Visual abstract: what are they, and how should they be structured?

A Visual Abstract is a concise representation of the primary outcomes of a scholarly article, depicted visually for the reader’s effortless comprehension. It offers a swift snapshot of the central results of the study, aiding the reader in determining the paper’s relevance to their areas of interest. So, this article aims to briefly introduce the visual abstract, the main components, and structures and provide some tips to produce a good visual abstract for scholars.

Sample graphical Abstract


Visual abstracts, alternatively termed as graphical abstracts, bear a resemblance to infographics. However, they are specifically concise visual encapsulations of an article’s primary findings. Displaying information visually aids in the efficient and effective comprehension of intricate ideas by viewers. Lately, there has been a surge in the use of visual abstracts to share novel research outcomes with other healthcare professionals.

A significant number of scientists and healthcare professionals are at ease with creating figures, tables, and slideshow presentations, yet they might find the production of modern visual media, like infographics and visual abstracts, somewhat unfamiliar. Acquiring the skills to craft these visual aids can bolster their capacity to disseminate their scientific findings and enlighten their peers and the wider public.

The main components of a visual abstract

In academic writing, a visual abstract typically comprises four primary components:

  1. Title: This part needs to be concise and engaging as it forms the initial impression and should be closely tied to the subject of the research. For instance, a study examining the influence of a novel medication on cardiac disease could bear a title such as “Effect of Drug X on the Progression of Heart Disease.”
  2. Image: The image should be aesthetically appealing and should encapsulate the core research subject. It could be a chart displaying the findings, a depiction of the drug’s mode of operation, or a schematic of the heart. For example, a bar chart could be used to compare the advancement of heart disease in patients administered with Drug X against those given a placebo.
  3. Summary of research findings: This should be brief and underscore the principal results of the investigation. For instance, ‘Patients who received Drug X exhibited a 25% reduction in the rate of heart disease progression compared to those administered a placebo.’
  4. Call to action: This should motivate readers to delve into the original research article. It could be a directive such as ‘Peruse the complete article for an in-depth understanding of our methods and findings’ or ‘Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on our ongoing research.’

These elements collaborate to create a lucid, succinct, and visually engaging synopsis of the research paper. The objective is to captivate and involve the audience, thereby rendering the research more comprehensible and approachable. Bear in mind that the aim of a visual abstract is to offer a clear, brief, and visually attractive summary of the research paper, enhancing the accessibility and understandability of the research.

How should a visual abstract be structured to attract the reader’s attention?

Crafting a compelling visual abstract requires meticulous planning and thoughtful design. Here are some guidelines on how to organize a visual abstract to captivate the reader’s attention.

  1. Slide size: the size of slides is usually set to a 16:9 (Widescreen) ratio, a standard format for presentations and digital media. This dimension is ideal for display on the majority of digital devices.
  2.  Header: This is the section where the journal’s logo and the title of the visual abstract are placed. The title should encapsulate the primary query that the study seeks to address. It ought to be succinct, engaging, and closely tied to the subject of the research.
  3. Body: This section is designated for detailing the study’s methodology, exposure, and results. The methodology area should delineate the comprehensive traits of the study group, including participant count, demographic data, and selection criteria. The spaces for exposure and outcome should be populated with the study’s exposure (for example, drug versus placebo) and the pertinent result of the study (such as the risk of developing bladder cancer).
  4. Footer: The footer serves as the location for the study’s conclusion, citation, and the byline of the abstract’s author, along with their contact details. It also displays the logos of the author’s institution. The primary findings of the study are presented here, accompanied by details that allow readers to discover more about the study, the author’s institution, and how to contact the author.

What are some tips for creating an excellent visual abstract?

Crafting an engaging visual abstract calls for a mix of creativity, clearness, and pertinence. Here are some suggestions to assist you in making a successful visual abstract.

  1. Determine the type of graphical abstract: Depending on your strategy, your ultimate abstract will reflect the design and aesthetic you establish. The format could be a diagram, visual abstract, infographic, or comic strip. When selecting the most suitable kind of graphical abstract for your paper, consider your target audience.
  2. Employ the right Tools: After deciding on a kind of graphical abstract, the subsequent step is to identify the correct tool for its creation. You’ll require a tool that intuitively enables you to search for shapes and graphics that align with your topic.
  3. Focus on the Goal: The goals of your paper should propel your graphical abstract. This implies that the central message, crucial points, and outcomes should be included and readily apparent in your graphical abstract.
  4. Be Clear: Prioritize what you deem most significant. Opt for the active voice over the passive. Steer clear of vague or unclear language, and refrain from making general statements – be precise.
  5. Adhere to the Word Count: Abstracts typically range from 100 to 250 words. Comply with the particular formatting guidelines for your abstract.

Different types:

Diagram style:

This type of graphical abstract is commonly applied in chemistry to represent chemical reactions and structures. This type is the easiest method to demonstrate the scientific contents. This format is full of technical phrases and abbreviations.

Visual style:

These abstracts are more professional but can be designed quickly and easily with PowerPoint. This type of style is often used in medical journals.

Infographic style:

This advanced style tends to use both text and graphics attractively. Professional design software applications are applied to design these abstracts.

Comic style:

Comic abstracts present the content with cartoon characters to explain the research findings


The objective of a visual abstract is to offer a lucid, succinct, and visually attractive synopsis of the research paper to captivate and involve the audience. It should be well-organized and utilize fundamental components to render the research more comprehensible and approachable.

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