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Media perspective

Viewed from a media perspective, a video abstract is a short video summarizing scientific research. Even this obvious definition opens up a whole range of possibilities.

Media comes in different formats and genres. The term format designates, on the one hand, a pattern and on the other hand the way in which information is arranged and stored, especially on a computer. Genre defines a category in the broadest sense. In media and film studies, genre stands for the style that a media product uses to tell a story, including what kind of protagonists, events or visual elements the audience would expect. A romantic comedy is a genre; so is a horror film or a talk on the radio. Genres refer to certain patterns, sometimes dissolving or recombining them. Thus, a genre is not fixed and may evolve.

The important thing is to be aware of what the audience expects. If you know this, you can play creatively with these expectations, sometimes fulfilling them, sometimes undermining them and thus keeping the interest of your audience alive.

Now apply these thoughts to the topic at hand. How would a possible audience define a video abstract? What would be the expectations?

Here is one possible definition:

A video abstract is a short video with the same objectives as a written abstract. Because the abstract is audio-visual, viewers will quickly grasp the purpose, results and methods of any given research.

In other words, your audience will expect to be informed about your research truthfully and with clarity and sincerity. These are not expectations you should undermine. When it comes to style, however, you do have a variety of options at your disposal that are also used in other, much longer scientific videos. You could envision a simple screen capture as you record a voice-over with the actions on your screen. You could also speak to slides, a format that we at the New Media Center of the University of Basel call Tutorial. Or you could prepare a mini-lecture with different camera angles, animation and maybe slides. Note: these examples are not video abstracts, they all stem from different online courses. In addition, and especially at the beginning, it helps to start with an easy and straight-forward concept. Simplicity is key – not only as a means to transmit clearly what you want, but also as a means to build your video abstract efficiently.


From a media point of view, a video abstract comes with certain specifications and recommendations that help guide production:

  • Term: The term «video abstract» refers to a rather broad genre of short videos that introduce written research articles.
  • Length: In general, a video abstract is between 1 and 5 minutes long.
  • Argumentation: The argumentation of a video abstract should be understood by the target audience.
  • Audio and video: Audio and video content should be synchronised.
  • Visual structure: Video abstracts need a visual structure that supports the flow of information and is easy to follow.
  • Text: The text should serve the understanding of the image (and not vice versa).
  • Media: Audio, animations and images should be used appropriately.
  • Guidelines: It is advisable to check with possible publishers of a video abstract before production to understand, if there are guidelines to observe.


University of Basel