Statistical Standards
Statistical Standards Program
Table of Contents
1. Development of Concepts and Methods
2. Planning and Design of Surveys
3. Collection of Data
4. Processing and Editing of Data
5. Analysis of Data / Production of Estimates or Projections
6. Establishment of Review Procedures
7. Dissemination of Data
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C

·Sample Table
·Major Types of Tables
·Tabular Format
·Table Titles
·Table Stub
·Tabular Notes
·Sizing a Table
Appendix D
Publication information

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Tabular presentation is a way to bring together and present related material in columns or rows. The object is to show in a concise and orderly manner information that could not be shown so clearly in any other way. To many users and potential users, however, columns and rows of figures are not easy to understand. Important facts and figures may be buried in the masses of data shown. To enable the inexperienced user to accurately interpret the data, and the experienced statistician to do so more readily, table design should be kept as simple and direct as the subject matter and available space allow. In general, good design is as simple as possible, focuses attention on the data, and makes their meaning and significance clear. Poor design obscures the meaning and distracts attention.

A consistent "style" of presentation can help avoid distracting the user's attention. Subtle differences in terminology may cause the perceptive reader to ponder if a difference in meaning is involved. So, one of the general standards of good presentation is to use the same terminology in title, stub, headings, footnotes, etc.

To that end, these guidelines stress the importance of table design to satisfy the needs of the user, not of the producer. A consistent style builds a "normal expectation" through uniform treatment of many details. Unaccountable variation may distract the user and weaken the user's understanding of the content of the table. And by avoiding meaningless "differences," the table producer can capitalize on meaningful differences, and strengthen understanding, when deliberate small changes are made in words, phrases, or table structure.

The guidelines developed here attempt to adapt some widely accepted principles of tabular presentation to the subject matter, production methods, and operating procedures dealt with in NCES. Further, as with any set of guidelines, some arbitrary choice among acceptable alternatives is involved here. The guidelines are intended to help the development of clear and concise tabular presentations tailored to NCES needs.

Much of the material in the 1972 NCES Guidelines for Tabular Presentation was adapted from the Census Manual. The Government Printing Office Style Manual and the Manual of Statistical Presentation (January 1970), prepared by the Division of Research Grants, National Institutes of Health were also consulted for appropriate details. This 2002 edition draws heavily on the 1972 edition. Some of the revisions reflect technological changes. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was also consulted for current practices. Beyond that, the modifications that have been made represent the experiences of a number of NCES analysts and contractors.