Scroll Top
Where Science Meets Instructional Design

Graphical Abstracts and Borrowed Ideas

Contributed by: Lori Salamida, Lead Instructional Designer

Have you ever borrowed a creative concept or idea?

When we were challenged by one of our clients to teach learners how to read and understand clinical trial data, we borrowed the graphical abstract concept and we used it in a non-traditional way.

Graphical abstracts (sometimes called visual abstracts) were first introduced on Twitter in 2016. They were designed to accompany the submission of full text papers to visually convey the essential points of the paper and to promote the research. They were not intended to be a substitute for reading the full text article, but to allow readers to see a concise, infographic-style overview of the article, and then decide whether or not to read it.


To make science more accessible and help learners understand and communicate scientific content, we leveraged the creation of graphical abstracts as a tool to engage them in active learning.

Traditionally, before learners could participate in a workshop activity like this, they would have to read the research. For many learners, especially those without scientific backgrounds, reading and making sense of the scientific research is the hardest part!

Fortunately, our staff of science journalists specialize in making complex topics more accessible.They did the heavy lifting by summarizing the research into quick reference guides that covered the study design, the results, and key takeaways.

These succinct, information-rich quick reference guides were distributed as pre-reads prior to the workshop activity to allow learners to absorb and mentally organize the information ahead of time. Then, when learners joined the workshop, they worked in teams to draw a simple graphical abstract reflecting the contents of their quick reference guides.

We provided learners with the following guidelines to keep in mind as they did this:

  • Prioritize the information
  • Focus on the essentials
  • Eliminate unnecessary words
  • Get straight to the point

By using this set of guidelines, learners were able to summarize the key question(s) being addressed, use design thinking, convey a clear message, and verbally explain the most relevant information.

This is an example of a graphical abstract we provided for inspiration.

Reproduced with permission from Springer Nature
Reproduced with permission from Springer Nature

When their time was up, each team shared and explained their graphical abstract with the other team. This allowed them to teach back what they learned, communicate their ideas, and get suggestions and feedback from their peers. The ultimate goal was to help them verbalize a summarized version of their graphical abstract in an informed and confident way.

So now that we’ve described a new and different way to use an existing concept, do you think it’s ok to borrow a creative idea?

Is it ok when you apply the idea to a new situation?

Or, when you look at the idea from a different perspective?

How about when it enables learning?

Bring your training ideas to us and we’ll develop an inspired solution: Contact us today!

learning modules
digital magazines
scientific insights
KOL engagement solutions


Mark Menichini

Business Development Director

Related News |view all news