Sometimes, figures are subdivided into parts. Again, there are a few ways to make this easy for the reader to navigate and any is fine as long as it conforms to relevant style guidelines and is consistent within the document. The below exercise provides several examples of what not to do.

Exercise 3 – labelling figures:

Consider the paragraph below and try to figure out

  • How Figure 4 is subdivided
  • Whether Figure 5(ii) shows a chisel or a hammer
  • How many parts Figure 6 has

Figure 4 shows the quilt from several perspectives. On the left-hand side, there is a top shot, while (a) and (b) show close-ups of different details. Figures 5(i) and (ii) show tools that may have been used to create these types of details, with the top figure showing a needle and thread and the bottom figure showing a sewing machine. Finally, Figure 6(a) provides shows a pixelated interpretation of the quilt.

Comments for exercise 3: For Figure 4, several different methods are used to describe the parts of the figure, making it difficult for the reader to link the description to the different parts. Figure 5 is divided into part (i) and part (ii), but then the text also references the top and bottom figures. Do these correspond to parts (i) and (ii)? It’s hard for the reader to know. Figure 6 clearly has a part (a), but no other parts are mentioned. Is the whole Figure 6 included in part (a) or is there another part that hasn’t been identified? Again, this is hard for the reader and they won’t be able to know how many parts Figure 6 has without looking away from the main text to find the figure. It may also have been confusing for the reader to move between letters and Roman numerals.

An example of a better description labelling of parts is below:

Figure 4(a) shows a top shot of the quilt, and Figures 4(b) and (c) show close-ups of different details of the quilting. Figures 5(a) and (b) show a needle and thread, and a sewing machine, respectively, which are tools that may have been used to create these types of details. Finally, Figure 6 shows a pixelated interpretation of the quilt.

This description could line up with the below well-labelled images.

numbers numbering figures academic writing quilt

Artist credit: J Rona

numbers numbering figures academic writing sewing thread

numbers numbering figures academic writing pixelated red

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