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論文撰寫
如何透過圖表有效呈現您的研究發現

presenting qualitative research findings

文章介紹

多項研究、期刊指南和學術寫作研究發現,表格、圖片和圖表(或其他呈現形式)是提升論文品質的重要因素。在論文的篩選階段,這些圖表可使審閱者、期刊編輯以及讀者(論文出版後)快速了解研究成果(某些讀者只閱讀圖表而忽略論文的其他部分)。這些圖表化的內容可幫助作者簡潔明瞭地表達研究結果、複雜觀念、模式和趨勢1-8,11,13,14,縮短論文長度3,5,13,15以及增加讀者對研究結果的理解。雖然設計優良的表格和圖片可有效的彙整和呈現訊息,但設計不良的表格和圖片卻會讓讀者感到困惑而降低論文品質。為了幫助作者掌握圖表呈現技巧,本文將介紹如何有效使用表格和圖片的基本原則。

論文規劃:在什麼條件下使用表格和圖示

有效的表格和圖片需要在撰寫論文的一開始就仔細安排。具體方法如下:

  • 首先,應仔細了解目標期刊的要求。某些期刊限制表格和圖片的數量,並對這些呈現形式有特殊規定。
  • 接著,決定使用表格、圖片或文字表達重要訊息。(關於選擇呈現形式的方法,請參考表1)
  • 當您決定使用表格、圖片或文字表達重要訊息時,應根據您希望讀者注意的重點和您要傳達的內容,選擇最適合的展現形式。(更多資訊,請參考表1)
  • 最後,應遵守本文表格和圖片最佳呈現方式指南,以確保完美呈現表格和圖片。

表1:如何選用表格、圖片和文字呈現數據

使用表格使用圖片使用文字
用較小空間呈現大量精準數據及其他特定數據17
當一般通則比準確數據重要時,用於呈現數據間的趨勢、模式和關係。(可使用:圖片和數據圖)
沒有大量或複雜的數據時
比較和比對數據值、相關項目間的特色2,9或項目間的共同特徵或變化19
總結研究結果(可使用:圖表、數據圖、地圖、圓餅圖)
利用表格呈現數據時,表格的列數不能超過列2
顯示某特徵是否存在19
以視覺呈現說明一系列的事件、程序、地理特徵或物理性質7,18(使用類型:原理圖、圖片、照片和地圖)
次要研究數據或與主要研究結果發現不相關的數據8,12


表格和圖片最佳呈現方式指南

一、一般原則

  1. 確定呈現形式是容易被了解的:一些讀者(特定審閱者和期刊編輯)在閱讀整篇論文前,會將注意力集中在表格和圖片。因此,應確定這些呈現形式是完整的。6,8,9,12,16,20

  2. 引用,但不重複:利用文字吸引讀者注意表格/圖片上的主要內容及關鍵點,但不要重複細節。例如:可強調主要研究發現(例:「我們發現本療法只對24%的患者有效,如表1所示」),但不要再次重複確切數值(例:「如表2所示,32%的受試者選擇選項1,12%選擇選項2,10%選擇選項3,46%選擇選項4」)。這違反了有效清晰呈現表格和圖片的目的。5,12,16,19,21,22

  3. 保持一致:確定表格與文字部分的數值和詳細資訊一致(例如:縮寫、群組名稱、療法名稱)。

  4. 訂定明確、有意義的標題:表格和圖片標題不能模稜兩可,應簡潔的描述表格/圖片的目地和內容,以吸引讀者注意力(例如:精神分裂症患者採用睡眠療法的優缺點)。此外,也應該清晰的標示欄位、座標及圖片等標題。16,17

  5. 遵守期刊的規定:了解目標期刊相關規定,例如:表格和圖片數量、編號方式、標題、圖片解析度、文件格式等,並仔細遵守。18,23

二、製作表格原則

  1. 合併重複表格:重複資訊的表格和圖片會損害論文的表達。8,12檢查所有表格和圖片的標題內容是否相同或相似。如果是,應重新考慮呈現方式,合併或刪除表格/圖片。

  2. 數據分類:7當呈現大量資訊時,應將完整分類數據並用標題確切描述。

  3. 注意表格中的數據量:如果您展示的數據量很大且會使表格過於混亂或冗長,應考慮將表格放在附錄或補充資料裡。8

  4. 簡化表格:表格行列間有足夠空間7,且表格的外觀看起來不會過於雜亂或擁擠。

三、製作圖示原則

  1. 確保圖片清晰:所有圖表都保持清晰18─使用標準字體、檢查標籤在圖片背景下是否清晰、確定圖片顏色鮮明24

  2. 使用圖片說明來解釋重要訊息:25圖片說明有助於圖片呈現。可突出核心訊息以及解釋縮寫和象徵符號。

  3. 標記所有重要部分:標籤示意圖、圖片關鍵部分和所有座標、曲線和數據圖中的數據。6,7,16,18

  4. 提供細節:在圖形和地圖中標示比例尺、詳細說明所有數量單位、在地圖和示意圖中添加圖例、標示地圖的經緯度。7,18

四、完整表格和圖表範例

本段落將介紹設計良好的表格和圖表範例

完善的表格範例

下表摘自馬可羅尼企鵝育雛的飲食研究26 此表格為完善表格的最佳範例,其特點如下:



  • 標題清楚描述表格內容。
  • 列標題清楚敘述所要呈現的數據。
  • 數據清楚分類。
  • 數據獨立清楚表達,不用參閱文章內容。
  • 上標字母和註記提供額外資訊,幫助理解內容。
  • 有足夠的行列間距、表格設計整潔、字體清晰。
五、設計良好的圖片(圖表)範例

下圖摘自主題為牡蠣礁做為天然提防的效果的論文,其特點如下:

  • 使用資訊式標題,讀者可以馬上清楚圖表要表達的內容。
  • 座標軸標示清晰。
  • 符號清楚表達圖表中各元素所代表的意思。
  • 圖片說明指引讀者了解圖表中的重點。
  • 註釋標示數據來源。
  • 圖形採用清楚易懂的二維平面形式。
presenting qualitative research findings

結論
圖片、表格或呈現形式是強而有力的溝通工具,可使您的論文更加專業、引起讀者興趣,並有效呈現大量複雜資訊。另外,由於大多數期刊編輯和審閱者在閱讀全部論文前會快速瀏覽過這些呈現形式,因此他們扮演極重要的角色。

Contributors
How to use figures and tables effectively to present your research findings

presenting qualitative research findings

Several studies, journal guidelines, and discourses on scientific writing1-10 affirm the critical role that tables, figures, and graphs (or display items) play in enhancing the quality of manuscripts. At the manuscript screening stage, these display items offer reviewers and journal editors a quick overview of the study findings, and once the paper is published, they do the same for readers (some of whom look only at these display items and not at the rest of the manuscript7). These visual elements help authors present detailed results and complex relationships, patterns, and trends clearly and concisely;1-8,11,13,14 reduce the length of the manuscript; 3,5,13,15 and enhance readers’ understanding of the study results.11,12 But while well-presented tables and figures can efficiently capture and present information, poorly crafted tables and figures can confuse readers and impair the effectiveness of a paper.16 To help authors get the balance right, this article presents some essential guidelines to the effective use of tables and figures.

Planning Your Paper: When to Use Tables and Figures

Producing effective tables and figures requires careful planning that begins at the manuscript writing stage itself. Here’s how to go about it:

  • First, check out what your target journal has to say on the issue. Some journals limit the number of tables and figures and also have specific guidelines on the design aspects of these display items.
  • Next, decide whether to use tables and figures or text to put across key information.(Refer to Table 1 below for help on making this decision.)
  • After you’ve decided to use a display item, choose the display item that best fits your purpose based on what you wish readers to focus on and what you want to present.(Refer to Table 1 below for more information.)
  • Finally, follow the best-practice guidelines outlined in section 3 and review the examples presented in section 4 of this paper to ensure that your tables and figures are well-designed.
Table 1: How to Choose between Tables, Figures, and Text to Present Data

Use a TableUse a FigureUse text
To show many and precise numerical values and other specific data in a small space17
To show trends, patterns, and relationships across and between data sets when the general pattern is more important than the exact data values8,9,13,16,17,18 (what to use: graphs and data plots)
When you don’t have extensive or complicated data to present
To compare and contrast data values or characteristics among related items2,9 or items with several shared characteristics or variables19
To summarize research results8 (what to use: graphs, data plots, maps, and pie charts)
When putting your data into a table would mean creating a table with 2 or fewer columns2
To show the presence or absence of specific characteristics19
To present a visual explanation of a sequence of events, procedures, geographic features, or physical characteristics7,18 (what to use: schematic diagrams, images, photographs, and maps)
When the data that you are planning to present is peripheral to the study or irrelevant to the main study findings8,12


Best-practice Guidelines for Presentation of Tables and Figures

General guidelines

  1. Ensure that display items are self-explanatory: Some readers (and certainly reviewers and journal editors) turn their attention to the tables and figures before they read the entire text, so these display items should be self-contained.6,8,9,12,16,20

  2. Refer, but don’t repeat: Use the text to draw the reader’s attention to the significance and key points of the table/figure, but don’t repeat details.5,12,16,19,21,22 So for example, you could highlight your main finding (e.g., “We found that the treatment was effective in only 24% of the cases, as shown in Figure 1”), but don’t repeat exact values (e.g., “As Table 2 shows, 32% of the subjects chose Option 1, 12% chose Option 2, 10% chose Option 3, and 46% chose Option 4"). This defeats the very purpose (efficiency and clarity) of having a table or figure.

  3. Be consistent:6,9,12,17 Ensure consistency between values or details in a table (e.g., abbreviations, group names, treatment names) and those in the text.

  4. Give clear, informative titles:16,17 Table and figure titles should not be vague9,19 but should concisely describe the purpose or contents of the table/figure and should ideally draw the reader's attention to what you what him/her to notice17 (e.g., Advantages and disadvantages of using sleep therapy with patients suffering from schizophrenia). Also ensure that column heads, axis labels, figure labels, etc., are clearly and appropriately labelled.

  5. Adhere to journal guidelines: Check what your target journal has to say about issues like the number of tables and figures, the style of numbering, titles, image resolution, file formats, etc., and follow these instructions carefully.18,23

Guidelines for tables

  1. Combine repetitive tables: Tables and figures that present repetitive information will impair communication rather than enhance it.8,12 Examine the titles of all your tables and figures and check if they talk about the same or similar things.8 If they do, rethink the presentation and combine or delete the tables/graphs.

  2. Divide the data:7 When presenting large amounts of information, divide the data into clear and appropriate categories and present them in columns titled accurately and descriptively.

  3. Watch the extent of data in your tables: If the data you have to present is extensive and would make the tables too cluttered or long, consider making the tables a part of the Appendix or supplemental material.8

  4. De-clutter your table: Ensure that there is sufficient spacing between columns and rows7 and that the layout does not make the table look too messy or crowded.

Guidelines for figures

  1. Ensure image clarity:Make sure that all the parts of the figure are clear:18 Use standard font; check that labels are legible against the figure background; and ensure that images are sharp.24

  2. Use legends to explain the key message:25 Figure legends are pivotal to the effectiveness of a figure. Use them to draw attention to the central message as well as to explain abbreviations and symbols.

  3. Label all important parts: Label the key sections and parts of schematic diagrams and photographs, and all axes, curves, and data sets in graphs and data plots.6,7,16,18

  4. Give specifics: Include scale bars in images and maps; specify units wherever quantities are listed; include legends in maps and schematics; and specify latitudes and longitudes on maps.7,18

Examples of Well-prepared Tables and Figures

This section presents one example each of a well-prepared table and a well-designed figure.

Example of a well-prepared table

The table below is taken from a dietary study on chick-rearing macaroni penguins26 and is an example of an effective table for the following reasons:



  • The title clearly describes what the table is about.
  • The column heads are descriptive and clearly indicate the nature of the data presented.
  • The data is divided into categories for clarity.
  • It is self-contained and can be understood quite well even without reference to the entire paper.
  • Superscript letters and notes are used to offer additional, clarifying information.
  • Sufficient spacing is present between columns and rows; the layout is clean; and the font is legible.
Example of an effective figure (graph)

The figure below, from a paper on the efficacy of oyster reefs as natural breakwaters27, scores on several counts:

  • It uses an informative title that immediately tells the reader what to expect in the graph below.
  • The axes are labeled clearly.
  • The key clearly identifies what each element in the graph stands for.
  • A figure legend at the bottom draws the reader’s attention to the key points in the graph.
  • A note at the bottom acknowledges the source.
  • The graph is 2-dimensional, with no clutter.
presenting qualitative research findings

Conclusion
Figures and tables, or display items, are powerful communication tools-they give your manuscript a professional feel, attract and sustain the interest of readers, and efficientlypresent large amounts of complex information.7 Moreover, as most journals editors and reviewers will glance at these display items before they begin a full reading of your paper, their importance cannot be overemphasized.
Contributors