Tables and figures are essential components of a research paper. Even before you begin preparing tables and figures for your research manuscript, it is essential for you to understand if and when to use them. Here are some tips to help you better:
1. Learn your target journal’s requirements for preparing and presenting visual elements, e.g., how many tables and figures you can include or if there are specific design-related guidelines.
2. Check whether your data can be presented as text. Use tables and figures if your data is large or complex, or if you need to show trends or patterns across data sets. Also read our tips on deciding whether tables and/or figures are the best choice for your data, or whether text would be more suitable.
3. If you decide to use a graphic element, choose whether a table or a figure would be most effective, based on the information you need to share.
4. Prepare your tables and figures as though you were the reader: This will help you create self-explanatory and error-free tables and figures.
Once you have decided whether you need tables or figures in your paper and what you need to convey through them, follow these general guidelines to ensure that your tables and figures are well-designed.
The following article offers a comprehensive tutorial on presenting scientific tables and figures: Tips on effective use of tables and figures in research papers.