I have about 5 relatively small tables which will be shown in the same part of my thesis. I think it might be a waste of space if I place one table per line, but I am not sure whether one should put e.g. 2 tables side by side in an academic thesis as I have never seen someone do this.

What is the convention?

  • 3
    The convention is what is clear to read or what is specified by your institution and/or advisor.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 7:01
  • I would carefully consider if (i) all tables are necessary, (ii) some tables might be better turned into figures, (iii) some tables could be merged. I would also think about having a table and related figure on the same line. If after all these considerations you still think you should put two tables on the same line, go for it (but you should consult your advisor).
    – user9482
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 11:50
  • Don't forget the whitespace. It makes text easier to read. A busy page looks intimidating, and is usually harder to focus on.
    – Boris Bukh
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 14:23

2 Answers 2


The only rule here is to do what is best for your reader. Try it different ways and see which presentation is simplest for the reader to interpret. Some considerations to bear in mind are simple labelling of your tables and close proximity of the tables to any textual explanation of their contents. Try to allow the reader to see the tables and accompanying textual explanations without having to flip back-and-forth between pages. Your supervisor might be able to give you some guidance here, but the goal is to make the dissertation as clear and simple as possible. The fact that you have not seen this before in a dissertation is not determinative of any problem with it.

If you find that you are presenting large amounts of information in tables, then another thing to bear in mind is that tables are usually a poor way to present large amounts of information, relative to appropriate graphs. Consider whether you can present the same information graphically in a simple and clear manner, and relegate the accompanying tables to an appendix. Again, you should be driven by consideration of what is best for your reader. Always ask yourself: if I was reading this and had not seen it before, how would I want it presented to me?

  • 2
    For a dissertation, first follow any university and department rules about the format. Those take precedence over everything else, even readability. Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 13:09
  • 1
    Heaven forbid we create educated thinkers that would violate rules! ; )
    – Ben
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 0:15

In general*, it is a bad idea. Even a two column table will look fine when centered on the page and with 1+ inches of white space between the columns. It is the norm*, for thesis style to have lots of white space margins, double spacing, non-wrapped tables and figures, single-column, etc.

They are not usually set with anything approximating the layout in a journal. (Even for journals, they often have an easier time type-setting articles that have simple "white paper" style formatting with figures/tables at the end, etc. versus attempts to make the thing look like an article ahead of time.) In addition, I think you will find it easier to maintain the formatting of the document over time (as you write it), if you don't do some complicated setting of two tables side by side.

I did my thesis with the tables/figures at the end of each chapter and used endnotes versus footnotes for the citations (like a white paper or journal submission...and several chapters were sent to journals almost as is). This was received fine in terms of the review committee and the "ruler lady" (grad school format czar who checked white space and such). In general, I advise to write clearly and simply and truthfully and with good content. Elaborate typography is not desirable and can make your life a hassle as you work with a large document over time (distracting you from the core content).

*Of course follow your local thesis style guide. I am giving you general advice.

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