6. Visual Aids

Written reports can be enhanced with the aid of illustrations, tables, figures, and examples. These are situated in the text as long as they correspond logically to the matter in question, and are discussed accordingly. Research findings are placed as closely as possible to their first reference in the text. Individual research findings are not elaborated in the text, but rather the conclusions and generalisations drawn from the larger body of research.

Tables and illustrations must be able to stand on their own in terms of understandability. Exceptionally large or extensive visual aids should be relegated to the appendices.

The use of tables

Tables are especially appropriate for communicating numeric information. The description (or heading) above a table is expressed as Table, followed by the number of the table relative to its placement (or the first reference to it) in the text. It is subsequently referred to by this name (for example, Table 3). If a table is borrowed from another source, that source must be cited along with the description/heading of the table.

A table should fit onto a single page, but if it continues to a second page, special mention of this must be made beneath the table as well as at the top of the subsequent page. Columns and rows are labelled precisely, using complete words (see Figure 5, which shows how information can be communicated with the aid of tables). For more information on how to draw tables, see Kananen, 2008.

Figure 5. How to draw a table (Kananen, 2008, adapted with permission)

The use of figures

A figure depicts information. All visual depictions of information, with the exception of tables, are figures. The purpose of a figure is to supplement the text or reduce the amount of it, rather than to simply reiterate concepts expressed in the text. A figure is, by its nature, more revealing than a table; therefore it suffices to place a description below the figure. The description of a figure is expressed as Figure, followed by the number of the figure relative to its placement (or the first reference to it) in the text. (See Figure 6.) N.b. When using borrowed figures and images, for example photographs, it is imperative to check for copyrights.

Figure 6. Figure depicting the visual illustration of data (adapted from Lehtonen, 2012, p. 34)

Data samples

Qualitative research findings are illustrated with samples of data in the form of, e.g. participants’ responses to interview questions. Data samples are chosen with the intention of illustrating objective, unbiased information about both the generalities of and the exceptions to various phenomena. The guidelines for indenting apply to blocks of text constituting quotations and verbatim responses. The following example is taken from Hendriks’ (2013, p. 34) bachelor’s thesis.

”For this issue the UK academic sector made a statement already during the interview:

There is a difference as I see it between the way in which the field is addressed and practiced in Germany and Finland to the way in which we try to address it in the UK in the organizations that we work with. But what’s important now in the European setting is that we all are talking about the same thing when we talk about facility or facilities management.”