Draw a Pair of Wings for Your Publication
Ancient Book Pages with Birds Flying Away
(downloaded from Dreamstime, click on the figure to be directed to the original source)
Publishing a manuscript always tends to be a painful process for most graduate students. We put well-tailored figures and organized tables in a manuscript together with years of effort, survive several rounds of reviewing process, and in the end receive an email starting with “Congratulations! You manuscript is accepted for publication on …”. At that moment, you must feel like a rising star in this field, yet this daydream is easily crashed when Google Scholar and Researchgate tell you that very few people read your “intriguing” 10-page paper over the past year with zero citation. You start questioning yourself, does your years of research actually benefit the whole community?
Internet gives us easy access to tons of research papers, but access alone does not grant efficient learning. Let’s start with a simple experiment: Download several research papers outside your own field, and I’m sure you can barely make it to the third paper, letting alone remember the major points. Most of the publication in academia are full of jargon (yours too!) and detailed technical processes (even in abstract and keywords), building up a impassable wall between a specific scientific community with the general public. You can imagine the frustration of newcomers in one field, especially undergraduate students, when reading these barely understandable words. At the end of day, our learner-unfriendly publication seems to achieve anything but publicizing our findings effectively.
Guess what? Nobody understand your abstracts!
(click on the figure to be directed to the original source)
How can we possibly change this difficult situation? Recently, most of the journals encourage or even require authors to submit a graphical abstract along with the manuscript. Successful graphical abstract provides a great visual presentation of your current work, which can quickly attract people’s attention within seconds. Readers can easily grasp the fundamental points and broader impact from your work without reading your whole paper. Through this way, the initial screening and skimming processes on the Internet become a enjoyable treasure hunt, significantly enhancing the learning efficiency.
From the researcher’s perspective, creating a graphical abstract is also a refreshing learning process. Graphical abstract abandon the fixed pattern from “Introduction” to “Reference”, and you just need to find a quite place and totally set your mind free! Whether you are an old-fashioned person into colored pencils or computer geek playing with AutoCAD, you can use your own unique way (for example, using avatars from computer games or cartoon) to deliver the most important information embedded in your paper. Once completed, I believe you will have some new understanding or interpretation towards your current work. Besides, the graphical abstract can be further used on digital platforms such as social media and PPT slides for oral presentations (recyclable).1
The process of creating a graphical abstract reminds me of one previous app (Draw Something) on the cellphone. It is so much fun!
Who says only artists can have their portfolio, we scientists and engineers can have amazing taste of art too! Draw a pair of wings and paint them with your imagination, and they will make your publication fly across the land and ocean.
- How to make a good graphical abstract. http://bitesizebio.com/31125/how-to-make-a-good-graphical-abstract/