Q: How should I create a descriptive title for my table?

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I'm having trouble coming up with a descriptive title for my table. Is there some sort of outline I could follow?

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Answer:

A table should be stand-alone and hence, the title/legend/caption should be self-explanatory. Of course, the title should be a clear indicator of the contents of the table. While I don't really have an outline, here are some general guidelines you should follow to come up with a clear and concise title for a table:

  1. The first sentence should clearly indicate what results are shown in the context of the study question.
  2. Secondary information such as the location of a study, population/organism studied, treatment conditions, relationship displayed, other variables, and brief methodical data of the study should follow next – use separators such as commas, hyphens, round brackets and colons to distinguish between variables or two different aspects being described.
  3. Sample size, statistical significance, and statistical tests should not be referred to in the title. These can be given as a footnote to the table. All abbreviations should be defined in the footnotes of the table. Additionally, many journals recommend that the SI unit of measurement be used for uniformity.

So, basically, for easy understanding, the title should contain the main indicator in the first position and the breakdown of information in the subsequent position. If two or more tables have similar content but one or more variables to distinguish them, then the distinguishing feature can be placed at the end of the title for better readability and quick reference. 

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