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Tables & figures

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At times, it may be permissible and appropriate to insert tables, figures and other graphics in your essay. These graphics may have been copied, adapted from sources of information or may be from your own research. They need to be relevant, correctly labelled and referenced—unless they are entirely your own work.

This workshop:

Key words: tables, figures (graphs, diagrams, photographs, graphics), adapted, caption

Please note that the APA referencing style is used in this workshop.

About tables and figures in your writing

Tables and figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps) may be used as evidence to support academic argument. They are mostly used in report writing. It is important that tables and figures are used purposefully (i.e. with good reason) and referenced correctly.

Exercise 1: Inserting a figure into your writing

Click on 'Start analysis' to see how figures can be used in your academic writing.

For ALL tables and figures:
  1. Labelling—put the label ABOVE for tables and BELOW for figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps)
  2. Numbering—make sure that tables and figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps) are numbered sequentially. There should be two numbering series: one for tables and one for figures (e.g. Table 1, Table 2 AND Figure 1, Figure 2)
  3. Positioning—place as close to the relevant text as possible
  4. In-text referencing—refer to the table or figure by number in your writing (e.g. Table 6 shows that ...)
  5. Diagram referencing—provide a reference to an authority if the table or figure is from or adapted from an outside source [e.g. Table 4: Group assessment profile (Smith, 2004, p. 5)]. No reference is required if you have created the data and image yourself, but you must still use a number and label.
  6. Larger tables and figures—place large (page and over) tables or figures in the appendices (see ASO Factsheet: Appendices)

Acceptable and unacceptable use

There is an excellent short workshop and quiz on the following site that you should do next. It shows very clearly what is acceptable and unacceptable use of tables/figures in students' writing. (5 minutes)

Avoiding plagiarism: Tables and figures (UTS)

Don't do this!

  1. Don't restructure data from an information source into another format (e.g. a graph, a flowchart) without referencing the author of your information. You may structure the graph, but the author still 'owns' the research!
  2. Don't just 'plonk' a table or figure into your writing. You need to refer to its existence and relevance to your argument in the preceding text.
  3. Don't give extensive descriptions in your writing of the contents of a table or diagram. The information in a table or diagram tells its own story—it's your job to point out its significance to your argument.

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