Characteristics of References

  1. Provides the reader with information about who conducted the research, when it was published and the journal that published the work.
  2. Provides detailed information about author names, article title, journal name, volume, issue and page numbers so that readers can easily find the source of the information.
  3. Acknowledges the scientist(s) who conducted the research and/or the journal article where the research was originally published.  

The References (or Bibliography) section should list all the sources of information that were used in the poster.  This section appears at the end of the poster.  The References section (Figs. 2 and 8) typically contains all journal articles (i.e., primary sources) but it can also contain secondary sources (e.g., newspapers, documentaries, government reports).  References tell the reader where the original data, information, technique, and/or method can be obtained, who conducted the work and when the paper was published.   

In posters, in-text citations are used to tell the reader where information was obtained.  An in-text citation should appear after every sentence in the poster that describes the work of others.  This includes all sentences that describe discoveries, findings, data, information, experiments, results, techniques, methods, dates, locations, etc.  

In-text citations can be done using either (1) superscript numbers or (2) authors last name, followed by year published.  


  1. Polar bear cubs were 25% larger when fed a high-protein diet compared to high-sugar diet.1     
  2. Polar bear cubs were 25% larger when fed a high-protein diet compared to high-sugar diet (Jones and Smith, 2018). 

The “1” and “Jones and Smith, 2018” both refer to the same journal article:  E.J. Jones and W. A. Smith (2018), Journal of Natural Science, Vol. 53, Issue 12, pages 36-45.  Both types of in-text citations are acceptable for use in posters.  Authors typically choose superscript numbers to save space.     

Formatting References

You have likely been taught about MLA (Modern Language Association of America) or APA (American Psychological Association) formatting and style guide in middle or high school.  Many of you are likely proficient in these styles.  For most posters you likely will not follow the MLA nor APA styles when citing your sources.  There is a practical explanation for why these two styles often are not used in a poster. It is because there are thousands of different professional scientific societies around the world and each society has its own preferred formatting style that they use in publications for their journals and conferences.  Therefore, citation styles will vary depending on where a poster is presented.  In fact, many scientists use software, that, with a click of a button, will transform all of their citations into the proper style and format for any journal or conference.

Nonetheless, we provide 15 examples below of how one could cite primary sources (examples 1-5 below) and secondary sources (examples 6-15 below) of information in a scientific poster.  

Figure 8. References List
list of references
Figure 8.  References section of a poster that uses numbers 1-10 to indicate the source. Each reference contains the authors names, year published, name of the journal, volume number and page numbers. Reference 1 appears in the poster first, references 2 appears second and so on.

Citing Primary Sources

Peer-reviewed journal articles are considered primary sources.  Patents and Published Technical Reports from Government Agencies and Universities are also considered primary sources of information.  Five examples of how to cite primary sources are numbered below 1-5.  

1. Journal Article in Print:  Most journals are printed on paper others are entirely available online.  Authors Names. (Year Published in parenthesis). Article Title.  Journal Name, Volume Number (Issue Number in parenthesis): Page Numbers. 

1A. Journal Article with one or two authors:

McMurran, M. and Christopher, G. (2009). Bayes factors increases criminal sentence recommendations. Legal & Criminological Psychology, 14(1):101-107.

1B. Journal Article with more than two authors: 

Post, E., et al. (2009). Genome studies of quorum sensing organisms. Science, 325(5946):1355-1358.

2. Online Journal Article:  These journals are electronic and not printed on paper.  Authors Names. (Year Published in parenthesis). Title of article. Journal name. Volume number and or page numbers.  Include complete URL link in full or DOI if known.    

Dionne, M.S. and Schneider, D.S. (2002). Adaptive mutability in targeted microRNA infections. Genome Biol. 3:10.3559. 

3. Government Technical Report in Print: Author names or name of organization. (Year Published in parenthesis). Report title.  Report Number. Name of government agency that published report, Place of publication. 

Smith, G.I. and Chen Y.P. (2018). Growth stages and tolerable fire intervals for Georgia’s native vegetation data sets. Report no. 247. U.S. Department of Interior. New York, NY, USA.

4. Government Technical Report Published Online: Author names or name of organization. (Year Published in parenthesis). Report title.  Report Number. Name of government agency that published report. Place of publication.  Date retrieved followed by complete URL link in full or DOI if known. 

Spandone, H.K. et al. (2017). Energy futures for Midwestern wind farms. Report no. C2.4715.12. U.S. Department of Energy. Washington D.C., USA.  Retrieved on February 15, 2017 from

5. Patent: Author names. Date in parenthesis. Title of patented item, technique, method or process. Patent number.

Odell, J.C. (1970, April). Process for batch culturing. U.S. patent 484,363,770.

Citing Secondary Sources

Secondary sources report on and interpret results that have been presented in primary sources.  Secondary sources include books, documentaries, magazines, newspapers, podcasts, webpages from government agencies and universities.  Ten examples of how to cite secondary sources are numbered below 6-15.      

6. Book Chapter: Authors names. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Chapter title, page numbers. Editors of book, Book Title, Place of publication.  Name of publisher. 

Forman, M.S., and Valsamakis, A. (2003). Specimen collection, transport, and processing: virology, p. 1227-1241. Murray, P.R., et al. (Eds.), Manual of clinical microbiology, 8th ed, Washington, D.C. Penguin Press. 

7. Book:

Anderegg, D. (2007). Nerds: Who they are and why we need more of them. New York, NY. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Penguin Press. 

8. Magazine Article in Print:

Road map to a great deal. (2009, October). Consumer Reports, 74(10), 44-47.

9. Magazine Article Published Online:

Taibbi, M. (2009, September 3). Sick and wrong. Rolling Stone, 1086, 58-65. Retrieved on February 22, 2020 from 

10. Newspaper Article in Print:

Lucchetti, A. & Craig, S. (2009, September 11). Morgan Stanley taps new boss. The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, A16. 

11. Newspaper Article Published Online:

Moran, S. (2009, September 7). If you don’t snooze, you lose: Most Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. And for both adults and students, there are health consequences. Star Tribune. Retrieved on August 6, 2019 from 

12. Podcast:

Nature (Producer). (2009, July 16). Moon gazing in the Southern hemisphere, Audio podcast. Retrieved on November 5,2009, from 

13. Documentary, Video or Movie:

Donner, R. & Lee, S. (Producers), & Hood, G. (Director). (2009). X-Men Origins: Wolverine [DVD]. USA: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. 

14. Personal Web Page: In most instances a web page is not used as a reference in a poster. 

Wilson, E.O. (1999, September). Biological Diversity: The Oldest Human Heritage, New York State Museum, Albany. Retrieved on July 12, 2020 from 

15. Web Page of Organization or Group of Authors: In most instances, a webpage is not used as a reference in a poster. 

National Museum of American History. (2006, July 7). National museum of American history displays recent hip-hop acquisitions. Retrieved from 


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Scientific Posters: A Learner's Guide Copyright © 2020 by Ella Weaver; Kylienne A. Shaul; Henry Griffy; and Brian H. Lower is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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