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Tables, Charts & Figures

APA format (required for most journals I read/publish in) stipulates that figures and tables should not be included in the parts of the manuscript in which you actually talk about them, but rather they should all come at the end of the manuscript. I understand how this might be of use to the type-setter, but I find it a pain when actually trying to read a manuscript. I know I'm not the only one, because in some of the manuscripts I've submitted for review before I actually violated APA format and put the figures in-line, and the reviewers actually thanked me in their review and suggested that this should become journal policy. (The idea is that after acceptance, you resubmit with the figures and tables in APA format, but that during the review process, you put them in-line.)

With that in mind, I left my figures in situ in my last journal submission. The staff at the journal promptly returned the manuscript without review, saying that they couldn't/wouldn't review a paper that didn't follow APA guidelines on tables and figures.

Obviously I reformatted and resubmitted (the customer/journal is always right), but I put this out to the blogosphere: does anyone actually like having the figures at the end of the manuscript?

2 comments:

Tim said...

I always ignore APA format and put figures in the text. I've never had a manuscript sent back for violating APA, although I've had editors note in the action letter that it needs to be reformatted to APA.

I usually put this statement on the title page, though:

"For the reader's convenience, this manuscript has been formatted with the figures embedded in the text. An APA-formatted version is also available upon request."

Maybe that would help.

Panos Ipeirotis said...

I kind of dislike the two-column conference format of ACM, but nothing compares to the offence in aesthetics, readability, and efficiency of reading, that is called APA formatting.

Are we still in the age of manual typesetting? What is the deep reason behind the separation of content based on the format of the presented arguments? (Text-based arguments first, graphs and tables later).

For people that insist on using APA format, I propose their browsers to open graphics and images in a window separate from the one displaying the text of the web page.

Locality of reference is not only useful for computers but also for humans. All the necessary context necessary to understand a concept should be placed as close together as possible.

This extends to content as well: for example, good style dictates minimal reliance on long range references within the text). But while editing text to be tight and coherent is difficult, placing figures and tables together with the text is actually trivial.