The top ten information visualisation books for researchers

Communicating your work clearly in figures, tables and graphics is a key skill for an academic researcher, yet it is something that we are not formally taught to do. This is partly due to the fact that information visualisation is a vast field encompassing many techniques, graphic types and digital tools and we all have different requirements and backgrounds when it comes to creating graphics.

Which type of graphic?

Many different types of graphics exist and your choice of graphic depends on what you are trying to show. When displaying quantitative data, are you showing categories, distribution, relationships, hierarchy, geospatial data or something changing over time? Or do you want your graphic to show a process or method? Or perhaps you want to create a schematic or an anatomical drawing from observation? Taking the time to explore different graphic types and to critique and evaluate existing graphics in the published literature will help to make your own graphical endeavours easier. We explore different graphic types in more detail in our Electv training course, Designing publication quality figures & graphics, which runs regularly throughout the year and participants from several fields of study discuss a wide range of graphics that they want to use.

Creating publication quality graphics can be time consuming, challenging and frustrating, but it can also be a rewarding and fascinating experience. Like many other things worth doing, it takes time to learn and practice creating figures, whether it is designing a schematic or spending time to learn new software. Ask yourself what type of data you have and what type of figures do you want to create, can you find examples in the literature? 

Time & tools

The graphical representation of science has been popular since the renaissance when pioneers such as Da Vinci found that it was more effective to communicate complex concepts and findings in a graphic format, learning their highly skilled craft over many years in the best studios of the time. Fortunately, modern researchers can speed up the process by making use of the vast array of digital tools that are available to generate graphics if they invest the time required to learn them. This can bring additional challenges, as researchers have not all had the opportunity to learn the relevant software required to build the desired graphic nor do they always have the time available to learn. We will explore the different types of graphic and visualisation software in a future post.

If you would like to dive deeper into the subject of data visualisation then you may want to investigate the books listed below. These books are an excellent foundation for anyone who is interested in visualising information and they are highly regarded by data scientists, academics, industry experts and many more. We have selected our top ten, listed in alphabetical order by author below, and many are available in university libraries. We hope you enjoy them! 

The top 10 visualisation books for researchers

************* 1 *************

The truthful art: data, charts and maps for communication

Alberto Cairo (2016)

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************* 2 *************

Show me the numbers: designing tables and graphs to enlighten

Stephen Few (2004)

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************* 3 *************

Information graphics: a comprehensive illustrated reference

RL Harris (1999)

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************* 4 *************

Designing data visualizations

Noah lliinsky N & Julie Steele  (2011)

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************* 5 *************

Data visualisation: a handbook for data driven design

Andy Kirk (2019)

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************* 6 *************

The visual display of quantitative information 

Edward Tufte (2001)

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************* 7 *************

Visual and statistical thinking: displays of evidence for making decisions

Edward Tufte (1997)

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************* 8 *************

Information visualization

Colin Ware (2004)

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************* 9 *************

Visualize this: the flowing data guide to design, visualization & statistics

Nathan Yau (2011)

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************* 10 *************

Fundamentals of data visualization: a primer on making informative and compelling figures. 

C O Wilke (2019)

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The books in this list were not written specifically for researchers, however we think you will find them useful. This is a short list and there are many other books  and papers on data visualisation, drawing scientific figures, microscopy images and more that we have not explored here, however these may be the subject of a future post. Please feel free to suggest your favourite books in the comments below.

Training course

Our upcoming Electv Training half day course, Designing publication quality figures & graphics, will be running on the morning of 19th February 2021 and will explore some of the topics above. The course will be online and open to anyone to attend, further information can be found on the course registration page.

This is a popular course and it runs every three months, the next course will be in spring 2021. If you have any questions about the course then please email us at

A short list of upcoming postdoctoral fellowship opportunities in 2021

Are you an early career researcher thinking about pursuing a career in academia? Then it is worth considering applying for a postdoctoral fellowship as your next career move. Fellowships enable you to take that next step towards independence and they are designed to help early career researchers transition to becoming a research group leader.

Applying for a fellowship takes a considerable amount of time, preparation and perseverance. However, if you are successful then it can give you a real competitive advantage when you come to apply for permanent academic positions. There are now a several different fellowships available for early career postdocs (and final year PhD students) and we have included a short list of five upcoming UK opportunities in the table below that might be of interest to researchers at this stage.

Funding organisation & fellowship typeEligibilityNext deadlineLink & more information
Leverhulme Trust Early Career FellowshipsAll postdocs25.02.21
Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral FellowshipsFinal year PhD & early career postdocs23.03.21
Wellcome Research Fellowships in Humanities and Social ScienceAll postdocs16.06.21
Royal Society University Research Fellowship3 – 8 years of postdoctoral experience07.09.21
Dorothy Hodgkin FellowshipPostdocs (with up to a max six years of postdoc research experience since PhD)10.11.21
* Due to the short time frame, January deadlines have been excluded from this table.

There are many more fellowships available and they all have different eligibility requirements and expectations of applicants. Therefore, the eligibility parameters for a particular fellowship scheme may mean that it is only open to researchers from within a specific career stage (e.g. within 3 years of your PhD), a certain subject area or to those who can meet certain international mobility requirements.

If you are interested in applying for a postdoctoral fellowship then we recommend that you explore the range of available fellowships and select the ones that are most relevant to you. For a more comprehensive list of fellowships, you may wish to explore Research Professional database, which contains a freely available list of opportunities.

Our upcoming Electv Training half day course, Attracting funding: writing & applying for postdoctoral fellowships, will be running on Friday 15th January and will focus on how to apply for a fellowship. The course is open to anyone to attend and will include further information on the application process, expectations of applicants, details from the instructor’s own experience of obtaining a fellowship and a more detailed list of upcoming fellowship opportunities and deadlines in 2021.

The course is run by Electv Training and will be delivered online. This is a popular course and it runs every three months, the next course will be in spring 2021. If you have any questions about the course then please email us at