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Cartoon abstracts: communicating research in new ways

It is not always straightforward to communicate your research in an accessible way, and encourage people both within and outside of academia to read it. We live in an online and increasingly visual world, where an image can often entice someone to click on a link; the same is true for research articles. That’s where cartoon abstracts come in, as a graphic, eye-catching introduction to a published paper.

What’s a cartoon abstract?

An abstract is a short summary of a journal article, which aims to help readers understand its focus and key findings. Launched by Taylor & Francis in 2015, cartoon abstracts have taken that idea and made it visual, explaining the focus of a journal article in a one-page cartoon that’s easy to share online, tempting people to read the entire article.

The reaction

So far, cartoon abstracts have generated over 12,000 extra downloads for articles published in journals which range across the sciences, technology, and maths. With the authors represented through characters in the cartoon strip, they’re also a useful networking tool among peers.

And researchers love having their work turned into a cartoon too. Dr Marlene Giandolini, one of the authors of “Foot strike pattern and impact continuous measurements during a trail running race: proof of concept in a world-class athlete”, published in Footwear Science, believes that her cartoon abstract “…permits us to share our work in an attractive and clear fashion on social networks…people will in turn share this with their community!”

Dr Anders Sandberg, author of “Ethics of brain emulations” saw a 66% increase in downloads thanks to a cartoon abstract. His article is now one of The Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence’s most read.

Dr Gianluca Baio, one of the authors of “Evidence of bias in the Eurovision song contest: modelling the votes using Bayesian hierarchical models” in the Journal of Applied Statistics, also saw an increase in readers to his article after his cartoon abstract was published and told us it “…conveys the sense of the paper in a very clear way.” .

The reaction on social media highlights their value in communicating research to broad audiences in an accessible, fun way. Many of the cartoons have now been turned into posters for use in departments too.

Turning your abstract graphic

Recently published in a Taylor & Francis or Routledge journal and would like us to consider your article for a cartoon abstract? Please contact us.