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Poster Session: Introduction

This guide will assist you with creating posters for class (and other) presentations.

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Chris Burns
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College of San Mateo Library
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What is a Poster Session?

A poster is a visual representation of research. A poster session or poster presentation is simply a presentation that uses a poster you create as a visual aide and way to display your ideas.


Image copyright by Dominique Naegele-Clifford

Why Do a Poster Session? (Besides, of course, that your professor told you to . . . )

Poster sessions are useful for many reasons, including:

  • Displaying research
  • Showing graphs, charts, or graphics that would be difficult to explain
  • Promoting or highlighting work you’ve completed


Posters sessions are commonly found at conferences, professional meetings, and in the classroom.

Photo of Poster Session


Photo by Steven Rose, 111th American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, New Orleans, LA

Remember: Posters Are a Tool

Your poster is a tool for conveying information. It’s a means to an end. While designing it, you should strive to make it look good, but never forget the information is the most important thing!

A Good Poster Session Will:

A good poster will:

  • Be useful as part of a presentation, and also allow viewers to understand your research on its own
  • Be eye-catching and attention holding
  • Ensure that a viewer will remembering the content your work, not just what your poster looked like

Things to Know in Advance

Most posters follow a fairly basic set of standards in terms of size and overall look, but there will be variance due to your subject or topic, research, class, and personal style. Some information you should have from your professor before starting include:

  • Size and material specifications for your poster
  • Any formatting requirements
  • Any information required to be included on the poster
  • If you will be doing an oral presentation with your poster, or just turning it in

Who Would Do a Poster Session?

Lots of people! Poster sessions are very common in science classes, from basic biology all the way through physics, astronomy, any science really. This is why almost all science fairs are made up of poster sessions and poster displays.


Posters sessions are useful for many subjects, though. Want to illustrate themes in a different books for English? – A poster session can do that. Want to be able to discuss a specific time in history, and have some good visual representations? – A poster session is great for that! You get the idea.


Poster Sessions are also extremely useful for CSM Honors Seminar students. If you are a student in the Honors Seminar project, you will likely do one or more of these! (You can find more info on the CSM Honors Seminar and Project here).  


Also Remember: Posters are Permanent

One of the most important parts of a poster session is that, after the initial session, the poster can still be valuable as a display or tool. Your poster may help a student understand your topic in the coming semesters!