Tips on using figures and tables

Here, we review some considerations and tips to ensure that you have the best chance of utilizing these elements to full advantage in your journal submission.

1. Figures and tables can show your data more succinctly and with more impact than narrative text.

2. Many journals have word count limits, using tables and text can help demonstrate the impact of your research findings without using valuable word space.

3. Although some journals may still charge for printing images in color, publishing online means that images in color can be produced with minimal, if any, processing costs during the publishing workflow.

However, it is important to consider the following points before submitting your article:

  • Be sure to read the Notes for Authors carefully for your chosen journal: these will include details on the format and also the resolution of image that are required for submission. For color images, this is usually a resolution of 300dpi. Also note whether the publisher requires color images in RGB or CMYK – this is because the color can be rendered differently online or in print when these formats are converted, and this could impact on detail you are trying to convey.
  • Whilst tables are generally supplied in Word or Excel format and can be included within your submission, many publishers require the image files – at least by the time of acceptance – in the ‘source’ file format (e.g. TIF, JPEG, EPS) and as separate files (i.e. not embedded in your final text file submission). This is because images will be processed separately by the typesetter (who may need to amend them or resize them and then insert them into the text in a position that is most appropriate to the typeset version or online HTML version, depending on the journal workflow).
  • For color images – particularly bar charts or map content – which may be printed in black and white, consider the tonal contrasts so that areas of shading, including the ‘key’ will reproduce effectively. (The publisher will take note of these aspects also, but it is good to be aware of them when producing your images from the start.)
  • Consider the reproduction size of images: look at previously-published examples of images in your chosen journal. Many journals publish these as either single or double column. Will your images still be legible if they need to be increased or reduced significantly to fit these parameters? This is particularly important if your figures contain legend, or if they contain scale bars and need to be reproduced proportionately.
  • For tables, consider the amount of data and table width. Some publishers will reproduce wide tables in ‘landscape’ format.
  • Ensure that you submit the same number of captions as tables and/or figures with your paper, and that all tables and figures are cited within the text.
  • Check if the publisher allows supplementary data, e.g. video files or large datasets. If so, consider if some of your data will be best conveyed in this way to complement your main submission.
  • If your paper is accepted for publication, note that when you receive your proofs it is very important to check your figures and tables carefully. Ensure that all data are present and correct; that the images are reproduced clearly and in the correct sequence; and that any legend or labelling is correct. These elements sometimes undergo editing and amendment during the workflow so it is good to check them carefully before publication.
  • Remember that if you are using or reusing data from other sources, permissions to reuse these need to be fully acknowledged.

 Any questions? Please contact if you have any specific questions or comments that we can help with.


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