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When is it ok to not include figures and tables in research?

Category : Research
Date : January 18, 2016

It is not necessary that every time you have figures and tables, you have to show them in you document. There are some main reasons to include parenthetical, “data not shown” or its other synonyms rather than adding a corresponding figure or table in the document. What are the main reasons?

Positive or confirmatory results: when you have findings that are validating the past reports and are very critical for the demonstration of the previous findings so that relevance can be made on the fact that your research is built on the foundation of previous research. But, if findings that are similar to your findings have found their place previously in some other journal, it is obvious that that the reader may not be interested in seeing your document.

Undesirable or negative results: It is important to highlight and show results that show no significant effect so that scientific records can be created and considering the futility of the experiment, it is not repeated again by other researchers in time to come. But here also there is no need to include figures and tables and only the key findings would suffice the requirement. Granular data can be avoided as it may not be of much interest to the reader.

Fringe results: we often see peripheral results are often cited as “data not shown” as they don’t have direct relevance to the topic of the paper. Often fringe data includes incidental findings that are cited in the discussion section and not included in the main results section. It is acceptable to exclude the actual data in figures and tables here as it may unnecessarily add on to the figure limit specified by the journal.

Forthcoming results: there may be some situations when you wish to publish certain data in subsequent papers in the future but the data may have some slight relevance in the current manuscript as well. Here, it is better to only talk briefly about the results without actually bringing up any figures and tables. If required, you could give a footnote as “manuscript in preparation”.

Omission of data has also received a negative feedback from the academic community stating that presence of relevant data always facilitates the review process and discourages misconduct of research and at the same time increases accountability. The trend now is to use data as additional data or supplementary data that is given in addition to what is there in existence.

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