The Little Things (Part II)

September 22, 2018. R.T. Thomason, Ph.D.

As mentioned in my last blog, I am going through some figure designing topics, aka “the little things” that may seem small but can make a huge difference in how you present your work. Today, I am going to pull a few of those topics and briefly discuss.


  1. Amount of information in a figure. This can be a huge challenge for some folks. Depending on the journal, you may be limited by the number of figures you can include in your manuscript. If this is the case, it does NOT mean you can just cram as much as you can into a single figure. Go ahead and start with a figure that contains all of your information. Then step back (sleep on it, mull over it) and see what you can remove that isn’t completely pertinent for the reader. Keep going back and doing this until you have a descriptive, but simple, easy to read figure. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, make sure you are telling a story!


  1. Cross-matching your figure to the legend. This goes a little hand-in-hand with #1. When putting together you figure, MAKE SURE you are describing the data accurately in your legend (or caption) AND match that up to your Results section. Think about your reader – you want to make things as easy for them as possible. Taking the time to cross-match your legend to the figure (verify that you are including all components of the figures – labels, numbers, colors, arrows – just to name a few) and to where you describe the figure in your results section. Nothing more frustrating that confusing text and figures.


That’s all we have time for today. Next time I’ll discuss some of the other “little things” such as designing panels and using abbreviations. And in future blogs I’ll delve into other topics such as defining color, using both color and fonts as tools to convey your message more strongly.