Friday, October 5, 2012

Tables are wonderful

Consider including a Table in your next paper.
They can be very useful.

For example, they can compactly summarise previous work (experimental and/or theoretical) relevant to your paper.

To me Tables highlight an important aspect of science that I think is increasingly devalued or ignored: comparison. Everyone whats to talk about their own results but is less inclined to critically compare their results to earlier work and put it in that context.

It may be painful to admit it but the Table may actually be more useful to the community than the main results in your paper.
I believe Jim Brooks once told me that this was an extremely valuable lesson he learnt from his thesis advisor Russell Donnelly.

To make this concrete I include below a Table from one of my papers with Jaime Merino.


  1. I agree, though I would add the commonsense point that tables aren't the only way to compare your results to other papers. Graphs can serve that purpose too, and sometimes better. In fact, a paper I am writing now contains a graph of our results plotted against many others from the literature. It's too bad that there isn't more open data; I think researchers devising theories to explain data would do better if they had access to everyone's data and not just their own.

  2. Question (not intended to offend or do anything): does it bother you at all that your blog receives so few comments? Are your pageviews significantly higher? (Maybe everyone lurks; there's definitely an effort barrier to commenting.)

    I ask because I'm about to start a blog of my own, but I'm afraid I won't have the fortitude to publish posts without getting some sort of reception. Any advice to a beginning blogger?

  3. Ted,
    Thanks for the comments.
    Yes. The lack of comments is discouraging, particularly given there are about 500 page views per day.