A screenshot from 'Wavechasers and the Samoan Passage' video abstractVideo abstracts are a great way to explain your work to the public and researchers outside of your field. To paraphrase, they’re like value propositions on steroids.
accomplished and documented in a journal article and, crucially, why
it’s important to the world. You can use video abstracts illustrate
concepts and experiments explained in your article, to “introduce
viewers to the equipment and tools you have used in your research and
engage with your audience in a more informal manner,” explains IOP Press.
are adopting video abstracts as a great way to market research
articles, and in less than an hour you can create one of your own.
creating a video abstract for a journal article: how to write a script,
record the video using common equipment, and share your video to get
maximum visibility for your research.
Step 1. Learn what makes a good video abstract
GBV 5-Minute Science Fair [Public Health & the Pandemic of Violence Against Women]:
a straightforward video of a researcher describing her study of
domestic violence among Latino immigrant communities in Washington DC.
It has good production value–well-lit, easy to hear, plus some custom
titles and credits added on to the beginning and ending–but is simple
enough in concept that anyone could pull it off.
Dangling-bond charge qubit on a silicon surface:
in just under five minutes, this video abstract sets a stage for what
qubits are and why this particular study advances our knowledge of
qubits. The researchers reuse computer-generated graphics and figures
from their paper to illustrate the concepts they explain in the video,
to great effect.
The Bacterial Effector VopL Organizes Actin into Filament-like Structures:
this video features three researchers describing their paper with the
aid of paper and pen, protein models, and some sweet action shots in the
lab. It’s a highly technical explanation that can be a bit dry at
points, but still manages to explain the study in a manner that
non-specialists like me can understand. It’s successful even without the
cool footage from the rainforest that the next video boasts, because
the authors explain things well and go out of their way to illustrate
concepts for the viewer.
Wavechasers & the Samoan Passage:
an action packed video abstract that seems more like a movie trailer
than an explanation of geophysics. (“The Wavechasers team travels to
Samoa (experiencing Samoan culture and hospitality while there) to
measure an undersea river 5 km beneath the sea surface.”) Setting aside
the insane production value of the piece, what really drives this video
abstract is the story behind the research.
- What does your article cover?
- What are the implications for future research on this topic or where would you like to see the field go?
- How can an instructor use your article in their teaching?
lives, their universe, or the advancement of knowledge in your field.
to keep your video simple and short, refrain from using jargon, and–if
possible–tell a story that’ll hook your viewers within the first 30
seconds and keep them watching until the end.
Step 2. Gather your equipment
A computer, webcam, and microphone: Many
newer model laptops now come with webcams and microphones built-in. If
you don’t have one, try a grad student in your lab or borrow one from a
colleague. You can also use a desktop computer with a standalone webcam
and microphone, if need be. And if you plan to do a simple video
abstract (like the GBV point-and-shoot video featured above), a
smartphone that can record video will do in a pinch.
Video recording software: If you’ve got a late model Macbook, the pre-installed Quicktime Player software can be used to create a simple screencast and iMovie can be used to edit any videos you create. Otherwise, check out Lifehacker’s list of best screencasting software for the top Windows and Mac options.
Something interesting to say about your research:
Video abstracts are only as good as the stories they tell. No amount of
production value can make up for a dispassionate explanation or lack of
relatability to the viewer’s own life. In the next step, we’ll share
some research-backed tips on how to communicate your results, but at the
very least, you’ll need the kernels of the story from which we’ll make
this video abstract bloom.
Step 3. Choose your format
lightning-talk screencast, with you explaining slides and videos that
illustrate your points from off-camera?
study, and some buddies in your university’s press office that have a
lot of time and money to help you make a splash with a killer movie
dependent upon what equipment and technical expertise you have on hand.
And your script will be dependent upon your video’s format.
format. Because we’re getting to the good stuff next: your video’s
Step 4. Write the script
It doesn’t have to be written out, word-for-word; if you’re comfortable
ad libbing, a simple outline will do. But you’ll still need to plan
ahead on what you’re going to say, to some degree.
Create an outline
A problem statement
research, and how did that affect the viewer’s life or the advancement
of knowledge in your field? (“We knew that prostate cancer affected
residents of three New York counties at a rate double that of the rest
of the state, but no one knew why.”)
A one-sentence explanation of how your research solves that problem
of your study and what bearing it might have on a solution to the
problem statement. (“After a 30-year study of New York residents and
countless environmental tests on both humans and lab animals, we
discovered that contaminated groundwater was likely the culprit.”) Both
this explanation and the problem statement should fit into the first 30
seconds of your video.
An in-depth explanation of your study and results
you conducted your study–the types of experiments you ran or data you
collected and analyzed–and the specifics of the results you found and
what they might mean. Remember to refrain from using jargon unless
absolutely necessary, and explain any jargon you do use.
Reiterate what the problem is, how you solved it, and why the world’s a better place now
viewer of the problem your study has solved, and bring it back home to
explain what bearing that has on their life. (“Now that we know that
groundwater contamination resulting from the fracking methods used by
most drillers does indeed cause cancer, we may be able to convince
politicians to ban these methods in the future, so no one else is
Invite the viewer to become a reader
likely hooked on what you’ve said and want to know more. Use this
opportunity to point them to your journal article or preprint where they
can read the full study.
Build your outline into an engaging script
an outline of your talk is probably your best bet. It will keep you on
your main talking points, while avoiding sounding stiff or
Use your outline to create a slide deck, and then write out what you’re
going to say, word for word, so you can read it while doing the
definitely want a full script, and you’ll probably want to develop it
with the help of experienced A/V professionals in your university’s
Step 4. Record your video abstract!
trailer-style abstract, pay close attention to the quality of sound and
lights. Videos that are difficult to watch won’t get many viewers. The University Affairs blog
recommends using “a lapel microphone, ideally, or else a very quiet
room. Ensure that lights are facing the speaker and avoid backlighting,
which happens when you situate the interview subject against a window.”
consider paying a professional voiceover artist to narrate it. They can
be easily hired on Fiverr for around $5/minute of voiceover, and often have the experience and audio equipment that’ll make your video sound professionally produced.
and 150 words a minute. And while you might be able to speak 200 or
more words per minute on your own, keep in mind that the voiceover needs
time to breathe, allowing viewers to absorb what you’re saying (this is
especially true if the content is particularly dense or technical in
nature). Machine gun fire dialogue quickly overwhelms viewers, causing
abandonment and decreased comprehension.
it with your video editing software. This is a good opportunity to
remove your tangents and flubbed lines, but it might require you to
learn a new skill. Sometimes, it’s just easier to record a second take,
You’ve just accomplished a pretty big feat: video-enhanced public
Step 5. Upload the video
Where to share it
Vimeo. Both can be used to track views and likes for your video, and
allow you to copy-and-paste simple codes to embed your video in other
websites. Neither offer long-term preservation, so you might consider
backing up your video abstract on Figshare or a similar service.
What to include
descriptive title (one that matches your article is ideal), a 2-3
sentence description of your video abstract’s content, and a full
citation to your paper (including a link to a freely-accessible copy of
its fulltext, if it’s been published in a toll-access journal).
Step 6. Promote your awesome new video abstract
- On the article homepage: if the journal allows it,
embed your video next to the written abstract for your paper. That way,
potential readers get a more engaging glimpse of what your paper’s
about, beyond what appears in the written abstract.
- Your website: embed your video on your website’s homepage, or on the Publications or Research pages.
- Your blog: share the video along with a link to your publication and a transcript of your video, adapted into a blogpost.
- Twitter and Facebook:
these social media platforms were practically made for sharing video
with the public. Share a link with your next update and both platforms
will automagically embed it for your followers and friends.
- We Share Science:
this video aggregator allows you to share your science video abstract
with other scientists and students. You can also follow other authors
and video creators on the site to stay on top of the best video
abstracts–useful for discovering what works well so you can borrow it to
use in your own videos!
abstract for it. And once you’ve created it, share it on at least one of
the platforms or websites we mention above.
an opportunity serve your discipline and build your brand as an expert
in your field.
Impact Challenge Day 18: Make a video abstract for your research - Impactstory blog