How to design effective figures for review articles

About this video

A great research article or review is about more than listing research results: it is about telling a story through the data or giving your readers some insight they could not get from reading the research papers you cite.

Figures are an important part of this mission. The best figures integrate multiple datasets, abstract processes, or otherwise synthesize complex information in a visually appealing way. Unfortunately, many figures, in both research articles and reviews, end up as Frankenstein’s monsters of hastily pasted-together parts with no regard for how the audience will react to the whole.

Matt Pavlovich, Tom Dursch, Stacey Chin, and Kat Stephan, the editors of Cell Press Journals, explain why the “Frankenfigure” is not an effective means of conveying your message, discuss when it does or doesn’t make sense to reproduce images from research articles, and give some advice for designing effective, purpose-driven figures that your readers will remember for the right reasons.

About the presenters

Tom Dursch

Editor of Trends in Chemistry, Cell Press

Tom Dursch is the editor of Trends in Chemistry, the relatively new chemistry reviews journal at Cell Press. He earned his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley where he combined polymer physics, equilibrium thermodynamics, and transport processes to understand uptake and release of small solutes from stimulus-responsive hydrogels. Tom joined Cell Press in June 2018 after a postdoctoral fellowship position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and short R&D position at Procter & Gamble. He loves science, and is particularly captivated by polymer physics. His main hobby is rock climbing. Therefore, much of his time is spent studying physics and the remainder is spent avoiding its consequences.

Matt Pavlovich

Editor of Trends in Biotechnology, Cell Press

Matt Pavlovich is the editor of Trends in Biotechnology, Cell Press’s home for reviews in applied biology. He earned his BS in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied the biological effects of air plasmas. He studied analytical chemistry as a postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern University, then joined Cell Press at the start of 2016. Matt is a senior manager in the Trends group and a part of the editorial teams for the Cell Press Podcast and Cell Mentor.

Stacey Chin

Scientific editor at Matter, Cell Press

Stacey Chin is a scientific editor at Matter, Cell Press’ broad-scope materials science journal. She completed her BS in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University and her PhD in chemistry from Northwestern University. Her research background has focused on polymer chemistry and the development of new supramolecular materials. Following her PhD, she joined the Matter team prior to its launch in 2019.