How do you normally indicate a subsection, or a part of the text that it is not so important for the rest of text. Let me give an example:

[...] This method uses ABC as a coefficient.

Subsection: how to measure ABC

[some text and a plot, making up for roughly one column]

The subsection can be skipped, but is probably too short to appear as an appendix at the end.

  • the subsection "how to measure". measuring ABC is not so important but nice to have it in the text. – user3327426 Aug 5 '15 at 13:33

It depends a bit on your field of research.

In fields that have a somewhat strong relationship to mathematics, it is common that lemmas, theorems, examples, etc. are typeset in special environments. You can also typeset a note or a remark in such an environment, which allows the reader to easily skip over the part, and at the same time makes clear that reading this part of the paper is somewhat optional.

As an example, the publisher Springer provides a style file for the document typesetting system LaTeX for publications in their "Lecture Notes in Computer Science" series here. The documentation states in Section 8a that "note" and "remark" environments are available.

Here is how using a "note" in a paper looks like:

example Paper

Note that there is no rule that prevents you from referencing to a figure in a note.

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You don't need to tell the reader what they can skip; instead, you should tell the reader what is in each section and how the sections relate, and they will decide for themselves which sections to read.

The truth is that very few experienced researchers actually read a paper end to end like a novel. Instead, a paper is typically subjected to a sort of literary triage, in which the reader first skims the paper and hits the high points (e.g., title, abstract, figures, theorems, conclusions) in order to determine whether the article is relevant enough and credible enough to invest more time in reading. Even after that, readers will often skip around, deciding which bits are worth investing in reading thoroughly, and which to come back to later if needed. See, for example, this nice manual on how to read a paper from a course at Rice University.

Some paper formats are effectively set up to enable such reading. For example, many high-impact journals like Science and Nature have an ultra-short article format, in which the whole article functions as an extended abstract, and most of the details are typically relegated to the supporting information.

For long format documents, however, such as many other journals, or book chapters or theses, you instead want to be explicit about the structure of the document, saying clearly what the purpose of each section is in the introduction, and what the subsections are for at the beginning of a section. For something that you are reviewing or reproducing for reader convenience, just say so, e.g.:

Section II.A reviews the measurement methodology that we have adapted from [cite].

and the reader will have enough information to know whether they want to read or skip.

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I think you have the following options:

  • Use an appendix. If I understand you correctly regarding the amount of content that we are talking about, I would not consider it too short for an appendix and successfully published shorter appendices (two short paragraphs and one plot). As a reader, I would not feel “cheated” by any appendix that contains a figure.

    I have never stumbled upon a journal guideline limiting the lengths of appendices and unless your journal has one, I would not assume that one exists. Should your journal have an internal rule about this, they will tell you soon enough and at worst you need an additional proof to rectify things.

  • Use a footnote or endnote. This is rather an answer to the general question as it does not seem to be applicable to your situation as you have a figure.

  • Move all the content into the figure caption and just refer to the figure. Of course, this only works if the content is appropriate for a figure caption.

  • I have seen one or two journals (but cannot name one right now) that allow authors to use floating text boxes. These are like figure or table floats but contain only text and are intended for background or supplementary information.

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