Citing tables, figures & images: MLA (9th ed.) citation guide

This guide is based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 9th ed. and provides selected citation examples for common types of sources.

For more detailed information, please consult the full manual: available in print and online.

Referring to a table/figure/image, and inserting a table/figure/image have different guidelines; both will be covered in this section.

See pages 6-8 (section 1.7) in the Handbook for more information on citing tables and illustrations. 

For information on how to cite images on social media sites, see Citing websites and other online media.


Referring to visual materials

To refer to a table, figure, image etc. that is within a larger work, cite using normal MLA formatting with author, title, etc.

For example, if you are citing an image from an article, your works cited would be for the entire article. The in-text citation should clearly indicate the work you are referring to.

Image of a painting found in an edited print book

Parenthetical (in-text)

Evidence of an abstract portrait can be seen Lassnig’s 1948 painting The Reader (54).

Works cited

Lassnig, M. The Reader. Maria Lassnig - ways of being, edited by Beatrice von Bormann, Antonia Hoerschelmann, and Klaus Albrecht Schröder, 1948, p.54.

Table, found in an online journal article

Parenthetical (in-text)

It is within table 1 that we can see the breakdown of how big the sample size was per year (Riddell and Riddell 337).

Works cited

Riddell, Chris, and W. Craig Riddell. “Interpreting Experimental Evidence in the Presence of Postrandomization Events: A Reassessment of the Self-Sufficiency Project.” Journal of Labor Economics, vol. 38, no. 4, Oct. 2020, pp. 873–914.

Inserting visual materials into your work

According to the MLA guidelines, the use of tables/images/visual material in the body of your paper should be used sparingly. Determine if this medium will best suit your purposes and consider that an image is not a substitute for an explanation, but rather something that may enhance the reading of your paper. 

Place tables and illustrations as close as possible to the related text. Here are the key rules for inserting tables and other visual materials in your text:


  • Above the table, label and number the table (e.g. Table 1, Table 2) on its own line
  • Provide a title for the table that is descriptive of the table’s content on a line below.
    • Capitalize the title and the table.
  • Place the source of the table and any notes in a caption immediately below the table, and double space throughout. 
  • Do not capitalize the word ‘table’ when referring to it in your writing.

 Images and other visuals:

  • E.g. a picture, map, diagram, graph, chart, etc.
  • These should be labelled with “Fig,” and an assigned number (e.g. Fig. 1.)
    • Musical illustrations are an exception: they are labeled "Ex" (short for example) instead of “Fig".
  • Include a caption below the image that includes key information, or is a full citation.


  • May be the full citation, or it can be shortened to the key information (using commas); the full citation can be found in the works cited list.
  • If you provide full bibliographic details, punctuate the caption like a works cited entry, but do not invert the name of the author.
  • If the caption provides complete information about the source and it is not cited anywhere else in the text, no works cited entry is needed.

An inserted table

Parenthetical (in-text)

In the 1992 sample, (see table 1) 9601 people were interviewed, a number which decreased to 6309 people in 2006 (Platt et al., 2010).

Table in body or paper

Table 1

Sample Attrition by Year and Number of Interviews Completed, for Panel A and B

Table 1

Alyssa Platt et al. “Alcohol-Consumption Trajectories and Associated Characteristics Among Adults Older Than Age 50.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, vol. 71, no. 2, Mar. 2010, pp. 169–79, table 1,

Works cited

Platt, Alyssa et al. “Alcohol-Consumption Trajectories and Associated Characteristics Among Adults Older Than Age 50.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, vol. 71, no. 2, Mar. 2010, pp. 169–79, table 1,

Photo found online

Parenthetical (in-text)

As illustrated in Three Planets Dance over La Silla (Beletsky), the phenomenon of 'syzygy' is when celestial bodies align in the sky (see fig. 1).

Image in body of paper 

Figure 1

Fig. 1. Yuri Beletsky, Three Planets Dance over La Silla, photograph, 2013.

Works cited 

Beletsky, Yuri. Three Planets Dance over La Silla. European Southern Observatory, 3 June 2013, Accessed 22 Mar. 2019.

Image with full bibliographic information in the caption

Figure 2

Fig. 1 Fred Davis, Haida Angel. Topographies : Aspects of Recent B.C. Art, edited by Grant Arnold, Monika Kin Gagnon, Doreen Jensen. Vancouver Art Gallery, 1996.