Tables: Visual Aids
Tables are particularly useful for displaying precise numerical data and presenting this summarized information in rows and columns. The title of a table is usually written at the top as a sentence fragment with the first word capitalized. If there is more than one table in a written assignment, the table number appears directly in front of the table’s title. Typically, a table is divided into rows and columns.
A row is a list of items presented straight across a table. Each row must have a row heading placed near the left edge of the table to label the items that are listed horizontally. Row headings vary greatly – at times they will display numbers as in Table 1. However, at other times row headings will display the names of people, places, or things that are being measured. Table 3 gives an example of this type of row heading.
Columns are lists of items presented vertically. Column headings are listed on top of the table to label these vertical lists of items. Column headings will usually be labels for people, places or things as shown in Examples 1 and 3. Keep in mind that the lists of words in rows and columns are usually left justified but may be centered if this arrangement works better with the table’s format.
Footnotes below the table allow for clarification of information included in the table and are not intrusive. Use an asterisk or number to indicate where the footnote begins and list information in order at the bottom of the table. Footnotes can also be used to explain unfamiliar abbreviations to the reader.
If source information was used but the table is your own creation, citations are usually listed underneath the table in APA or MLA style. However, if you want to use an entire table from another source, first seek permission from the author to use the table in your document. If permission is granted and you choose to use the table, be sure to give the name of the original source beneath the table in proper APA or MLA style. This bibliographical information will also be included on your references or works cited page.
The following table shows the average number of appliances present in American homes at the onset of each decade. Pay close attention to where the title, table number, column headings, row headings, footnote and citation information are.
If units of measurement within your table are unclear, be sure to indicate what unit is being used to express data. If all of the data are being expressed in the same unit, write it under the table title. The following example demonstrates this concept.
As far as placement goes, remember that brief tables may be integrated into the written text of your document, but anything that is lengthy enough to disrupt the flow of the paper should be included at the end of the report as an appendix. Consult your MLA or APA book for further information.
Keep in mind that although tables are good for showing exact quantities, other figures such as graphs and charts may be used for an easier interpretation of the same information if providing specific numbers is not as important. If you want to emphasize or reinforce data, begin with a table and then use a graph to accentuate differences represented in the data
This handout has presented information on tables – Now it’s time to put your knowledge to the test and get to work on creating a table of your own! Consult the resources list provided below for additional information or examples.
Houp, K.W., Pearsall, T.E., & Tebeaux, E. (1998). Reporting Technical Information. (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Sherman, T.A., & Johnson, S.S. (1988). Modern technical writing (5th ed.). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Copyright 2003 by the Student Success Center and the University of Houston-Victoria.
Created 2003 by Candice Chovanec-Melzow.