Tabulation refers to the systematic arrangement of the information in rows and columns. Rows are the horizontal arrangement. In simple words, tabulation is a layout of figures in rectangular form with appropriate headings to explain different rows and columns. The main purpose of the table is to simplify the presentation and to facilitate comparisons.

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According to Neiswanger, “A statistical table is a systematic organisation of data in columns and rows.”


According to Connor, “Tabulation involves the orderly and systematic presentation of numerical data in a form designed to elucidate the problem under consideration.”

From the above cited definitions, it is clear that tabulation refers to the systematic arrangement of data in rows and columns. The arrangement of data obtained after this process is called a table.

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Objects and Importance of Tabulation


Tabulation is a technique to present and interpret the complex information in a simple and systematic form. The main objectives of the process of tabulation are as follows:

  • The main purpose of the tabulation is to simplify the complex information so that it can be easily understood.
  • Under tabulation, data is divided into various parts and for each part there are totals and sub totals. Therefore, relationship between different parts can be easily known.
  • Since data are arranged in a table with a title and a number so these can be easily identified and used for the required purpose.
  • Tabulation makes the data brief. Therefore, it can be easily presented in the form of graphs.
  • Tabulation presents the numerical figures in an attractive form.
  • Tabulation makes complex data simple and as a result of this, it becomes easy to understand the data.
  • This form of the presentation of data is helpful in finding mistakes.
  • Tabulation is useful in condensing the collected data.
  • Tabulation makes it easy to analyze the data from tables.
  • Tabulation is a very cheap mode to present the data. It saves time as well as space.
  • Tabulation is a device to summaries the large scattered data. So, the maximum information may be collected from these tables.

Rules of Tabulation

There are no hard and fast rules for the tabulation of data but for constructing good table, following general rules should be observed while tabulating statistical data:

  • First of all, there should be a proper title to each table. Table number and title of table must be written above the table.
  • The table should suit the size of the paper and, therefore, the width of the column should be decided before hand.
  • Number of columns and rows should neither be too large nor too small.
  • Captions, heading or sub-headings of columns and heading and sub headings of rows must be self explanatory.
  • Each column and row must be given title. Title of column is called caption and title of the row is called stub.
  • As far as possible figures should be approximated before tabulation. This would reduce unnecessary details.
  • Items should be arranged either in alphabetical, chronological or geographical order or according to size.
  • The units of measurement under each heading or sub-heading must always be indicated.
  • Foot note can be written if necessary, either use signs like X etc.
  • The sub-total and total of the items of the table must be written.
  • Percentages are given in the tables if necessary.
  • Ditto marks should not be used in a table because sometimes it create confusion.
  • Table should be simple and attractive.

Parts of a Table or Preparation of a Table


Preparation of a table is an art which needs an expert handling of data. Following general principles may be followed for the purpose of preparing a perfect table:

Table Number: When a table or a book contains more than one table, each table must have a number. The tables are numbered in a sequence so that they may be easily referred to. The number of the table should be placed at the middle on the top of the table.

Title: Every table must have a suitable heading. The heading should be short, clear and convey the purpose of the table. It should contain four types of information:

  • The subject matter
  • Time
  • Basis of classification
  • Sources.

Besides, the main heading, there may be some sub-heading also.

The title should be so worded that it permits one and only one interpretation. Its letters should be the most prominent of any lettering on the table.

Long titles cannot be read as promptly as short titles, but they may have to be used for the sake of clarity when necessary. In such a situation a “catch title” may be given above the main title.

Captions and stubs: Captions refer to the vertical column’s headings, whereas stubs refer to the horizontal row’s headings. Captions generally give the basis of classification e.g. sex, occupation, meters, kms, etc. It may consists of one or more column headings. Under a column heading, there may be sub-heads. The captions should be clearly defined and placed at the middle of the column. It is desirable to number each column and row for reference and to facilitate comparisons.

Head notes: Head Note is a statement given below the title which clarifies the contents of the table. It gives an explanation concerning the entire table or main parts of it, e.g., the units of measurement are usually expressed in a head note such as ‘in hectares’, ‘in millions’, ‘in quintals’ etc.

Body: The body of the table contains the figures that are to be presented to the readers. The table must contain sub totals of each separate class of data and grand total for the combined classes.

Source: The source is given in case of secondary data. It gives the sources from which the data were obtained. The source should give the name of the book, page number, table number etc. from which the data have been collected.

Limitations of Tabulation

Tabulation suffers from the following limitations:

  • Tables contain only numerical data. They do not contain details.
  • qualitative expression is not possible through tables.
  • Tables can be used by experts only to draw conclusions. Common men do not understand them properly.
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