Creating Digital Study Diagrams

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In many courses it may become necessary to draw a simple diagram of an experimental design or the structure of a design and share this with others. While a visual representation of a simple experiment might seem to be unimportant, as designs become more complex, a diagram or overview becomes essential if you want to understand how all of the treatments are being applied and where interactions and confounding may exist.

Stick figures work, and boxes and arrows are all you need to draw - but how do you get these pencil and paper 'back of the envelope' drawings into a digital format? It's easy! Below there are several methods outlined for getting your diagrams into an easy-to-share format, select which one works best for you!

If you need more information on digitizing documents in general, see this guide (opens in a new window or tab).

Start with the video below! The video demonstrates each of the methods in this guide. If you are trying to decide which approach to take, watching the video will give you an idea of what you'll need to do for each method.


1) Pencil and Paper - Camera

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Hand Drawn Diagram and Camera Example (click image to enlarge)

This is perhaps the easiest solution. You just need a camera!

  • Draw your diagram on a pad of paper with a pencil.
  • Take a photo of your drawing.
  • Email yourself the photo.
  • Crop if necessary using a drawing application like Paint or Preview.
  • 'Insert' > 'Picture from File' into your Word document.

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2) Pencil and Paper - Scan - very easy!

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Scanned Hand Drawn Diagram Example
(click image to enlarge)

This is very easy to do if you have access to a scanner.

  • Draw your diagram on a pad of paper with a pencil
  • Scan the paper with your drawing on it.
  • A copy machine will email either a .pdf or a photo of your drawing.
  • Crop if necessary using a screen capture application like Jing.
  • 'Insert' > 'Picture from File' into your Word document.

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3) Tablet or iPad Whiteboard Application

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ShowMe iPad App Example
(click image to enlarge)

ShowMe or EduCreations are free whiteboard apps where you can use a stylus to hand draw diagrams. You can include color as well for emphasis!

  • Draw your diagram using an app such as ShowMe or EduCreations.
  • Save the image to your photos or take a screen shot of the image.
  • Email yourself the photo.
  • Crop if necessary using a screen capture application like Jing.
  • 'Insert' > 'Picture from File' into your Word document.

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4) Create Drawing in Google Docs

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Google Docs Example
(click image to enlarge)

Not as quick as drawing something by hand, but still perhaps the easiest online drawing tool to use!

  • Create a new drawing document in Google Docs.
  • Use the tools within the application to create your diagram.
  • Download an image of the diagram to your computer.
  • 'Insert' > 'Picture from File' into your Word document.

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5) Create a Drawing right in Word

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Shapes Tool Example in Word 2011 for Mac (click image to enlarge)

  • Open a Word document and use the 'Insert' > 'Shapes' option to include diagram shapes.
  • Use the tools within the application to fill out your diagram.
  • Add your narrative around these objects.
  • Save the Word document with your drawing in it.

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Inserting a Picture File into a Word Document

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Insert Picture Example in Word 2011 for Mac (click image to enlarge)

To place your image into a Word document, Open Word and find the 'Insert' option on the menu bar. Click on the picture icon to 'Insert Picture from File'. This will open a dialog box so that you can choose the image file that you want to embed in your word document.

If you need more information on inserting images into Word documents, see this guide (opens in a new window or tab).

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