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Stand alone captions

已有 3045 次阅读 2011-1-21 16:16 |系统分类:论文交流

可“独立成文”的图注

图注是图片的重要组成部分,能够帮助读者理解图片所传达的信息。很多读者不会通读全文,但他们通常会阅读摘要和图片。因此,图注需要清晰易懂,即便读者没有阅读正文也能够了解图片的意思,我们称之为可“独立成文”的图注。图注需要:

  1. 解释图片的内容,传达图片或图片中的数据是如何获得的。
  2. 告知读者如何解读图片。
  3. 告知读者为什么文章中需要添加该图片。

在本贴中,我将介绍如何写出可“独立成文”的图注。此外,我还例举了我之前写的一篇文章中的图片及其图注。这个图注目前还不能“独立成文”,我会告诉大家原因。然后我会逐步完善这个图注,直至它可以“独立成文”,供大家今后在写作中参考。

 

Hello,
Previously, I talked about making attractive graphs for your manuscripts. The complement to that is writing a good caption for your attractive figure. The caption is an integral part of any figure.  Many readers will only look at your abstract and figures.  Therefore, it is very important to have “stand alone” figures. This requires a caption that:


1. Explains what is in the figure
2. Tells the reader how to interpret the figure
3. Tells the reader why the figure is included in the paper

 

Generally, authors take care to see that the first goal of the caption is satisfied. In many cases, the second goal will be achieved too. However, it is fairly rare that the third objective is satisfied. Often in top international journals you will see all three goals fulfilled in a majority of captions. Therefore, it would be best to emulate this practice, so that all of your papers are of the quality you would expect in a top journal. In this post, I will review each goal in detail, and then I will work through an example caption, which will allow you to see the effect for yourself.
The first goal is simple in theory, but can be tricky in practice. Often writers will make the mistake of not including an explanation for all of the parts of their figure. You should take care to comment on the content of all the panels and inset items in your figures. From your caption (and perhaps a legend), a reader should be able to look at any part of the figure, and know what they are looking at. In addition, be specific. Try to include details that might make the content of your figure clearer to the reader. For images, make sure you tell the reader how they were obtained.
Next, you should tell your reader how to interpret the figure. Tell them what to look at (e.g. a peak, a dip, a flat line, a deviation, or a lack of deviation), and what it signifies (e.g. an enhancement, a suppression, steady-state behavior, poor agreement with a theory, or good agreement with previous results). Adding this to your caption will allow a reader that has not read your main text to draw the right conclusions from your figure.
Finally, explain why you included the figure. Doing this will help achieve both of the other two goals. In addition, it will help you to decide which figures are worth including in the paper. If you cannot justify to yourself why a figure should be in a paper, then it might be better to include a better figure in its place. A simple sentence such as “From this figure, the improvement in [something] can be seen” will suffice. Stating the intended purpose of the figure will help the reader to focus on information that they should be getting from the figure. Otherwise, they may focus on details that are unrelated to your goals for the figure.
Here is a figure from a paper I co-authored. One of the dangers of publishing anything is that you cannot go back and change it once it is finalized. However, now that I have a blog, I have another chance to improve my work in front of the scientific community.
 
As you can see, it has a caption that only attempts to fulfill the first goal. There are several problems with this caption:


1. It is not specific enough. These microspheres were made from arsenic triselenide, a chalcogenide glass, and the reader would be interested in that detail. This relates to goal (1).
2. I did not tell the reader how these images were obtained.  These were microscope images. Again, this relates to goal (1).
3. The caption hints at the correct interpretation of the figure by saying the pictures show microspheres of “good surface quality” and “e=0.086” However, the caption does not tell the reader how he or she should come to the conclusion that the spheres have good surface quality. It would have been better to suggest to the reader that the lack of distortions in the light reflected off the surface of the sphere implies the microsphere has good surface quality. Also, I should explicitly state in the caption that the microspheres are very circular on the fiber axis; in this case “e” stands for eccentricity. This relates to goal (2).
4. From this caption, the reader will have no idea why this figure was included. This is a hard question. This part of the paper focused on the technique I developed for fabricating these microspheres. Honestly, at the time I did not put a lot of thought into why I needed to include this figure. I just thought, “I made some microspheres, so I should include a picture of the finished product in my paper.” Upon some reflection, the goal of this figure was to show the range of sizes that could be fabricated with the process, the good surface quality, and the low fiber-axis eccentricity. This relates to goal (3).


Now, I will write a new caption with these issues in mind:


Fig. 3 Microscope images showing arsenic triselenide microspheres fabricated using the three-step process. The lack of distortions in the reflected light suggests that these microspheres have surfaces of high optical quality. The microspheres have low fiber-axis eccentricity (e = 0.086), which will ensure they will behave as spherical resonators when coupled to a waveguide perpendicular to this axis. The process can be used to fabricate a wide range of microsphere sizes: (a) 55 µm, (b) 270 µm, and (c) 384 µm.


Hopefully, the example helps illuminate my point. With this new caption, a reader with some previous background could look at the figure and have a pretty good idea of what information I am trying to convey without referencing the main text. This would increase the readership of the paper because interested researchers who merely look over the paper's abstract and figures will have a better idea of what the research entailed.

 

Daniel Broaddus, PhD
Chief Physics Editor, Edanz Group China

 

Figure taken from: 

Daniel H. Broaddus, Mark A. Foster, Imad H. Agha, Jacob T. Robinson, Michal Lipson, and Alexander L. Gaeta, "Silicon-waveguide-coupled high-Q chalcogenide microspheres," Opt. Express 17, 5998-6003 (2009)



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