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3 key reasons as to why you need a graphical abstract for every paper

Billboard with a graphical abstract overlooking piles of scientific documentation

New publications always call for an epic celebration. In fact, preparing a manuscript for publication is actually very similar to planning ahead for a HUGE event.

The planning committee? That’s your crew of co-authors. 🙋🏾‍♂️🙋🏻‍♀️ 💁🏽👩🏼‍💼

The peer-reviewers? The special guests you just “had” to invite. 😉

And who are the rest of the guests? That’s your target audience waiting to read your work!

But every successful event also needs a way to get the word out to the masses.

You’ll need some amazing flyers, or a whole billboard!

Or better yet for your paper, you’ll need a graphical abstract! 🙌

So if you’re looking to make an absolute splash with your next big paper coming up, here’s 3 reasons to put “graphical abstract” at the very top of your planning list! 👇

1. Many journals now require a graphical abstract

The “Submit” button is the final frontier of every research publication, but many journals are now placing fierce guard dogs right at the gates.

Friendly husky acting as a guard dog. It smiles earnestly at us. A sign says Beware of the Dog.
Bork bork! Feed me a graphical abstract! Belly rubs also ok.

It seems that that your submission might be blocked by a prompt to upload a graphical abstract! 😱

According to Springer Nature, the reason you need a graphical abstract is because many publishers choose to display visuals next to each paper, which are sometimes used for social media promotions for that study. Essentially, they want your paper to have a “YouTube thumbnail”.

Though to get past those very fierce guard dogs, you’ll need more than a copy of Figure 6b or a flimsy 2-minute PowerPoint doodle. Check out our ultimate guide to help you design one that will satisfy the guards and allow you to pass!

But why else are graphical abstracts becoming standard practice?

2. Graphical abstracts complement your written abstracts

I’m sure we can all agree that 250-word abstracts are extremely useful for previewing any paper. But with our ever-shortening attention spans, readers need a summary which takes far less brain power to process. This is especially important in order to digest papers with abstract, intangible, or extremely complicated topics swimming in jargon, where it can be difficult for non-experts to understand even in summarised form.

Greta Thunberg saying 'This is science, so yeah'

That’s where graphical abstracts help to fill in the gaps to:

  • promote interdisciplinary understanding

  • translate scientific jargon into digestible visuals for non-specialists

  • and get the point across super quickly and concisely!

If for example, your research is about how two complex molecules interact, a graphical abstract gives you the perfect outlet to draw it out. Or if you’re reporting the results of a clinical trial, why not put together a neat infographic summarising the objectives and key findings?

Think of it this way: With a visually-comprehensive graphical abstract, you’ll be able to help demystify the more complex parts of your research paper, communicate your work quickly, and add clarity to your whole paper. The visuals lend themselves to a greater understanding of the topic!

Your readers will surely be grateful to have not just a written summary of your work, but a visual aid too! 🙌

Though how else can a graphical abstract support your research?

3. Graphical abstracts can boost Altmetric scores

Ah yes, I’m sure you’ve heard of Altmetrics before. But if this buzzword is still shrouded in mystery for you, Altmetrics are an algorithm that scans the internet for mentions of your research paper, and brings it all together into one convenient number. ✅

In essence, it’s a measure of how much ‘buzz’ your paper is generating based on:

  • Mentions of a paper’s URLs or DOIs anywhere on the internet, including social media

  • Exports to citation management systems (but not actual citations themselves)

  • Download counts

And why do your Altmetrics soar when you have a graphical abstract? Well, that’s because visuals work like MAGNETS for attracting attention.

Graphical abstract attached to a magnet attracting a crowd of people

Indeed, papers accompanied with strong visuals, like graphical abstracts, will generally attract more attention as opposed to a paper without one. This is especially vital for when you’re preparing social media posts for your paper, which will do much better if there is a picture attached!

Need some research to back this up? A study by Bennett & Slattery (2023) report that sports science studies with a graphical abstract had a two-fold increase in Altmetrics compared to those without. A similar finding was observed by Oska et al. 2020 in relation to nephrology research papers. Lastly, Ibrahim et al. 2017 found that Tweets with graphical abstracts received a 7.7-fold increase in Twitter impressions (or is it X impressions nowadays?), an 8.4-fold increase in retweets, and a 2.7-fold increase in article visits!

In effect, graphical abstracts greatly enable papers to be seen, downloaded, and shared far more widely. Now that’s impact!

Graphical abstract about the effect of graphical abstracts on Altmetric scores in sports science studies
A graphical abstract about graphical abstracts?! Now that’s GA-ception…

It’s time to create a graphical abstract of your own!

Excited to hit that Submit button, clarify your written abstract, and boost your Altmetrics scores? Then a graphical abstract is absolutely what you’ll want to supplement and celebrate your incredible research. 🎉

Gah, but your lab timer just went off, and you need to run back into the lab for your next big experiment? The days have been getting shorter lately haven’t they? 😵‍💫

Scientist loading a western blot
Gotta get that data!

No worries at all, we’re here to help so you can focus on your research!

At Animate Your Science, our graphical abstract services will equip you with exactly what you need. By simply filling out our guided questionnaire, our PhD-trained science communicators and professional designers will transform your research topic into a graphical abstract that will enamour potential readers and give your research the edge it deserves!

Contact us for a quote today!



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