Prose descriptions of tables

Tables, and their contents, have to be explained to readers in the text. This can partly be done in the caption, but there is usually more to it than this. Salovey (2000) presents contrasting examples (see Table 3.5.7). He argues that the first one is 'statistics-based' and the second one 'reader-based'. In the first passage, we have no idea what was found until the end. In the second one, the findings come first.

Table 3.5.6 The effects of inappropriate internal spacing in a table: readers group together the wrong sets of data*

School A

School B

School C

Pre

Post-

Pre-

Post-

Pre-

Post-

Condition

test

test

test

test

test

test

1

20

25

36

40

51

60

2

21

26

38

42

52

62

3

24

30

42

46

56

63

4

29

32

47

47

59

67

5

28

32

48

58

56

* Fictitious data.

Table 3.5.7 Two contrasting descriptions of the contents of a table*

Description 1:

A two-way, 2 x 2 between-subjects ANOVA was performed on ratings of the vividness of childhood memories in which the independent variables were participant sex (male or female) and induced mood (happy or sad). There was no main effect for sex (F (1,99) = 0.20, n.s.), but there was a main effect for mood (F (1,99) = 7.89, p < .01) and a sex by mood interaction (F (1,99) = 12.30, p < .01). Happy people had more vivid memories than sad people, overall. The effect was stronger for women than it was for men. As can be seen in the results from Tukey's studentized range test, reported in Table 1, the vividness of happy and sad female participants' memories differed significantly, but the vividness of happy and sad male participants' memories did not.

Description 2:

Table 1 provides the vividness ratings for men and women who experienced happy or sad moods. The childhood memories of men and women did not differ in vividness, (F (1, 99) = 0.20), n.s. The most striking finding, however, was that the usual tendency for happy people to report more vivid memories than people in sad moods, (F (1, 99) = 7.89, p < .01) was stronger for women than for men, as indicated by a significant sex by mood interaction, (F (1, 99) = 12.30, p < .01). This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that mood has a more pronounced effect upon the quality of childhood memories among women than men and was confirmed with the Tukey's studentized range test reported in Table 1.

Reproduced with permission from the author and Cambridge University Press.

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