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Choosing Supporting Information and Visualizations

Let's say you structured your message into a 3-point message that is easy to present and remember. How do you link those points together and provide appropriate detail?

  • Stick to the Points: Just because a term or methodology is easy to explain, doesn't mean it belongs in your presentation. Avoid introducing a term if you are only going to use it once in a while; keep your main messages in mind. Remember to choose the right words.
  • Is That Table/Graph Really Necessary? The answer may be yes, but don't just copy and paste it straight from the published paper—make sure the labels use the same words you are using throughout the presentation and take out extraneous variables and/or data that aren't a part of your main points. If you have to define an additional variable or term that wasn't previously in your presentation just to show the graph, reconsider whether the graph is necessary.

The images below show how a figure from a journal article and a graphic designed for the public should differ. Note how the general public graphic on the right has been streamlined to highlight the major points.

optix Drives the Repeated Convergent Evolution                        How Great Wings Can Look Alike
of Butterfly Wing Pattern Mimicry
(Reprinted from Reed et al., Science 333 (6046) 1137-1141.)        (Reprinted from Carroll, Science 333 (6046) 1100-1101.)









For more inspiration, consider looking into the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge. Each year, the journal Science and the National Science Foundation recognize science visualization achievements. Take a look at past winners, award categories, and evaluation criteria for ideas on how to better represent your research visually.

A panel speaking about best practices for visualizing science at the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting offer many suggestions. The panel in its entirety is also available to watch for free.