Almost everything you wanted to know about making tables and figures

Once your statistical analyses are complete, you will need to summarize the data and results for presentation to your readers. Data summaries may take one of three forms: running text, tables and figures.

Some general considerations about Figures:

  • Big or little? For course-related papers, a good rule of thumb is to size your figures to fill about one-half of a page. Use an easily readable font size for axes and ticks. Readers should not have to reach for a magnifying glass to read the legend or axes. Compound figures may require a full page.
  • Color or no color? Most often black and white is preferred. The rationale is that if you need to photocopy or fax your paper, any information conveyed by colors will be lost to the reader. However, for a poster presentation or a talk with projected images, color can be helpful in distinguishing different data sets. Every aspect of your Figure should convey information; never use color simply because it is pretty.
  • Title or no title? Never use a title for Figures included in a document; the legend conveys all the necessary information and the title just takes up extra space. However, for posters or projected images, where people may have a harder time reading the small print of a legend, a larger font title is very helpful.

Find out more on this website (the information above is retrieved from Bates College).