GEOG 583
Geospatial System Analysis and Design

Including Tables in a Paper


Just to be clear, tables (unlike figures) are most often used to report lists of numbers, qualitative information, or other information that can be reported in a list. Similar to figures, all tables should be uniquely and sequentially referenced by a table number. Each table reference should appear in the text as Table 1, Table 2, and so forth according to the number of tables you use. The location of a specific table should follow the first mention of the table in the text. You do not need to break a paragraph so as to place a table. Simply place the table at the end of the paragraph where that table is first mentioned. Each table should have a short header that briefly explains the important information about what is being listed. The table header should be positioned above the table. The anatomy of a properly organized table is shown in Table 1.

Discussing Tables in a Paper

You probably spent hours creating your table. Thus, you have an intimate knowledge of the details of what each one shows. Unfortunately, your reader does not share this same intimacy. Therefore, you must make clear to the reader the important information that they should see. To be clear, start your discussion with the general overview of each table. For example, Table 1 lists the action items in each GIS component. Once that general overview is presented, you can move on to discuss some of the relevant details. Table 1 is the first of two examples of tables and their headers.

Table 1. Concept development in each GIS component. [the table header]
GIS Component
Action Item [column titles]
Data Collection
  1. Select the hardware and software for field data collection.
  2. Determine the accuracy level requirement.
  3. Determine the departments who will perform data collection. [the table body - note the use of border lines to organize the table info]
Data Storage
  1. Choose a placeholder for GPS captured data, possibly create a separate feature dataset with no geometric network rules.
  2. Determine who will have editing rights in the production database.
  3. Design versioning workflow.
Data Display
  1. Enhance “B-Map Viewer1” user interface.
  2. Possibly design additional Web App to display Pipeline Replacement Project only.

1 = B-Map Viewer is an internal GUI [footnote]

Here is a sample discussion for Table 2 that would appear in the text.

Only one application, ArcGIS Earth could not produce simple maps and export simple point, line, and polygon files (Table 1). However, the number of steps required to create and export simple point, line, and polygon files varied between applications. Of the applications with these capabilities, ArcGIS Explorer and Google Earth Pro required the fewest steps to create new vector files. Vector creation in ArcGIS for Desktop, gvSig, QGIS, and uDig all required two steps to create files, file creations, and editing. If vector creation requires fewer steps and is more user-friendly, then ArcGIS Explorer and Google Earth Pro performed better for this requirement. In addition, only ArcGIS for Desktop, ArcGIS Earth, ArcGIS Explorer, and QGIS were capable of accessing data from the PIFWO geodatabase (Table 1), though all applications were capable of loading and viewing shapefiles and GeoTIFF files, two common formats used by PIFWO.

Table 2. Summary of GIS application testing to determine if they were capable of completing required tasks. Applications with a score of 1 were capable of completing the required task while applications with a score of 0 were not. Required tasks are shown on each row of the table with a final row summarizing the score for the application for all tasks. All applications are listed on the first row of the table. For details about each system, see their associated reference below.

Table 2. Summary of GIS application testing
ArcGIS for Desktop1 ArcGIS Earth2 ARCGIS Explorer3 Google Earth Pro4 gvSIG5 QGIS6 uDig7
Geodatabase Access 1 1 1 0 0 1 0
Vector Creation 1 0 1 1 1 1 1
Map Production 1 0 1 1 1 1 1
Overall Score (Sum) 3 1 3 2 2 3 2

1 ESRI, 2016a; 2 ESRI, 2016b; 3 ESRI, 2016c; 4 Google, 2016; 5 gvSIG Association, 2016; 6 QGIS, 2016; and 7Refractions Research, 2016.

Table 3 outlines some examples of problematic wording and why the wording is confusing to the reader.

Table 3. What to Avoid When Discussing Tables in a Paper
Wording Issues with Graphics Irrationality of the Statement
Table 1 below shows… "Below"  is unnecessary as the "Table 1" reference will direct the reader to the appropriate location.
Inserting a table without any reference to or explanation of said table. If you are going to insert a table, make sure you reference it and explain its contents for the reader’s benefit.
Since the data show a trend… First, make sure that you did, in fact, assert that a trend in the data was observed and verified in the body of the text.

Second, if you say you are going to do something, then make sure you do - or the reader will be lost.
Table 3 shows a range of data that suggests an important correlation between x and y. If you say there is something of importance appearing in a table (i.e., “an important correlation”) make sure that is evident in the table. And then support that claim with numerical evidence from the table and explain what that importance is to the reader.