be copied and pasted under the image.

                          gold  nanoparticles 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