The table below shows by percent in which sector of the economy different age groups were employed. Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features, making comparisons where relevant.
What’s the primary problem when describing Tables? Too Much Information.
In the table above, there are 30 different pieces of data. How on earth can you possibly describe all of that? The solution is simple: Don’t try to.
Remember the task is to summarize and to select the main features of the table. You will therefore need to summarize the table in meaningful segments. In other words, you will describe the significant trends in your report. This means leaving some items of information out. The solution: Divide and Conquer.
The solution is to divide and conquer by looking at the table in rows and columns (horizontally and vertically). This way you can more easily identify the key details and comparisons. The key is to understand that you have two sets of data:
1. The data from the rows (across)
2. The data from the columns (down)
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Rather than try and understand the table as a whole all at once, look at each row in turn and each column in turn and note the main features (or sometimes trends). In other words, to see the main features, start by finding data (sometimes in patterns) under the horizontal and vertical headings.
What are the main features?
Typically, the main features are (a) high numbers (b) low numbers (c) the biggest contrasts (d) the closest similarities (e) something odd or interesting. As an example, looking at this column, we see that we need to include 23 and 3 as the
highest and lowest numbers.
Now looking at the rows below we note the numbers for manufacturing are much higher than catering and agriculture.
Then once you have gone through each row and column, you need to look for the more obvious comparisons and contrasts. To organize the report, a good strategy is usually to write one paragraph for the rows (here the sectors of employment) and one for the columns (here the age groups).