Researchers April 13, 2021
How Can a Well-Written Figure Legend Help the Reader Better Understand Your Text

We all know the importance of having strong content in our academic manuscripts, but did you know that your journal article is just the tip of the iceberg? There is so much more that goes into creating impactful work that is understood clearly by the reader. From supplementary resources to the proposals to the journal editor, a lot goes into the creation and publication process of a research article.

The figure legend is just one of these small pieces of the puzzle that helps make the whole thing clear and defined. This legend, or the text that describes your figures in your scientific article, helps your reader to understand exactly what the point is that you’re trying to make. Otherwise, the work you put into defining and designing impactful tables is for nothing, because the reader doesn’t realize the significance of the numbers you chose and how they relate to your text. A well-written figure legend increases the comprehension of your paper, improves the overall quality, engages your readers, and increases the likelihood of your work getting cited.

What is a Figure Legend?

Every research scientist has data they analyze that helps them reach their ultimate outcome. This data is a culmination of quantitative and qualitative factors that, when put together, form a conclusion. To help your reader understand the final conclusion you are attempting to explain, you have to include evidence. Unless the reader is a specialist in the same field as you, they aren’t going to understand the significance of the data until you present it in multiple ways, such as figures and tables.

Designing a figure is essential, but explaining what that figure means is the key to unlocking the reader’s comprehension. The figure legend is the short section of text that is placed in line with every figure in a report. It explains the figure with just enough content to let the reader know what information is included in it. The legend should help the reader understand the figure with no other content needed. They shouldn’t have to refer back to the article in order to get the gist of the figure, because the legend clarifies everything inside it.

What’s Included in the Figure Legend?

There are some consistent aspects of every figure legend, such as the explanation itself, but exactly how it should be written will depend on publisher guidelines or the instructor’s expectations, as well as the style manual the paper is written in.

Regardless of the style or expectations, the key components inside a well-written figure legend include:

●      The title, which describes the figure clearly and concisely. To be considered a strong title, it should be written in the active voice and summarize the findings of the data, or in a descriptive phrase that states the analysis used or another important characteristic of the figure.

●      The methods that you used are necessary for the comprehension of the figure itself, such as the treatment, type of research, and other crucial content.

●      The results, written in one sentence, of the figure. The reader should be able to formulate their own idea of the data in the figure, but your results help them to solidify their conclusion as correct. Because the results aren’t always in the title or the figure, it’s important to include them in your legend.

●      Any definitions and descriptions that are necessary to understand the figure, such as an explanation of the symbols, abbreviation, scale, or colors that you chose to use. These should be defined and not left to the reader’s interpretation.

A well-written figure legend is concise but guides the reader to a comprehensive understanding of what they are viewing. It should be no longer than 300 words, but no less than 100. Most writers use complete sentences, but it is possible to design a good legend using phrases and fragments. Whichever way you choose to write yours, keep it consistent throughout the legend.

Impactio Can Help You Get the Reader’s Attention

Especially when you’re still learning the ropes of a research paper, it can be difficult to put together well-designed figure legends. Over time, this will become easier, and along the way, you have Impactio to help reduce the stress of the figure legend and the rest of your paper. Impactio’s all-in-one software solution guides you as you put together your research and prepare it for publication and beyond.

The easy-to-use program gives you all the tools you need to input your work’s text into your own or pre-made templates and turn your data into infographics with a strong figure legend. When you’re ready, publish your article as a PDF document or web page and see how your figure legends and the rest of your article make an impact!

Tags Figure LegendPDF documentScientific Paper
About the author
Jason Collins- Writer
Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.
Jason Collins
Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.
Related Articles