1 2.2 Reading a table
Tables are a common way of presenting information. We use tables to display key information, usually numbers. Tables can form a summary of information, or they may be a starting point for a discussion.
Tables can look quite formidable when a lot of information is presented all at once and finding your way around one can be difficult.
So how do you interpret a table?
The Sciences Good Study Guide (Northedge et al., 1997) advises that you should ask yourself these questions:
What is the table about?
The title of the table should tell you what it is about.
Where has the information come from?
The source of the information should be stated.
What do the rows and columns represent?
The labels for the rows and columns should tell you what they represent.
What do you want to know?
This will depend on your reasons for reading the table. You may want to look up a single piece of information, or you may be looking for overall patterns.
What are you expected to remember?
Tables often contain a great deal of information. You may not need to remember any of it. Usually, it's the overall trends that are important.
Table 1 Purpose for using the Internet (source: adapted from the National Statistics Survey, 2004)
|Purpose of Internet use by adults, in Great Britain in April 2004, who had used it in the last three months|
|Purpose of access||%|
|Finding information about goods or services||78|
|Searching for information about travel and accommodation||68|
|Telephoning over the Internet / video conferencing||7|
|Finding information relating to education||37|
|Buying or ordering tickets / goods or services||50|
|Selling goods or services||10|
|Personal banking and financial services||37|
|Playing or downloading games||13|
|Using chat rooms||19|
|Playing or downloading music||27|
|Reading or downloading online news||32|
|Listening to web radio / watching web television||16|
|Downloading other software||24|
|Looking for a job / sending job application||22|
Activity 4 (self-assessment)
Study Table 1 above carefully and then answer the following questions.
Where has the information in the table come from?
In the rightmost column, 8 rows down, you will see the number 10. What does this represent? Write a sentence to explain what this tells us.
What is the highest number in the table? What does this represent?
What is the lowest number in the table? What does this represent?
What percentage of people who used the internet said they used chat rooms?
The source is the National Statistics Survey.
Of the people who had used the internet in the 3 months before the survey, 10% had done so for the purposes of selling goods or services.
The highest number in the table is 85%. This is the percentage of people who had used the internet in the 3 months before the survey for email.
The lowest number in the table is 7, which means that of the people who had used the internet in the 3 months before the survey, 7% had done so for telephoning and/or video conferencing.
Of the people who had used the internet in the 3 months before the survey, 19% had done so to use chat rooms.