Introduction > Writing Scientifically > How to Use Figures, Tables and Plates > Where and When to Use Them

Where and When to Use Them

A scientific paperAs a general rule, Figures, Tables and Plates:

  • can be used anywhere in the Literature Review, Materials and Methods and Results
  • should not generally be used in the Discussion, although there are exceptions to this
  • should not generally be used anywhere in the Abstract, Conclusion or References.

In scientific papers, because space is limited, figures, tables and plates are often used only in the Results section, and rarely in the Materials and Methods.

It's important to think about the quality of your figures, tables and plates. Whilst a high quality plate can greatly improve your work, a poor quality plate can have the opposite effect.

In the Literature Review, diagrams are particularly useful if you're explaining a complex theory eg the formation of chlorophyll from aminolevulinic acid. It's much easier to grasp a concept if you see a diagram as opposed to reading pages of text. Although it's usually acceptable to scan material from books, journals etc, the quality of the diagram you want may deteriorate during the scanning and manipulation process. If you use material from another source, you must cite and reference its source.

Plans and tables are most commonly used in the Materials and Methods section, either to demonstrate how your experiment was set up, how you used specialist equipment or to detail the conditions prior to starting your experiment. The accuracy of your material is important here, as any researcher should be able to replicate your work by following the details you give.

The results section is where most of your figures and tables will appear, and high quality plates can add value to your work.

Have a look through an undergraduate research project, paying particular attention to where figures have been used
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