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I'm writing a journal article that involves many comparisons within and across groups. Visually, these comparisons are quite easily understood. However, describing them in text requires the use of long sentences with several acronyms and numerous references back to sub-parts of the figures.

In general is it acceptable in academic writing to simply say a couple of high-level sentences (and maybe point out some nuance that a reader might miss) about a complex figure and allow the reader to absorb the bulk of the information by viewing the figure?

1 Answer 1

It is evidently true that figures/images can convey things difficult to convey in words (e.g., see Edward Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information).

On the other hand, the exercise of verbally approximating what may be visually apparent is in itself highly informative in various ways. Among others, your verbal approximation of the visual will partly explain to your readers your own interpretation of it, to which they can add or contrast their own. Or, they might otherwise fail to see in it what you see.

That is, with regard to the latter point, it is often good to "state the obvious", because the notion of "obvious" turns out to be subjective.