In scientific publications, when referring to a figure with multiple plots, often labeled using (a), (b), etc., is it more common to refer to each subplot as a "frame" or a "panel"? Are both correct terms? Is one more correct or commonly used than the other?

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    Sounds entirely a stylistic choice to me. Just be consistent within a paper. – tonysdg Dec 1 '15 at 16:10
  • This was my first thought but I wanted additional input. After I finished writing my dissertation, everyone reviewing it has used "panel" when referencing a subplot. I used "frame" throughout. I am not sure if this difference was from my inexperience. I do not want to change it throughout the entire document. – Steven C. Howell Dec 1 '15 at 16:14
  • At the worst, that's what "Find and Replace All" is for :-) – tonysdg Dec 1 '15 at 16:15
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    Are you sure words such as "frame" or "panel" are used in papers, rather than on a meta-level, by typesetters? I have heard the word "panel", but only ever with respect to typography and page layout. – O. R. Mapper Dec 1 '15 at 17:04
  • Here are some "panel" examples: 10.1128/JB.186.18.5973-5977.2004, 10.1021/ct900653p, 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.05.021, 10.1128/JB.01200-09, 10.1103/PhysRevLett.99.038104, 10.3390/nano5010246 – Steven C. Howell Dec 1 '15 at 17:12

I can't recall having seen the word frame or panel used to refer to a subplot. More commonly:

In the text, e.g.,

Figure 1(a) shows [...]; figure 1(b), instead, shows [...].

In the caption, e.g.,

Figure 1. Comparison among blah blah: (a) function f [...]; (b) function g [...]

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  • I've never used frame or panel either, but it could easily be a style variation between disciplines. See if any of the major professional societies in your field have a style guide, or see if the major journals have one. You might find an answer there. – Jon Custer Dec 1 '15 at 16:45
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    I list a selection of example publications above which use panel but in my quick search, I could not find frame examples. The use of panel is rare which leads me to think it best to avoid its use if possible in favor of the options provided here. – Steven C. Howell Dec 1 '15 at 18:53
  • @stvn66 looking at some of the examples you provided, it might be that the authors chose to use the word "panel" because of the specific close-packed arrangement of the sub-figures, and of their type -- mostly photographs. – Massimo Ortolano Dec 1 '15 at 19:14

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