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A video abstract is a short-form multimedia video intended to highlight key findings of published scientific research and increase the visibility of that research by engaging a wider audience. Although many publications encourage authors to create a video abstract to be published alongside the paper, researchers can easily produce a high-quality piece for social media or other platforms regardless of the publisher’s preference.
Video often allows researchers to highlight parts of their science story that may be less suited to a formal abstract genre, such as images, explainers, and figures. Aim for producing a video abstract that is less than four minutes long; this is one of those instances where less is more. Honing your key messages will keep your audience watching until the end.
While traditional written abstracts tend to reach academic or industry professionals from your discipline, a concise video abstract can grab the attention of media professionals scouting for stories or members of the general public. Aim for a more conversational tone that avoids jargon and emphasizes the most important results and ideas from the research. Viewers can always return to the full text for more details.
The video below discusses the basic outline of a video abstract and what you’ll need to craft your own.
One of the best advantages of creating a video abstract is the opportunity to incorporate engaging visual content. Think creatively about what kinds of visuals will excite and hook your audience, especially if there are visuals that you don’t have a place to share in your published paper. This could include:
Simple icons with transparent backgrounds help illustrate technical concepts. Icons from The Noun Project can be used for free as long as you provide credit according to Creative Commons Licensing guidelines.
Many journals will not permit video abstracts with music tracks due to copyright infringement concerns. If you wish to use music on a video abstract published on your personal website or social media, you can purchase licensed music tracks from sites like PremiumBeat, Motion Array, and Storyblocks. Always provide credit for music and check usage guidelines.
Taking the steps to make your video content accessible will help you present your science to a more diverse audience and enable viewers to access your content on a variety of platforms and viewing conditions. Creating accessible content also signals to your audience that you value inclusivity, regardless of whether they require accommodations.
Subtitles: A direct text translation of the video’s spoken dialogue that usually appears at the bottom of the screen. Subtitles can either be in the same language as the spoken dialogue or translated into other languages.
Captions: Captions include not only a text description of the spoken word, but also descriptions of the background music or sounds to provide the same level of information one would get from hearing the audio. Captions are especially helpful for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Transcript: A separate text document containing the dialogue and content of the video. A transcript should include not only what is spoken in the video, but also descriptions of actions or important information on-screen.
A fully accessible video would include subtitles, captions, and a transcript, each of which performs a different function. With captions or subtitles, the on-screen text should be synchronized with the visuals, equivalent to the spoken content, and readily accessible to those who wish to use it. Adding captions, subtitles, and transcripts can expand your audience to include those who are deaf or hard of hearing, viewers who speak a different language than used in the original video, or those who use a screen reader. Captions, subtitles, and transcripts can also increase the search engine optimization (SEO) of your content and make it easier for people to find your video abstract through searches.
Rev.com is an example of a service that quickly creates .srt files used for subtitles and captions, which you can upload to platforms like YouTube.
Any text included in the video should also be in a large, sans-serif font. A good rule of thumb is to leave text up long enough for a viewer to read twice.
Learn more about video accessibility from the Bureau of Internet Accessibility.
Select high-contrast colors that are easy to distinguish against the background. Color blindness affects about one in 12 men (8%) and one in 200 women (0.5%). Check out Venngage’s guide for selecting color palettes that are more accessible to people with a variety of color blindness conditions.
Some visuals, like bright flashing or quick transitions between high contrast scenes, can trigger reactions in people with photosensitive conditions like epilepsy or people who are on the autism spectrum. You can check if your video might cause a photosensitive reaction with this tool from the University of Maryland. If it does, add a warning slide to the beginning of your video and to the descriptive text indicating that viewer discretion is advised.
WARNING: This video may potentially trigger photosensitivity reactions. Viewer discretion is advised.
NOTE: Use of the PEAT tool to assess material commercially produced for television broadcast, film, home entertainment, or gaming industries is prohibited.
Once you’ve created a video abstract that communicates your research in a clear and compelling way, you’ll want to reach a broad audience on a variety of digital platforms.
Some of the most common platforms for uploading science video content include:
Craft a title that includes keywords that your target audience might search. This will help search engines and search functions on social media more effectively index your content and recommend it to viewers. Use hashtags and tag the accounts of co-authors or partner institutions to maximize your video’s reach on social media platforms.
Here are some of our favorite examples for creative approaches to making a video abstract:
How genome size influences energy fluxes and fitness in a phytoplankton species
Exploring the relationship between agroclimatic zones of Vietnam and the onset dates for the rainy season in these zones
Amphibian chytrid fungus is driving massive global extinction
Video abstracts from Cell
6 Tips for Creating a Video Abstract Anyone Can Enjoy (Cell Mentor)
Video Abstracts in Journal Articles (IOP Science)
Revolutionising the Concept of Video Abstracts (BMJ Journals)