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What is the point in a "list of figures" in the following cases?

  1. Masters thesis
  2. Ph.D. thesis
  3. Academic (text)books
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    Can you elaborate a bit your question? As such, it's not very constructive, and I'm not sure what kind of answers you can expect apart from "well, it's a list of figures ...". – user102 Sep 29 '12 at 17:47
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A list of figures allows one to find the figures contained in a book. This could be useful, for example, when you want to quickly find one of the figures you recall seeing in the book, but you can't remember which page it is on. You could also use the list of figures when buying the book to see whether it has lots of figures or only a few.

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    "I know they had a figure of those results somewhere..." – Fomite Sep 30 '12 at 1:39
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To add to Dave Clarke's answer, especially in large publications, like the ones you mention, having a list of figures can be very helpful. E.g., a researcher cites a particular finding from a doctoral dissertation, which has some 100 pages and 20 figures. In such a case, researchers usually mention the figure's number. To the reader of the researchers article a list of figures in the dissertation would make locating the referenced figure much easier.

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    Of course hyperref makes life with PDFs so much easier... – Tobias Kienzler Oct 1 '12 at 18:33

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