5 Ways to visualize your academic research

5 Ways to Visualize Your Academic ResearchData visualization is the placement of facts and figures in an illustrative design. This can include any form of multimedia such as videos, maps, charts and diagrams, for example. Adding elements of data visualization to academic research is an effective method because 65% of the human population are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network. This means their brains are more likely to absorb and retain information that is presented in a graphic format.

Imagery is simple, quick and digestible to process, whereas the majority of attention spans take in just 28% of words on a page, as reported by the Nielsen Norman Group. So because most people need complex material to be broken down into more accessible pictures and patterns, data visualization is essential for securing the readers’ interest and enhancing their retention.

You can integrate data visualization into your own academic research with these creative and interactive techniques for a reader experience that stimulates, informs, and compels your target audience.

Infographic Charts

These illustrations summarize the major data points of your research with a combination of pithy text, colorful images and statistical charts. Infographics are useful because they extract and emphasize the concepts you want to leave readers with in a schematic representation that is both vibrant to read and concise to understand. There are many online resources available to create infographics such as Piktochart, Tableau and Visme, among others.

Vox Pops Snippets

These illustrations are based on the Latin term vox populi which means “voice of the people,” and they are unrehearsed interviews to reflect the authentic opinions of a certain demographic. This model can be embedded in your research as spliced video footage or pull-quotes beside each subject’s headshot. Vox pops interviews are most compelling when the questions are succinct but open-ended in order to prompt a brief narrative exchange.

Social Networks

These illustrations examine the relationships, hierarchies and dynamics of people groups across different cultural or geographic boundaries. If your research focuses on human connections or affiliations, social network diagrams identify how these groups are clustered together and how they interact within this stratification. Social networks are commonly graphed in a flowchart pattern, but there are various configurations to choose from.

Interactive Maps

These illustrations organize location specific data in a hands-on layout that readers can directly engage with instead of remotely observe. Interactive maps take geospatial metrics to another degree of interest because they animate the cartographic features, symbols and indexes which offers both a visual and tactile experience. When it comes to building and coding interactive maps, either Leaflet or MapHub are excellent software programs.

Sliding Pictures

These illustrations are useful when making a side-by-side comparison of two items in order to underscore the differences, nuances or modifications between them. Using a synthesis of HTML, CSS and JavaScript code, you can superimpose one image over the other, then add a sliding function that readers can drag back-and-forth with their cursors to visualize the contrasts and juxtapositions that you want to accentuate in each of the data points.

Data visualization is an efficient and purposeful adjunct to academic research because it makes the written content less tedious and more dynamic to engage with. Instead of demanding that your readers plod through extensive blocks of text and dense numerical values, separate the monotony with pictorial information that arouses interest, provokes thought, stimulates discourse and entices the audience to continue reading.


Lesley J. Vos is a private educator of the French language. She practices web writing, contributing content to publications on academia, college life, and writing productivity. Get in touch with her on @LesleyVos.