This past November, I attended a nursing conference held locally in New Orleans. The conference was themed “Owning Your Influence”, and held by OADN, otherwise known as the Organization of Associate Degree Nurses. Along with going came the opportunity to enter their student poster competition, boasting a $1,000 first-place prize! I teamed up with three other students to represent our school in the competition. The only problem was, none of us had any clue about how to make a professional research poster…
After reading up on best practices and receiving advice from a teacher who had made a poster previously, we were able to make a poster worthy of the first-place prize! Now I’m sharing with you the methods we used, so you can know how to make a poster of your own!
Content is king.
Of course, the first step and most important part of creating your professional research poster will be the research itself! My advice is to be creative with your topic and choose something that you are either passionate about or would like to learn more about that topic. I promise you will get so much more out of your project if you love what you’re learning.
If you are doing a group project, it’s best to split the work evenly and agree on the duties of each person. We decided to break up our research into four sub-categories (and there were 4 of us in the group). Each person chose what they were interested in doing, which worked out really well!
Decide which software you’ll use to design your professional research poster.
There are tons of options to choose from when it comes time to design, so it really depends on personal preference.
I chose to use Adobe Illustrator to design my poster, however, it does require some basic knowledge of how to use its features. If you have some experience using Adobe Illustrator, it’s a great choice for its’ freedom to design things exactly as you’d like! Adobe Express is another option that has less customization but is very easy to use!
If you’re a student and interested in using Adobe, they offer a student discount that gives you access to all of their programs for a discounted price.
Another great option is a website you’ve probably heard of, Canva. It has both a free and paid version with tons of templates, stickers, and creative design elements. Lastly, you can use Microsoft PowerPoint to turn your slides into one big research poster! (This is the option my teacher chose to use and it came out very nice!)
When it comes to poster size, go big or go home!
The one thing that completely caught me off guard was the size of a professional research poster! I somehow had this image in my head of one of those trifold poster boards you see at the school science fairs. Well, not these! When I was reading the guidelines, I noticed the “usable space” (max size) for the poster was 7 ft. 10.5 in. x 3 ft. 10.5 in. My first thought was, “Where the heck can I even print something that size?!”
Rest assured, there are in fact places that will print it for you, such as FedEx and local print shops. I used Signs.com and highly recommend them as the price was cheap and the service was fast. I paid $90 (before tax and shipping) for a 13 oz. vinyl poster.
When you’re designing your poster, make sure your dimensions are equal to the size you plan to print your poster. (Meaning with the design program you choose.) And be sure to print your poster at the maximum size! The goal is to make your poster stand out from the rest and it gives you more room to work with.
Important: Be sure to order your poster at least a week before to account for turnaround time!!!
AVOID writing in big chunky paragraphs.
Think about your poster design as being similar to a good PowerPoint presentation… It should have short paragraphs, bulleted points, lists, summaries, and the like. Leave some white space in between your information! Make sure your poster is pleasing to the eye and isn’t overcrowded. Consider using text boxes and tables or charts that can help you organize your poster in a way that’s easy to read.
And remember: it’s natural for people to read from left to right and top-to-bottom, so keep that in mind when choosing your layout.
A professional research poster should be well-balanced.
A well-balanced poster includes both text and images. Make sure your poster includes pictures to draw interest and give a visual of your ideas. Graphs, pie charts, and tables are all great ways to display your data and research findings. Be sure that your images are high-quality and will add value to the poster.
Balance also means having the right amount of visuals for the amount of text you have. Try to evenly distribute your pictures and text across the poster.
Use easy-to-read font with high contrast.
For a professional research poster, I suggest sticking with a font that is simple and using black text on a white background, as this will be the easiest to read. If you want to add color, you can choose a background and then add white text boxes for the details. Avoid fonts that are hard to read, such as heavy scripts and fancy text.
When it comes to font size, you should use a size that is bigger than you think! I used 36 pt text as my smallest size and roughly 120 pt text for my poster title. I believe my headings were around 60 pt font. The point is, you don’t want your text to be too small or hard to read! When in doubt, bigger is better!
And here it is! Our Award-Winning Professional Research Poster!
Well, there you have it! My tips for making your very own research poster.
I hope this blog post has been helpful and has given you a good idea of where to start. If you have any questions or would like some more details, please leave them in the comments. Best of luck to you!
Be sure to check out the rest of the blog for more tips on navigating nursing school.