For academic papers, is it frowned upon to include screenshots of graphics generated by some computer program? I am working on a paper and want to include data that I generated in R.

  • 34
    How else would you create graphics than with computer programs? Though I wouldn't use screen-shotting, and instead let the program export in whatever format is appropriate. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 19:10
  • 5
    @WolfgangBangerth I actually found a better way. In R, I use latex(miss, file = "") and it gives me the equivalent code for the data frame :) problem solved!
    – JerBear
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 19:16
  • 4
    Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 20:04
  • 9
    Since the title and question are inconsistent, please add an example to your question so we can tell what you mean. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 21:29
  • 6
    You can supply the original data in the supplementary material. For illustrations, please avoid screenshots, but generate the images directly. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 22:27

3 Answers 3


Screen shots are often not the best solution. Pretty much all packages that you can use to generate a figure have a way to export it in a format that can be embedded in latex or word (or something similar like libre-office).

A table should be written inside the document, e.g. as a Word or LaTeX table. Some programs allow you to generate a TeX or LaTeX version directly, others allow you to copy, paste into a table, and then edit the table. A screen-shot of a table would not be very readable and usually fall short of the requirements of the editor / school.

  • 5
    I'll disagree with the last point. Sometimes writing the table inside a document is a good solution, but often it's better to format the table in something more specialized that produces prettier table formats. For example, I often produce my tables in a spreadsheet program, then export them as PDF to then include as a figure. Screenshot is still almost never the right solution, though.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 1:43
  • 2
    Never thought about doing that. Good work. Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 1:51
  • 21
    @jakebeal I have never seen a spreadsheet that produced better tables than correctly used LaTeX. I do not use the Microsoft things, but I think you can put an Excel table directly in a Word document. Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 16:06
  • 2
    @AnonymousPhysicist We'll have to agree to disagree about LaTeX tables - my complaint with them is that I find it more difficult to micromanage sizing than in the spreadsheet -> PDF -> figure workflow. And if you don't like Microsoft, there are good free & open source programs like LibreOffice.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 0:55
  • 14
    Screenshots should be avoided at all costs because they are ultimately lower DPI than what most printers can handle. Yes, many people don’t print out documents sent to them. But let‘s say you added screenshots and then converted the document to a PDF. The quality of the image would most likely go down even further due to image compression. And yes, there are ways to control bitmap image compression when outputting a PDF but not everyone knows how to do that. In general, never add screenshots to a document unless you utterly have no choice. Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 1:24

If you literally mean a screenshot, then that is almost always a technically inferior solution for importing data into a paper, in multiple ways:

  1. It’s a raster image and hence not scalable/magnifiable without the image becoming grainy. This reduces readability and accessibility.

  2. It results in a larger file size (which can mean it takes longer to download and to open, scroll through etc) than if the data is incorporated into your document in some more thoughtful way. This again reduces accessibility a little bit, particularly for people with slow internet connections and/or older computers.

  3. It will typically contain distracting graphic elements from the particular style/color scheme/user interface of the application that is presenting the data. These may not match the rest of your paper. This mixture of styles can make your paper annoying to read and its content more difficult to digest and appreciate.

So yes, it’s fair to say that screenshots are frowned upon. They are also unnecessary, since almost all technical software will offer multiple better ways to export your tables and diagrams.

  • 5
    Yes, if possible, export your image in a vector format like SVG or PDF. Or, if vector is not feasible, use PNG. I can't stand watching plots in JPEG format.
    – Paul
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 15:12
  • And even more important drawback: data on a screenshot can only be read by eyes. To use that data, the reader will have to re-type them (or use sophisticated OCR software, but even then such data will have to be edited manually).
    – Trang Oul
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 6:58

@JerBear: Let's be specific about the type of "academic paper." Examples:

  1. Sociology: you are writing a paper about weight gain during the COVID pandemic. If you wish to use R to analyze the data you gathered and include the graphs generated by R as illustration, then it is absolutely fine to paste a .svg or .png image in your paper. Additionally (a) ensure that you include a citation to your data source(s) AND (b) name yourself as the source of the graphs.

Example: Bear, Jer. Data analyzed and graphical illustrations generated using R (statistical computing software) Version 4.2.1, License GNU GPL v2, https://www.r-project.org/

  1. Programming class in R: include your code as well as graphical output. Coding projects, in my experience, are submitted as packages that include folders for data, code, pictures, etc.
    Easy Answer: ask your teacher/ tutor / professor!
  • 3
    Just curious, is it not assumed that the default source of an article's contents is its author(s) in sociology? Anyway, you don't really address the issue of screen shots here, right?
    – Anyon
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 21:37
  • Of course! Not just sociology, but the author of any academic paper is assumed to be the default; otherwise, as you know, it is plagiarism. About including data, graphs, scatterplots, etc that were generated using R: then yes, it's OK to insert a picture file of your output -- definitely not a full-page screenshot -- but a smaller *.png, *.svg and such -- that's fine. Furthermore, if OP is only student in class using R instead of, say Excel, then it would also be appropriate to acknowledge use of the R program. Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 0:07

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .