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Titles for tables and figures

Filed on: April 25, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Tables and figures are commonly used in research papers to supplement text.

Detailed guidance is available from many sources on how to design tables and prepare figures for publications. This post looks at just one aspect, namely titles, whether of tables or of figures (although with figures it is customary to refer to titles as captions). I want to touch upon three points: how to phrase the titles (complete sentences or sentence fragments), how to style or format them for print (normal, bold, ital and the capitalization), and how to end them (with a full stop or with no terminal punctuation).

First off, number all tables and figures (even when there is only one table or a figure). Second, phrase them as complete and declarative sentences that capture their essence if you are using them in reports and presentations and as sentence fragments that indicate their scope if they are part of a research paper. Set off the word 'Table' or 'Figure' and the number that follows in bold but keep the rest in normal font (neither bold nor italics). No punctuation is required between the number and the title: space alone is enough. Use normal capitalization for complete sentences; for the fragments, you may use normal capitalization or the so-called 'title case' (Every Significant Word Begins with a Capital). End a title phrased as a sentence with a full stop but use no punctuation mark at the end of a sentence fragment.

Here are two examples.

Table 2 Measurements of wind speed are subject to wide uncertainties.

or

Table 2 Range of uncertainty in measured wind speeds

European countries have stringent regulations governing noise pollution.

or

Regulations Concerning Noise Pollution in Europe

Lastly, place table titles at the top of each table and figure captions below each figure.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

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