Exploring the Role of Infographics for Summarizing Medical Literature

Lynsey J. Martin, Alison Turnquist, Brianna Groot, Simon Y.M. Huang, Ellen Kok, Brent Thoma, Jeroen J.G. van Merriënboer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


PURPOSE To investigate differences in (1) reader preference, (2) cognitive load during summary review, and (3) delayed information retention between infographic article summaries and traditional text-only research abstracts. METHODS The three study outcomes were assessed using a two-phase within-subjects experiment. In phase 1, participants rated cognitive load as the mental effort they invested in reviewing eight article summaries (four in infographic format and four in text-only abstract format) on the 9-point Paas scale (1=low mental effort, 9=high mental effort) and indicated their preferred summary format on a 9-point preference scale (1=preferred infographics, 9=preferred text-only abstracts). Four weeks later, phase-2 tested delayed information retention via two free-recall and two cued-recall questions per article. RESULTS Participants preferred infographic summaries to traditional text-only research abstract summaries as evidenced by a mean format preference score (mean±standard deviation) of 3.97±2.48 (t(71)=13.6, p=0.01) which was significantly more positive than the neutral score of 5 on the 9 point preference scale. Mean mental effort during summary review was lower for infographics (4.30±1.34) than for text-only abstracts (5.06±1.35, t(70)=4.41, p=0.01). There was no statistically significant difference in delayed information retention. DISCUSSION This study suggests that infographics could play a role in summarizing medical research literature. While no difference was found in delayed information retention, infographics were associated with higher reader preference and lower cognitive load during summary review. Further research should clarify the practical implications of these findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Professions Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


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