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  • Destenie Nock

Let's Talk Research Posters

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

March 31, 2020 By Destenie Nock

Tips for making a stand alone research poster


With COVID-19 constantly looming over it is hard to find a sense of normalcy. A lot of conference sessions are either getting cancelled or moving to online. With the bulk of our communication being online there is an added challenge to written communication, because all of our inboxes are overloaded, and we are constantly filtering things through. If you find yourself needing to present a research poster then here are some tips for making a great poster that can stand on its own.

Tips for making a great poster:

  1. Let the figures and pictures tell the story. I like to put figures on the poster first, and then fill in the words after. The pictures should have a logical flow, and you should only put text that supports telling the story. Figures can include maps, pictures, graphs, and flow diagrams

  2. Remember a poster is meant to be digested in 5-10 minutes, so do not overwhelm the reader with a lot of things to read.

  3. Use color and headings to help guide the eye to relevant sections. Just like in a research paper people will most likely not be sitting there to read the entire story. Help people find relevant information quickly.

  4. Label your figures and reference them in the text. Labeling the figure helps the reader understand what you are talking about. Make sure to reference in the text in case we want to get more information.

Below is an example research poster that won first place in the Carnegie Mellon's Energy Week Poster Competition.

Happy News to Share: Normally the CMU Scott Institute for Energy Innovation puts on a big #Energy Week each Spring, and it was cancelled this year. The Energy Week Team still judged the student poster competition remotely. The award-winning posters focus on Electricity, Electrification and Mobility. Eight judges from industry, government and academia virtually reviewed 36 posters!

Congratulations to my PhD Student in Engineering & Public Policy, Charles Van-Hein Sackey, who took home 1st place for his poster titled “Equitable Electricity System Planning in Developing Countries”. He is currently working on integrating equity into energy optimization models, and going beyond lightning to look at energy for productive uses (i.e. agricultural pumps)

His work is building on the following paper: "Changing the Policy Paradigm: A Benefit Maximization Approach to Electricity Planning in Developing Countries."Applied Energy. 2020. DOI

Note about the author: Dr. Destenie Nock is a Presidential Post-Doctoal Fellow in the Engineering & Public Policy (EPP) Department and and Adjunct Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2020 this will transfer to a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in EPP and CEE at Carnegie Mellon. She holds holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned a MSc in Leadership for Sustainable Development at Queen's University of Belfast, and two BS degrees in Electrical Engineering and Applied Math at North Carolina A&T State University. She is the creator of the PhD-ing It Blog site which posts articles about graduate and undergraduate advice, and research updates in energy and sustainability. In her free time she enjoys hitting the gym, painting, and cooking with friends.

Thanks for reading. To keep up to date on blog posts, subscribe below, or follow me on Twitter @DestenieNock.

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