A visual abstract can be a powerful way to promote medical education scholarship and to generate reader interest. In recent years, these graphic article summaries have grown in popularity as journal authors increasingly take to crowded social media platforms to promote their work. With so much competing for one’s attention, having a good visual abstract attached as a thumbnail image to a tweet, for example, can increase visibility and entice readers to click and learn more. This year, the Journal of Graduate Medical Education (JGME) is encouraging authors to create visual abstracts for accepted articles and providing resources to help.
So what exactly is a visual abstract? In a research paper, the written abstract serves to summarize the article, to prepare the reader to follow more detailed information, and even to help the reader retain key points. A visual abstract can accomplish the same goals using a concise pictorial summation of an article’s main findings, while also serving as an eye-catching promotional image. A visual abstract does not replace the original abstract and will usually not be included in the print or PDF version of an article; instead, it will be housed online and used on social media to garner interest while conveying the most essential points of the research.
Many examples can be found in a visual abstract collection on the JGME website. JGME also created a page for Visual Abstract Guidelines, which contains a number of resources, including links to videos and templates to help authors get started. It is important to note that JGME does not ask for visual abstracts at the time of submission. They are not part of the review process, nor are they required. Once a research article is accepted, however, JGME will invite the authors of articles in the research categories to create one and direct them to those resources.
Look out for the next issue of JGME, releasing June 15, which will feature an editorial by Editor-in-Chief Gail Sullivan, MD; Deputy Editor Deborah Simpson, PhD; and Kenneth Warren Foster, EdD highlighting JGME’s call for visual abstracts. You can also refer to the Rip Out article published in the August 2021 issue on Infographics and Visual Abstracts. As part of JGME’s Rip Out section offering practical how-to advice for educators, this short article discusses ways graphics can enhance medical education.
For some, the idea of creating a visual abstract may be daunting. But doing so can give a significant boost to an article and help to disseminate important graduate medical education scholarship. JGME’s editors understand the challenge and hope these resources provide a roadmap to help authors face it with confidence.
Guest blogger Kevin Gladish is an editorial associate on the staff of the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. He’s been at the ACGME since 2016, and is also a performer, writer, and storyteller.