Does the illustration fit the audience

Deciding which illustration format would be most appropriate or most informative is not only a matter of its purpose. One's scientific discipline, the particular dataset, and the intended journal and audience will also influence this decision.

Information that will be presented on a poster or presentation slide should be prepared differently from that for a traditional research paper, for example. For a fast-paced talk at a research meeting, simple tables showing small amounts of numerical data would be desirable, whereas numerically complex tables would be overwhelming. In a written document, however, that same data might be summarized in the text or included within larger, more complex tables because readers could examine them in a more leisurely fashion.


Everyone has seen scientific tables - not surprisingly, for they almost always are a scientist's best choice for complex data or parallel descriptions. Tables range from informal in-text presentations hardly more complicated than a word list to complex formal compilations spanning several pages. Tables are, in fact, the single most over-used form of visual aid in scientific writing. Their use is so widespread in most scientific and technical fields that some beginning writers judge them to be an indispensable part of every scientific paper. Although most of us find tables to be the easiest graphic aid to compile, they are not necessarily appropriate for every paper.

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