Powerful Poster Presentations: The Title

A poster must be visually interesting, aesthetically pleasing, concise, easy to follow, accurate, convey the main points, and establish your credibility as a scientist! And the first step toward accomplishing these goals is to write an effective title.

The title must be carefully written because it’s the element that’s most likely to be read. Conciseness is key; include only essential words. The title should be prominently placed on the poster, either centered or left justified at the top. Don’t underline or italicize it. Don’t capitalize all the letters of the title because it makes it more difficult to read; capitalize only the first letter of all words that are four or more letters and short verb forms (e.g., is and be). Another style of capitalization used for posters is to capitalize only the first letter of the title and use lowercase for all other words. You may want to review the conventions of your field to determine what capitalization style to follow.

Underneath the title, place your name and affiliation, and include all additional researchers’ names and affiliations. Poster titles are listed in the program, and if they’re concise, intriguing, and accurate, you’re likely to pull in some viewers.

Which among these titles is likely to engage an audience?

Bad:  Changes in raccoon predation behavior affects turtle nest census                   Bad:  Changes in Procyon lotor predation behavior affects Malaclemys terrapin nest census
Better:  Changes in raccoon (Procyon lotor) predation behavior affects turtle (Malaclemys terrapin) nest census                                                                                                  Better yet:  Turtle (Malaclemys terrapin) nest census underestimated: predation behavior of raccoons (Procyon lotor) examined by calcium measurements

Issue:  Using only the scientific names may decrease comprehension of the title and negatively affect interest in poster. Using the common names and placing the scientific names in parentheses is a good choice. The colon also helps add a secondary explanation.

Bad:  The relationship of sponge interior canal size and individual sponge volume to identity and diversity of Synalpheus inhabitants
Bad:  Body size is related to host use in a diverse clade of closely related snapping shrimp species (Synalpheus)
Better:  Sponge host characteristics shape the community structure of their shrimp associates

Issue:  Avoid vague terms such as relationships, involvement, effects or affects. Be precise. It may be necessary to develop a list of possible titles and select the best one for the specific audience. Notice the term, Synalpheus, is unlikely to be understood by many.  Aim for expressing the poster’s key message in a short phrase that your audience will find easy to understand.

Bad:  How to develop sustainable tourism in Jamaica?
Better:  Developing sustainable tourism: managers’ assessment of Jamaica’s ten-year master plan
Issue:  Use a question mark at the end of a title only if no single answer is presented, and the thrust of the poster is generating possible likely answers.

Titles hold the key to whether your viewer will be curious enough to keep reading your poster. We all have experienced the power of a title. In fact, right now one of the movies I want to see is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close because I like the parallelism of the title. The title makes me want to know more. Make sure your poster title makes your viewers want to know more.

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