Scientific Style and Format: The Manual for Authors Editors, and Publishers (7th ed, pp. 586) recommends that text citations of figures be parenthetical. If your target journal follows this style guide, you’ll want to make a separate pass through your manuscript to check your figure citations and revise if necessary. Let’s look at some before-and-after examples:

(1) Figures 1 and 2 show the X-ray photoelectron spectra of the nanoparticle-coated surface before and after oxidation, respectively. Before oxidation, a peak for metallic Ti was observed; whereas after oxidation, broad peaks due to a mixed Ti oxide phase were observed.

Before oxidation, a peak for metallic Ti was observed in the X-ray photoelectron spectrum of the nanoparticle-coated surface (Fig. 1); whereas after oxidation, broad peaks due to a mixed Ti oxide phase were observed (Fig. 2).

(2) Figure 1 shows the peak after oxidation at 700 K. The peak was observed at 459.2 eV.

After oxidation at 700 K, the peak was observed at 459.2 eV (Fig. 1).

(3) Figure 4 shows the Arrhenius plot for the exchange reaction. The activation energy of the reaction was determined to be 36 kJ/mol from the slope of the plot.

From the slope of Arrhenius plot for the exchange reaction (Fig. 4), we determined the activation energy of the reaction to be 36 kJ/mol.

(4) Figure 3 shows the 1H–1H COSY correlations (Figure 3). From these correlations, it was possible to establish five partial structures.

From the 1H–1H COSY correlations (Fig. 3), we established five partial structures.

(5) The levels of COX-2 expression in the presence and absence of terpenoid 4 are shown in Figures 6 and 7, respectively. COX-2 expression in the presence of 4 was markedly reduced relative to expression in the absence of 4.

COX-2 expression in the presence of terpenoid 4 (Fig. 6) was markedly reduced relative to expression in the absence of 4 (Fig. 7).

Notice that the original sentences describe the figure and then state the results. In contrast, the revised sentences simply state the results, with parenthetical references to direct readers to the relevant figure. The results thus take center stage. I’m sure you also noticed that the revised versions are more concise than the originals. So even if your target journal follows some other style guide, your paper may nevertheless benefit from a quick check of the figure citations.

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2 Responses to Citing figures in text

  1. Roy Sablosky says:

    I like this style, but the authors I’m copyediting like to do it with equations too — and at our journal equations are always named in parens — so we often have statements like “To quantify the differences we used Smith’s Rule (equation (9)).” I don’t know how to escape from those nested parens.

    • admin says:

      I dislike citing equations with parenthetical numbers, for just that reason. Do you know of any journals that resort to “(equation [9])”?

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