152 votes

Referee wants me to add a plot – because the paper has none

While there may be a way to add a very cool and colorful plot to my paper, I don't think it is necessary, it would be complicated to read and so I should add more text to explain how to read it. It ...
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  • 8,678
129 votes
Accepted

Is it unethical/unscientific to omit outlier data in a publication when they are in FAVOR of your argument?

Science aims at revelation and insight. Before you can even consider dropping these samples, you need to understand why they exist. The reason is that unexpectedly "good" data can be just as much ...
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  • 180k
118 votes

Is it acceptable that I plot a time-series figure with years increasing from right to left?

I think readers will be strongly expecting that time increases from left to right in a graph. It's probably not a "rule" that you'll find written down anywhere, but it's certainly the overwhelmingly ...
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91 votes
Accepted

How were scientific plots made in the 1960s?

Those were typically made with lettering guides and French curves (I'd have liked to take a few pictures of mines, but I cannot recall where I put them: hundreds of hours at high school spent using ...
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  • 52.4k
80 votes
Accepted

When does "copying" a math diagram become plagiarism?

Paraphrasing Simon Peyton Jones here, credit is like love. Giving it to more people does not diminish it or you. Even if you recreated an image yourself, there’s literally no reason to not attribute ...
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  • 23.2k
71 votes
Accepted

Shirtless picture on the academic page of a Ph.D. candidate seeking postdoc

First, there is no rule that you need to have a picture of yourself on your professional webpage. Most people do, but there's no rule. It's nice to have some image that represents you (giving people'...
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  • 180k
65 votes
Accepted

Should I require a student to acknowledge or change a color scheme from a common paper?

Unless I totally misunderstand what kind of colours we are talking about, your student did what I would consider best practice. Using a consistent colour scheme for all figures in a publication or ...
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  • 50.6k
64 votes
Accepted

Should I include funny pictures in my slides?

Human cognition is a strange thing, and I won't pretend I know it well enough to give you a guide, but I will suggest that you simply consider your audience and how you want them to move through the ...
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  • 3,237
63 votes
Accepted

Is it acceptable that I plot a time-series figure with years increasing from right to left?

The "rule" is that you should create figures that make it easy for readers to understand what you are showing. That's because we use figures to convey information. So, if your choice of axis is ...
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61 votes

Is it unethical/unscientific to omit outlier data in a publication when they are in FAVOR of your argument?

Is it unscientific? Yes. The purpose of these plots is not to show that the algorithm is fast, but rather to give an accurate picture of its speed. Intentionally removing outliers without ...
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59 votes

How were scientific plots made in the 1960s?

This is less of an answer per se, but you mentioned you'd like to replicate the formatting for your own work. This can be done by hand if you want to, using the information in the top answer (thanks ...
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50 votes
Accepted

Does careful selection of graph colors in a manuscript have any positive impact on reviewers?

Some people will tell you that colors shouldn't matter because only data should matter. Those people are wrong. All human readers (including reviewers) find some graphical presentations easier to ...
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  • 180k
49 votes
Accepted

Is the PNG file format acceptable for academic papers?

Running a journal with Wiley as a publisher, Wiley's instructions state JPEG, TIFF and EPS are acceptable formats. Since many authors supply figures in PDF and PNG I started to pass these on to the ...
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48 votes

Should I include funny pictures in my slides?

I don't object to have fun, but I would object to have fun when you need to be serious. Because when the audience need you to be serious to your talk, then a funny picture will disrupt the thinking ...
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  • 8,110
47 votes
Accepted

Is Excel-generated chart acceptable for publication?

Excel can produce high quality charts, but it takes a lot of work. The biggest difference between Excel and other systems is the quality of the defaults. I suspect some people are using excel charts, ...
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  • 29.8k
47 votes

Referee wants me to add a plot – because the paper has none

The paper is yours and it is up to you how you revise it. You aren't required to take every suggestion, but you should, at least, consider every suggestion, including what is behind it. Whether that ...
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  • 257k
45 votes

Criticizing other people's figures on my webpage

I can't even imagine a situation in which criticizing published academic materials on their merits would be wrong or immoral. How would it be different from criticizing someone's selection of an ...
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  • 16.2k
41 votes

Is it acceptable that I plot a time-series figure with years increasing from right to left?

As others have already pointed out: The convention is that the numbers should increase from left to right. And even though it's not really a rule, but only a convention, it is so common that any ...
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  • 1,244
40 votes
Accepted

I believe a publisher is infringing copyright when reproducing a figure I created. What can I do?

You attempted to use a crayon license, that is, modify the terms of an existing well-established license to better suit your needs. This is frowned upon, because it can cause legal complications. In ...
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36 votes

When to use a table vs. a plot to present numeric information?

I would say: Use tables if the actual values are of importance and use plots if trends (or similar things) are important. The rationale is simply that one cannot extract actual values of a function ...
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  • 36.8k
35 votes
Accepted

Is it ethical/lawful to recolor/scale the logos?

Logos are often trademarked, and therefore you are not free to recolor them according to whatever color scheme your template happens to use. However, many companies and universities do have multiple ...
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  • 171k
34 votes
Accepted

Where to put explanation of figures, in caption or in text?

Somewhere during my studies I have learnt that a figure and its caption should form a self-contained element. That means, if I isolated a single figure together with its caption from a random ...
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33 votes
Accepted

Whether to exclude standard deviation in plot of outcomes of a series of experiments?

Don't do this. Here is some random data with 21 experiments A-U, each one repeated 3 times. In both cases, the experimentwise means (indicated using red crosses) are identical, but the within-...
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33 votes

Referee wants me to add a plot – because the paper has none

Have you consulted with others? Good data visualization is a skill in and of itself; just because you can't envision a good plot from your data doesn't mean there isn't a good plot to be made. ...
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  • 16.2k
32 votes
Accepted

In what situations would it be appropriate to include one's photograph in a CV?

In the United States, you should never include a photo in an academic CV. It comes across as somewhat inappropriate, like you are deliberately drawing attention to your appearance and hoping it will ...
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32 votes

Is it unethical/unscientific to omit outlier data in a publication when they are in FAVOR of your argument?

Yes. For a practical scenario, imagine someone trying to replicate your research, going only by your paper, and beating themselves over the head thinking they have a bug, because their plot shows ...
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  • 6,248
32 votes
Accepted

How do I ensure that the colormap shows well in black and white?

Another option to printing in black and white would be testing your figure using a website such as Coblis — Color Blindness Simulator. This way you can upload your figure and see what it would look ...
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31 votes
Accepted

Must graphs in a mathematical PhD thesis be drawn nicely?

Even if it's not a formal requirement, consider how important first impressions are. People will judge a paper with sloppy diagrams, and assume that the results and writing will also be sloppy. This ...
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  • 8,354
30 votes

How do some researchers have such beautiful figures in publications, while their homepages look simple?

What is good web design depends on the purpose. I am sure Wells Fargo Bank and Google both have access to expert web page designers, but I find the current versions of news.google.com and the Wells ...
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