Word tables and numerical tables have their place

All this having been said, we must stress that tables are sometimes the best illustrations for a scientific paper. Word tables present parallel descriptions concisely. In medical writing, tables that appear in case series analyses provide a good example of their appropriate use. In an oral presentation, a teaching article, or a review, small tables of text (which function like figures) also may be used to emphasize the main points or included as a handy reference like the example in Table 3.2.

Choosing and using visual aids Table 3.2. A helpful word table

Cloned human gene products


Used in treating


Growth hormone


Factor VIII


Tissue plasminogen factor


Pituitary dwarfism Anemia Hemophilia Cancer

Heart attack, stroke

Numerical tables provide a compact way of presenting complex information in a format that invites comparisons that would be lost or incomprehensible in narrative form. A useful rule of thumb (Bjelland, 1990) is to use a table when putting data in the text would take at least three times as much page space as presenting it in tabular format. This usually occurs when four or more sets of data are to be presented.

However, thoughtful preparation makes the difference between a numerical table that confuses and one that informs the reader. Tables that communicate the quantitative aspects of data are effective only when the data are arranged so that their significance is obvious at a glance.

Title Table 1. Effects of dietary supplementation on large laboratory animals.

Title Table 1. Effects of dietary supplementation on large laboratory animals.

Footnote --■—*One subject died of unrelated causes.

Fig. 3.1. Usual parts of a table and their names.

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