Pick up any journal and take a look at one of the articles. Without reading the main text, examine one of the figures and ask yourself, “What can I conclude from this image?” Are you able to answer this question? Based on the figure, can you guess what the article’s conclusions might be? Hopefully, yes!
Most people will agree that illustrations can greatly enhance reading comprehension. However, the problem we often face is how to create effective figures that best depict our data and conclusions. What’s more, we often struggle with explaining the significance of these images to our readers.
Figures and tables should not be only seen as supporting information; they should be able to stand alone. A reader should be able to look at the image, read its title and legend and grasp the takeaway message without having to rely on the main text. Indeed, people often look at the graphical elements in an article before they decide whether to read the rest of the article. Therefore, it is important to make your legends tell a clear story on their own.
In this post, we offer some key tips and reminders about how to write effective figure legends for journal submissions. For ease of reference, we’ve sorted the information into five categories: overall legend structure; title; materials and methods; results; and definitions. As you design the visual images to accompany your research, you should consider each of these elements.
17 Tips for Writing Effective Figure Titles and Legends
|Materials and Methods||
If you keep the above tips in mind as you draft legends for your figures and consult your target journal’s specific guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to improving your quality of writing and may also increase your chances of acceptance!
For additional information about how to write a strong research paper, make sure to check out our full research writing series!
You can also find these resources plus information about the journal submission process in our FREE downloadable e-book: Research Writing and Journal Publication E-Book.