Bass Connections Poster Guidance

Please Note: This poster guidance is for the 2021 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase. Guidance for the 2022 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Showcase (April 13 from 3:30-6:00 in Penn Pavilion) will be available in February 2022.

Although the 2021 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase will not include a traditional poster session, we invite all teams to submit a poster for entry in the Bass Connections Poster Competition. Posters must be submitted by April 23 at 5:00 p.m. for consideration for our “Judges Selection” prize.

Frequently Asked Questions

Submission and Deadlines

  • Send a PDF of your team’s poster to Meghan O’Neil ( by Friday, April 23 at 5:00 p.m. for consideration in this year’s Bass Connections Poster Competition. When sending, please also include a short abstract (2-3 sentences) summarizing your work and indicate whether it is okay for us to share your poster on our website. (If your file is too large to email, please use Box, Dropbox or any other file transfer system to send.)
  • If you miss the April 23 deadline for judging but would still like us to share your poster on the Bass Connections website, email Meghan by April 30.

Helpful Resources

Guidance for Creating Your Poster

This is your team’s opportunity to share its work with the Duke community and beyond. Research posters can help you summarize your team’s research in a concise and attractive way. Posters are meant to generate discussion and may include text, tables, graphs and images.

Before You Start

  • As a team, discuss what you want to communicate. What is the most important, interesting or surprising finding from your year(s) of research? What do you want people to know? What can you leave out? How can you tell an effective story about your research question and findings?
  • Give yourself time to sketch out ideas using things like sticky notes or a white board before you start staging your poster in PowerPoint. This will give you flexibility to try different formats and move things around.


  • Please consider using this Bass Connections poster templates (download PPT file). Please select the slide appropriate for your theme.
  • If you choose to use a different template, that’s fine, but make sure to add the Bass Connections logo. This is required.

Poster Size

  • Research posters are typically 36 inches tall by 48 inches wide (the template is already sized this way). However, please feel free to use a different size since your poster will be viewed virtually.
  • To double-check the size of your poster in PowerPoint, go to the Design tab, click on Slide Size and then Page Setup.

Design Tips

Keep your design simple & decide on a story
  • Tell a single short story through your poster rather than trying to capture the entirety of your research project.
  • Make sure your poster has clear and descriptive title. The title does not need to be (and in most cases should not be) your project team name.
  • Make your motivations and takeaways obvious. Don’t hide your story in lots of small text. A compelling and obvious story will draw people in and invite them to ask for more details!
  • Use large, descriptive headings to break up sections of your poster. Consider using active statements that tell your story rather than standard headings like introduction, methods, conclusion, etc.
  • Avoid big blocks of text and small fonts. Try to keep the total text to 300-500 words and limit each line of text to 45-75 characters. Try aligning text to the left (rather than centering or justifying) to make it easier to read.
  • Choose bullet points over block text when you can. The goal should be punchy statements (not paragraphs!) whenever possible.
  • Limit text by using diagrams, images and data visualizations to tell parts of your story.
  • Incorporate white space to avoid overcrowding and create clear groupings and information flow.
  • Use high resolution images and simple graphics to illustrate your points. Include credits and captions where necessary, and make sure images won’t be distorted or grainy when enlarged. (Check this by zooming in to view your poster at 400% to make sure everything looks crisp and clear.)
  • Use color to emphasize important conclusions or to draw contrast between different thematic areas or sections of your poster. (For example, try using the same color for all data points and then a different color to accent an important piece of data or a conclusion.)
Don’t be afraid to be creative (as long as creative doesn’t mean confusing!)
  • Your poster should reflect your unique project team. Think creatively about how to organize and present your information. (For example, consider whether an infographic may be more appropriate than a traditional research poster layout.)
  • Use your data to tell a story. Keep in mind the variables in your data that are the most exciting. Find a way to highlight these.
Seek feedback
  • Before you finalize your poster, show it to as many people as you can (including your team leaders and project manager) and leave time for incorporating their feedback.
  • Schedule a virtual poster consultation with Eric Monson by emailing

Poster Examples Improved through Feedback and Revision

Draft Poster Revised Poster Revisions Included
Before After

Left-aligned and larger title, clear colorful headers that motivate and tell the story from far away, removed distracting header rectangles, strategic use of color to create contrast and emphasize conclusions, larger important diagram, less prominent acknowledgments and references sections, methods associated with appropriate figures

Before After Larger, more descriptive headings, takeaway still emphasized but now not dominating other important elements, added motivating statement, alternative arrangement of information tells a coherent and compelling story, clearer headings on larger visualizations, strategic use of color to emphasize conclusions, addition of QR code for more information

Additional Examples


What Worked Well

What Would Make It Better

Big Data for Reproductive Health

Ample white space, limited color palette, clear statement of problem, easy-to-scan text

Create more room for main graphic, delete too-small graphics at bottom

Rite of Passage: Determining Elephant-mediated Seed Shadows from Ground-truth Gut Passage Data

Intriguing images and graphics, clear statement of problem, minimal text Improve clarity of results section, make references and acknowledgments section smaller, delete confusing background image

Blue Devil Resistome Project

Clear organization, accessible language, good balance of text and graphics

Use fragments rather than full sentences, rework graphic of six charts for greater clarity, left-justify text

Cervical Cancer Care in Peru

Easy to view and read, doesn’t try to include too much information

Clarify problem statement and research question, use less space for background section

Supports and Barriers to Community-based Care for Children with Disabilities in Uganda

Effective use of quotes to convey perspectives and show human side of research

Reduce amount of text, use fragments rather than full sentences

Impact of Catholic Ministries on Student Human Development

Easy to understand, doesn’t try to include too much, clear presentation

Increase size of graphics for greater clarity

Creative Industries and the Urban Environment

Visually appealing, clear research question, intriguing graphics

Create more white space, minimize space used for authors, add summary and next steps

What’s in a Face?

Effective use of graphics, clear organization

Remove background graphic to improve visual clarity, use fragments rather than full sentences

Proposed Retrofit of Duke University Dormitory

Good balance of text and graphics

Make selected graphics larger and delete others, use fragments rather than full sentences, make text larger

Poster Competition

Although the 2021 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase will not include a traditional in-person poster session, we will still have a poster competition selected by judges in advance (Judges’ Selection). There will be three runners-up.


Only those posters submitted to Meghan O’Neil in electronic form by April 23 at 5:00 p.m. ET will be eligible for the Judges’ Selection.

Judges’ Selection

Judging for this prize begins on April 26 and concludes at noon on April 30. This year’s judges will consist of alumni who participated in Bass Connections, selected Bass Connections and Interdisciplinary Studies staff, former members of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council and communicators from Duke’s university-wide institutes and initiatives. Judges will review digital files of posters and apply the following criteria on a 1-5 scale:

Clear Presentation/Articulation of Project


Visual Appeal/Organization

The poster clearly conveys the purpose or goals of the project.

The poster clearly presents the ways in which the project or question was approached.

The information conveyed through the poster is accessible to a broad audience.

The photos, images, charts and/or graphs support the understanding of the project.

The poster is visually appealing and well-organized.

1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=neutral, 4=agree, 5=strongly agree


Please contact Meghan O'Neil (