Creating a Visual Abstract

by LTC Jaime Bellamy, DO

After you have put in the work to develop and complete your study, you want to get the word out! The traditional ways are to present at a meeting with a poster or podium presentation and eventually publish in a peer-reviewed journal. A relatively new way to disseminate your work quickly and widespread is through posting visual abstracts (VA) on social media. The most common platform for this is Twitter. Studies have shown when a VA is posted on Twitter, it results in increased impressions (times the tweet was seen), retweets (times the tweet was shared), likes, and article visits (times the article link was clicked) in less time than when the article link is posted alone1,2.

A VA is a visually appealing slide summarizing your work based simply off of the details in the abstract. The goal is to catch the Twitter scrollers eye with your VA. There are multiple computer software programs that are used to create VAs. A free program you likely already have access to is Microsoft PowerPoint. Figure 1 shows a VA I made using PowerPoint and icons from the web-based program “Noun Project” at This is an affordable program that is a one-time fee of $35 and gives you access to thousands of medical and research-type icons without worry of copyright. See reference #3 in the list below for a link to the “Visual Abstract Primer” for detailed instructions on making a VA with PowerPoint.

Figure 1. Visual abstract posted by @JArthroplasty on Twitter 11/22/2019.

Another program I have experimented with recently is called, “Mind the GRAPH” at There is a free option to try out the program, but it is very limited and you can only make and save one VA. This program will make your VA look a lot more professional than PowerPoint (Figure 2). However, it is quite a bit more expensive to use, as you would expect. For example, the “Senior” level subscription is $9 per month and the “Professional” is $59 per month.

Figure 2. Visual abstract posted by @JArthroplasty on Twitter 03/01/2020.

It should be kept in mind that the VA does not replace the review of the article in its entirety. The VA can be likened to a movie trailer with the overall goal to hook the reader into clicking on the article link and get them to read the full paper in depth.

1. Ibrahim AM, Lillemoe KD, Klingensmith ME, Dimick JB. Visual abstracts to disseminate research on social media. A prospective, case-control crossover study. Ann Surg 2017;266(6):e46-48.
2. Soreide K. Numbers needed to tweet: social media and impact on surgery. Eur J Surg Onc 2019;45:292-95.
3. Ibrahim AM. A primer on how to create a visual abstract. December 1, 2016, March 2, 2017. Available at: Accessed 3/1/2020.