Practical guidelines to table construction and interpretation in final year projects

Tables are very crucial aspects of any detailed research. They engage you with every detail of the data gathered from whom and for what. Most of the times, tables display data in statistical formats which may not be duly represented if written in text. In final year projects for undergraduates, tables as well as charts and graphs serves a hack for data presentation and analysis.  However, students go ahead reading research tables in text much after the table analysis; that’s the research error this lesson aims to correct.

Why do you include tables in your research paper work?

If you asked why you have to include tables in your research paper work then you have answers. Basically, tables are used to present data but I suppose you know about this already  so other reasons include:-

  • To organize data that is too detailed to be described adequately in text allowing the readers to quickly see the results.

  • Used to highlight trends and patterns in data and explains variables so you don’t need to repeat information represented in statistics in table to text .

By the way, that’s an error in research, I’m talking about repeating statistics in the table in text; it is called ‘table reading’ or reading research tables.

The essence of a table is to represent too much detailed information in it so to make way for interpretation in text. However the interpretation does not mean you should read out or write out the same information in text. It simply means you should explain the significance of that table to your research and how much of those numbers or their percentage contributes to your research.

Guidelines on table construction for final year project

Table reading is a bad research error and it's very common among students project papers. Below are guideline for research table construction and proper data representation so you won’t ever  be tempted to read your tables again...

  • Clearly describe what the table is about in short simple sentence(s)

  • Column heads should be labelled to include the nature of data gathered

  • Limit the number of tables to essential information that cannot be adequately presented in text

  • Tables are better simple than complex

  • Design each table to be understandable without repeating in text

  • If there are large data, divide the data into categories and units in titled columns for easy comprehension

  • Include only results that are relevant to the research questions in the table.

That’s enough to know before drafting your data table. Would you  be needing anything else, kindly use the comment box.

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