How to Cite Figures

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Figures -- including maps, graphics or illustrations used as visual support for claims made in a paper or report -- must be cited appropriately. According to the widely popular Modern Language Association and the American Psychological Association guidelines, your figures’ captions should include in-text citations accompanied by a concluding reference list to guarantee that due credit is going to the creator or source of that image.

Placement and Format

  • The citation itself should be the last portion of information provided in each figure caption. It should follow the figure number, figure title, and the figure date and medium where applicable and be separated by a period. For example, “Figure 1: Illustration Title. Date. Medium (if applicable). From Source/Citation”.

Citation Information

  • The citation can be a full bibliographic entry, or it can be a short reference accompanied by your concluding reference list full entry. For example, if you borrow an image from the book “The Image Inventory,” you can cite that image within its caption by providing the book title, publication date and page number, or: The Image Inventory (in italics) (2014), p. 45.” If you requested specific use of this figure or paid a licensing fee, you must include any relevant copyright or permission information. This can be as simple as stating “reprinted with permission” at the end of the citation; however, the license-granting organization will provide clear labeling instructions. You could also provide a full bibliographic reference that includes additional information such as the author’s name, publication company, and location. For example: “Smith, Donna. The Image Inventory (in italics). 2014. New York, NY: Big Books Publishing, p. 45.” If this was an electronic source, you would add the full Web address and retrieval date to the end of the citation.

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  • Photo Credit Robert Churchill/iStock/Getty Images
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