Imaging scientific work correctly


Images are the first impression in scientific works: lead deserts are barren, visuals are sexy!

When you pick up a book or a piece of paperwork and leaf around in it to give you an overview: what catches the eye first? Of course the pictures! Photos, charts, charts are eye catchers. Every scientific work wins through an interesting and didactically thought-out illustration.

Visual communication has undergone a significant upgrade in recent years. Whereas in the past pictures were more textual decoration, now they have recognized their didactic functions in knowledge transfer. For we do not only think abstractly in terms, but also vividly in concepts. There are innumerable examinations in learning and teaching psychology that attest to the added value of the image over the text. Images can convey information about visual characteristics and spatial relationships better than any text. Pictures catch the eye and are well kept in the visual memory.

Maps, drawings and diagrams enhance your scientific work!

In science, images are indispensable in knowledge transfer: maps in geography, photos in biology, anatomical drawings in medicine, diagrams in mathematics, engineering drawings in engineering. Originally, images served primarily to show objects, while theories were formulated purely verbally or in abstract formulas. Meanwhile, images in various disciplines have a cognitive function and serve as visual arguments, for example computed tomography images in medicine, radio astronomical images in astronomy, aerial photographs in archeology, electron micrographs in biology. Countless visual conventions have been invented in the natural sciences to facilitate communication. These include the exploded view from the TechTechnik or the slices from the anatomy. The Cartesian axbox or the columns and bars in diagrams are also visual conventions that we first have to learn.

Rather shy are the humanities. Here, the apt linguistic formulation is important and images serve – for example, as an accessory to history books or literary works – predominantly illustration. Humanists are more reserved about the use of images because they fear a distraction from language and conceptual thinking. Pure lead deserts are therefore found almost exclusively in humanities publications, where neither data are clearly presented, nor images as a substitute for reality. But here, too, a rethink has begun: paintings or photos are evaluated in historical science as historical documents. Even in the literary sciences one finds increasingly visualizations, for example time charts, which apply the life data of an author to a timeline.

On the quality it depends on the pictures!

Of course, since electronic text and image processing, every author is expected to either create or procure the images themselves in sufficient quality and incorporate them into the manuscript. While there is no shortage of advices for visualizing with electronic slides, one can find illustrations of Seminar, bachelor, master theses and dissertations only scattered hints. Mostly one reads there that the pictures should be informative, concise and clear. But what does that mean in concrete terms, what makes an effective picture? In one sentence condensed: A good scientific image promotes understanding and does not give the viewer unnecessary processing.

The book to the text is called “Visualize correctly” and has been published by UTB-Verlag. On 184 pages there are text as well as numerous illustrations. The book is part of the series “Studieren, aber richtig” and written by Steffen-Peter Ballstaedt. Cost: 17.90

Anyone producing images themselves, such as photographs, charts or charts, should consider guidelines for effective design based on perceptual and instructional psychological findings. For example, the gestalt laws of perception are important because otherwise charts and diagrams become too complex and confusing.

For example, you can create a chart from a spreadsheet with a mouse click, but which type of chart is best for each message? The diagrams of the visualization tools should also be carefully revised so that the scales and labels are readable and the colors are correct.

Although the popular 3D diagrams look pretty, but make it difficult to read data and are therefore not suitable for a serious knowledge transfer. One can also rely on existing images, that is, images or retrieve images from the Web.

Scan: Do it right!

The scanning of analogue images must also be learned: If scanned images are integrated into a text and later printed out, then printer resolution plays the decisive role. Fine-line originals need a high resolution when scanning – usually 1,200 dpi – but greyscale or color prints at 300 dpi. Also, the final image size must be considered: If the image is enlarged in the text, you need a high, it is scaled down, enough for a low resolution.

It makes little sense to produce gigantic image files, which then makes the text editing very tough. Images on the Web can be found via image search engines or specifically via image archives for individual disciplines such as medicine, biology or geography. Finally, a picture still needs to be embedded in the text. Technically, this is usually not a problem, but the contextual connection of text and image is important.

The text should refer to the image, for example by formulating specific visual instructions, so that the image is also evaluated in the author’s sense. Otherwise, pictures are only glimpsed and their didactic potential is given away. An effective way to seduce readers to an intense evaluation of the image is to have spaces in the text filled in by the image. With a sentence like> The steering worm has a special shape (see figure) to transfer the rotation into a swiveling motion <, one looks immediately into the picture to look at the> special form <of the worm. Consciously designed, a combination of text and image is a didactic dream couple: language is primarily used for justifying and arguing, images are useful for showing and illustrating.

For our brains too, a combination of text and image is a varied spiritual food, because we do not only think in terms of concepts, but also in visual ideas. Images make teaching and learning more effective. Scientific work becomes more interesting and understandable through images and thus more attractive to the addressees. Imaging and visualization is one of the competencies expected of students and scientists today. So more courage to good scientific pictures!