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Table Design

A first example

In the Statistical Yearbook 2009 from Statistics China the following table appears (only partly shown here):

table from statistics china

Most people won't be able to read it. But everyone will recognize the structure of this table.

  • The tables in the publication are numbered.
    You are looking at table 3.1.
  • The table has a title at the top explaining what it is about.
  • Underneath the title there is room for additional notes if necessary.
  • There is a unit of measurement, telling us how to interpret the numbers that are given.
  • The table has column headings (here in blue). These column titles explain what each column represents.
    Apparently there are three main groups. The second and third groups are first divided into two subgroups and each of those is divided again.
  • The table has row specifications (here in yellow). These show what each row represents.
    Most likely these are years in this example.
  • If necessary the table has a source. In this case (a table from the China Statistical Yearbook 2009) the sources are mentioned elsewhere in the document, not per table.

Now have a look at the English version of this table. It has the same structure, but now you can read the titles and headings.

english version table statistics china

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SPSS TableLooks

If you have a table in the SPSS output you can double-click on it to open it in edit mode. If you then right-click somewhere in the table, a context menu pops up that includes the option "TableLooks...". Through it you have access to a number of predefined designs for your table.

table looks in menu

The list with predefined looks that ships with SPSS 20 is already quite extensive. But if you want a special look, for example based on your company's design schemes, you can create your own look, save it and apply it to new tables.

table look list Note that on the right there is a Sample area, where you get a preview of the look that you have selected.

For example, this is how the BlueYellowContrastAlternate looks like:

If you like it, click on OK to confirm. If it is not your taste, look for alternatives.

If you like most of it, but not everything, first choose it and next make some extra adjustments manually.

    Note: If you can't find the proper look in SPSS, an alternative is to copy the table from the output into Word and to do the editing there.

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Some literature

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Last modified 30-10-2012

© Jos Seegers, 2009; English version by Gé Groenewegen.