Science Figures

Figures includes graphs, photographs, and maps.  They have two purposes:

  1. Data exploration, so that you can determine what is going on.
  2. Communication, so that you can tell others what is going on.  For this you want to combine figures as much as possible, put them on the same page if possible, and insure they have similar scales so the reader can easily compare them.

Figures are numbered, and referred to in the text by number.  The figure should be placed following its first mention in the text.  You can say "Figure 1 shows ......."  or "The study area (Figure 1)......" but never something vague like "The map below ......."   Figures have a caption, which generally goes below the figure, and which does not have to be a complete sentence.  In particular you do not start the caption with "This map shows", but rather start with what the map shows like "Volcanoes of the world."

Unless you are absolutely required to, do not try to run text around the figures, and do not put multiple figures side by side unless you combine them into a single graphic in Paint.  It is also easier to just write the caption on a line below the figure, and not try to use a text box, as the text box is very resistant to showing revisions.

Figure 1.  A: screen capture, entire screen      B: screen capture, map window only      C: map image only.

Figures should not include the window and controls in which they appear.  Most software has commands to extract the actual figure, and either save it or copy to the clipboard.  In MICRODEM (and many other programs) there will usually be entries on the file menu, on a popup menu when right clicking on the graphic, or via an icon on the toolbar.  You want as much of the space used for the figure to be used for actual content.

Recent versions of Windows have a Snip tool to cut just the part of tghe screen you want. This requires care, or you get a ghost strip from the screen below the window, or chop off part of the edges of map or graph.

If you cannot figure out another solution, you can use the Print Screen option, paste the entire screen into the Paint program, and then cut out the actual image.  While in Paint you can annotate or mark up the figure. If you want the figure to have three maps (like shown in Figure 1, assemble them in Paint, and add the "A", "B", "C").  This way the figure always stays together, with the correct scaling, and you can use it in both Word and PowerPoint.

If you are comparing two or more maps, try if at all possible to get them on the same page.  If necessary, it is easy to make a page landscape for maps in the Word Processor.

Never stretch a figure to distort the aspect ratio, particularly for a map.  After working to minimize distortion by picking an appropriate projection, you do not want to ruin the map by stretching it to fit into an arbitrary space in Word or Powerpoint.  There are other solutions, and if space filling is important, you need to change the map coverage area before you export it.

The convention in most scientific writing is that the figure does not have a title (that is what the caption is for).  Thus you should not attempt to put one in.  If do you need it, say for a PowerPoint presentation, but it in as the slide title there.

For a map, you should consider putting in a "axis labels", which are technically called the grid or graticule.  MICRODEM can do this.  Unless the map covers a large area and the scale varies, your maps should have a scalebar.

You are quite likely to have to increase the size of the fonts on the legends and axes, to make them legible, because the default sizes may well be too small.

Creating tables in MICRODEM for reports.


Last revision 8/24/2016