How to assess scientific posters: a practical guide

Posters are a hugely important part of scientific congresses. The submitted abstracts that get accepted as oral presentations are always only a fraction of the science available at conferences. And which abstracts get selected as oral presentations are, to a degree, at the whim of the abstract assessment committee and procedures. So, there will be some gems amongst the posters that have the potential to change practice.

I gave a talk at IPS today: a practical guide to assessing scientific posters. You can download my slides here. But they will only tell part of the story. The idea was for the session to be a practical workshop to arm those who are new to infection prevention and control with the tools to maximize their conference experience in terms of accessing submitted science.

I covered the publication process: concept -> research -> abstract -> poster -> paper -> “post-publication peer review”. It was interesting to think in more detail about what makes a good poster. Clearly, first and foremost, a poster must be visual. If it doesn’t look good visually, then it’s not a good poster. That said, what looks “good” is somewhat subjective, but I think some basic themes emerge in terms of visual presentation:

  • Eye catching – draws the viewer in
  • Graphical, not text based
  • Not cluttered
  • Good use of colour
  • Clear ‘flow’ from one section to the next
  • Key findings communicated clearly
  • Contains more detailed information for those that want it
  • Correct size for the board (check the guidelines!)
  • Not an essay / epic; it’s designed to stimulate discussion
  • No intricate fonts that are difficult to read
  • Watch out for fuzzy low-res graphics
  • You can’t include all your data – be selective

And then there’s the scientific content. Really, this is the same question as what makes a good abstract or, indeed paper. The following criteria may be useful in this regard:

Table: what makes a good poster (or abstract, or paper) in terms of content?How to assess a poster_cropped

So, I hope the participants found this session useful.

One thought on “How to assess scientific posters: a practical guide

  1. It was great to see Prof Didier Pittet at this talk (one of the IPS Patron). It was the last session of the day and I’m sure he had plenty of better things to do. But his attendance illustrates his passion for science and education.


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