Enhancing Public Health Systematic Reviews With Diagram Visualization

05 May 2021

Systematic reviews provide a critical summary of a body of knowledge that links research to decision making, whether to inform public health, clinical medicine, medical education, system-level changes, or advocacy. Good reviews are accessed by a wide range of audiences, including health service users, health service providers, and policy decision makers. Because the topics studied, the thinking behind the review questions, the analytical plan, and the review’s interpretation in the broader policy context are often complex, diagrams can play an important role in communicating the review to the reader. Indeed, graphic design is increasingly important for researchers to communicate their work to each other and the wider world.1 Visualizing the topic under study facilitates discussion, helps understanding by making complexity more accessible, provokes deeper thinking, and makes concepts more memorable.2 Higher impact scientific articles tend to include more diagrams, possibly because diagrams improve clarity and thereby lead to more citations or because high-impact articles tend to include novel, complex ideas that require visual explanation.

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