How to Make a Graphical Abstract for Scientific Publication
Consider the scope of your study. The goal is to express the main point of your study in an easily digestible image, therefore it is important that you center your graphical abstract around the concept of your research. If you are studying a particular molecular change, make sure that the mechanism is part of your image. Likewise, if you are working with one particular genome, include some important piece of it in your image.
- You can find an open source image or create one yourself. Once you have the image, you can use text boxes to add any relevant titles or legends.
- The image may also be a graph or chart, which could be generated in Excel or similar programs.
Focus on key concepts of your study. Most likely, you will need some text within the image. Be sure to use key phrases in the text that will make it easy for readers to identify the focus of your study. This will help your work be found by more readers.
- For example, if your graphical abstract will consist of a chemical reaction mechanism for the metabolism of glucose, you could incorporate text by giving the image a title such as “Glucose Metabolic Reactions” or “Mechanistic Diagram of Glucose Metabolism.”
Use concepts from this study rather than referenced literature. Though referencing literature is an important part of all research, it should be used sparingly in a graphical abstract. You what the abstract to relay what your study resulted in rather than what led you to do the study. If at all possible, avoid using anything outside of your actual research.
Choose appropriate software. It is usually best to use a program that you are familiar and comfortable with. Microsoft Office is generally a good choice. It offers enough flexibility in its programs to create a professional graphical abstract, and most people are familiar with using Microsoft Office.
- Powerpoint is often used to create a graphical abstract. Using one slide as the canvas for your image allows you to keep the whole image on screen. You can also overlay text boxes and other objects as needed.
Summarize your findings in a visual format. When you are using a graphical abstract, it is important to focus on what you found rather than what you did. Other researchers looking for your paper will be looking for results that interest them before being bothered to read the process. The graphical abstract allows you to provide them exactly what they are looking for in a visually pleasing picture.
Design a new image. It can be tempting to snag a figure from somewhere in your paper to serve as your graphical abstract. While this is the easiest route, it isn’t the best. Designing a whole new image that centers around the study as a whole allows you to think about the main points you want to convey. It also helps to get potential readers a more comprehensive look at your study.
Target interdisciplinary researchers. Make your graphical abstract more visually appealing to draw more people to it. The use of technical jargon is often necessary in research, but
it can be difficult for people of other disciplines to understand readily. A clear and concise graphical abstract allows you to relay technical information that appeals to a wide range of audiences without losing them on too much technical jargon. This will allow your work to spread much faster than if it were only being found by others in your field of study.
Choose a professional font for any text. While your image should be focused on a pictorial representation of your research, it is likely that you will need some text in the image. This might include a graph title or legend, or some other writing to help the reader understand what they are looking at. This text should be presented in a professional font such as Times New Roman or Courier.
Keep the graphical abstract design simple. Your graphical abstract should be only one image. Do not submit an abstract that is made of a series of images, such as a slideshow. If needed, you can use a split panel format to show more than one image. This might be useful for showing the progression of an experiment.
Check the unique specifications of your publisher. Guidelines for abstract submissions are different in different disciplines. They even vary slightly from one publisher to another within the same discipline. The rules governing graphical abstracts are no different. You will need to work closely with your publisher to make sure that you are meeting all appropriate requirements.
Submit the image file only. All text included should be in the image itself and not an addition or attachment to the image. The image should have a directional flow that is easy to follow, (e.g., left to right). Check with the publication you are submitting to for preferred file types, but common formats are TIFF, PDF, and MS Office files.
Ask for help if you need it. Some publishers offer services to assist researchers in making a great graphical abstract. If this is not available through your publisher, they will likely know of an independent agency that will help you polish your abstract. Your graphical abstract is the face of your research, and you want to be sure you are putting your best face forward to get your work recognized.
Is a graphical abstract necessary for a literature reviews?
Graphical abstracts usually apply to summarizing the outcomes of your individual study (just as a traditional abstract would do). While you may also include a literature review for your study, a literature review itself does not generally need a graphical abstract. That being said, if your publisher asks for such a thing, then by all means make one!Thanks!
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- Search for templates that allow you to add split panels or text boxes.
- Do not leave unnecessary white space.
- Do not try to put too many things in one image. It will look cluttered.
- Some publications are now requiring graphical abstracts for certain fields.
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