Research Posters

Know Your Rhetorical Situation

When designing a presentation poster, be aware of your rhetorical situation. In particular, ask yourself questions about the elements of audience, purpose, and context as you plan your poster. 

Audience: Who is most likely to be interested in your poster and how can you draw them in? Will your audience be made of informed specialists or informed non-specialists? How will you tailor the information you include to the needs of your audience? 

Purpose: What is your purpose in presenting your poster? Is there a particular type of feedback you want? Do you want to inform your audience or persuade them to take action based on your research and recommendations? 

Context: How much time will you have to present? How might you manage multiple audience members, especially if they arrive at different times? How will presenters be arranged, and how loud might the room be?

How to Organize Your Poster

The Basics

Firstly, it’s very important to remember to put your name, contact information, and institutional affiliation on your poster. This will be key to networking and putting a name to your contributions. You must include who was involved in your project (collaborators and participants) and clearly and briefly describe your methods.

The most important thing to include is the main idea or the bottom line of your project. Thinking about your purpose, audience, and context will help you decide what content to include.


One approach to making content and organizational decisions is using IMRAD. You may recognize IMRAD as a common organizational method for research papers: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Once these elements are in place you can build around them by adding other parts like an abstract, relevant images, and a conclusion or set of recommendations.

It’s crucial to rewrite or reshape any pre-written materials for your poster, i.e. you should never copy and paste the IMRAD sections from a research paper.

Better Poster

Another approach to poster organization is the “Better Poster” format, which involves creating three main poster sections:

In the Center: Place a brief and clear statement of your main point or takeaway in the center of your poster. 

The “Ammo Bar”: Include important data from your work in the form of images, charts, tables, or other clear visual representations. These elements should serve as visual aids as you explain your research to your audience.

The Silent Presenter Bar: Include clear and concise versions of sections normally found in a research paper – this is a great place to use the IMRAD approach. 

Preparing for the Presentation

Here are some important considerations for your poster presentation:

Be brief but clear: Write out and practice saying your elevator pitch ahead of your presentation.

Use multiple modes: Use images, charts, and tables with purpose – remember to consider your audience with every choice.

Share your posters with others: Show your poster to trusted mentors, colleagues, Writers Workshop consultants, or friends and practice giving your presentation in front of them.

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