The use of plots in orthopaedic literature

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Abstract

Plots are an elegant and effective way to represent data. At their best they encourage the reader and promote comprehension. A graphical representation can give a far more intuitive feel to the pattern of results in the study than a list of numerical data, or the result of a statistical calculation.

The temptation to exaggerate differences or relationships between variables by using broken axes, overlaid axes, or inconsistent scaling between plots should be avoided.

A plot should be self-explanatory and not complicated. It should make good use of the available space. The axes should be scaled appropriately and labelled with an appropriate dimension.

Plots are recognised statistical methods of presenting data and usually require specialised statistical software to create them. The statistical analysis and methods to generate the plots are as important as the methodology of the study itself. The software, including dates and version numbers, as well as statistical tests should be appropriately referenced.

Following some of the guidance provided in this article will enhance a manuscript.

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