The PhD voice

7 Ways to use infographics to present research

Hi! It’s back to school and back to work season, and with this comes along more presentations, meetings and reports. I am a strong believer that, regardless of the area, strong visual presentation formats will definitely catch the attention of the audience more and improve the flow of information. So why researchers still struggle with visual presentation skills and we see many posters and presentations with too much text and cramped information?

The truth is that we generally have a lot to say and it’s more convenient for the user to read it or for us to use it a support to read after. And also, when we’re too busy with our own research, it’s hard to take the time to improve the visual aspect of presentations and search for alternative ways. However, when I go to a conference, I really like when I see a poster or oral presentation that, despite any fixed template, is original in the way they present the content and it really becomes a stand out. I value a lot visual beauty and I have been working hard to improve my skills in this area. That’s why I became recently interested in infographics.

Infographics are an excellent way to organize and present information in a eye catching, easily digestible and understood, and easy to share in online platforms if you wish to do so. The usefulness of good infographics is supported by the fact that, in an ever busier world, we want to learn faster and faster. It takes about 1/10 of a second for the brain to process visual content and become interested, while it takes 50 seconds to read 200-250 words. So, why not make readers learn faster what you’re talking about when possible?

I am still a noob in the infographics field. The first time I used an infographic app (Piktochart) was to design my poster to the annual PhD conference and I got very positive feedback. I also have recently edited a post in Portuguese about the national science meeting, Ciência 2016, and made two very simple infographics to present the highlights of two panels. Since I wanted to learn more, I attended a Piktochart presentation in Lisbon by the captivating Jacqueline Jensen where 24 ways to use infographics were presented, and it inspired me to adapt some of those ideas to the research field and make your visual content stand out.

1. Explain how mechanisms/processes work

Do you want to show in an appealing manner what was the process behind the development of a new approach you figured out? Or how you made some changes to an experimental protocol? These are some examples of taking the readers “behind the scenes” of the work. The example that was presented was about how are laws made, which is a pretty lengthy process like many of our research processes, and something like this could stand out quite well in a poster (even though I think this particular infographic is a tad too full).


2. Detailed step by step development of a process

In order to explain a particular process I developed, I used to make pretty boring text boxes with arrows in Powerpoint to show the flow of information. I have since come across these infographics where you can show the steps of development in a logical manner. This also could be applied to lab protocols. Why not take some inspiration?


3. Compare and contrast two hypotheses or approaches

This is a common one in research clearly. The way I see this done more frequently is with ticks and crosses or even with smileys. Since a side by side comparison is really easy to understand when well done, here are inspirations to make these differently.


4. Highlight market and industry trends

In the Introduction section of our presentations, it’s always a good idea to present the relevance of the problem with numbers. For instance, how many people suffer from a given disease, what is the market size and value for the product you are developing, etc. Instead of presenting this with text only, here are two ideas:


5. Make a recap of favorite moments and facts of a conference

This one is really good for the Science Communicators (SciCommers) out there and it was the style I used for my two previous infographics. You go to a conference and want to present your peers, and even on Twitter, the main facts, like the number of attendees, the nationalities, and the most important ideas shared by the speakers? An infographic can also help.


6. Take a look into historical data

Social and human scientists, it’s time to innovate! It seems as a excellent way to present facts behind an event and make us not so keen on memorizing dates to do it better =)


7. Summarize your research articles!

Of course, this is the quintessential one! By this I mean more summarizing an article that you just published in a more visual way. This could be great to put in your professional social media to make an abstract more visual and then link to the actual article. This suggestion is not very science related but hopefully you get the idea.


So now which free tools can you use to design your infographics? I don’t aim to give a tutorial on those but some good options with Free and Premium plans are Piktochart, Canva, Visme and HubSpot.

Do you use infographics to showcase your research already? If yes, how did you use them? Let me know!


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