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Presenting Fake Figures: A Tool to Teach Effective Scientific Figure Design

    Authors: Verónica A. Segarra1, Stephanie Pulford2, Susan Walsh3,*
    VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33136; 2: Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616; 3: Department of Biology, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL 32789
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 02 December 2013
    • Supplemental materials available at http://jmbe.asm.org
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biology, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave – 2743 Winter Park, FL 32789. Phone: 407-646-2534. Fax: 407-646-2479. E-mail: SJWALSH@Rollins.edu.
    • ©2013 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2013 vol. 14 no. 2 260-262. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.597
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    Abstract:

    As trained scientists, we become adept not only at analyzing and understanding figures in the scientific literature, but also at designing figures to effectively represent our own data and findings. As educators, we strive to pass on these skills to our students, some of whom will ultimately become scientists themselves. Conveying the principles of effective figure design can be challenging, particularly when students have had little exposure to the process of reading scientific literature, much less writing a piece of scientific literature. Improvisational activities in the classroom reinforce teaching goals such as spontaneity, risk-taking, creativity, communication skills, team-building, and critical thinking (2). Indeed, improv training for scientists is becoming more common, helping scientists to communicate more spontaneously about their work and connect with their audience (1). In this article, we present an improvisational game that can aid in the teaching of effective scientific figure design. This “Present-a-Fake-Figure Exercise” is applicable to both the classroom and laboratory settings. In this learning activity, students improvise presenting fake scientific figures to an audience of their peers. These fake figures are prepared beforehand by the instructor and exemplify the do’s and don’ts of scientific figure design. Some of the learning outcomes of the activity include (1) identifying what makes a scientific figure cohesive, easy to analyze, and reader-friendly, and (2) identifying strategies that are useful in the design of a multi-panel figure to convey a scientific story.

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Chemicals
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Immunofluorescence
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References & Citations

1. Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science http://www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org.
2. Berk RA, Trieber RH 2009 Whose classroom is it, anyway? Improvisation as a teaching tool J Excel Coll Teach 20 29 60
3. Pechenik JA 2013 A short guide to writing about biology Pearson New York, NY
4. Tufte ER 2006 The cognitive style of PowerPoint: pitching out corrupts within, 2nd ed Graphics Press Cheshire, CT
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.597
2013-12-02
2017-07-21

Abstract:

As trained scientists, we become adept not only at analyzing and understanding figures in the scientific literature, but also at designing figures to effectively represent our own data and findings. As educators, we strive to pass on these skills to our students, some of whom will ultimately become scientists themselves. Conveying the principles of effective figure design can be challenging, particularly when students have had little exposure to the process of reading scientific literature, much less writing a piece of scientific literature. Improvisational activities in the classroom reinforce teaching goals such as spontaneity, risk-taking, creativity, communication skills, team-building, and critical thinking (2). Indeed, improv training for scientists is becoming more common, helping scientists to communicate more spontaneously about their work and connect with their audience (1). In this article, we present an improvisational game that can aid in the teaching of effective scientific figure design. This “Present-a-Fake-Figure Exercise” is applicable to both the classroom and laboratory settings. In this learning activity, students improvise presenting fake scientific figures to an audience of their peers. These fake figures are prepared beforehand by the instructor and exemplify the do’s and don’ts of scientific figure design. Some of the learning outcomes of the activity include (1) identifying what makes a scientific figure cohesive, easy to analyze, and reader-friendly, and (2) identifying strategies that are useful in the design of a multi-panel figure to convey a scientific story.

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FIGURE 1.

A student improvising his way through a fake figure.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2013 vol. 14 no. 2 260-262. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.597
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