A Matter of Style

Like Nick, I’m spending more than a little bit of time this week reviewing research papers.

That brings me to my pet peeve of manuscript reviewing. If you read the APA style guide you might fall under the mistaken impression that you should place all of your figures and tables at the very end of your document.

Guess what? That’s not true. That idea is a hold-over from “back in the day” when typewriters, not word-processors, were the primary form of document preparation. It’s only true in APA when submitting a document for publication–when it will be typeset–not when you are self-publishing a manuscript.

When you submit a manuscript to a conference you are submitting, well, a manuscript. You are publishing a document for a select audience of 3-5 very important readers: the editors and reviewers who will decide if your research is included at that conference. What format makes their job easier?

My strong preference: put the tables and figures in the document, in context. I find it very distracting to go back and forth between the text and the back of the document looking for tables and figures. You’re already blocking off (wasting, shall we say) a quarter of a page telling me where each one goes, just stick it there for me. Make my life easier as a reader, not harder.

And, yes, I feel the same way about submissions to journals, too. Unless the journal guidelines clearly say to put tables and figures at the end, put them where they’ll be easiest to read.

If you’re lucky enough to have your research accepted for publication, you’ll probably have to do special formatting anyway (like moving each figure to its own file, for example). Worry about that stuff then. Meanwhile, do everything you can to improve your odds during the review process.

There’s that’s my rant. 

[Now, how long before someone says they prefer all that stuff shuttled off to the end…]

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2 Responses

  1. Hell yeah, sing it brother. I make that point in every paper that does this, both to the authors and the editors.

    Seriously, is there any argument for having it at the end?

  2. Also, did others notice that the PDFs for review were password protected, so that one couldn’t copy sections out of them? How bizarre.

    Firstly this means it is hard to quote sections of the papers (as requested in the review guide).

    Secondly if one wants to pursue references either to improve the review or for one’s own work, you have to re-type everything. Annoying as discovering useful lit reviews is one of the benefits of reviewing!

    Let’s bring these things up in the OCIS business meeting.

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