Learning Objectives: Describe the steps required to translate a research paper into visual language.
The current paradigm for disseminating research findings involves a report or published article with charts, diagrams, or conceptual models. An executive summary, abstract, or “one-pager” may summarize key findings. While this approach works well in academic and administrative settings, it falls short in the broader community. In the tobacco prevention arena, researchers miss opportunities to arm community coalitions and advocates with understandable, practical information about industry practices, policies, policy-makers, and successful strategies to reduce tobacco use.
Translating a case study of the Texas Inter-Agency Tobacco Task Force into visual language (words and images combined) involved the following steps: bracketing key sections of the research paper, narrowing the focus, conceptualizing images and metaphors to represent findings, developing a draft poster, modifying and refining the design, and producing the final full-size, full-color poster. Three members of the task force assessed the accuracy of the poster in unstructured interviews.
The themes of the case study (context, task force process, and aftermath) and key subthemes were translated into a format accessible to practitioners and community members. The poster was scanned and reduced for easy reproduction and use of the images in other materials.
Visual language is an emerging solution to the challenges of the steadily increasing volume and complexity of information. Graphic recording offers a way to communicate the big picture and multiple levels of detail in easily understandable visual language. The technique can be adapted to a variety of print and electronic formats.
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