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  • Lora Levett

Creating an Academic Poster

I had a graduate student ask for advice on creating a poster, and I thought to myself that perhaps others out there would also be wanting advice on creating a poster. So, here goes with a blog entry!

Academic poster sessions are among my favorite parts of conferences. My very first poster presentation was so exciting! I presented at the Association for Psychological Science Convention in Toronto, Canada, circa 2001. (As a side note, I also just realized that was 20 years ago. Woah time goes fast). In any case, it was an awesome session. I brought my long time friend and I/O psychologist Kari with me, and we took turns standing by my poster and running about the other posters, excited to see the latest and greatest work going on in our field. Science!! So. Much. Science!!

Fast forward to present day, and posters are still so exciting to me. They offer a time for informal discussion of research ideas, a chance to ask questions without the spotlight shining on the presenters, and a chance to take in a lot of new research in short period of time. Also, there is usually good food, so that is a bonus.

Good posters are posters that communicate clearly, give a good take home message, and inspire conversation. They are generally lower pressure and a great way to network (Feldman & Silvia, 2010). And, did I mention the food?

I create my posters using powerpoint. I’ll link to some of my posters below, but before you look, you will notice that I have been the culprit for presenting too much on a poster (my dissertation award poster from 2005) and I generally chose to include an abstract, which others recommend against (Feldman & Silvia, 2010). I also haven't tried the #betterposter. I’ve seen a few of these at conferences, and I love the concept. Getting a simple take-home message, inspiring conversation, and letting the ‘reader’ decide how much information to take in – all of these are great goals with a poster session! Better poster has also been critiqued, though – is it a good idea to reduce science to a ‘headline’? Are we de-centering data? See this critique from Echo Rivera (with credit to Margaret Bull Kovera, Ph.D. for introducing me to the #betterposter and Echo Rivera's work).

In creating a poster, my goal has been to communicate my research in a way that is appealing and likely to generate questions and conversation. As with all conference presentations, I see posters as a way to get ‘the review before the review’ – what do you peers have to say about your research? Can they help you identify weaknesses and/or ways to improve the work? Where do your methodological decisions need clarifying and/or explanation?

For printing your poster, I generally use a copy site near the conference location - I'm notoriously bad at traveling without wrinkling the posters and do not have a fancy poster tube. However, fabric posters are also a great solution (albeit, an expensive solution) - you can iron them in your hotel room prior to hanging and they travel easily in your carry-on luggage.

If you’d like to have your poster featured here, please email me a pdf or powerpoint. I left mine in powerpoint to offer a template or place to start – happy poster-ing!

Lora Levett, Ph.D.

November 23, 2020

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