How to Create a Graphical Abstract for your Science Manuscript?

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Long time no see, but I have been drafting two manuscripts during the Covid-19 lockdown. The first one is about my 2020 postdoctoral project at the Physics Institute of BUAP (IFUAP), and the other one comes as a collaboration with my last research group at IER-UNAM. Both works are related to the synthesis of new materials for energy conversion, solar cell development, and numerical simulation using SCAPS-1D.

At this stage, the writing process and discussion with my coworkers have almost come to an end. However, one of the requirements to submit the manuscript to the journal is to include a graphical abstract separately. This figure will only be visible online on the journal’s webpage to catch the reader’s attention. Therefore, success in creating a graphical abstract could bring you more opportunities for citation of your publication.

Sometimes the advisor will say, “Send me the graphical abstract as soon as possible.” However, they usually do not teach us how to do it. That is one of the reasons you are here reading this post. I need to confess; I am in that situation. Therefore, come with me to see how to solve this problem.

1. What is a graphical abstract?

According to the editorial ELSEVIER, the graphical abstract is a visual summary of the main results of your work. This graphic could include figures of your manuscript even you can design a unique image for this purpose. As I said before, the graphical abstract aims to catch the reader’s attention at first glance.

When we do literature research, we immerse in a ton of digital publications; then, content curation is necessary to decide which papers are essential to read. Thinking about that, we should design the graphical abstract to show our work’s relevance to readers.

2. Look out for the Guidelines

Figure: Guidelines from ELSEVIER for a graphical abstract

It is possible you will not require a graphical abstract. However, it depends on the editorial where you are thinking of submitting your work. Therefore, do not forget to review the journal guidelines. Nowadays, in 2020 most of the research papers are published online. Thus more and more editorials will ask you to include a graphical abstract.

The guidelines are not strict, but we should follow them to succeed in the publication. As my colleagues said. “Don’t give the editors a reason for rejection.” Here are the most important guidelines I found:

  • File type: The most commons are PDF, EPS, TIFF, and MS-Files.
  • Image size: Keep a 2×5 ratio (width x height) with a 300 dpi resolution. For example, ELSEVIER asks for a minimum of 531 x 1328 pixels file.
  • Font: You should use just basic fonts like Arial, Times, Courier, and Symbol.
  • No additional text: This means they recommend only graphic labels and no further explanation.

3. Avoid Copyright issues

This topic is critical because we are creating content, and we should respect every copyright image published on the web. Not everybody has digital designing skills, but when you download an image, please do not copy and paste directly on your graphical abstract. If you are thinking of using web images, edit the graphics, change orientation, colors, or even re-create it on your own.

The easiest way is to use only figures that are in your manuscript. With this strategy, you will avoid any possible copyright issues. Remember, your manuscript is an original work and every aspect that is not from your authorship should be cited.

4. Drafting the graphical abstract

Now, we are ready to draft our graphical abstract. In my case, my manuscript is about the synthesis of a thin film semiconductor, optoelectrical characterization, and the probe of concept by numerical simulation. Thus, in the below Figure, I divided the draft into three sections: Synthesis -> Properties -> Simulation.

It is crucial to present the information from left to right and from top to down. This way, we are trying to tell the whole story from beginning to end. Now, the challenge is to use computer software to place the essential figures taking care of unnecessary content.

Figure 1. Paper and pencil to draft the graphical abstract

5. Software

Drawig the graphical, here you can use a vector image editor. For example, I use a software called Graphic for Mac, which allows me to draw the basics geometrical forms, insert text, and export to the recommended image file types. However, if you don’t own a vector editor, you can use the PowerPoint editor and submit the .pptx file.

Figure. Graphic for Mac is a vector image editor that I use for drafting images.

6. Examples

Title: Direct solution deposition of device quality Sb2S3-xSex films for high efficiency solar cells

Finally is your turn. Let’s design our graphical abstract. I hope this information will be useful for your current work.

Remember, you can share your experiences in the comments below.

Jesus Capistran

Developing thin-film solar cells

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