A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Views: A Triple Crossover Trial of Visual Abstracts to Examine Their Impact on Research Dissemination.

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Journal of Medical Internet Research


BACKGROUND: A visual abstract is a graphic summary of a research article's question, methods, and major findings. Although they have a number of uses, visual abstracts are chiefly used to promote research articles on social media.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to determine if the use of visual abstracts increases the visibility of nephrology research shared on Twitter.

METHODS: A prospective case-control crossover study was conducted using 40 research articles published in the American Journal of Nephrology (AJN). Each article was shared by the AJN Twitter account in 3 formats: (1) the article citation, (2) the citation with a key figure from the article, and (3) the citation with a visual abstract. Tweets were spaced 2 weeks apart to allow washout of the previous tweet, and the order of the tweets was randomized. Dissemination was measured via retweets, views, number of link clicks, and Altmetric scores.

RESULTS: Tweets that contained a visual abstract had more than twice as many views as citation-only tweets (1351, SD 1053 vs 639, SD 343) and nearly twice as many views as key figure tweets (1351, SD 1053 vs 732, SD 464). Visual abstract tweets had 5 times the engagements of citation-only tweets and more than 3.5 times the engagements of key figure tweets. Visual abstract tweets were also associated with greater increases in Altmetric scores as compared to citation-only tweets (2.20 vs 1.05).

CONCLUSIONS: The use of visual abstracts increased visibility of research articles on Twitter, resulting in a greater number of views, engagements, and retweets. Visual abstracts were also associated with increased Altmetric scores as compared to citation-only tweets. These findings support the broader use of visual abstracts in the scientific community. Journals should consider visual abstracts as valuable tools for research dissemination.





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