Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. If you have tables in your manuscript containing six or so columns of tabulations, do you in your text discussion of the table go into detail about what calculation is in each column of the table? For instance, in the text, “Table 1 shows, in column 4, the sphere’s true volume percentage change from the initial 10-unit radius sphere. Column 5 shows . . . Column 6 tabulates the . . .” Or do you do a generic, nondescriptive text statement like “For changes in a sphere’s radius of up to 10%, table 1 details the level of error introduced by . . .” Do you leave it to the reader to figure out the details of each column?

A. This is not a matter of style, but of figuring out why you have included the table. Think about where your readers need to focus in order to understand your points. If you are using a single column or cell of the table to support a specific point, by all means refer to it. Likewise, if the entire table supports a general conclusion, say so. Tables are evidence, materials that support your explanation or argument. If you aren’t clear in your own mind as to why your table is there or how to use it, reconsider whether you need it at all.