Video abstracts are another option for presenting your research to the world. They are a great way to explain your work to the public and researchers outside of your field. To paraphrase, they’re like value propositions on steroids – your research and toil condensed and re-packaged.
A 3 – 5 minute video will allow you to sum up what you’ve accomplished and documented in a journal article and, crucially, why it’s important to the world. You can use video abstracts to illustrate the concepts and experiments explained in your article, and to “introduce viewers to the methods you have used in your research and engage with your audience in a more informal manner,” explains IOP Press.
The rise of video abstracts has been driven by specialist scientific publishers, however they are being adopted by an increasing amount of publishers, many of which will be of interest for researchers like yourself, working in other disciplines outside the scientific community, such as Emerald, Taylor & Francis and Elsevier.
Today we’re going to walk you through the basics of creating a video abstract for a journal article: how to write a script, record the video using commonly available equipment, and share your video to get maximum visibility for your research.
Step 1: learn what makes a good video abstract
Let’s take a look at some different approaches to video abstracts:
So, whether we’re talking about production values, structure, graphics, succinctness or clarity – what makes video abstracts good?
The best video abstracts tend to answer at least two of the questions below:
- What does your article cover?
- What are the implications for future research on this topic, or where would you like to see the field go?
- How can your article be used in a teaching context?
Viewers need to know how your research is relevant to their lives, their universe, or the advancement of knowledge in your field.
But you can’t just say anything in your video abstract. Aim to keep your video simple and short, refrain from using jargon, and – if possible – tell a story that’ll hook your viewers within the first 30 seconds and keep them watching until the end.
With these principles in mind, let’s get started!
Step 2: gather your equipment
The basic equipment you’ll need will be readily available to most of you:
- A computer, webcam, and microphone: Many newer model laptops now come with webcams and microphones built-in. If you don’t have one, maybe try a colleague or a friend. You can also use a desktop computer with a standalone webcam and microphone, if need be. And if you plan to do a simple video abstract (like the point-and-shoot video featured above), a smartphone that can record video will do in a pinch.
- Video recording software: If you’ve got a late model MacBook, the pre-installed QuickTime Player Software can be used to create a simple screencast and iMovie can be used to edit any videos you create. Otherwise, check out Lifehacker’s list of best screenwriting software for the top Windows and Mac options.
- Something interesting to say about your research: video abstracts are only as good as the stories they tell. No amount of production value can make up for a dispassionate explanation or remoteness from the viewer’s own life, experience or knowledge. In the next step we’ll share some research-backed tips on how to communicate your results. But first things first; you need the seeds of the story from which this video abstract will bloom.
Once you’ve got all that together, it’s time to choose a format and write your script.
Step 3: choose your format
Do you want to do a point-and-shoot video that’s simply 2 minutes of you describing your paper and its significance?
Would you prefer to structure your video abstract like a lightning-talk screencast, with you explaining slides and videos that illustrate your points from off-camera?
Or maybe you’ve got an amazing story to go along with your study, and some supporters in marketing that have a lot of time and money to help you make a splash with a killer movie trailer-style video? Maybe not, but it can be an advantage to think about all the shapes something like this could take. Big ideas can be scaled back according to your means and still work.
The format of the video you’ll create will likely be dependent upon what equipment and technical expertise you have on hand. While your script will be dependent upon your video’s format.
So, catalogue what you’ve got available and decide upon a format. Because we’re getting to the good stuff next: your video’s script.
Step 4: write the script
You’ll use your script to narrate the story of your video. It doesn’t have to be written out, word-for-word; if you’re comfortable ad libbing, a simple outline will do. But you’ll still need to plan ahead on what you’re going to say, to some degree.
Create an outline
Your outline should follow a basic structure:
A problem statement
What question was unanswered before you began your research, and how did that affect the viewer’s life or the advancement of knowledge in your field? (“We know substantial social changes are reshaping youth identities across regional centres, but we wanted to talk more about how young people are responding to them.”)
A one-sentence explanation of how your research addresses a problem
Using as simple language as possible, describe the results of your study and what bearing it might have on a solution to the problem statement. (“After extensive research into contemporary discussions of place and social change, we saw how the responses of young people were conclusively shaped by identity.”) Both this explanation and the problem statement should fit into the first 30 seconds of your video.
An in-depth explanation of your study and results
Now you can dive into the detail, setting up the story of how you conducted your study – the types of methods you used or data you collected and analysed – and the specifics of the results you found and what they might mean. Remember to refrain from using jargon unless absolutely necessary, and explain any jargon you do use.
Reiterate what the problem is, how you solved it, and what it means
In the final few seconds of the video, you’ll remind the viewer of the problem or issue your study has addressed, and bring it back home to explain what bearing that has.
Invite the viewer to become a reader
Very important. If the viewer’s made it this far into the video, they’re likely hooked on what you’ve said and want to know more. Use this opportunity to point them to your journal article or post print, where they can read the full story.
Build your outline into a solid script
Once you’ve got a solid outline, you’ll need to decide if writing a full script will be useful for the video.
If you’ve decided to do a point-and-shoot video, an outline of your talk is probably your best bet. It will keep you on your main talking points, while avoiding sounding stiff or over-rehearsed.
Doing a lightning-talk screencast instead? Use your outline to create a slide deck, and then write out what you’re going to say, word for word, so you can read it while doing the screencast.
If you decide to write a full script, keep in mind that 120-150 words roughly translate into a minute of video. You’ll want to keep your video to 3-5 minutes, so plan to write a script that’s 750 words or less.
Need some inspiration? A great example script can be found on TheScientistVideographer.com.
Step 4: record your video abstract
If you’re recording your video abstract for sharing on a publisher’s website, you’ll need to do so with their guidelines in mind. So be sure to double-check their limits on the video’s length, quality, and how and where it’s shared.
If you’re creating a point-and-shoot video or a movie trailer-style abstract, pay close attention to the quality of sound and lights. Videos that are difficult to watch won’t get many viewers.
And if you’re creating a lightning-talk screencast video, keep Videobrewery’s advice in mind:
Keep dialogue to between 125 and 150 words a minute. And while you might be able to speak 200 or more words per minute on your own, keep in mind that the voiceover needs time to breathe, allowing viewers to absorb what you’re saying (this is especially true if the content is particularly dense or technical in nature). Machine gun fire dialogue quickly overwhelms viewers, causing abandonment and decreased comprehension.
Once your video has been recorded, you can choose to edit it with your video editing software. This is a good opportunity to remove your tangents and flubbed lines, but it might require you to learn a new skill. Sometimes, it’s just easier to record a second (or third, or fourth …) take instead.
One final option that’ll make your video stand out: add intro and outro music that’s licensed for reuse, which can be hunted down on the Internet Archive for free or purchased cheaply from somewhere like AudioJungle.
When you’ve finished recording, buy yourself a drink! You’ve just accomplished a pretty big feat: video-enhanced public outreach.
Now let’s get your video to the public!
Step 5: upload the video
Two popular platforms for video sharing are YouTube and Vimeo. Both can be used to track views and likes for your video, and allow you to copy-and-paste simple codes to embed your video in other websites. Neither offers long-term preservation, so you might consider backing up your video abstract on Figshare or a similar service.
YouTube is free and easy to use, but it has its drawbacks: they reserve the right to place ads on and alongside your videos.
Vimeo is also fairly easy to use and offers a well-designed, ad-free viewing interface. Its main drawback is that you have to pay for video uploads greater than 500 MB in size. You can disable comments and allow viewers to download your video, if you wish.
What to include?
When you upload your video, be sure to include a descriptive title (one that matches your article is ideal), a 2-3 sentence description of your video abstract’s content, and a full citation to your paper (including a link to a freely-accessible copy of its full text, whenever that’s possible.)
Step 6: promote your awesome new video abstract
Now that your video is online, let’s get it some viewers!
Some good places to share your video on the Web include:
On the article or chapter homepage: if the journal allows it, embed your video next to the written abstract for your paper. That way, potential readers get a more engaging glimpse of what your paper’s about, beyond what appears in the written abstract.
On your UON web profile: we’ve talked before about the advantages of using your profile as a home base for your work and career, so it’s the ideal place for any video abstracts you might put together.
Your blog: share the video along with a link to your publication and a transcript of your video, adapted into a blog post. (More on blogs and how to get one next post).
Twitter and Facebook: these social media platforms were practically made for sharing video with the public. Share a link with your next update and both platforms will automagically embed it for your followers and friends.
Your video abstract doesn’t have to be made with Academy Award glory in mind. It’s simply another option for presenting your research to your peers and the world. The real plus is that the form has the capacity to engage a wider audience and contribute to what this blog is all about: research impact and how to increase it.