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In an attempt to make a poster of my work, I search for tips on the internet and books and I meet two opinions that conflict with each other:

Tell a story:

  1. Why do we choose this (Objective)
  2. How do we do? (Experiment, simulation, etc)
  3. What do we find? (Result/Conclusion)
  4. What can we do more? (Future work)
  5. Reference

Important first:

  1. Result/Conclusion
  2. Objective
  3. Experiment, simulation, etc
  4. Future work
  5. Reference

In my opinion, I will choose tell a story if the audience is not in my field, and important first if the audience has a good knowledge on what I do. But I am still confused if this is right. And should I apply this to my paper work?

  • This is probably field-dependant, and if this poster is for a conferance, chances are that they have guidelines to follow. It is also a matter of opinion. What does your advisor say? – Cape Code Oct 3 '14 at 11:11
  • Well, my adviser also doesn't which is better. The guidelines of the conference I'll attend only requires the important parts, not the order of them. – Ooker Oct 3 '14 at 11:37
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    read these, assimilate, refine: betterposters.blogspot.co.uk – 410 gone Oct 3 '14 at 11:50
  • @EnergyNumbers: very very interesting site. Thank you so much. Can I ask you do you have any sites like this? – Ooker Oct 5 '14 at 12:23
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Posters are hard to get right. They require design skills and knowing what the core message of your paper is. Presenting them requires people skills. Aside from this, different areas seem to have different criteria and norms when it comes to this so if you want to fit in you should try to follow those.


But in general, most scientific posters I've seen are really terrible in terms of tools for communication: they have far too much text and get into far too much technical detail. For example, on this site posted in the comments on the question, there's some nice visuals but all of the posters have, in my opinion, far too much text.

One excuse for a lot of text on a poster I often hear is that people will can read them on their own between sessions or whatever. In my own area and experience, I don't buy this argument: that's what the paper is for and I rarely see anyone reading these literal walls of text in their spare time.

The advice you've gotten from the internet seems to follow that thinking: the thinking of printing a full paper on a poster in bullet form. An A0/A1 wall of text is not the best way to sell your work, nor is a boring traditional narrative of introduction, methodology, results, related work, conclusion or whatever.

I say this from the perspective of someone who's gone to too many poster sessions and gotten trapped at a poster where someone for some reason decided I would be interested in spending 20 minutes silently listening to them recite the slightly abridged version of the paper that they had for some reason decided to printed on their poster. One guy even seemed to expect me to leave after he was done. After he had finished reading the conclusions at me he had a look on his face that said "who's next?".

Okay so that's one extreme.


For me, the secret to a good poster presentation is two-fold: the poster and the person in front of it.

In terms of a poster session, people will probably have some food with them, people might even have some drinks, you should not assume to take more than 5 minutes of their time, they're probably not going to get all the technical details and they're definitely not going to read a wall of text. At least one would hope that they wouldn't read it because that would imply that you'd be talking to yourself since they cannot read text and listen to you at the same time (unless you're reading aloud the text that is).

When I was working with students on posters, I would always advise them to dispose of the idea that they can or should communicate the full technical depth of a work on a poster to a passer-by in five minutes.

Their goal should be to motivate and communicate enough of the core ideas of the work to convince people passing by their poster that the paper would be worth taking the time to read and to teach them something cool.

In terms of that goal, I would bring the student to a white-board and tell them to pretend I was a conference-goer who knew nothing of the work but we met at a coffee break and I asked them to tell me about the work. They can use the board or ... if really needed ... they can point to something in the paper. While presenting, they should appear enthusiastic (without overselling) and emphasise why the work is important ... why I should care, and what the main results were.

They should also listen to what I say ... it should be a conversation. They should make sure that the person they're talking to is following them ... that they don't just launch into a 10 minute soliloquy at the first person that looks in their direction but that there's an element of interaction.

After that exercise whatever they were trying to represent on the board or whatever they needed to point at in the paper: that and pretty much only that is what goes on the poster ... diagrams, examples, main results ... things they can point to help them explain verbally what the work is about.

Then we'd sketch out a poster and try make it visually appealing ... try to tell a visual story with it ... try to make it attractive for people to come over and ask what it's about.

Not that the end result is always perfect, but the approach does lead to a better result in terms of a communication tool than the wall-of-text approach that seems so bizarre to me in the world of scientific posters.

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  • Thank you for your answer, it's very informative. Would you mind if I ask to show me some of your students' posters that you are satisfied with their design? Thank you. – Ooker Oct 7 '14 at 9:50
  • aidanhogan.com/docs/sparql-ep-poster-final-big.pdf aidanhogan.com/docs/poster_60x90cm-2-ah.pptx aidanhogan.com/docs/dyldo-poster-draft.ppt aidanhogan.com/docs/DRETa-poster.pdf ... can't say that I'm satisfied with their visual design per se, but at least I'm satisfied that they served as good tools for presenting in a poster session. ;) The second one won best poster at its conference, but I think that was as much to do with the student who presented it. – badroit Oct 8 '14 at 18:23
  • Thanks for that. However, I'm afraid that I don't have many images in my research. And I'm afraid that without any text, reader will find hard to get what it presents when I'm not there. I think this poster is quite good. Also, I have asked another question about trimming the references. Have a look if you want ^^ – Ooker Oct 8 '14 at 18:59
  • I think the poster you link to is reasonable for something you leave up on a wall somewhere for people to read (which they might since it's an attractive poster). I think it's terrible for a poster session ... in fact, I think that no poster might be better since people might try to read the tiny text and not listen to the presenter. – badroit Oct 8 '14 at 19:40
  • Good thinking. I am thinking about making a poster like that, just afraid that it won't give enough information – Ooker Oct 8 '14 at 21:30
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This may be field dependent, but anyway, I'll tell you my (hopefully educated) opinion.

The conclusion should be at the end. It's sometimes criticized that some research starts with a conclusion and then start doing some p-fishing and other unethical practices to support that conclusion. You may present the question that you are trying to answer and as a "spoiler" the answer to that question, as it is not infrequent in the abstract, but that doesn't eliminate the need to present the conclusion in the end, explaining how do you get to that conclusion from everything else, in a very (straight)forward way.

In short, wrt to your question, you may (or may not) introduce the results at the beginning, but the conclusion should be at the end in any case, explaining how do you get to it.

Additionally to your question, it's nice (not required, but definitively good) to explain why the objective set in the first place is important. This may not be needed in some cases, e.g. curing cancer, obviously everybody thinks finding a cure for cancer is important. However, if your objective is deciding whether plastic bottles should be taller or wider then maybe you should explain the impact that a shape change could imply in terms of sustainability, before explaining what are you trying to do (e.g. reduce the amount of plastic needed).

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  • Thanks for your answer. But, when I look at your answer, exclude the first line that contain disclaimer, the first sentence is your... conclusion – Ooker Oct 3 '14 at 12:23
  • The conclusion is after "In short". – Trylks Oct 3 '14 at 12:44
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    I think the conclusion is "The conclusion should be at the end". Your answer is well written: conclusion -> explanation -> conclude again -> more information. Most of good answers in SE are followed this recipe. – Ooker Oct 3 '14 at 12:53
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    I'd say that's a "spoiler" of the conclusion. A conclusion is not a statement, but the result of considering several facts and deriving (concluding) from them something that is a fact or at least very likely. Had I stopped after the first sentence, then there would be no conclusion at all, but only a unjustified claim. – Trylks Oct 3 '14 at 12:58
  • I'm about to think that let objective be the first, then result is the second. What do you think? – Ooker Oct 4 '14 at 10:32

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