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Anatomy of a Great Entomological Research Poster

entomology poster

As entomology students and professionals prepare their posters for Entomology 2018, winners in the poster category from the Student Competition for the President’s Prize in 2017 recommend aiming for good storytelling, succinct wording, appealing visuals, and a simple presentation overall. (Photo credit: Carlos J. Esquivel)

By Carlos J. Esquivel

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of posts over the coming months contributed by the Entomological Society of America’s Student Affairs Committee, with the goal of engaging entomology students and helping them prepare for Entomology 2018, the Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, November 11-14, in Vancouver. Read previous posts in the series and stay tuned for more in the future.

Carlos J. Esquivel

Carlos J. Esquivel

Years of research, great findings, a lot of data—how can I condense it all into a little research poster?

This is one of the many inquiries entomological researchers face when preparing a scientific poster. And, in particular, undergraduate and graduate students in entomology wonder the same as they work to make a President’s Prize-wining poster for Entomology 2018, the Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, in November.

But what does it make a great research poster?

To answer this question, the Student Affairs Committee of the Entomological Society of America contacted poster winners from Student Competition for the President’s Prize at the 2017 ESA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. According to our winners, a great poster typically fits the following qualifications:

  • The poster tells one well-defined story.
  • The poster is succinct with wording.
  • The poster is visually appealing and uses figures properly.
  • The poster is, in a word, simple.

To start, for a great poster we want to focus on one story. Finding the story to tell and connecting all the poster components (e.g., abstract, results, discussion, conclusions) may be the hardest task. As researchers, we have many great, exciting results we would like to share with the scientific community. However, a poster has very limited space to add all our stories together.

Meanwhile, writing in a poster is different than other scientific publications. According to Daniel Friedman, Ph.D. student at Stanford University, a poster should use fewer words and shorter sentences. Similarly, Sarah Preston at University of Kentucky believes we need to be succinct with wording.

But, being careful with wording is not enough; we also want to make our poster visually appealing. Katie Todd, Ph.D. student at Ohio State University, says having clear space between different elements (i.e., text and graphics) is critical to catch reader’s attention. Smitha George at University of Kentucky recommends properly using the space available within the limits as well as choosing visually appealing colors in figures. And, sometimes, a figure is better to use than a wordy explanation.

Our poster experts concur that keeping a poster simple is a good strategy during poster making. Daniel’s secret is keeping paragraphs with few words. Sarah and Smitha are careful selecting and combining colors that do not distract the reader from the content. For Katie, a white background and keeping the poster in a logical organization (typically with three columns) work very well for her.

Many other tips can be found out there to make a great research poster. We encourage our students and professionals alike to submit their posters for Entomology 2018, the Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, November 11-14 in Vancouver. The deadline for poster submissions is June 4th.

And stay tuned with the Student Affairs Committee’s series here at Entomology Today, as there will be more exciting posts to come!

Carlos J. Esquivel is a Ph.D. candidate at The Ohio State University in Wooster, Ohio. Carlos is currently the Student Representative on the ESA Plant-Insect Ecosystem Section Governing Council and a member of the ESA Student Affairs Committee. Email:

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