Visual abstracts are kinds of graphical abstracts specifically designed to attract researchers’ attention and get broad audiences. The influences of such abstracts cause some academics to use them for their papers and benefit their potential to get more attention and, eventually, citations. But what constituents an excellent visual abstract should have? How to design a good one? Stay with us to answer these questions.
What is a visual abstract?
Visual abstracts are kinds of graphical abstracts that outline the prominent findings of a paper. Essentially, these abstracts cannot replace the full article or the conventional (written) abstracts. The main advantages of these abstracts are that they are pretty attractive, and due to the visual base, they can gain attraction when you share them on social media platforms.
The importance of visual abstracts for academic papers
Like businesses and corporates that benefit from visual abstracts when presenting their annual performance and achievements, academic papers can use their advantages of them. Attractive appearance, summarizing key points, and sharing capability of visual abstracts make them a good tools to increase paper citations. Consider your research was about the process of electrospinning Nanosilver in gelatin fibres and further crosslinking it with glutaraldehyde and using it as a wound dressing. You can show all your process through simple shapes, so other researchers who want to work in a relevant field don’t need to read the materials and methods in the first step. They can simply look at your visual abstract, and if it is the proper process they are looking for, they will download and read it. More precisely, it helps other researchers quickly glance at your work and decide if it will come in handy for them or not.
Main components of an excellent visual abstract
You should follow some basic instructions and include essential components to have an impactful visual abstract. These components should be provided in a way that a reader can immediately understand the key message of the article. The essential components are as follows:
Explain the background and the central question of your research
You should clearly describe the context and goal of your research and explain the main problem you and your coworkers tried to address. Keep this part clear and concise, and write it in one sentence. For instance, in the earlier example, you can write a sentence like this: “Using crosslinked gelatin electrospun fibres containing Nanosilver particles to promote diabetic wound healing.” You can write this sentence on the left- (or right-) side of your abstract.
This is an optional part, but using it helps your readers quickly decide if they want to read the full article or not. You should explain the main materials and procedures used in your work and briefly show the ultimate product. In our example, this part can consist of gelatin, Nanosilver, and electrospinning equipment with arrows that show the order of works, and the ultimate product can be a camera and SEM images of nanofibers.
Describe key points and prominent findings of your paper.
In this part, you should say what superior and novel results you’ve observed in your work. For example, you may observe the higher Nano silver concentrations had significant in-vitro bactericidal effects. In contrast, the diameter of electrospun fibres and Nano silver concentration both have a synergistic effect on the healing time of the diabetic wound. Here you should clarify those statistically significant results and use graphs, tables, or images to illustrate and verify your findings. Note that these images should be clear, readable, and easy to interpret. In our example, you can provide tables that show the inhibition zone of fibres against pathogen bacteria, add images of wound healing stages during the time, etc.
It is essential to use simple and accurate language in this part. If it is prepared to share in public or in semi-expertise communities, you should avoid using jargon or technical terms. This is the most crucial part of your visual abstract, so place it in the centre of it.
The last component of an excellent visual abstract is its conclusion. As its name says, in this part, you should outline the application of your results in your field of study and clarify the possible limitations for further research. You can use bullet points to summarize your research based on your finding. In our previous example, you can claim that the produced fibres have in vivo and invitro inhibitory effects:
- The 50 µg/ml concentration of Nanosilver in electrospun fibers had the highest bactericidal effect.
- Decreasing fibre diameters to 20 µm and 50 µg/ml Nano silver healed the diabetic wound in around nine days.
In addition, if you found the gelatin fibres are unstable when exposed to environmental moisture, you should mention it in your conclusion as below:
“Our produced fibres without crosslinking were highly unstable against moisture, and crosslinking them makes this characteristic just 40% better, so we had to replace them after 2 hours with new ones.”
Visual abstracts are powerful tools academics can use to increase the visibility and citation of academic works. Researchers can readily share these to gain more readers and attract attention to their works. However, like written abstracts, they have a specific structure. To write a perfect one, you, as a researcher, should know the main component of these abstracts. You should clearly outline the question you’ve answered in your research, outline the essential findings and results, and adequately and Optimizely use figures, tables and images to create an attractive visual abstract.