Visual Abstracts: Online Resource


A Visual Abstract is a single, concise, pictorial and visual summary of the main finding(s) of the article. This most often represents a figure that is specially designed for this purpose, which captures the content of the article for readers at a single glance. These are displayed in online search results, as well as with the online article and its content page.

Authors who submit full original research articles to Annals of Thoracic Surgery Short Reports are encouraged to submit a Visual Abstract for their original research submissions. Select other article types support Visual Abstracts, as well. If you are interested in submitting a Visual Abstract for your work, please note you are welcome to do so upon submission if it shows as an available item type in the drop-down menu at the Attach Files page, pursuant to your article type.

Below, we provide authors with an Annals Short Reports-specific Visual Abstract “primer,” along with a featured group of 10 Visual Abstract templates, and a link to download >100 Annals Short Reports-specific templates for use with your submission, depending on the structure and finding(s) of your report. These have been designed in collaboration between our Editorial Staff, our Senior Editor for Digital Media & Digital Scholarship, Dr. Thomas K. Varghese, Associate Editor, Dr. Jessica G.Y. Luc, and our partner in this effort, Dr. Andrew Ibrahim, who originally created a version of these templates for Annals of Surgery.

Lastly, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of us for feedback or any questions you may have with the process. We are here to help you.

For more guidance on Visual/Graphical Abstracts, please see Elsevier’s general online resource, located here.

Original Article Template
Original Article Template
Original Article Template
Original Article Template

1. Benefits of Creating a Visual Abstract

  1. Capture readers’ attention:Visual abstracts are concise, visually appealing summaries of an article that lend themselves to plain language explanations of concepts and can help draw attention and readership to the manuscript.
  2. Enhance readability and understanding:Visual abstracts can become valuable resources for readers to improve recall of the article for future referencing.
  3. Article can be added to a repository of Visual Abstracts:These repositories can be through a journal’s website (eg, or via indexing on social media through hashtags such as #VisualAbstract, #AnnalsImages, etc.
  4. Increase the shelf-life of your article:Visual abstracts often find their way onto grand round slides, conference presentations, press releases, social media posts, and are disseminated abroad as such increases the shelf-life and reach of your article.
  5. This is an opportunity and responsibility:The science of dissemination of research through social media is growing with the potential to not only increase attention and readership of publications, but also improve citations ( 2/abstract). This is not only an opportunity to help your research reach a 3 broad audience, but also a responsibility as a member of the scientific community.

2. Anatomy of a Visual Abstract

  1. Key Question Being Addressed:This can be the title of the manuscript, a catchy one-line summary of the article, or the heading of a key figure in the manuscript.
  2. Summary of Background, Methods and Outcomes:Phrase that conveys the key messages for the visual abstract.
  3. Key Figures:Simple icons or figures from manuscript that supports the message being conveyed.
  4. Author and Citation:This will include the first author’s last name, journal, and year of publication.
  5. Journal Twitter Handle and Relevant Hashtags:This includes Annals Short Reports-specific Twitter handle (@annals_short) and relevant hashtags to inform those who would like to distribute the visual abstract via social media to know who to tag and include.
  6. Creator of Visual Abstract / Journal:This can be the name of the individual who created the visual abstract or the Journal’s logo if the article has been accepted in that Journal.
3. Step-by-step process of creating a visual abstract

For examples, templates, and layouts you may use any one of the featured templates below, or the >100 Annals Short Reports-specific templates available for download; you may also choose to adapt them for yourself for use with your submission. They are organized by Annals Short Reports-specific article submission types. In addition, you can follow the hashtag #VisualAbstract on Twitter for more examples.
  1. Start with a Software:PowerPoint, Keynote, Adobe Photoshop, Pain, Pixlr, or other software can all be used to create a visual abstract.
  2. Message:Visual display of your message depends on the type and number of messages / outcomes you hope to convey. Prioritize key messages over completeness.
  3. Layout:
    1. Title with Key Question Being Addressed
    2. Visual fields:Can be done with colored boxes, panels, or shapes. For ease of browsing, the visual abstract should have a clear start and end (e.g., reading from left to right or top to bottom)
    3. Add author, citation, and Journal
    4. Outcomes / Messages: One can organize them in (1) a background, methods, findings format or (2) 1-3 key outcomes that one wants to convey. Use short phrases and comparative phrases (where possible) inside text boxes for each outcome / message. Add in numeric values for each outcome with units and comparative values such as p-values (where applicable). Lettering should be clearly legible and no smaller than 10 point font for normal text.
  4. Color:Effort should be taken to use colors that complement each other or of different shades.
    1. Should you choose to use similar colors to the Journal’slogo, you can use the eyedropper function to match your colors exactly.
    2. For Images in PowerPoint, you can use the picture format function and select "Color," "Corrections," "Transparency," or other "Artistic Effects" to alter the image to complement the color theme chosen.
  5. Figures:Can be figures used in the manuscript or images that you either have a copyright to use, or have a subscription that allows you to use them. Should copyright violations occur, they can threaten the Journal’s
    1. Potential sources for images include:
      2. Google image search
      3. Shutterstock
      4. Getty Images
      5. Clip art (from Microsoft Word)
      6. Icons, 3D Models, SmartArt (from Microsoft PowerPoint)
    2. Other options include creating the icon yourself or collaborating with a graphic designer
    3. Illustrations may have a discrete signature of the artist, if permitted by the payer of the illustrative work

      (Please note: Use of third-party sites as indicated above or otherwise may contain images or artwork that is inappropriate for use within your visual abstract. Discretion by authors should be used regarding images that may be culturally, racially, or gender insensitive.)

  6. Review Your Work:Ensure your work reflects what you hope to convey and adheres to the ethical standards:
  7. Export your file:Save the file as a TIFF or JPEG or other image file that can be easily usable for social media. Ensure your image file meets journal standards, including: line art (black and white or color) and combinations of gray scale images and line art should be at least 1000 DPI. Line art, such as Kaplan-Meier curves, also includes any bar graphs, line graphs, scatter plots, etc. Color images and gray scale halftones must be at least 300 DPI. For further information on figure preparation, please see
4. Ways to disseminate your visual abstract on social media

  1. General rules in the dissemination process
    1. Provide a concise summary of the background, methods, and conclusions
    2. Include measures of significance (if possible)
    3. Ensure you include a link to the article on the Journal’s website to direct readers for further reading
    4. Make the abstract searchable using the following hashtags
      1. #VisualAbstract
      2. #AnnalsImages
      3. #TSSMN
    5. Tag key individuals
      1. Authors and Institutions
      2. The Journal
      3. The Society
      4. Delegates of the Thoracic Surgery Social Media Network (
      5. Any others who would have an interest in your work
  2. Modalities to disseminate your article published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery
    1. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery website
      1. Repository of Visual Abstracts -
      2. Beyond the Abstract Podcasts -
        1. Tweets and TweetChats -
      3. Tweets
      4. Tweetorial
        1. Example of a Tweetorial -
        2. And make sure to document it via @Threadreaderapp by tweeting “@Threadreaderapp unroll” at the end of your thread. Example -
      5. Polls
      6. Gif
    2. Facebook
    3. Instagram
    4. TikTok
    5. LinkedIn
    6. Doximity
    7. Webinar
    8. News Outlet
    9. Blog
    10. Referencing Website (e.g.,
  3. Measure your impact
    1. Social Media
      1. Impressions = number of times the post / tweet was seen and reflects exposure of the content.
      2. Shares / Retweets = number of times the post / tweet is shared with others to expose the given content to the individual’s network of followers.
      3. Link Clicks = number of times the link to the full-text article is clicked.
    2. Journal metrics
      1. Article views
      2. Article downloads
    3. Traditional citations (
    4. Altmetrics (
    5. Symplur [for social media tweets] (
5. Visual Abstract Template Examples

For more examples, templates, and layouts, you may use any one of our Annals Short Reports-specific templates and adapt it for yourself to use with your submission or create a template yourself de-novo. In addition, you can follow the hashtag #VisualAbstract on Twitter for more examples.