You and your collaborators worked hard on a journal publication, following guidelines and the academic publishing process. You’re delighted when it’s finally published. But have you ever considered taking the next step and producing a research “trailer”? How might you shape the contents of this publication into an impactful companion video?
Publications are the standard way to share our research, including as scientific journal papers, conference proceedings, extension publications, reports, and book chapters. These publications propose and test solutions, articulate new findings, and identify processes and practices. A critical aspect of these publications is to reach the intended audience.
Increasingly, videos — particularly short videos that are shareable through social media — can effectively reach wider audiences with published research. In some cases, the academic format and language of the article itself can create barriers when the intended audience cannot access that type of publication or when that type of reading feels unfamiliar due to the academic language or technical level of the text.
Videos are popular, trending, and easy to share on social media. Videos are another way to engage viewers and shape a message. Because of their short length, videos introduce your research to the general public or other researchers without demanding a lot of buy-in: your audience can quickly understand the key points and decide when they want to go to the article to learn more. Videos can use images and on-screen text to communicate key points. Videos also connect you, the researcher, to your research. Viewers get a sense of who you are and what you are passionate about or interested in, and connect the importance and validity of your research to you the researcher.
When it comes to the complexity or production quality of the video, you have options: One is not necessarily better than the other. You might choose to simply point a video, cell phone, or other camera towards yourself and discuss your publication. This is a popular and effective way to quickly reach audiences on a topic where you have expertise and enthusiasm. Check out our blog post “Creating short social media videos” for tips on recording videos to be shared on social media.
Another way to make a researcher trailer is to use a presentation format. Because so many researchers are comfortable creating simple presentations and sharing on Zoom or other video conferencing software, it may feel natural to create a short presentation to serve as the basis for your video, while recording yourself as the host. Here is an example of a research trailer created in this style.
Whether you shoot video directly or record a presentation, it needs to be simple and short. Here’s our approach to shaping your published research into an engaging short video.
Step 1: Define your audience
The first step of any communications plan is identifying the intended audience. Knowing your audience is key to guiding you on how to shape the content. The following questions can guide you to better define your audience:
Who is your audience, and why is this publication relevant to them?
What is the audience’s previous knowledge on the topic?
Why would they care about this publication?
What would make the audience interested in reading the publication?
Step 2: Identify key message(s)
As a second step, identify your publication’s key messages. A key message would be the most important learning point of your publication. Even though the whole study is relevant, consider the following questions:
If you could choose one thing for readers to retain from your study, what would that be?
After seeing your video, what will be the main takeaways from your audience?
What is the novelty that your study brings?
What do you think would surprise your audience?
The answers to these questions don't necessarily have to be in your video, but these questions can help you shape the key messages of your video. Create a list for yourself of who and what this video will be designed for. Here are some examples of defined audiences and how you might adjust your content to reach them:
Audience: Other researchers in a specific area.
Content: Specific outcomes with scientific terminology.
Audience: Other researchers in a broader area.
Content: Connects between this research and how it impacts the general field.
Audience: Agricultural producers
Content: Findings of research with implication for growing seasons.
Audience: General public, or university/governmental stakeholders
Content: Overview of findings, with connections on how this is solving important problems and validating the research of the university or funder.
Step 3: Create a simple, short slide deck
You can organize a slide deck after reflecting on the first two steps. The slide deck will support your video with keywords and engaging visuals. We created a template that you can use and make edits to; we encourage you to explore and use a layout that makes you feel comfortable, keeping it as simple as possible.
You probably want no more than 5–6 slides, and you should use text only as a guide. Remember that in video, people learn by seeing and hearing, not necessarily by reading.
Below are some suggestions for your slide deck content organization
Slide 1 – Cover slide
The first slide contains the publication title and authors’ names (Figure 1). In this slide, you introduce yourself, co-authors, university, your department/lab, and/or other affiliations. Don’t forget to put logos of the university/lab and funding agencies if applicable.
Slide 2 – Abstract or Context
In the second slide, organize a visual abstract of your publication. Use keywords and images to present a summary of the paper, introducing the context, problem, and what was done in the study to address this issue (Figure 2). The Noun Project is an online resource you can use to find icons to build your visual abstract. The visuals and keywords should support your talking points when presenting the video.
Slide 3 – What you did (methodology)
It makes sense to include a slide focusing on the methodology or design of your study, but make sure it is succinct and easy to understand (Figure 3). We recommend you avoid slides with too much text or too many elements. Keep them clean and simple!
Slide 4 – Findings /results
Share the main findings from the publication. Visuals, graphics, and charts are perfect for this slide, so you can discuss the findings while sharing those visuals supporting your arguments (Figure 4). If needed, add a second slide with results and findings.
Slide 5 – Next steps
Toward the end of the video, state the next steps for the publication, for example, a list of future actions, steps, or ongoing studies (Figure 5).
Slide 6 – Authors’ contact and how to access the publication
As a final slide, add your contact information, and also let people know where they can read the publication in full. You can point to a website or include a QR code on the slide (Figure 6).
Simple guide on recording a video
At this point, you will have a slide deck and a clear idea for your video. An easy way to record your video is using the software Zoom. With Zoom, you can easily share the screen with your slide deck while presenting your publication on video.
1. Start a meeting: Open Zoom and click “New Meeting” (Figure 7).
2. Share the presentation: Open your slide deck and click “Share Screen” (the green button in the interface) (Figure 8). Select the screen where your presentation is located.
3. Enable captions: On Zoom, click on “Show captions” or “More (• • •)” then “Show captions” (Figure 9). This way, the software will automatically caption your talk, making it more accessible.
4. Record: Before recording, test your audio and microphone. We recommend using a headphone with a microphone to have better audio quality. Also, ensure you have good light reflecting on your face. Press “Record” (to the cloud or on this computer – your preference) (Figure 10). Talk as you are presenting the slide deck. Once done, press “Stop Recording.”
Identifying effective methods of communicating with the community and stakeholders is key in research and extension work. In an era of videos and fast-paced social media, shaping messages and content in a short video can be a complementary and innovative way to reach a broader audience by “speaking” their language, using accessible language and non-academic terms. A video about publications can also be an alternative way to deliver research findings in a more accessible format, considering that not all users will have time or interest in reading a scientific journal publication.
Additionally, being able to summarize complex research or topics in a 5-minute video is a skill that benefits any researcher, especially those trying to make university-based knowledge approachable.
Written by: Matheus Cezarotto, visiting assistant professor at NMSU Innovative Media Research and Extension.
To learn more about a video for your research publication, contact:
Matheus Cezarotto, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor