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Preparing Figures for Journal Articles


Graphs, flow charts, diagrams, drawings, maps, and photographs are some of the different types of illustrations you may submit as part of your manuscript. Each illustration should be thoughtfully designed or selected in order to show a relationship of ideas, data, or objects that would be difficult to describe precisely or completely using words alone.  

Illustrations—more commonly called figures—must be submitted electronically with the final manuscript. Authors are responsible for preparing or obtaining reproducible versions of their figures, along with captions and source lines. Permissions documentation must also accompany the illustrations submitted with your final manuscript.

Publishing technologies are changing rapidly, so it is impossible to provide definitive instructions in a few pages. The following guidelines, however, should help you prepare your illustrations so as to avoid problems and delays in the production of your article. If you have any questions, consult with your ASCE Staff Contact.

Figure Style

  • All illustrations are identified using the word “Figure.” Do not mix in alternatives such as “Photo” or “Chart”.
  • Figures must be numbered sequentially (for example, would be numbered as Figure 1, 2, 3, etc.). Parts of a figure can be numbered as fig 2a.tiff, fig 2b.eps, etc.) A complete list of all figures (even those you create yourself) must be included on the Illustration and Permission Inventory as part of your manuscript submission.
  • Figures should have a brief caption describing what is being presented. A double-spaced list of figure captions should be provided separately.
  • Figure captions may be followed by notes and source information (in that order). A figure note is introduced by the word “Note:” and contains information applicable to the entire figure, such as abbreviations or data parameters. The figure source is cited according to the Credit Lines and Citing Sources page.
  • Figures should use the same system of units as the accompanying text; that is, generally, figures should be prepared using SI units. The exception would be a figure that accompanies a case study or problem that is presented only in customary units. In either case, the units should be clearly marked on the illustration.

Types of Figures

Illustrations fall generally into three categories, each of which has specific parameters for submission of paper and electronic versions.

  • Line drawings are made with black lines or shapes or letters on a white background, with no areas in gray or color. Line graphs, flow charts, diagrams, and blueprints are usually line drawings.
  • Grayscale drawings include areas with gray shading along with the black lines or letters on a white background. Bar graphs, diagrams, and maps may be grayscale drawings.
  • Continuous tone art blends many different shades of gray (or color). Photographs are the most common type of continuous tone art, but paintings and sketches may also be printed this way.

The  Quick Guide to Preparing Figures  for ASCE publications includes thumbnail samples of each type of figure along with a summary of the requirements for electronic files.

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