How to read a table
On this page:
> Rows and columns
> Row headings
> Column headings
> Sampling error
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The ABS presents much of its information in the form of tables where data is presented in rows and columns. By following some simple principles, information can be quickly understood from a table.
Look at the heading at the top of the table. There will be an overall description of the information presented in the whole table. By examining these headings it will be apparent fairly quickly whether the table will be useful to you.
Rows and columns
The data in a table is presented in rows (horizontal ) and columns (vertical). The intersection of each column and row is called a cell. Each row and column has a heading.
Row headings give an explanation of the data contained in each row of a table. The row label is often broken down into sub-headings to give more detailed information. It is important to remember that the top heading (the one furthest to the left hand side of the page) is the heading for all sub-headings indented underneath it.
These are also broken down into sub-headings. The hierarchy is shown by horizontal lines drawn over columns to which the heading immediately above the line applies.
Footnotes are used to add comments and/or explanation to the data held in a table. Always read the footnotes carefully to ensure you are interpreting the data accurately.
Sampling error is related to the error that occurs because we are testing a sample of a population, and the sample’s characteristics may differ slightly to the characteristics of the entire population.
Once you are clear on what the table is about, proceed to the actual figures and extract the information you require. Over time, you will be able to interpret tables more quickly and accurately. It is good practice, however, to be methodical and follow the steps above any time you use a table.
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