Medical tables, graphics and photographs: How they work

Alan Gross

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

10 Scopus citations


An examination of a random sample of four medical journals-The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine-reveals that one-fifth of the space of articles in medical science is devoted to an average of three tables and three flow charts, graphs, or photographs. Given these figures, the absence of discussion of visuals in the literature on medical communication may seem puzzling. But the puzzle is easily solved: our basic education gives us a coherent vocabulary for talking about prose, but no coherent vocabulary for talking about tables and visuals. Once we have this vocabulary in hand, we make another step in the direction of an explanation of the nature of communication in the medical sciences. We may note that understanding the meaning of a medical article is not just a consequence of understanding its texts; it is a consequence of understanding all its meaningful components working together-verbal, tabular, visual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages15
Specialist publicationJournal of Technical Writing and Communication
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007

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