Use of Figures in Scientific Writing — Ultimate Guide

Use of Figures in Scientific Writing — Ultimate Guide

Visual Mastery in Scientific Writing: Your Definitive Guide to Effectively Utilizing Figures

It is a well-known saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It presents a very large amount of data in an organized way for easy understanding. Figures are powerful tools for a well-written manuscript. Therefore, it should present something unique, interesting, and identifiable.

General Instructions for figures

  • The figure depicts vast volumes of data that are difficult to convey using text.
  • The figure conveys meaning without context

Asking someone unfamiliar with the data to understand it without reading the article’s text is an excellent approach to see if an illustration can actually stand on its own.

Instructions for using figures in scientific writing
  • The title is understandable and solely explains the figure. Apply the above rule to check your understanding.
  • Values (parameters used in the figure) are clearly defined
  • Number the figures as they appear in the text
  • In a flow chart give a clear-cut axis description
  • Avoid using figures for which you do not have a copyright.

Author-designed and created figures are referred to as original figures. Figures that have been copied from other research or the internet are referred to as reproduce figures. Similarly, figures from other research, which have been changed in order to be adjusted in the current study is referred to as adopted figures.

Always use your original figures. The other two categories lie in plagiarism. Therefore, always avoid them. In case, you have to use them in your study, take the proper copyright from the publishers.

  • High-resolution JPEG, PDF, EPS, or TIF (TIFF) files are the preferred file types
  • The figures’ resolution depends on the application you are using for development. Therefore, use a perfect match.
  • High resolution
Instructions for using figures in scientific writing
  • For journals, a single column is approximately 8.5 cm (3.5 inches, or 20 picas) wide, and the full-page width is approximately 17.8 cm (7 inches, or 42 picas)
  • Avoid creating figures that have unnecessary white spaces. This not only looks bad, the editors usually reject such papers.
  • Use journal-recommended fonts
  • Fonts style and size must match the text
Instructions for using figures in scientific writing
  • Define all abbreviations in the label of the figure
  • Write the units of the parameters (i.e., for length use cm and time use second etc)
  • Select the colour combination carefully

Use the colour scheme according to the colour blinds vision. They can not differentiate in red and green colours, therefore, instead of using red and green, it is better to use purple and green.

  • Simply present the figures not to decorate them with different colour


  • A clear and concise caption
  • Avoid using the abbreviation
  • If parameters units are not explained in the columns and there is a space, explain them in the caption
  • Include experimental detail

The preceding discussion demonstrates that readers read the article figures first before moving on to the body of the article. As a result, it is critical that you follow the above-mentioned tips in order to entice and hook your readers.

To learn more about professional scientific writing, please see the following article.

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