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Using visual abstracts to get more eyes on your work

Title: Get More Eyes on Your Work: Visual Approaches for Dissemination and Translation of Education Research

Author: Jessica Rodrigues

Author’s institution: University of Missouri

Journal: Educational Researcher (2021) [Closed Access]

Let’s pretend that we all don’t spend too much time online. If that were the case, I’d tell you about this thing called social media that allows individuals to share their thoughts with people around the globe. Even though social media is geared towards speed and simplicity, some scholars use it to share research findings. In the case of this one platform, Twitter, other scholars have found posting about research articles can increase article views and downloads of the actual article and may even increase citations.

Because many of us do spend too much time online, it probably doesn’t require much convincing to say that not all content is created equal. Simply posting the article and a link doesn’t create much engagement. Instead, a compelling social media post requires a mix of catchy text and appealing visuals. That’s why creating visual summaries of research articles is starting to gain traction in education.

Visual Abstracts

One specific example is visual abstracts. Visual abstracts are very similar to traditional textual abstracts except that the main information is presented in a graphic rather than a paragraph. Because the information is similar to the traditional abstract, this approach is used to complement existing information in the article and is aimed at other researchers. While intended for social media or the journal itself if it allows visual abstracts, visual abstracts also work as a summary slide in presentations.

To create a visual abstract, the author of today’s article lays out a 6-step procedure:

Figure 1: Sample visual abstract from the CDC. Available from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Translational Visual Abstracts

That approach works well if the intended audience is other researchers, but what if the goal is to instead reach nonscientists. As education researchers, we might be looking to reach parents, teachers, administrators, or policymakers. That’s where translational visual abstracts come in. They follow a similar structure as the visual abstracts but make a few changes. Most importantly, translational abstracts are tailored the specific audience of interest (a visual abstract is then a special case of the translational visual abstract where the intended audience is other researchers).

To make a translational abstract, the author of today’s article again provides a 6-step process:

Finally, when creating the translational visual abstract, the author recommends adapting it for each different audience and for each platform you intend to share it on. Therefore, you might have different translational visual abstracts for Facebook and Twitter even if they are about the same research paper.

Next Steps

Even though visual abstracts are still relatively new, they are beginning to catch on. The author urges education researchers to try a visual abstract. She also encourages anyone who does make a visual abstract to post it to Twitter using the hashtag #EdVisualAbstract.

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