11.4.1  Types of figures

Three sorts of figures may be included within the main content of a Cochrane review:

  1. forest plots (see Section 11.3.2) from among the full collection of ‘Data and analyses’ within RevMan;

  2. funnel plots (see Chapter 10, Section 10.4.1) from among the full collection of ‘Data and analyses’ within RevMan; and

  3. additional figures.


Because the ‘Data and analyses’ section may not be included in some published formats of a Cochrane review, authors should incorporate the most important forest plots as figures within the main body of the review, and refer to them at relevant points in the text. Note, however, that the meta-analysis and subgroup analysis results from all ‘Data and analyses’ forest plots will be included as a table in all published formats of a Cochrane review.


As a general rule, figures offer a clear and systematic means of presenting results both from individual studies and from meta-analyses. However, reviews that contain large numbers of figures are often difficult to follow, especially when each figure contains very little information. Many scientific journals restrict the number of figures in a paper to around half a dozen, and similar considerations apply in most Cochrane Review Groups.


Important results from all figures should be overviewed in the Results section of the review text. Wherever numerical results taken from a figure are reported in the text of the review the authors should make their meaning and derivation clear, and provide a reference to the relevant figure.