There are a variety of reasons for including non-textual elements in your paper. Among them are:
SOURCES: Few, Stephen. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten. 2nd edition. Burlingame, CA: Analytics Press, 2012; Informative Presentation of Tables, Graphs and Statistics. Statistical Services Centre, University of Reading, United Kingdom, March 2000; Rodrigues, Velany et al. How to Use Figures and Tables Effectively to Present Your Research Findings. Tutorials: Manuscript Preparation. Editage insights. Cactus Communications, Inc.
Structure and Writing Style
NOTE: Check your program's style guide for any specific information on design/formatting/layout of data. "
Use non-textual elements, such as figures, tables, graphs, maps, photographs, etc., to support your key findings. Readers should be able to discern the meaning of non-textual elements on their own without having to refer to the text to understand the data being presented. Reference to a non-textual element in the text of your paper should focus on describing its significance in relation to the research problem or the topic being discussed.
Non-textual elements must have neat, legible titles, be simple, and have detailed captions that are written in complete sentences; they should fully explain the item without forcing the reader to refer to the text. Conversely, the reader should not have to refer back and forth from the text to the non-textual elements to understand the paper.
General rules about using non-textual elements in your research paper:
References to non-textual elements are generally put in parentheses, e.g. "(see Figure 1)" or "(Chart 2)" because this information is generally supplementary to the results themselves; most of the text should focus on highlighting key findings.
NOTE: Do not overuse non-textual elements! Include them sparingly and only in cases where they are an effective means for enhancing and/or supplementing information already described in your paper. Using too many non-textual elements disrupts the narrative flow of your paper, making it more difficult for the reader to synthesize and interpret your overall research. If you have to use a lot of non-textual elements, consider organizing them in an appendix.
ANOTHER NOTE: Excel and other computer programs are capable of creating very elaborate, colorful, and dramatic looking non-textual elements. However, be careful not to let aesthetics and artistry overwhelm the message you are trying to convey to the reader. Use these features only to help enhance the reader's understanding of the information being presented.
SOURCES: Chapter 4: The Research Process: Structuring the Research Paper. SOURCES: Effective Writing Center. University of Maryland; Durbin Jr., Charles G. “Effective Use of Tables and Figures in Abstracts, Presentations, and Papers.” Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004): 1233-1237; Few, Stephen. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten. 2nd edition. Burlingame, CA: Analytics Press, 2012; Franzblau, Lauren E. and Kevin C. Chung. “Graphs, Tables, and Figures in Scientific Publications: The Good, the Bad, and How Not to Be the Latter.” The Journal of Hand Surgery 37 (March 2012): 591-596; Hartley, James et al. “Research on Tables and Graphs in Academic Articles: Pitfalls and Promises.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 66 (February 2015): 428-431; Informative Presentation of Tables, Graphs and Statistics. Statistical Services Centre, University of Reading, United Kingdom, March 2000; Rodrigues, Velany et al. How to Use Figures and Tables Effectively to Present Your Research Findings. Tutorials: Manuscript Preparation. Editage insights. Cactus Communications, Inc.; Tables & Figures. Academic Skills Office, University of New England; Using Figures, Tables and Graphs. Language and Learning Online, Monash University..
Labaree, Robert. Types of Research Designs. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Papers: Types of Designs research guide. USC Libraries, 2016.
The content of this section was created by Dr. Labaree and used with his permission.