Tables are obviously a common way to impart data to your readers when you are constructing a scientific manuscript. However, in our experience, there is a surprising amount of variability in how tables are formatted and presented. So let's just take a look at the basics of what is needed for an informative table:
1) Table Title
The table title needs to indicate to the reader what the table is all about. It should be no longer than one sentence. This title also needs to be placed on top of the table in question, and unlike figure captions, it does not contain any further explanation of what the table contains (more on this later). Lastly, the table title begins with:
2) Table Construction
In constructing the actual table, it is usually required that you construct the table in your word processor (typically Word). Taking into consideration the requirements of most journals, this table should not show all of the lines in between each cell. It should have no vertical lines and should only show a horizontal line dividing the column titles from the rest of the data.
3) Table Footer
Below the table is where you will place all of the necessary extra information that the reader will need to fully understand the table. Here are some of the key things to include:
- Abbreviations: define all abbreviations used in the table even if they are defined previously in the main body of the text. Tables and figures are generally meant to stand alone, and therefore, you need to define any abbreviations.
- Footnotes: you will also need to define any symbols used in your table. This includes symbols used to indicate statistical significance. Below your table you can also note anything else that the reader might need to know.
If I've missed anything that you think is important, please feel free to leave a comment.
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