Am I pushing the limits

Because illustrations cost more to reproduce than text, some publications strictly regulate their number, size, and type, and may even assess a surcharge for each figure or table. Knowing this at the outset can save time and money; check Instructions to Authors and format in the journal itself. Reduce the odds of editorial requests for last-minute revision by not pushing the limits unnecessarily.

An oft-stated general rule is that a scientific document should include no more than one table or illustration per 1,000 words of text. (Use the word count feature of a word processing program.) Another general guideline says to use no more than one table or illustration per four pages of double-spaced typescript text.

Some print journals accept only tables and line drawings (such as diagrams and graphs). Others also accept black-and-white photographs, which are then photographed again through a screen grid to produce dots that make up a printed image called a half-tone. Half-tones are usually of lesser quality than the originals because the printing process may transfer the image several times with some loss of clarity at each transfer.

If you feel a need to include colored pictures or graphics, be sure to investigate the journal's policy. Few print journals will publish color illustrations without passing at least part of the cost on to the author. On the other hand, electronic publications can easily include colored illustrations at no extra cost.

Exercise 3.1. Table and figure choices

The choice of a format in which to present data is a judgment call. What would you use for the examples below? Your choices need not match ours if you feel you have sound justification for them.

1. You've gathered a series of data concerning serum electrolyte values and acid-base variables for patients with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. How should you present this information?

2. You've examined mortality rates for male and female cats with thyroid disease in individual states of the United States. Should you use a table, graph, or figure?

3. You've measured maximum systolic blood pressure after giving white rats various doses of epinephrine, and have measured changes in their blood pressure throughout a two-week period. You also have a really nice photograph of one of your control rats. What should you publish, and in what form?

4. In a case series study, you have collected data from a physical examination of animals at admittance, from observations during the course of the illness, and from final autopsies. You've decided to present the data in a table; how should they be arranged?

5. You have written a paper about a new species of a bacterial pathogen implicated in a case of pneumonia. You have a chest roentgenogram showing typical findings of pneumonia, and an electronmicrograph of newly discovered structural details of the bacterium's flagellum. Should you include either or both in your paper?

6. You have identified a genetic syndrome that appears in members of a canine lineage as a Mendelian autosomal dominant trait. Should you present your evidence as a table, a graph, or text?

7. You have researched deaths from mycoplasmal diseases in turkeys and ducks, and found a significant difference in mortality rates. How should you show this difference?

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