Chart -- see "graph."
Diagram -- a drawing that illustrates or visually explains a thing or idea by outlining its component parts and the relationships among them. Also a line drawing, made to accompany and illustrate a geometrical theorem, mathematical demonstration, etc.
Figure -- a form bounded by three or more lines; one or more digits or numerical symbols representing a number.
Flowchart -- a pictorial summary [graphical algorithm] of the decisions and flows [movement of information] that make up a procedure or process from beginning to end. Also called flow diagram, flow process chart, or network diagram.
Graph -- a two-dimensional drawing showing a relationship [usually between two set of numbers] by means of a line, curve, a series of bars, or other symbols. Typically, an independent variable is represented on the horizontal line (X-axis) and an dependent variable on the vertical line (Y-axis). The perpendicular axis intersect at a point called origin, and are calibrated in the units of the quantities represented. Though a graph usually has four quadrants representing the positive and negative values of the variables, usually only the north-east quadrant is shown when the negative values do not exist or are of no interest. Often used interchangeably with the term “chart.”
Histogram -- step-column chart that displays a summary of the variations in (frequency distribution of) quantities [called Classes] that fall within certain lower and upper limits in a set of data. Classes are measured on the horizontal ('X') axis, and the number of times they occur [or the percentages of their occurrences] are measured on the vertical ('Y') axis. To construct a histogram, rectangles or blocks are drawn on the x-axis [without any spaces between them] whose areas are proportional to the classes they represent. Histograms [and histographs] are used commonly where the subject item is discrete (such as the number of students in a school) instead of being continuous [such as the variations in their heights]. Also called frequency diagram, a histogram is usually preferred over a histograph where the number of classes is less than eight.
Illustration -- a visual representation [e.g., picture or diagram] that is used to make a subject in a paper more pleasing or easier to understand.
Map -- a visual representation of an area. It is considered to be a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes. Examples of types include climate, economic, resource, physical, political, road, and topographic maps.
Pictograph -- visual presentation of data using icons, pictures, symbols, etc., in place of or in addition to common graph elements [bars, lines, points]. Pictographs use relative sizes or repetitions of the same icon, picture, or symbol to show comparison. Also called a pictogram, pictorial chart, pictorial graph, or picture graph.
Symbol -- Mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship.
Table -- an orderly arrangement of quantitative data in columns and rows. Also called a “matrix.”
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There are a variety of reasons for including non-textual elements in your paper. Among them are:
Few, Stephen. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten. 2nd edition. Burlingame, CA: Analytics Press, 2012; Informative Presentation of Tables, Graphs and Statistics. Statistical Services Centre, University of Reading, United Kingdom, March 2000; Rodrigues, Velany et al. How to Use Figures and Tables Effectively to Present Your Research Findings. Tutorials: Manuscript Preparation. Editage insights. Cactus Communications, Inc.
Use non-textual elements, such as figures, tables, graphs, maps, photographs, etc., to support your key findings. Readers should be able to understand non-textual elements on their own without having to refer to the text to understand the data being presented. Reference to a non-textual element in the text of your paper should focus on describing its significance in relation to the research problem or the topic being discussed.
Non-textual elements must have neat, legible labels, be simple, and have detailed captions that are written in complete sentences and that fully explain the item without forcing the reader to refer to the text. Conversely, the reader should not have to refer back and forth from the text to the elements to understand the paper.
General rules about using non-textual elements in your research paper
References to non-textual elements are generally put in parentheses, e.g. "(see Figure 1)" or "(Chart 2)" because this information is generally supplementary to the results themselves; most of the text should focus on highlighting key findings.
NOTE: Do not overuse non-textual elements! Include them sparingly and only in cases where they are an effective means for enhancing and/or supplementing information already described in your paper. Using too many non-textual elements disrupts the narrative flow of your paper, making it more difficult for the reader to synthesize and interpret your overall research. If you have to use a lot of non-textual elements, consider organizing them in an appendix.
ANOTHER NOTE: Excel and other computer programs are capable of creating very elaborate, colorful, and dramatic looking non-textual elements. However, be careful not to let aesthetics and artistry overwhelm the message you are trying to convey to the reader. Use these features only to help enhance the reader's understanding of the information being presented.
Chapter 4: The Research Process: Structuring the Research Paper. Effective Writing Center. University of Maryland; Durbin Jr., Charles G. “Effective Use of Tables and Figures in Abstracts, Presentations, and Papers.” Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004): 1233-1237; Few, Stephen. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten. 2nd edition. Burlingame, CA: Analytics Press, 2012; Franzblau, Lauren E. and Kevin C. Chung. “Graphs, Tables, and Figures in Scientific Publications: The Good, the Bad, and How Not to Be the Latter.” The Journal of Hand Surgery 37 (March 2012): 591-596; Hartley, James et al. “Research on Tables and Graphs in Academic Articles: Pitfalls and Promises.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 66 (February 2015): 428-431; Informative Presentation of Tables, Graphs and Statistics. Statistical Services Centre, University of Reading, United Kingdom, March 2000; Rodrigues, Velany et al. How to Use Figures and Tables Effectively to Present Your Research Findings. Tutorials: Manuscript Preparation. Editage insights. Cactus Communications, Inc.; Tables & Figures. Academic Skills Office, University of New England; Using Figures, Tables and Graphs. Language and Learning Online, Monash University..