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Poster Guidelines

A graduate student shows their poster to an exhibition judge.The Poster Exhibition is open to all students who are currently enrolled in a graduate degree program at Penn State. Any sound, scholarly research or creative activity that has been accomplished under the guidance of your current graduate adviser can be entered. As long as a well-defined part of the project is complete, students do not need to have finished the research for their master's degree or doctorate. While the research to be presented may have been accomplished with the support and guidance of a research adviser, the student participant must be the principal contributor.

The broad disciplinary categories for posters include the following:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Engineering
  • Health and Life Sciences
  • Physical Sciences and Mathematics
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

Exhibit Guidelines

The purpose of an exhibit is to convey to a wide audience a research project's significance to scholars in the field and its potential significance to the public. Accordingly, judges will be assigned at random. Therefore, students should expect that their entries are likely to be reviewed by judges from fields of study other than their own.

Exhibits will be judged on their quality in three areas:

  1. Content (40 points)
    The exhibit should testify to the careful design and execution of the research, and present clear results that are well interpreted. It must include: (1) short title of the exhibit; (2) student's name (or names, if more than one student is presenting the exhibit); (3) collaborators, advisor(s), and department(s); (4) funding sources; (5) proof of regulatory committee approval (if the project involves human or animal subjects or biohazardous materials); (6) objectives; (7) significance to the field; (8) significance to society in general; (9) methods; (10) results/findings; (11) interpretation of results and conclusions; (12) directions for future research.

  2. Display (30 points):
    The core of each exhibit is a poster, with text and graphics intended for a more general audience. The poster must be mounted on the exhibit board provided and may not exceed its dimensions, which are 3.75 feet wide by 4 feet high. The poster should attract attention and convey information. Language should be simple and descriptions brief. Jargon should be avoided; necessary technical terms should be defined. Spelling and grammar must be correct. All text should be large enough to be read from a distance of 4 to 6 feet.

    Photographs, drawings, charts, tables, or graphs should be simple, well organized, and carefully chosen to quickly explain complicated technical concepts to a wide audience. A tabletop model, computer display, video, original artwork or other demonstration may be included in the exhibit. These demonstrations, however, must clarify the work presented, not simply attract attention. (A 1.5-foot by 3.75-foot table is provided; a 2.5-foot-wide table and electrical power can be requested. Note that poster boards cannot be moved up; hence, poster text or graphics may be obscured by items on the table.)

  3. Oral presentation (30 points):
    Each student should have prepared an oral discussion of his or her exhibit, tailored specifically to make the work understandable to a non-expert audience. This discussion should be clear and concise, and should include the major points presented on the poster (numbers 6 through 12 above). It must not exceed 5 minutes; judges will be instructed to observe this time limit. (Note that a videotape or demonstration cannot be submitted for the discussion.) If the student worked with collaborators on the project, including his or her advisor, this presentation should clearly describe the student's role in the overall project.


Those individuals whose works and presentations are judged best will receive monetary awards of $100 to $500.

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