25 June 2009

Review: The Craft of Scientific Presentations

In my quest to find what others have written about the creation of posters, I found some online links referring to Michael Alley’s book, The Craft of Scientific Presentations. Indeed, I’ve mentioned a website associated with this author before and critiqued a poster from it.

The Craft of Scientific Presentations coverThis book sort of epitomizes why I started this blog. It goes on about strategies for presentations for over 200 pages through six chapters in substantial detail. Posters? Seven pages. Two of those pages are sample posters, cutting the number of actual pages down to five. And they’re not even in the main text! They’re in the appendix – and you know what an appendix is. A virtual synonym for, “It’s not really all that useful, so just get rid of it if it bothers you.”

The poster advice is good but basic. In fact, the author summarizes it all in one table, which I excerpt here.

  • Use a typeface such as Arial that is thick enough to read
  • Boldface the title and headings
  • Use type sizes of 18 points or higher (14 points okay for references and footnotes)
  • Avoid blocks of all capital letters

  • Arrange sections such that the order of what to read is clear
  • Be generous with white space
  • Keep lists to two, three, or four items
  • Keep text blocks to just a few lines

  • Include an orienting image near the title or in the background
  • Opt for vertical lists rather than long paragraphs
  • Where possible, opt for graphical presentations rather than lists or paragraphs
  • Accept the fact that a poster cannot present as much detail as a journal article can


Alley M. 2003. The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid. Springer-Verlag: New York. Amazon

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