Posters at the Undergraduate Research & Arts Expo

The 2020 Undergraduate Research Expo will be held in a virtual format. Poster presentations will be hosted via asynchronous platform over two days, Wednesday, May 27, 8:30AM CST-Thursday, May 28, 5PM CST.


Presenting a poster allows you to connect directly with your audience and have individual conversations about your research with a wide range of people. During the poster session, the presenter stands next to their poster but the audience is free to move around the room, stopping to look at posters and engage in conversation with presenters as they wish.

For student presenters, the advantage of giving a poster over an oral presentation is that you engage in a one-on-one dialogue with audience members who are interested in your research, rather than talking at a large number of people from a distance. The poster should make sense on its own, but more importantly, it serves as a means to a conversation!

If your poster is accepted for the Expo you will attend a workshop in May where we will teach you how to design a poster and poster-presentation for any discipline and how to prepare for one-on-one conversations. No matter whether you are in the humanities, the social sciences, or the natural sciences: posters are a great way to share and get feedback on your research.


Information Below:

The Basics

Help Before you Apply


Technical Instructions and Guidelines

Designing a Poster


The Basics

  • The 2020 Undergraduate Research Expo will be held in a virtual format. Poster presentations will be hosted via asynchronous platform over two days, Wednesday, May 27, 8:30AM CST-Thursday, May 28, 5PM CST. Applications for poster presenters will be open in March 2020; poster submissions will be accepted through April 26, 2020.
  • There are two poster sessions during the Expo: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. You will present at one session only. You can indicate on your application whether you prefer morning or afternoon, but your final assignment will be based on where your poster best fits into the overall Expo schedule.
  • During the session you will stand next to your poster so that you can discuss your work with audience members and answer questions. You will be expected to have prepared a brief (roughly 3 minute) presentation to give to visitor
  • People from all backgrounds and fields visit students' posters, so they should be written with an an educated but non-expert audience in mind. 
  • Group presentations are welcome.
  • The Office of Undergrad Research (OUR) will hold workshops in Spring Quarter for all Expo presenters. One workshop focuses on putting together a poster, and the other workshop focuses on presenting a poster and developing your elevator pitch.


Help Before you apply



  • Each poster will be visited and scored by 3-4 faculty judges. The judges will assign scores based on the quality of the poster and the student's ability to discuss their research in-person. Ideally, you will have at least one judge from your broad discipline and at least one judge from outside your field. Your challenge is to present to both kinds of audience members. 
  • First, Second, and Third Place Awards are given to posters in each session by research division.
  • 'People’s Choice Awards' are given to the favorite poster from each session, as voted by attendees.
  • See a list of winners from the last Expo PDF icon2017 Expo Poster Winners.pdf (35.95 KB)


Technical Instructions and guidelines for the expo

Poster Size and Display

  • At the Expo you will share a free-standing board with one other student. You are responsible for bringing pins or tacks to mount your poster.
  • Posters should be no more than 4' wide. The boards are 6.5' high x 8' wide, and we put two posters side by side. Posters wider than 4' will hang off one end. If you need a lot of space, consider making a poster that is taller, rather than wider. 
  • No matter what software you design your poster in, adjust the size so it scales and prints well!  
    • In our experience, a 3'h x4'w poster works well - download a size adjusted powerpoint template FileExpo Poster Template (164.4 KB)
  • Browse images from past Expos on our facebook page, to get an idea of the poster board dimensions.


Designing a poster


If you have never designed a poster for a conference before it might seem intimidating, particularly if you come from a discipline that is text-heavy and tends not to rely on images or graphs to present data. Don't let this put you off! We will be running workshops in May to help you get started and practice talking about your research one-on-one.


Poster Guide for Northwestern Research Expo Posters

 <PDF iconClick Here to Download Printable Version of Poster Guide (1.5 MB)> 


Resources for Download

FileExpo Poster Template (164.4 KB) (download for 3'h x 4'w ppt template)

FileNU Undergraduate Research Logos to use (164.43 KB) (download ppt slide for various logo options)

NU Logos for Schools and Departments

Typically, logos are used on posters to denote institutional affiliations as well as funding sources. Sometimes funding source logos are compiled in a corner of the poster near the "Acknowledgements" section.


Acknowledgement of OUR Funding (please include if you recieved funding from OUR to support this work):

"The study resulting in this presentation was assisted by a grant administered by Northwestern University's Office of Undergraduate Research. However, the conclusions, opinions, and other statements in this publication [or presentation] are the author's and not necessarily those of the sponsoring institution."


External Resources

There are also plenty of resources out there on the web that you should consult for ideas and tips. Below are some sites we have found that offer great guides to making posters and preparing your presentation. Some are discipline specific, reflecting different conventions and the different kinds of data being handled in your field. But nearly all these sites have tips or advice that students from any discipline will find useful.

  • "Undergraduate Research Annotated Poster Samples" from UT Austin. Provides sample posters created by UT undergraduates with a brief discussion of each poster highlighting strenghts and weaknesses of each presentation.
  • "Poster Design Guide" from the Cain Project. A general guide to posters and poster-sessions, with some great practical tips for students from any discipline.
  • "Designing Humanities and Social Science Posters" from the Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research. Practical guide (slide format) with tips on design, software, how to size/save, and finding images.
  • "Design Tips for Creating an Arts and Humanities Poster" from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities' Research Group for Electronic Textuality and Theory, at Western University blog. Includes good design tips and has additional links at the bottom of the page with even more resources.
  • "Poster Sessions – A Design Historian Reflects" written by Grace Lees-Maffei, Reader in Design History at the School of Creative Arts, University of Hertfordshire. A more in-depth discussion of visual elements from the perspective of a professional designer, with some creative suggestions.
  • "Tips for Presenting a Poster" written by Anna L. Smith, Texas Tech University. A step-by-step guide to help you prepare to talk about your work when you are in the poster session. (Note: This guide assumes your poster is based on an already written journal article or paper. This isn't expected for the Expo.)
  • "Designing Conference Posters" written by Colin Purrington. A much longer and more detailed guide to both designing and presenting your poster, that is particularly applicable for science posters but useful for anyone. Includes a number of templates.


Options for Poster Design and Assembly

You have multiple options for designing and assembling your poster. The three most common approaches are:

1) Design your poster on a computer (e.g., using PowerPoint or another program - see below) and have the poster printed as a single, large sheet. Some departments provide printing services for students or you can have your posted printed at a local print shop (e.g., Quartet Copies).

2) Purchase a standard poster board from an art or office supply store and physically assemble the poster components in advance on the board.

3) Print individual sheets/poster components on a regular printer and pin them to the board provided at the Expo.


Software to Create your Poster

  • This website lists some non-PowerPoint alternatives you can use to design your poster.