At many academic conferences, both professionals and students present research in large poster sessions. This format summarizes work and gives readers the opportunity to view many studies in a short period. To reach the intended audience, posters must be clear, concise and informative. Researchers often use the sixth edition of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" as a style guide for these presentations. The sections of the poster mirror what is included in a formal research paper.

Heading

Write the title of the study in large letters across the top of the poster. On the next line, in smaller letters, identify the authors. Beneath the names, in even smaller letters, list the institution associated with each author. Use title case rather than all capital letters; the latter format slows down reading.

Introduction

Put the introduction on the top left side under the heading. Left-justify "Introduction" in large letters, and then put the text in smaller letters beneath it. Be sure the letters are not too small to read from a short distance; readers may be standing several feet back from the poster. The introduction should contain two or three paragraphs that explain the purpose and importance of your study. After reading the introduction, your audience should have a clear idea what question you seek to answer and what your hypothesis is. Include any significant background information or prior research a reader must know to interpret your work.

Methods

Put the "Methods" section below the introduction. Format the title and text the same as for the prior section. This section provides an overview of what the researchers and any participants did. Describe participants and setting, list the materials used and summarize the procedure for data collection. If there are any figures, tables, illustrations or documents that help explain this section, include them. Be sure they are large enough that viewers can understand them from afar.

Results

Opposite the introduction, start a new column for the "Results" section, and format the title and text as you did for the previous sections. Here you describe the data you collected and any statistical analyses you conducted. It is very helpful to readers if you can present much of this material using graphics. Tables, figures and graphs display data clearly with a minimum amount of text. Make certain these diagrams are large and well labeled. Your audience should be able to understand them without additional text.

Discussion

Place the "Discussion" section below results, using the same style for heading and text. In this section, you have the opportunity to explain your results. Based on prior research and your personal understanding, interpret the data in relation to your hypothesis. Explain why the results either support or disprove your predictions. Point out any limitations and problems that appeared during the research. Note any implications your study has within the context of your field or for society in general, and include recommendations for future research.

References

If needed, place the optional "Reference" section under the discussion. Include any references your audience needs to frame your work. Format the title and text as in the other sections, and follow the APA publication style to list books, journal articles, online resources or other references you include. This section is much shorter than it is in a formal paper. Use only titles that are necessary for your readers' understanding.