How to Incorporate Visuals Into Your Report

creditsuisse graphAs useful and necessary as graphics are, it is not enough to just plop them into a document.  Here is how you incorporate a graphic into your work:

Step 1: Label, number and title every graphic.  In the more technical fields, all graphics are either Tables or Figures.  Use Tables for tables (duh) and use Figures for everything else. The graphics should be numbered according to when they appear in your document (Figure 1, Figure 2 – or Table 1, 2 etc.).  Also, every graphic should have an informative title that helps the reader understand the content.

Step 2: Place the graphic in the right spot.  Usually, this means as close as possible to the text that refers to it.  If the graphic is not directly relevant, or if the graphic is so large that it interrupts the flow of your document, place it in the appendix with a reference to it in the text.

Step 3: Introduce and explain every graphic.  Don’t force your reader to do the interpretive work – explain what your graphic is doing and what the content means.  Use legends, arrows, captions – anything that will help your reader understand.  Also reference every graphic in the text either before the graphic appears or, if you are wrapping text, next to the graphic.  Avoid referencing a graphic for the first time after the graphic has already appeared.

Step 4: Document your graphics.  If you didn’t create the graphic yourself (and your company doesn’t already own it), be sure cite the source.  If you are publishing your work and the graphic is protected by copyright, you will have to get permission and possibly pay a fee.  Most style guides recommend you cite the source in both a references section and in the caption of the graphic itself.

Step 5: Make your graphic stand out.  Most graphics stand out anyway, but consider adding rules or boxes or additional spaces to distinguish your graphic from the text.  If you are writing a document with several types of graphics, consider using colored screens or filters to separate say, the pull quotes from the charts and graphs.

Step 6:  Make it easy to find your graphics.  If your document includes 3 or more graphics, include a list of illustrations just after your table of contents.

See the  2011 Credit Suisse Report on Global Wealth.pdf which illustrates almost perfectly how to incorporate charts and graphs.  It also includes some pretty awesome visuals.

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5 thoughts on “How to Incorporate Visuals Into Your Report

  1. Considering the final due date for our complete final report is quickly approaching, I find this article incredibly useful. In a professional environment, building reports will be a very common task that many students will find themselves busy with once they graduate college. It becomes very helpful when there are articles such as this one to help guide students in creating a visually pleasing, easy to understand report. By inserting a graph into a report to summarize and display data, information can be more easily comprehended by the audience. So it only makes sense that the more attractive the graph, the more the audience will be engaged with the information. This article found below can also be helpful in providing further insight into how to best fit a graph into a report.

    http://unilearning.uow.edu.au/report/1f.html

  2. This is certainly a very useful article that every college student should be exposed to early in college. Even though I’ve learned most of these tips throughout my high school and college years, it would have been very helpful to have in front of me for numerous projects and reports. Just last week when my group was completing our “Final Business Report”, we argued over whether to include ever table and figure within the text, or to put some in an appendix at the end. The problem was that most of the tables and figures fit fine but there was one or two paragraphs that included too many to format correctly. Thankfully we chose a solution outlined in the article by putting the tables and figures that wouldn’t fit in the appendix.

  3. I really liked this article because it has some helpful insights that I can use in my classes and in my future as a businesswoman. I was able to refer to this article when I made my charts for my report to shareholder assignment for my BA 411 class. In the past when I made charts and graphs, I usually always forget to label the horizontal and vertical axis, but this time I didn’t because thus article reminded me. Over this entire article can be very helpful for a lot of business writings and reports. The author does a good job in pointing out the important aspects of creating correctly done graphs.

  4. I found this article very helpful, I already bookmarked it. In taking 6 classes, I am exposed to a lot of writing and reports. When doing these I always try to look for different ways to convey my message and eliminate boring walls of text. Images do an excellent job of this. They also help whatever you are writing look much better and increase interest to read in the process.

    However, if not used correctly they can have your report looking sloppy and leave a bad impression. This article really hits the main points of how to correctly incorporate images and tables into your writing.

  5. I found this post very helpful and appropriate, especially when the final drafts of our company reports are about to be due. I often forget when including graphics in my report that they need to be labeled as figures, they cant just be thrown in there. I agree that they should stand out and not be thrown in the text, there is usually a reason as to why the graphics were put in there to begin with and they should serve their purpose. The placement of the graphic is vital as this post says. There have been too many times when I have been reading an article and the graphic is nowhere near where it is being explained or it is just plopped in the middle of a text with what seems like no purpose. It is messy and confusing. Everyone should read this to make sure they can use the graphics to the best of their capability and help the person trying to make a point rather than hurt them.

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