Here are the results of the quick poll I did last week related to whether figures should be placed in line or at the end of a manuscript. I prefer having the figures at the end of a manuscript (because this way I know where to find figures that are referred to multiple times), but I suspected I was in the minority. That suspicion was correct. Below, I also give results of where people want their figure legends placed: almost everyone wants the legend on the same page as the figure itself.
There was a preference for having figures in line for all of the career stage groupings (current PhD students, people who got their PhDs within the past 1 to 10 years, people who got their PhDs more than 10 years ago, and people who are not students and do not have PhDs). However, as I guessed would be the case, this preference was stronger for current grad students than for people who got their PhDs within the past 1 to 10 years, and least strong for those who got their PhD more than 10 years ago. It was highest for the group that didn’t have PhDs and weren’t students, but there were many fewer people in that group (15 total).
Based on these results, I thought that maybe I should put the figures in line for the manuscript I’m currently working on, rather than at the end as I usually do. But then when I went to look at the author guidelines for the journal I’m planning on submitting it to, they state that they want the figures in a separate file. This works for my personal reviewing preferences, but apparently is not preferred by more potential reviewers. So, now I will need to decide whether to follow the author guidelines, or whether to stick the figures in line and add a note indicating that, while I know the author guidelines requested the figures in a separate file, I’ve put them in line based on the most likely preferences of the reviewers and handling editors. (This latter idea comes from this comment by Chris Mebane on last week’s post.) I suspect I’ll follow the author guidelines.
This exercise also has me wondering whether journals could poll their reviewers to ask where they prefer to see the figures, with the idea that they could then potentially change their author guidelines to reflect what their reviewers prefer. There was some discussion in the comments last week about how the author guidelines reflect what is easiest for the typesetter — but I think that Stephen Heard’s point that we should be making things easier for the volunteer peer reviewers rather than the paid typesetters makes a lot of sense.
In terms of where people want figure legends: 95% of the poll respondents want those on the same page as the figure. That doesn’t surprise me!
Now that we’ve tackled this topic, it’s time to get on to the really controversial stuff. Expect polls on Oxford commas, one or two spaces after a period, and fonts/typefaces in the near future.*