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This is not a video abstract

Video abstracts are short video clips that refer to a research journal article. This course addresses some of the basic skills and reflections we consider necessary for its creation. In this introductory step you meet the people responsible for the content and discover the genre.

Let us start with a statement: What you have just watched is not a video abstract. While the video above is short enough to fulfill one of the requirements, it neglects other features of the genre.

Video abstracts have been in use approximately since the end of the noughties. The genre offers an attractive possibility to not only enrich written scientific articles with other media, but also to reach a broader audience and to communicate research results using different channels. However, as the guidelines of different scientific journals accepting video abstracts show, the genre is by no means uniform.

The broad range of styles and formats is typical for a category of media that is relatively new. In the context of scientific publication, however, this range is striking. Most of the articles written and published in the scientific field are quite standardized – they incorporate structures of argument that are specific to their focus area. Obviously, this helps the comparison of results. As it endeavors to convey objectivity, scientific text for instance often uses passive voice and nominalisation. In many video abstracts, on the other hand, researchers chose a more personal way of introducing their studies. There are guidelines that ask them to be authentic and to convey what for them is special about the results.

The scope of possible forms of video abstracts is both a boon and a challenge. It is a blessing since it is precisely through such liberty of expression that the communication of science may find new ways to make its topics heard and understood. It is a challenge because we often react to liberty by following old patterns. Thus, some video abstracts take a very similar route as written abstracts and don’t make use of the opportunities that audio-visual media offers.

The following learning sequence is the online part of a course taught at the University of Basel. It aims at reflecting the different forms and uses that the genre has. It also explores some basic skills that are useful when creating a video abstract. The course taught on campus extends the topic by coaching students who are making their first video abstract. The goal is to enable them to then proceed on their own.

This means that the chapters that follow are part of a bigger context. Both the reflection of the format and the skills we address are just a starting point and should not be considered conclusive.

We suggest that you keep a logbook for your notes and the findings of the various exercises and reflections we propose in some of the steps. Thus, you might get the most out of this course.

The course is the result of three perspectives. The perspective of scientific communication is brought to you by Dr Mirko Winkler from the Swiss TPH. Stephan Meyer from the Language Center (University of Basel) is the specialist for the linguistic perspective. Sebastian Schell as well as Dr Thomas Lehmann from the New Media Center (University of Basel) explore the media perspective.


University of Basel