Cochrane Style Manual
Tables

In this section: Types of tables | Formatting: cell alignment | Width and height | Title | Column headings | Row headings | Table body | Footnotes: examples; positioning

Additional guidance on how to present text in tables in Cochrane Reviews is in development and will be added to this section.

Types of tables in Review Manager 5

There are five types of table available in Review Manager 5 (RevMan 5).

Table

Description

Permitted formatting

Footnotes permitted?

Tables in main text

Used for presenting limited amounts information in tabular format within the main body of text

Same as available within main text plus heading cells, cell alignment, and cell merge

No

‘Characteristics of studies’ tables

Used for recording the characteristics of studies that are included, excluded, awaiting classification, or ongoing. Each type of study has a number of predefined attributes (methods, participants, interventions, outcomes), and users can include additional attributes.

Same as available within main text

Yes

Risk of bias’ tables

Used for additional characteristics of included studies, such as details of allocation concealment. (These are called 'Assessment of methodological quality tables' in diagnostic reviews.)

Same as available within main text

Yes

‘Summary of findings’ tables

Can be generated with GRADEproGDT software and imported into RevMan 5

See Grade Profiler software

Yes

Additional tables

Used for tables that are too large or not sufficiently important to be in the main body of text. Each table has a title and can be linked to the main text.

Same as available within main text plus heading cells, cell alignment, and cell merge

Yes

Formatting options

In addition to the formatting that is available within all of the main text, some tables (see Types of tables in Review Manager 5) have three further options: heading cells, which applies heading style to the cell (shown as bold in RevMan 5); cell alignment, which allows a choice of horizontal and vertical alignments; and cell merge, which allows adjacent cells to be merged together to create a single cell.

Formatting should be consistent within a single table. As with other parts of a Cochrane Review, the visual presentation of tables will change during the publication process; for example, it is important not to use the ‘Enter key’ within a single block of text (e.g. in a single word if the word runs over two lines) because the text layout will also change during the publication process.

Cell alignment examples

Tables

Width and height

The width and height of tables or individual cells cannot be specified. Instead, cells (and thereby row, columns, and tables) expand automatically to fit the content.

Table title

The title should be concise and reflect the table content. Use sentence case without a full stop at the end.

Column headings

Column headings should be in sentence case and formatted using ‘Toggle heading/cell’, which applies heading formatting to the cell. This also applies if there are nested column heads (i.e. two rows of column headings); the top heading in nested column heads is likely to be in a series of merged cells that span the relevant columns.

Horizontal alignment: in general, the heading cells should be left aligned. If the table contains nested column heads (see above), then the top row should be centre aligned.

Vertical alignment: column headings should be bottom aligned (instead of top or middle aligned).

Row headings

Tables may or may not have headings for each row. If so, these should be in sentence case and formatted using 'Toggle heading/cell', which applies heading formatting to the cell.

Horizontal alignment: the row headings should be left aligned unless there is good reason to do otherwise.

Vertical alignment: in general, row headings should be top aligned.

Table body

Use sentence case if the content is all or mainly text. Use numbers instead of words in tables (see Exceptions to basic rules for numbers and ordered events less than 10). Only use full stops to end blocks of text when the block ends with a full sentence.

Horizontal alignment: in general, the body cells should be left aligned.

Vertical alignment: vertical alignment of the body cells should be top (instead of middle or bottom). There may be occasions when the cells should be bottom aligned, but this should only be done when it makes sense visually.

Blank cells: avoid blank cells in a table. Insert an em-dash or ellipsis if the column heading does not apply to the cell, or use NA (not applicable) or ND (no data available) if a distinction is needed. Remember to explain these two abbreviations in the footnotes.

Footnotes

Footnotes are a convenient way to define abbreviations and acronyms or display other explanatory notes (see Examples of table footnotes below). Use superscript lower-case letters to denote footnotes. Where a footnote symbol follows punctuation, place the footnote symbol immediately after the punctuation mark unless it is a dash or closing bracket. Where a footnote refers to a specific point within a sentence, place the footnote symbol immediately after the relevant phrase (see Examples of correct and incorrect positioning of footnote symbols below). The placement of the footnote symbol should go from left to right, followed by top to bottom. When a footnote refers to the whole table, for example referencing the source of the table content, the footnote symbol should go at the end of the table title.

Each footnote needs to be explained. Repeat the superscript letter immediately under the table and follow it with the explanatory text. There is no space between the superscript letter and the explanatory text. Start each footnote on a new line, using a soft return between footnotes (i.e. hold the shift key when pressing return). Footnotes may or may not be full sentences, but if they are full sentences they should end with a full stop.

Examples of table footnotes

Use a superscript letter for a footnote.a

The order of footnotes should go left to right, followed by top to bottom.b

A third footnote could be used here.c

aUse the same superscript letter in the footnote text below the table.
bFootnotes that are full sentences should finish with a full stop.
cStart each footnote on a new line. Use a soft return (i.e. hold the shift key when pressing return) between new lines.

Examples of correct and incorrect positioning of footnote symbols

Correct

Incorrect

The analysis does not include the full study.a

The doses were inconsistent (from 0.5 mg to 10 mgb) and reported only once a day.

The dosesc were inconsistent (from 0.5 mg to 10 mg).

The analysis does not include the full study a.

The doses were inconsistent (from 0.5 mg to 10 mg)b and reported only once a day.

The doses were inconsistent (from 0.5 mg to 10 mg)c.

aFootnote referring to the full sentence
bFootnote referring to the information in parentheses
cFootnote referring specifically to the word 'doses'

Section info
Contact
John Hilton (jhilton@cochrane.org)
Describe change
Clarified guidance on presentation of footnotes (may or may not be full sentences; sentences need a full stop)
Change date
6 February 2019