Use of Tables in Scientific Writing — Ultimate Guide

Use of Tables in Scientific Writing — Ultimate Guide

Science is already complex, don’t make it more complicated in writing and illustration

When the paper is rich in text, especially overcrowded by quantitative values, this is the indication to convert this text into a table. Massive quantitative values are hard to read and understand in text, therefore, it is the better way to convert them to the table. Do not forget to refer to the tables in the text at the proper location.

Instructions using tables in scientific writing

Tables are used to summarise the quantitative parameters. Despite the quantitative values, it is also used to define the terminologies, concepts and other details of the documents.

When to use tables
  • Ensure that the text need table
  • Tables and figures are usually read first, before reading the text. Therefore, they must be clear and able to solely convey the information
  • Similar data and parameters are represented in the table. The inclusion of unrelated data will make your table crowded and readers will not get the point.
How to use tables in scientific writing
  • Parameters units must be represented (i.g., the time must be represented with a second, minute or hour etc), aligned with used in the text.
  • Table’s labels should be clearly explained so that the reader, not related to the domain, may easily understand it.

A good way to test whether an illustration can truly stand on its own is to ask someone unfamiliar with the data to interpret it without reading the text of the article.

  • If the data can be explained in a few sentences, then explain them instead of drawing the table. Information in small tables may be represented better in text
How to use tables in scientific writing
  • Information is presented from top to bottom and left to right in order
  • The data presented in a table, should not be replicated in figures etc
  • Represent extensive numerical data in an organized way
  • Abbreviations should be clearly explained

Figures designed and developed by authors, are called original figures. Figures copied from other studies or internet, are called reproduce figures. Other studies figures are changed to be adjusted in the new study, are called adopted figures.

How to use tables in scientific writing
  • Number the figure as they appear in the text
  • Clearly defined categories divided into rows and columns
  • Clearly defined the variables’ units


  • A clear and concise caption
  • Avoid using the abbreviation
  • If parameters units are not explained in the columns and there is a space, explain them in the caption
  • Include experimental detail

Science is already complex, don’t make it more complicated in writing and illustration. Follow the above simple steps to illustrate your complex data in tables. Furthermore, go through the below article to get ready for graphics used in scientific publications.

To learn more about professional scientific writing, please see the following article.

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