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Publishing Online? Consider a Graphical Abstract

There is a new way to present your paper, and some journals are even beginning to require it. Introducing… the Graphical Abstract.

When submitting for online journals, not only do you have to write your normal abstract, you may also need to provide a graphical abstract. Various publishers, such as Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, etc., are suggesting or requiring a graphical abstract submission for most of their journals.

What is a graphical abstract?

A graphical abstract is a single image that captures the essence of your manuscript. Think of it as an Einstein meets Picasso interpretation of your results. Graphical abstracts are published on the journal website. They provide an easy to understand pictorial view of your work that can help researchers belonging to different fields, editors, and reviewers appreciate your work.

What are the requirements for a graphical abstract?

Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb for creating your graphical abstract. Specifications for graphical abstracts vary from journal to journal. You can create a new image from scratch, or in some instances, you can use a figure from your manuscript. Like other components of the manuscript, you can find instructions on “how to prepare” from each individual journal’s website.

But the purpose is always the same: to portray the objective, methodology and key findings in one single image.

How do you create a graphical abstract?

To design a graphical abstract, first visualize your work in your head and develop an overview. Do a bit of brain storming to figure out which kind of cartoon/flow-chart/sketch diagram/result will depict your findings in the most simple but impressive manner. You might want to start by first drawing it on paper before moving on to the soft copy.

You can choose among many different software packages to create your digital image.   For example, the following all work well:

Some of these tools will not require expertise, but others may require a bit of effort to learn or be quite pricey. So, choose the one that works best for you. I, personally, prepare abstracts using Microsoft Office and ChemDraw. I find them simple and sufficient enough to prepare a “Good” graphical abstract.

Once you get the hang of it, preparing a graphical abstract is not that difficult and you might find it helpful to visualize your research. Graphical abstracts, which are more similar to the pages of a comic book, may even make the following phrase possible:

“Science is even for a layman”.

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