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APA Styling – Figures

  • Figures are useful when visually presenting data, trends, etc.
  • There are many types of figures (See below for full list/description):
    • Graphs
    • Charts
    • Maps
  • Each figure is placed on a separate page at the end of the paper after any tables (or after the references, if there are no tables)
  • Each figure should have a caption below it to describe its contents or any abbreviations
  • Be sure that the figures are simple, clean, and free of unnecessary details
  • Types of figures
    • Graphs: Graphs easily convey relationships such as comparisons and distributions
      • The most common graphs used are scatter plots, line graphs, bar graphs, pictorial graphs, and pie graphs
      • Spreadsheet programs (e.g. Excel) can generate graphs
    • Scatter plots: Scatter plots are composed of individual dots, which represent the value of a specific event on the scale established by two variables plotted on the x- and y- axes
      • A cluster of dots implies a correlation between the two variables
      • Scattered dots, however, indicate that there is no correlation
    • Line graphs: Line graphs depict the relationship between quantitative variables
      • The independent variable is plotted along the x-axis, and the dependent variable is plotted along the axis, and the dependent variable is plotted along the y-axis
    • Bar graphs: There are three main types of bar graphs
      Solid vertical or horizontal bars – The independent variable is categorical, and each part represents one kind of datum (singular version of data). An example would be a bar graph of weekly expenses
      2. Multiple bar graphs – Multiple bar graphs present more complex information, such as weekly expenses being divided into different categories
      3. Sliding bar graphs – In sliding bar graphs, the bars are divided by a horizontal line (the baseline), which enables the representation of data above and below a specific reference point (e.g. high and low expenses vs. average expenses
    • Pictorial graphs: Pictorial graphs show quantitative differences between groups
      • These graphs can be deceptive, so great care must be taken when developing them
    • Pie graphs (Circle graphs): Pie graphs typically represent percentages and proportions
      • To ensure reader comprehension, no more than five variables should be compared in a single graph
      • The segments (or “slices”) should be very orderly: Beginning at 12 o’clock, arrange the segments from largest to smallest, and shade the segments from dark to light (i.e., the largest segment should be the darkest segment)
    • Things to remember when creating figures
      • Trying to be creative when creating figures can distort the meaning of the figure, and thus hinder reader comprehension – design flaws are very noticeable to readers
      • Make the figure as clear, neat, and clean as possible
      • APA specifications for figures go as follows:

”The APA has determined specifications for the size of figures and the fonts used in them. Figures of one column must be between 2 and 3.25 inches wide (5 to 8.45 cm). Two-column figures must be between 4.25 and 6.875 inches wide (10.6 to 17.5 cm). The height of figures should not exceed the top and bottom margins. The text in a figure should be in a san serif font (such as Helvetica, Arial, or Futura). The font size must be between eight and fourteen point. Use circles and squares to distinguish curves on a line graph (at the same font size as the other labels).” – Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/20/

  • Captions and legends
    • Along with the figure number and title, be sure to include a legend and caption
      • The legend and caption appear below the figure
      • The legend explains the symbols
      • The caption explains the figure (i.e., a brief, but complete, explanation as a title)
    • Graphs should always include a legend that explains the symbols, abbreviations, and terminology in the figure
      • These terms should all be consistent with those used in the text, and those used in other tables/figures

 (All information derived from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/ and http://www.apastyle.org/index.aspx)