We have made available several articles for you on the preparation, formatting, and organization of figures. However, here we would like to cover strategies for calling and referring to your figures in the main text. Appropriate use of the figures can improve the manner in which the reader views and references your figures.
First, a couple general rules: Always reference your figures in the text in numerical order. You can assure this by simply renumbering your figures after the main text has been finalized. Additional, ensure that all figures and tables have been referenced in the main text.
The following tactics are useful for discussing your figures.
- When describing a figure, state the most pertinent information.
- Avoid fully describing the contents of the figure.
- If you need to use several sentences to report data found in a figure, ensure that it is clear to the reader that all of this content applies to that specific figure. Multiple sentences with a single reference to the figure in the last sentence can be somewhat ambiguous for the reader.
- For figures with several panels, it is best to reference the specific panels. It can be very difficult for the readers to align your description of the data with the exact portion of the figure.
Finally, keep in mind that any data worth describing is worth describing well. Given that the results section is only a partial reporting of the figures—rather than an exhaustive overlap—it is important that the data you do choose to highlight is clearly and fully explicated. Ensure that the specific details are described, including the conditions of the data statements (e.g., compared to control, relative to baseline, in specific cell lines, under which conditions).