Table Trouble

Some of the most common errors in journal submissions are table-related. Here are a few tips, based on actual problems we see in Ochsner Journal submissions.

  • Data in the tables must match the data reported in the text.

The editorial staff at Ochsner Journal often see papers in which numbers in a table do not match the numbers reported in the text. For example, the text may say “52% of subjects were female,” but the table shows 58%. Percentage and value mismatch errors may occur when authors re-do their statistics after writing the first draft of their paper but only update either the text or the table in the subsequent draft. Simple typos are sometimes the culprit, too.

In other cases, authors may stratify a patient population by several demographics in the text—age, sex, race, medical history, for example—but include only some or none of this breakdown in the table. For tables to be an asset to the reader, they should reflect the stratification of data discussed in the text.

Bonus note: If data are missing for a particular variable or demographic—for example, authors couldn’t obtain marital status from all subjects—make note in both the text and in a footnote beneath the table. The editorial staff check all totals and percentages within the text and from text to table, and we query any value or calculation that doesn’t add up.

  • Permission is required to use an already-published table (or figure).

Sometimes authors want to use an already-published table or figure that is appropriate for their paper. Using material from another paper is acceptable, as long as authors acquire WRITTEN permission from the copyright holder—usually the publisher. Using someone else’s table or graphic without permission is plagiarism and a copyright violation.

Here is an example of appropriate attribution that the copyright holder provided in the document that gave us permission to reuse the figure:

“Reprinted with permission, Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography © 2021. All Rights Reserved.”

Find guidance on how to obtain permission here.

  • Tables must have SOMETHING to do with the topic of the paper.

The Ochsner Journal recently received a submission in which the table had absolutely nothing to do with the paper. The subject of the case report was saphenous vein graft aneurysms, but the authors included tables showing lab values and causes for hypersensitivity pneumonitis. The tables quite obviously were from another case. Including the wrong table or graphics in a submission signals to the editorial staff a severe lack of care on the authors’ part and often results in rejection.

Our best and simple advice is for authors to read their papers, including the tables, before submitting. Doing so will save the editorial staff time and save authors from a probable rejection.