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Suppose, you cite some particular ideas, analyze them, and come up with a few conclusions, which you illustrate in a figure that is totally yours. The labels or conclusions represented in the illustration are neither other people’s work nor my own primary empirical findings. They are somewhere between: my own conclusions, yet based on the data of others. In the caption of the figure, should you write adapted from to show that the figure was ‘sourced’ from other studies (i.e., the conclusions and analysis were built on other resources)?

For example, assume that Study X claims:

Helping people leads to profitability.

Based on that, I conclude that companies should adopt the notion of social responsibility. Among other conclusions, I represent social responsibility in a schematic. Should I write adapted from Study X to say that the conclusion of social responsibility was built on the material from Study X?

  • I am confused as to what your actual situation is. Did you re-use data from another study or not? – Wrzlprmft Jun 19 '16 at 7:50
  • I will put it in this way: the labels or conclusions represented on the graph are neither other people's work NOR my own primary empirical findings. They are somewhere between; my own conclusions (primary?), yet based on others data. – R. AS. Jun 19 '16 at 9:12
  • I edited your question to reflect my understanding. Please check that everything is still in accordance with your intentions, in particular that your figure is not showing any data but a mere schematic. – Wrzlprmft Jun 19 '16 at 15:07
  • Yup, that's fine. It generally represents what I am trying to ask for. All in all and since I have to present my essay tomorrow and since I can write whatever I want to write in the caption under the figure, I explained in detail that the figure and the conclusions are mine, yet they were built on the below list of sources/studies (without using the exact words of 'reproduced from' as they can be misleading). Do you think that such a way is fine? – R. AS. Jun 19 '16 at 15:32
  • I say 'generally' because my conclusions are from my own analysis of others studies (not their direct results). – R. AS. Jun 19 '16 at 15:39
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Disclaimer: As the answer to your question could be field-specific, my answer is from an (electrical) engineering point-of-view.

I think the general consensus in my field is that "adapted from" in a figure caption is to be taken very literally: it is to indicate to the reader that a figure from a previous publication has been adapted for use in the new figure1.

Since you are not adapting a previously published figure for use in your manuscript, it seems, then, that the situation you describe does not warrant the "adapted from" disclaimer in the figure caption.

Instead, you should use the main body text to stitch the various references together [with appropriate citations] to support your position, call out the figure in question in the text, and [depending on how much additional detail your figure caption needs relative to the development of the idea(s) in the main body text] an appropriate figure caption.


1An example of using "adapted from" in a figure caption in my field might be the following:

Your competitor's paper A incorporates top-level circuit schematic B in figure C. Your follow-on paper D utilizes circuit B, but you redraw the schematic to highlight the points more relevant to your paper D in new figure E. In this case, the caption of figure E would indicate that the figure was adapted from paper A.

  • What I've done: Before the figure, I presented it as summary of my conclusions + arguments (references) are provided below fig 1. Then, in the caption of fig 1, the full story is showcased as how such conclusions and figure are mine, yet they were 'built' and 'concluded' from various studies and sources (as listed below) and explained in detail throughout the essay. Yet, before the actual list, I introduce it by saying that these sources are my arguments for choosing the conclusions and then ask the reader to refer to where a conclusion was 1st mentioned to see how each reference was used. – R. AS. Jun 19 '16 at 23:09

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