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Results and figure

Readers will usually first look at a manuscript’s title, abstract and results. Therefore the results section including any figures and tables are some of the most important parts of the manuscript. You should carefully examine the figures and tables to check they accurately describe the results. If you think it necessary, you can suggest any changes that would make the results easier to understand.

  • For figures, check that the plotted parameters are clearly defined. Figures and tables should include measures of uncertainty, such as standard error or confidence intervals, as well as the sample size.
  • Table headings and figure legends should be detailed enough that readers can understand the data without reading the main text.
  • Look for places where data are unnecessarily repeated in figures, tables or main text. The text should point out key findings or trends, not repeat data presented elsewhere. Similarly figures that present a very small amount of data can often be combined with another or deleted and replaced with an explanation in the manuscript text.
  • If a result is not central to the study’s aims, it is often acceptable to summarize it but not present the data. However, failing to show important data, or too many instances of “data not shown,” are unacceptable and you can recommend that it be added into the main manuscript.
  • Interesting data that are not needed to support the study’s major conclusions might be better presented as supplementary material rather than the main text of the paper; feel free to point out such data in your comments.
  • Feedback on whether the data are presented in the most appropriate manner; for example, is a table being used where a graph would give increased clarity? Do the figures appear to be genuine, i.e. without evidence of manipulation, and of a high enough quality to be published in their present form?

TIP: If you suspect image manipulation or believe it would be beneficial to see the uncropped and unedited versions of the images inform the editor in the ‘confidential comments’ to the editors section. They can then request the original figure files from the authors.

  • Watch for places where the authors have included interpretations in the Results section. This section should simply state what the results were, not what they might mean. Interpretations and inferences belong in the Discussion section. (However, for journals that combine the Results and Discussion sections, results and interpretations do not need to be separated.)

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