Citing Table elements

I am trying to figure out how to cite the elements in a table for a series of men to indicate their ages and approximate birth years as taken from their listing in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. census records (as a substitute for lack of birth records for that time). In addition to the man's name, I want to list his location in each census, and his age in each census. The table includes about 15+ men. How do I provide a citation to each of the two census years for each man within the table? If I do a full citation for each, the citations will take as much if not more space than the table. Is it acceptable to use a shortened citation form and if so, what format? Or is there a better way to organize the data? I want to show the 15+ males in a related extended family who would have been of an age to have served in the Civil War, using their appearances in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. census records as the reference point for their approximate ages.

Submitted byEEon Sat, 07/25/2020 - 09:20

cshotts, with formatting issues for citations, we can find a variety of ideas by perusing peer-reviewed journals to see how they handled the situations.

For example, my John Watts articles in NGSQ 104 (September 2016), had two tables. Each was handled a different way, as dictated by the size of the table.

  • p. 171, the table had 13 lines of text. The citations required 9 lines. All of that could be fitted on one page. Therefore, the editors positioned the notes at the bottom of the table.
  • p. 173, we presented a table that took up the entire page. Each fact in the table that needed documentation was assigned a reference note; all those citations would have filled another page. The editors chose to put one line at the bottom of the table: "Note: See appendix for documentation." The appendix at the end of the article then presented all the citations, keyed to the table, but did not use a table format.

Elsewhere in journals, I have seen full-page tables use the facing page, designed as a continuation of the table, to present the citations.

The most important points are these:

  • Whenever a table asserts something that is not common knowledge, that assertion must carry a citation. The fact that information appears in a table does not remove this responsibility.
  • Because our text conventionally uses 1, 2, 3, etc. for references, tables that have extensive documentation conventionally uses a,b,c, etc., for its references. If a table has very few citations, then a simple set of symbols might be used: the asterisk, dagger, double-dagger, etc. Chicago Manual of Style (being primarily a style manual) offers more advice on this point.