Science Fair Poster or Display Backboard

Your science fair poster or display is your opportunity to tell the story of your project.  Think of it as the billboard advertising your project.  It needs to be well-planned, organized, easy to read, and complete.  You may have simply a poster, often called a backboard, or a display with drawings, models, photographs, your research paper, bibliography and background information.

These tips will help you create a display that tells the whole story of your project, and helps you present it well.

Tip 1. Start with the backboard. A backboard can be cardboard, wood, or another material, and usually has three panels, so it can stand independently, and to organize the information you will share about your project.  The teacher will provide instructions for the size and shape. 

Tip 2.  If you use a cardboard backboard, buy at least two in case you make a mistake. You can buy a three-panel cardboard or foamcore boards at office supply or, some large department stores.  These are inexpensive, easy to use and easy to transport to school for the science fair.  They are also easily damaged and smaller than the size often allowed at the fair.

Tip 3.  Following any directions your teacher gave you, lay out the titles, graphs, photos, drawings and information on the board before gluing or taping.  Always work with pencil and have a good eraser available. 

Tip 4.  For a neat and attractive backboard, use “mats.” Mats, made from poster board, become a background for your work to be displayed. You can use a different color for each section of the board as long as the colors are complementary and not too bright. You can write titles on a mat, trim to the right size and glue it to the backboard.  Any papers, graphs or photos can also be mounted on mats and glued to the backboard.

Tip 5.  If you build a backboard from wood or any other material, be sure is it durable, lightweight, and can stand independently.  A sturdy, well-built backboard can often be used year after year, so the investment in materials like wood can be worth the expense.

Tip 6. Unless you have specific directions from the teacher, arrange the backboard with the information in the order you will use in your oral presentation.  That way, the backboard can help you with the presentation.  Put the title at the top of the center panel. On the left side, list the purpose of the project, the hypothesis, and the abstract, if you have one.  In the center, below the title, you can put your procedure, materials’ list, data, graphs or photos, if you have them. On the right side, place your results or conclusion, bibliography, sources and any future plans for this project.

Tip 7.  If you have multiple pages of paper to attach to the board, glue the last page to a mat, using a glue stick. Then, put a line of glue about one-half inch wide along the top of the page, or left side of each piece of paper and stack them neatly so that you have the entire paper glued to the board. YOu might also want to attach tabs to the right side of the pages to make it easier to turn them while reading.

Tip 8. Make sure your graphs make sense.  The whole purpose of a graph is to present your data so that it is easy to understand the results of your experiment.  Ask someone who doesn’t know your project if your graphs make sense, are easy to read and convey the information you want the viewer to know.

Tip 9.  If you have other elements in your display, such as models, a computer to show videos, some materials from your experiment, be sure they are safe and secured.  During the fair, many people will come by your display.  If you step away for a minute or are distracted by a judge’s interview, someone can tamper with your display.  Most fairs have a list of items you cannot include on your backboard or display, including animals, bacteria, plants, chemicals, food, liquids, etc.  If you need one of these objects to explain your project, use a photo or drawing rather than the actual item.

Tip 10. The display is not the project.  The display only tells the story and helps you with your oral presentation.  Use it to your advantage by making it attractive, neat, easy to understand, detailed and organized.  Have a friend or parent check every part of the display to be sure it is your best effort and reflects your project.