Instead of a figure or graph, data is sometimes best represented by a table. This tutorial describes some table design points.
Tables must represent data in a simple manner. When creating a table, data should be simplified as much as possible for better readability. As previously mentioned, the reader should be able to understand data by looking at the table alone.
Simplification of tables is easily done by grouping common data. For example, in the table below, the average value (Av) and the standard error (SE) can be grouped in one cell. Further, to avoid repetition of information, the number of patients may be grouped, and recurrence of liver cancer (LC) or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) may be divided into two simple columns representing positive and negative groups. This way data has been grouped into one table instead of two. Another example of data grouping is data on drug-treated and untreated subjects under two conditions (eg. healthy and hospitalized), which may be grouped under a single table instead of a different table for each condition.
Font: Most journals use Times New Roman or similar font. However, other simple fonts, such as Arial, may be suitable.
Gridlines: The amount of gridlines in tables can be considered useful to focus data, but may sometimes only be visual noise to the reader. Many tables in journals therefore do not use vertical gridlines to separate data. Horizontal lines are occasionally used, especially when some cells span over two lines or more. In other cases, especially in tables with single-line cells, horizontal lines are often omitted.
Using shorthand text
Some tables have words or expression which are too long to nicely fit in a cell. In those cases shorthand text may be used. For example, words like "positive" and "negative" may be reduced to "+" and "-". Although spaces between value and units is usually recommended, cell space may be limited. Acronyms may be used in tables, with the full description written at the bottom of the table, if necessary.