Advertisement

Achieving graphical excellence: Suggestions and methods for creating high-quality visual displays of experimental data

      Abstract

      Graphics are an important means of communicating experimental data and results. There is evidence, however, that many of the graphics printed in scientific journals contain errors, redundancies, and lack clarity. Perhaps more important, many graphics fail to portray data at an appropriate level of detail, presenting summary statistics rather than underlying distributions. We seek to aid investigators in the production of high-quality graphics that do their investigations justice by providing the reader with optimum access to the relevant aspects of the data. The depiction of by-subject data, the signification of pairing when present, and the use of symbolic dimensionality (graphing different symbols to identify relevant subgroups) and small multiples (the presentation of an array of similar graphics each depicting one group of subjects) to portray stratification are stressed. Step-by-step instructions for the construction of high-quality graphics are offered. We hope that authors will incorporate these suggestions when developing graphics to accompany their manuscripts and that this process will lead to improvements in the graphical literacy of scientific journals. We also hope that journal editors will keep these principles in mind when refereeing manuscripts submitted for peer review. [Schriger DL, Cooper RJ. Achieving graphical excellence: suggestions and methods for creating high-quality visual displays of experimental data. Ann Emerg Med. January 2001;37:75-87.]
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment
      ACEP Member Login
      ACEP Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Use your society credentials to access all journal content and features.

      Purchase one-time access:

      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect

      References

        • Margulies D
        Collected Stories.
        : Theatre Communications Group, New York, NY1998
        • Cooper RJ
        • Schriger DS
        • Tashman DA
        An evaluation of the graphical literacy of Annals of Emergency Medicine.
        Ann Emerg Med. 2001; 37: 13-19
        • De Amici D
        • Klersy C
        • Tinelli C
        Graphic data representation in anaesthesiological journals: a proposed methodology for assessment of appropriateness.
        Anaesth Intensive Care. 1997; 25: 659-664
        • Tufte ER
        Chartjunk: vibrations, grids, and ducks.
        in: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. : Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT1983: 107-121
        • Cleveland WS
        Graphs in scientific publications.
        Am Stat. 1984; 38: 261-269
        • Cleveland WS
        Elements of Graphing Data.
        in: : Wadsworth Advanced Books and Software, Monterey, CA1985: 229-294
        • Wainer H
        • Thissen D
        Graphical data analysis.
        Ann Rev Psychol. 1981; 32: 192-241
        • Cleveland WS
        Visualizing Data.
        : Hobart Press, Summit, NJ1993
        • Tufte ER
        Envisioning Information.
        : Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT1990
        • Tufte ER
        Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative.
        : Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT1997
        • Tufte ER
        Data density and small multiples.
        in: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. : Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT1983: 161-175
        • Briscoe MH
        A Researcher’s Guide to Scientific and Medical Illustrations.
        in: : Springer-Verlag, New York, NY1990: 7-14 (75-107)
        • Briscoe MH
        Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications.
        2nd ed. : Springer-Verlag, New York, NY1996
        • Scientific Illustration Committee
        Illustrating Science: Standards for Publication.
        : Council of Biology Editors, Bethesda, MD1988
        • Cox DR
        Some remarks on the role in statistics of graphical methods.
        Appl. Statist. 1978; 27: 4-9
        • Wainer H
        How to display data badly.
        Am Stat. 1984; 38: 137-147
        • Huff D
        How to Lie With Statistics.
        in: : WW Norton, New York, NY1954: 8
        • Wilkes MS
        • Doblin BH
        • Shapiro MF
        Pharmaceutical advertisements in leading medical journals: experts’ assessments.
        Ann Intern Med. 1992; 116: 912-919
        • Rashcalf P
        • et al.
        Advanced applications of the theory of the bar chart.
        in: 3rd ed. The Journal of Irreproducible Results. : Dorset Press, New York, NY1986: 243-244
        • Wilk M
        • Gnanadesikan R
        Probability plotting methods for the analysis of data.
        Biometrika. 1968; 55: 1-17
        • Cleveland WS
        Visualizing Data.
        in: : Hobart Press, Summit, NJ1993: 21-24
        • McGill R
        • Tukey JW
        • Larsen W
        Variations of box plots.
        Am. Stat. 1978; 32: 1-12
        • McNeil D
        On graphing paired data.
        Am Stat. 1992; 46: 307-311
        • Cleveland WS
        Visualizing Data.
        in: : Hobart Press, Summit, NJ1993: 110-125
        • Bland JM
        • Altman DG
        Statistical methods for assessing agreement between two methods of clinical measurement.
        Lancet. 1986; 8476: 307-310
        • Cleveland WS
        Elements of Graphing Data.
        in: : Wadsworth Advanced Books and Software, Monterey, CA1985: 254
        • Cleveland WS
        Visualizing Data.
        in: : Hobart Press, Summit, NJ1993: 167-178
        • Gallagher EJ
        p<0.05: threshold for decerebrate genuflection.
        Acad Emerg Med. 1999; 6: 1084-1087
        • Rothman KJ
        • Greenland S
        Modern Epidemiology.
        in: : Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, PA1998: 183-199
        • Rothman KJ
        • Greenland S
        Modern Epidemiology.
        in: : Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, PA1998: 359-399 (401-432)
        • Cox DR
        • Oakes D
        Analysis of Survival Data.
        : Chapman and Hall, New York, NY1984
        • Metz CE
        Basic Principals of ROC analysis.
        Semin Nucl Med. 1978; 8: 283-298
        • Cleveland WS
        Graphical methods for data presentation: full scale breaks, dot charts, and multibased logging.
        Am Stat. 1984; 38: 270-280
        • Cleveland WS
        Visualizing Data.
        in: : Hobart Press, Summit, NJ1993: 23

      Linked Article

      • An evaluation of the graphical literacy of Annals of Emergency Medicine
        Annals of Emergency MedicineVol. 37Issue 1
        • Preview
          Study Objective: To describe the type, quantity, and quality of graphics used to present original research in Annals of Emergency Medicine.Methods: We performed a blinded, retrospective review of all graphics published in Annals of Emergency Medicine’s original research articles from January 1998 through June 1999. We assessed the types of graphics, the use of special features to display detail, the clarity of each graphic, discrepancies within the graphic or between the graphic and text, and the efficiency of data presentation.
        • Full-Text
        • PDF