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From my search on the internet on how a research poster should be designed I got a lot of different opinions on best practices.

The area where opinions seemed particularly diverging were the use of bullet points. Some (1 2 3) suggested to replace any longer paragraphs with bullet points, while others were staunchly opposed to the use of bullet points for any reason (4 5).

I can see validity in both. However I would be interested if there is a reason to use one over the other to improve readability and engagement.

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  • To me, they would be appropriate for most research posters at a conference. See if you can find similar publications for that conference in past years or conferences in the same field of research, and compare with them, please. May 18 at 16:15

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Bullet points are a tool and like any tool it can be used well and it can be used poorly. Bullet points are great for displaying an unordered list of items. This is not saying that the order in which they are presented does not matter didactically, only that the content of one does not rely on knowledge of the content of another.

Now how does this relate to posters? I can only speak for myself here, but I rarely read a poster from top to bottom. I will skim bits, I will skip sections I deem less important and I will jump around a lot. This works great with the type of information described above. But bullet points do not create this kind of information, they only signal to me that the provided information is of this type.

That is I think, where a lot of the criticism stems from. If you just write some consecutive paragraphs of text and put a bullet point in front of every one of them, you are actively misleading me, because your layout tells me I can skip around, while the content should be read in order. In turn, if things should be read in order, signal that to me by enumerating them or if need be, by putting them as consecutive paragraphs into some block in your layout.

On the flip-side though, if you can, avoid the latter. Long paragraphs don't work well for the type of reading described above. But this does not mean that you should put bullet points in front of them, but that you should think about, if it is possible to restructure the information usefully in such a way that bullet points (or enumerations) are the best way to display this information. If you can, then maybe do so. If this does not work, then use paragraphs.

tl;dr: Use the right tool for the job, but don't be afraid of changing the job to suit the tool you want to use.

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I have a strong opinion on this:

A: Don't use bullet points they just add visual noise with no gains.

General comment on: "suggested to replace any longer paragraphs with bullet points," Here the problem with most scientific poster appears: A lot of people want to basically write a paper onto a wall. But a poster is a different format than a text, so you have to think of how to make best out of it.

Q: What is the goal of a poster in a poster presentation?

A: First, to be a bait to draw attention and kick-start a conversation. Second, to guide the conversation.

And this does not work, when you add a huge amount of text onto a poster. So you would like to have the minimal amount of text on a poster, so it is still comprehensible but also is easy to digest. That's why you should use bullet point-like style instead of a wall of text.

But you should not use bullet points. What is the information content of a bullet point? None! So, instead use text of different size, make text bold or italic, or use some color to visually structure the information on your poster without using bullet points. And always align things in the correct way.

One of my posters where you can see how we did this is available here.

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    This is a subjective answer—font sizes/styles/colors can be considered just as much as visual noise as bullet points. May 18 at 1:51
  • If one changes a color, one should change a font or style, per accessibility rules. May 18 at 16:17
  • I agree with your first point yet disagree with the second approach. Consistency matters. FWIW, I also find the use of multiple colors, multiple font sizes, and boxes inside boxes next to boxes can be distracting. May 19 at 21:02
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I fully agree to @mlk: A poster is not a paper on a wall. It's a completely different format.

Maybe the #BetterPoster approach is a good inspiration for what you should focus on...

It uses a magnitude of the poster to just bring attention to your research question and most(!) important result as a conversation starter. More details and some sort of paper-outline can be much smaller and may use bullets or other formatting.

The whole this is to draw the visitors attention to your research. The design is also intended that you as an author are standing close and can answer questions right away. The poster uses only some small proportion of its area for supporting figures, diagramms, tables, ... in small font, as you and the interlocutor are standing close to the poster. All other visitors are still able to see the main takeaway.

https://astrobites.org/2020/02/28/fixing-academic-posters-the-betterposter-approach/

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    While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes or disappears.
    – Glorfindel
    May 17 at 14:10
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    Thanks for that comment. I edited my answer to be more informative, even without the link. May 18 at 15:10

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