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How to write an attention-grabbing title for a scientific poster


scientific conference poster with a pending title hung up

Scientific poster sessions are the best opportunity to be introduced to new, exciting, and potentially unfamiliar research topics. It’s a treasure trove of scientific know-how.


But as you do a little window shopping at the session, how do you decide which poster to walk towards?


Of course, eye-catching visuals are important for drawing attention. Though naturally, your eyes are also going to be drawn to the titles of each poster.


You see the typical “Investigation of X” and the classic “Characterisation of Y”.


It’s kind of what you expected. But you’re the lookout for the unexpected.


Instead, you might be more drawn to bolder posters written by an academic wordsmith with a compelling and captivating title which dares to challenge the literature and tugs at your heartstrings. After all, the title is the first thing the audience tends to read, and can influence whether they want to engage in a conversation with the presenter.


Though what kinds of titles grab the most attention at a poster session?


If you’re at the stage of writing your poster abstract and want to land a solid impression with the attendees, we’ve got a few tips to help you to create a solid title! 👇



Write your main key finding as your title


Have you ever wondered why it’s extremely tempting to click on news articles with headlines which sound like major clickbait?


Like:

  • “Homeless man wins $100M lottery and his life changed FOREVER”

  • “Family reunited with missing pet dog after searching for 5 long years”


It’s because these titles immediately convey the main take-away or finding of the story, and as readers, we want to know how the article got to that conclusion. I want to know HOW they found their dog and HOW they persevered for 5 years! Tell me MORE!


Dog GIF saying I'm Listening

You can apply that exact same writing principle when concocting your scientific poster title when you’re writing your abstract.


In practice, having your main research take-away displayed as your title can poke and prod at the audience’s curiosity to want know the rest of the story. But it’s important to remember that your title should reflect the closest possible truth and isn’t misleading (i.e. does Drug X “cure” or “alleviate” disease symptoms?)


So why not try a title along the lines of:

  • “Living fossil discovered in the ancient waters of the Amazon River”

  • “Killer T-cells possess unique cellular compartments for carrying cytotoxins”


Though if you don’t yet have any conclusive findings, what’s another great approach for writing your title?



Write your title as a short question


This one’s easy! Everyone has a research question for their topic that they know like the back of their lab glove.


If you can shorten yours to <15 words, then you’ve got a solid title right there!


Examples:

  • “Do malaria parasites need Protein X and Y in order to grow?”

  • “Who are the victims of ocean acidification in coral reefs?”

  • “How do macrophages promote multiple myeloma development?”

Three large coloured questionmarks

Though how else can we be more creative with our titles? 🎨



Write your title as a creative analogy


Have you got a penchant for wordsmithing? For those who want to get a little more creative with their titles, writing an analogy is a great way to dust off your high school poetry skills and makes your findings more accessible to everyone.


We’ve covered analogies for communicating research in extensive detail in our other post, but in a nutshell:


Write a metaphor, like:

  • “Chromosome 17 contains the blueprints for cellular DNA-damage responses”

  • “Angiogenesis: Blood vessels are complex highways inside of your body”


Write a simile, like:

  • “Black holes are like whirlpools in outer space: a model of their formation”

  • “Click-chemistry is like putting together pieces of LEGO


Blood vessels are highways analogy

Not sure what analogy you could use? Perhaps you can ask a handy tool to inspire you. 👇



Write your title with the aid of Generative AI


We spend a LOT of brainpower on science already. So if any of the above examples resonated with you (but you just can’t think of a good title that hits the spot), pass the job over to generative AI!


After all, it’s no secret that generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, are helping us to develop new ideas by cutting down brainstorming time. If you’re not familiar with these tools, check out our guide here.


Then, after introducing your topic to your preferred AI model (perhaps by first feeding it your abstract), you can ask it these simple prompts:


  • “What is my main key finding or take-away message based on my abstract?”

  • “Write me 10 catchy titles which are <15 words based on my abstract”

  • “Write me 10 creative analogies for my research topic based on my abstract”

  • “What key research question am I asking based on my abstract?”

  • “Tell me something cool about my abstract that I don’t yet know myself” 🤪


iMac desktop computer with ChatGPT logo



Make an impact at your next poster session!


Ready with your brand new poster title? Fantastic! ✨


Though perhaps the title is all you’ve got time for, and there’s still the matter of actually DESIGNING the rest of the poster. And you’re running out of time until the conference!


don't press the red panic button GIF
Put the panic button away, we’re here to help. 👇

Animate Your Science’s poster design services will connect you with our team of PhD-trained science communicators and professional artists to craft you a poster that’ll grab everyone’s attention. From layout to illustrations, allow us to take care of the design work so you can focus on what’s most important: your research!


Contact our team today to maximise your research poster’s impact.


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