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I have been browsing through a few IEEE journal articles and couldn't find an example where there was a figure on the first page of the article. So I tried to find the rule that explicitly forbids the authors from including a figure on the first page, but I couldn't find such a rule either. Here's one of the links where I looked: Preparation of Papers for IEEE Transactions and Journals

I am specifically seeking a clarification of such a rule (if it exists) for the IEEE journal article and not for conference publications (or even letters or tech notes).

  • There's no such general rule and I have published papers in IEEE journals with a figure on the first page, and I'm sure to have seen other papers too. In any case, the typesetter can take care of this if necessary. – Massimo Ortolano Sep 7 '15 at 22:19
  • Could you point me to an example? Since a figure can be published on the first page, my question seems to be pretty pointless. Would it be recommended to delete the question? – Shashank Sawant Sep 7 '15 at 22:21
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    @ShashankSawant Please don't delete the question --- it's actually quite interesting, I think! – jakebeal Sep 7 '15 at 22:35
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    Could you point me to an example? — Three of the top 5 most "popular articles" in IEEE Journal of Solid State Circuits have a figure on the first page. – Mad Jack Sep 8 '15 at 2:05
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To the best of my knowledge, there is no such rule. It would be problematic to put a figure in the first column (which is tightly compressed between abstract and copyright blurb), but a figure at the top of the second column is fine. However, due to the way that document preparation is done for IEEE publications, it is highly unlikely that an author will end up with a figure on the first page unless they specifically choose to do so.

The reason is that in the IEEE format (both conference and journal), one rarely gets much beyond the introduction in the first page, and certainly never in the first column. IEEE papers are mostly prepared with LaTeX, and as such, if you use the normal figure placement, your figure will tend to end up at the top of the column after the column in which it is set and referenced in the source. Since it's quite rare to have a figure at the beginning of a paper's introduction, then it will be correspondingly rare to have a figure on the first page. Complementarily, an author who chooses to have a figure on the first page will typically need to move the figure significantly forward of its reference in the text in order for LaTeX to choose to place it at the top of the 2nd column. Most IEEE journals work directly from the author-submitted document rather than doing significant layout work by the journal, so if the author didn't put it on page 1, nobody else is likely to either.

Thus, we have the emergent phenomenon you've noticed: because the defaults and tendencies in article production for IEEE make it unlikely that a figure will appear on the first page without author intervention, most papers have no figure on the first page.

Personally, I like to intervene, because a figure on the first page really helps an article pop out to a reader and be more memorable and intelligible. I suggest that unless you have good reason to do otherwise, you do the same.

  • To add on, with the bulk of matter within the Introduction and Related Work / Literature Review section, it would be naturally improbable to have a figure in the first page, unless few previously published articles connect with your research. Except for a few articles as pointed out by @MadJack. – Ébe Isaac Sep 8 '15 at 5:35
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While I agree with jakebeal's answer, there is actually a reference about not putting any floats on the first page in

M. Shell, "How to use the IEEEtran LaTeX class," LaTeX class files, Journal of, vol. 8, no. 1, Nov. 2012

Note that, as far as I'm aware, the "Journal of LaTeX class files" is not a real journal but was just the default header of the IEEE LaTeX templates at the time this article was released. On page 8, under section X. Floating Structures, is the following quote:

Furthermore, IEEE journals never place floats in the first column of the first page and rarely (if ever) do they do so in the second column of the first page.

Unfortunately no further qualification is given as to why this is the case. Depending on how you interpret this it's either a hard and fast rule, a strongly recommended style guideline, or just a statement of the way things are in IEEE journals.

Either way it's highly likely that this paper, which most people download and read when they download the IEEE LaTeX template, has caused some authors not to put a figure on the first page. Combine that with the way the IEEEtran LaTeX class works and the fact that the first page is usually a literature review with no figure references, has meant that figures on the first page are quite rare nowadays.

Given all this the best thing to do is to contact the editor of the journal you are submitting to, to see what their preference is and just go with that.

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    As an exception to the rule, I have 4 papers on IEEE transactions which have figures in the second column of the first page. It should be also noted that, in my experience, IEEE copy editors appear to be totally unaware of the IEEE style guides ;-) – Massimo Ortolano May 28 at 10:07

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