7.2 Sketching Guidelines

As we’ve seen elsewhere, convention and standards help us communicate in unambiguous terms - they allow others in our field to easily interpret what we're trying to say, and they allow us to process our information in computational environments in known and reproducible ways.

The same goes for how we construct sketches in biological research. These sketches are generally simple in their articulation and are embedded within your notebook.

General Guidelines

  • Do not put a title at the top of your drawing. Instead, place a caption at the bottom left. Captions can be several sentences long and should adequately describe what the sketch is.
  • Use a minimum number of fine lines and use dotted lines to show depth. Do not shade.
  • Place the drawing so that the labels can be put in a column on one side. When possible, labels should be to the right of the figure.
  • Label lines should be straight and should not intersect.

Organisms and Structures

Some additional guideline to ensure your sketches are clear and readable when drawing organisms or their structures include:

  • Orient your drawing so that the anterior or oral aspect of the organism is at the top of the page.
  • Labelling should be as complete as possible. If any structures have been removed or displaced you should indicate this on your drawing. If the manual or text you are using mentions certain structures that you cannot locate, make a note of this on your drawing. For example, you may say "nuclei not seen" in your caption.
  • Genus and species names should be
    • Underlined or Italicized
    • The genus should be Capitalized
    • The specific epithet should be all lower case


When drawing organisms or structures viewed under the microscope:

  • Do not draw a circle around your drawing.
  • Put the scale (or magnification) of your drawing at the bottom right of your drawing. Instructions for determining scale/magnification can be found here.