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I am preparing a paper for proceedings of a conference in the domain of engineering and physics.

Is it formally acceptable to add a figure in the introduction? The idea is that I am explaining something that is already done/known, and I would like to keep it in the introduction as a part of the bibliographical paragraph. This idea should explain the experimental setup, and clearly this will be much clear by using an illustration.

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    It might be unusual, but only the conference chair (or program chair) can give you final advice. – Buffy Jul 10 '18 at 16:44
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    I've seen it done in physics journals. – Anyon Jul 10 '18 at 17:36
  • I think it may depend on how the figure is used. While referencing the figure in the intro may help clarify what you are interested in discussing / motivated to do, one still needs to / should actually discuss that figure in the experimental section in depth. So, a passing reference to clarify in the intro, the real meat of the discussion in the experimental part of how you are attacking the problem. – Jon Custer Jul 10 '18 at 18:40
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    I've never heard of a rule discouraging figures in the introduction. (Or if there is such a rule, I regularly break it.) – JeffE Jul 10 '18 at 21:03
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I would assume that there is no formal rule about figures in the introduction (at least i haven't heard of it). Still, it would be unusual because introductions tend to not get into specifics. I'd guess it depends on the context of your paper, but if you keep it very simple and brief, you should go for it.

In case of doubt: if your paper is well-structured and well-written in addition to presenting content within the scope of the conference proceedings you aim to submit in, your submission probably would not get submitted over an explanatory figure. It could be that reviewers ask for the figure to be (re)moved though.

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It is pretty common in my (physics) field, where you typically need to give quite a bit of introductory material before delving into the original research. This is true both for theoretical and for experimental papers. As everywhere, a picture is worth a thousand words.

In physics, the figure may represent a picture of your experimental layout, or a visual summary of the state of the art in terms of theory papers on the subject. A picture might take similar or less space than describing it into words, and helps memorising key information faster. I have never heard of limitations on where to put a picture, and had often a figure in the introduction of my papers.

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Pausch's 1996 SIGGRAPH paper's 1st page.

To provide a different field's perspective: In Randy Pausch's famous Last Lecture (youtube link with specific timestamp) he actually talks about this. He said that his 1996 SIGGRAPH paper was almost a scandal since they put a large figure on the first page. It has now become a trend in that community.

Most conferences and journals probably don't have rules specifically against this. As long as you use the figure legitimately then I can't imagine it causing an issue.

  • tiniest linked image ever – spacetyper Jul 26 at 4:27
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I don't see why not, unless the venue or the field has specific conventions to the contrary. I often include a map in the introduction to both journal and conference papers, to show the part of the world that the work refers to.

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