Frequency Tables

Last updated on January 19, 2022


Frequency tables are kind of what they sound like: tables that show the frequency (or how many times) a particular response is given. These are particularly useful for summarizing your data when you have a lot of cases. It’s hard to see what’s going on when all you have are the individual responses each person gives, so frequency tables help us to organize those responses into some kind of meaningful order.

An example might be if you surveyed 100 people about their feelings about people who don’t pick up after their dogs when they doodle in the park from 1=the WORST! to 5=no problem at all. I’m guessing you’d probably find more people responding closer to 1 than closer to 5; but if you just read out all 100 answers this would be hard to just see. So, you might choose to put their answers into a frequency table, where you tally up the frequency (or number) of people who responded with each of the response categories, like so:

Note a few things about this table

  1. There are no borders around the cells
  2. The value labels are ordered from worst to best
  3. The ‘n’ is included which refers to the total number of people who were surveyed
  4. The frequency column is clearly labeled
  5. All the numbers line up at the decimal place, pretty much centered under the word frequency.

To interpret this table, you would see where there is a higher or lower frequency of people for which values. Since this (made-up) sample included 100 people, it’s easy to see that the majority of people do not like it when people do not pick up after their dogs. But, often times we will add an additional column to offer percentages so we can see what the relative size of the frequency is, this is particularly important if you want to compare two groups’ responses.

I added in some lines because it made it a bit more readable to me, but I made sure not to have every cell look like it’s in a box.

So, how do we interpret this?

According to Table 1, the majority of respondents are displeased with those who do not pick up after their dogs at the park. Specifically, 26% of dog owners and 50% of non-dog owners see non-picker-uppers as “the worst” with another 30% and 40%, respectively, stating that they find the non-poop-pickup as “super gross & annoying.” However, we can see greater tolerance for the notion that “s*it happens” among dog owners (40%) than non-dog owners (10%).

Note, that this table is also very similar to a cross-tab table (aka contingency table).

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