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The Anatomy of a Table

A table is one of the most widely spread ways to summarize the data present in your work and present them in a form the readers can easily understand and analyze.



In terms of content, tables are best used when you need to show uncorrelated data, or the data denoting the characteristic features of a larger whole. For example, it will work perfectly if you want to show the population of major cities of a country at a certain moment of time, or its population structure.


Don’t forget to refer to the table from the text – it shouldn’t be placed in your paper just for the reader’s information, you must mention it at least once, otherwise it cannot be considered to be an integral part of your work. But don’t mention them just for the sake of doing it – the tables must fit into the flow of text naturally, sentences included just to introduce tables should be avoided whenever possible.


Every table should be numbered; take notice that when you mention them you always use the word Table with capital T and a number, e.g., As you may see in Table 3. Numbers are used successively and independently from all the other additional materials, for example, if you use both tables and figures in your work, you should enumerate them independently from one another.


Not every table is equally appropriate in every work – try to make them as simple and easily understandable as possible. Ideally, every table should be perfectly clear and usable without referring to the results page of your work and even the text itself. Try showing them separately from the text to someone who hasn’t read your work and ask if they can make something of it. If the meaning of the table is obscure to them, you are doing something wrong. After all, readers won’t be able to look at the text and the tables simultaneously, as they are located on different pages. To make navigation within your work easier, try to locate pages with tables as close as possible to the parts of the text they refer to.


We hope that this set of tips will be useful when you write your own research paper or term paper, because professors are very particular about how different elements of your work are used, and incorrect placement of tables may ruin even an otherwise perfectly written assignment.

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