● Balancing Data Between Text and Display Items
This means getting the right balance between the data you report in the text of your
manuscript and the data displayed in Figures and Tables. Avoid repeating everything from your display items in the text. I am sure that this advice is given in every book about scientific writing, but authors all over the world ignore it. Does it matter? If you want to get published in a journal with a good name and a high impact factor, it probably does matter.
Let’s try the following exercise. Please review Table 1 and select the data you think are
important enough to mention in the Subjects and Methods section of a manuscript, and then list the items below. We will assume that there are no significant differences between the men and women (although that information is not in the Table).
The number of items in the list provides a clue. Hopefully you selected data from the All Subjects column because I just mentioned that there are no significant differences between the two groups of subjects, so it is better to give the overall picture of the patient population. Also because with a group of 125 subjects, you can meaningfully report percentages. The data could be reported as follows:
“The 125 subjects with hyper_____________ (80 men and ___women) had a mean age (+SD) of ________ and a mean body_____ index (BMI) of 27.8 kg/m2. With regard to
comorbidities, __________ (20.8%) had diabetes, 15 patients (12.0%) ________ , and 32 patients (_____) had hyper______.”
Please fill in the gaps and then compare with the text below.
“The 125 subjects with hypercholesterolemia (80 men and 45 women) had a mean age (+SD) of 67+9 years and a mean body mass index (BMI) of 27.8 kg/m2. With regard to comorbidities, 26 patients (20.8%) had diabetes, 15 patients (12.0%) had angina, and 32 patients (25.6%) had hypertension.”
Table 1a Subjects in a clinical trial of Drug X
Read the text together with Table 1a and you can see that the presentation of information is balanced. You can also see something else. How does Table 1a differ from Table 1? The information contained in the table is the same, but I have rearranged it to place All Subjects first. Which way do you think the data are easier to understand, or are both the same? In this case, I would say the original Table 1 is easier, because it has the full group of subjects on the right, which is where I would expect to see the totalled data. On the other hand, you might argue that it is better to have the full group on the left and then break it down into subgroups, as in Table 1a‐this will depend on your cultural perspective.