Designing readable and persuasive tables

by Ira S. Lowry

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Tabular presentations in research reports and technical studies often fail their expository purpose because they are poorly designed. The reader may find them confusing because the entries are poorly labeled, may miss significant patterns in the data because the layout is clumsy, or may doubt the reliability of the data because they are incoherently presented or lack authoritative credentials. This essay offers practical guidance for designing tables that will be read, understood, and believed. It includes a glossary to help researchers communicate with editors, an appendix of exemplary solutions to common layout problems, and an index to help readers locate relevant examples.

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