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Citing tables, figures, and images: Chicago (17th ed) citation guide

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This guide provides examples of citations of commonly-used sources, based on The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.), using notes/bibliography style only.

Need more? See Chicago Style Citation Quick Guide for an overview, or find print versions of the Chicago Manual of Style at the SFU Library and SFU Bookstore

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In Chicago Style, the term figure can refer to illustrations or images that are displayed or reproduced separately from the text. Illustrations or images, in this case, can refer to a wide range of visual materials, including photographs, maps, drawings, and charts placed within a text. [3.1] [3.5]

Figures can be used to more easily refer to illustrations cited in your writing. This is particularly helpful where there are several cited illustrations. An example of a textual reference to a figure might look like the following: "as figure 2 shows..."; "when comparing figures 3 and 4." The lowercase figure should be used when making references to figures in the text. [3.9]

Figure captions

Captions are usually included immediately below a figure, and provide a text explanation of the visual. [3.9] The amount of detail in captions can vary from a few words to several sentences. Caption text should, where appropriate, be formatted as complete sentences with capitalization and punctuation. [3.21]

The titles of works, such as those from which the figures are taken, should be reproduced according to the standard Chicago Style rules, discussed in Chapter 8 of the manual, for notes and textual references. [3.22]

A credit line, which includes a statement about the figure's source, should be included.  [3.29] This credit line often appears at the end of a caption. [3.30]


Figure 4. Frontispiece of Christian Prayers and Meditations (London: John Daye, 1569), showing Queen Elizabeth at prayer in her private chapel. Reproduced by permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Trustees of the Lambeth Palace Library.

Figure 3. Detailed stratigraphy and geochronology of the Dubawnt Supergroup.

Citing figures found in other works

When citing a figure, such as an illustration included within another text, you can include the abbreviation fig. to refer to the figure.


     1. First Name Last Name of creator, Title of Work (Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication), page number,  figure number.


     1. Kate van Orden, Music, Authorship, and the Book in the First Century of Print (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 38, fig. 2.


Images are sometimes referred to as illustrations, artwork, or art in the Chicago Style, and refer to images presented separately from text (as opposed to an embedded chart or figure). Images, or illustrations, can come in a range of forms, including charts, maps, line drawings, paintings, and photographs. [3.1]


  • Information about paintings, photographs, sculptures, or other works of art can usually be presented in the text rather than in a note or bibliography. [14.235]
  • If note or bibliography entry is needed, follow the guidelines below. 


     1. First Name Last Name of creator, Title of Work, date of creation or completion, medium, Name of Institution, location (if applicable), URL.


As illustrated in Three Planets Dance over La Sill[1]the phenomenon of 'syzygy' is when celestial bodies align in the sky. 

     1. Yuri Beletsky, Three Planets Dance over La Silla, June 3, 2013, photograph, European Southern Observatory,

Incorporating images into the text of your paper

  • If you chose to incorporate images into the text of your paper, the image should appear as soon as possible after the first text reference to it. [3.8]
  • Images should bear numbers, and all text references to them should be by the numbers (eg. “as figure 1 shows…”) The word “figure” should be lowercased and fully spelled out, unless in parenthetical references (where “fig” may be used). [3.9]
  • Below the image, the caption will begin with “Figure” or “Fig.” followed by a number and period. (Eg. Figure 1.) [3.23]
  • A caption may consist of a word or two, an incomplete or a complete sentence, several sentences, or a combination. [3.21]
  • Within a caption, most titles (including those for paintings, drawings, photographs, statues, and books) will be capitalized and italicized. [3.22]
  • A brief statement of the source of an illustration, known as a credit line, is usually appropriate and sometimes required by the owner of the illustration.[3.29]
  • A credit line usually appears at the end of a caption, sometimes in parentheses. [3.30]
  • In addition to author, title, publication details, and (occasionally) copyright date, the credit line should include any page or figure number. If the work being credited is listed in the bibliography or reference list, only a shortened form need appear in the credit line [3.32]
  • Illustrations from works in the public domain may be reproduced without permission. For readers’ information, however, a credit line is appropriate. [3.35]

Chicago in-text citation example

When celestial bodies are in alignment (see fig. 1) it is called syzygy.

Figure 1. An example of syzygy (celestial alignment) above the La Silla observatory, Chile. (Photograph by Yuri Beletsky, Three Planets Dance over La Silla, June 3, 2013, European Southern Observatory,

*Note: The above formatting is meant as a guideline only. There is no definitive format for a figure caption. For example, see some examples of captions from the Chicago manual:                        

  • Figure 1. Frontispiece of Christian Prayers and Meditations (London: John Daye, 1569), showing Queen Elizabeth at prayer in her private chapel. Reproduced by permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Trustees of the Lambeth Palace Library.
  • Figure 2. Francis Bedford, Stratford on Avon Church from the Avon, 1860s. Albumen print of collodion negative, 18.8 × 28.0 cm. Rochester, International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House.
  • Figure 3. The myth that all children love dinosaurs is contradicted by this nineteenth-century scene of a visit to the monsters at Crystal Palace. (Cartoon by John Leech. “Punch’s Almanack for 1855,” Punch 28 [1855]: 8. Photo courtesy of the Newberry Library, Chicago.)


General format

Last name First name. Title of Work. Date of creation or completion. Medium. Name of Institution. Location (if applicable). URL.


Beletsky, Yuri. Three Planets Dance over La Silla.  June 3, 2013. Photograph. European Southern Observatory.


In Chicago Style, a table is defined as list presented as an array with horizontal rows and vertical columns. [3.2]

When more than one table is included, table numbering is recommended. However, this numbering should be separate from figure/illustration numbering (for example, fig. 1, fig 2., table 1, fig 3.). [3.50]

References to tables in the text should use the lowercase form of the word table. [3.50] A numbered table should be included as soon as possible after it is first referenced in the text. [3.51]

Notes to a table come in several types, and are always included directly below a table. These notes should have a separate numbering scheme from the text notes. [3.76]

For tables taken from another source, acknowledgement needs to be made in an unnumbered footnotes starting with Source: or Sources: [3.77]


Sources: Data from Richard H. Adams Jr., “Remittances, Investment, and Rural Asset Accumulation in Pakistan,” Economic Development and Cultural Change 47, no. 1 (1998): 155–73; David Bevan, Paul Collier, and Jan Gunning, Peasants and Government: An Economic Analysis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 125–28.

Sources: Data from Adams (1998); Bevan, Collier, and Gunning (1989).