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MLA Citation Style & Formatting 8th Edition: Image Citations & Captions

A comprehensive guide to creating citations in MLA style

Guidelines for adding visual materials or other illustrations

Common types of visual materials include tables and figures, including images or other illustrations. The same principles for visual materials can be used for the addition of embedded audio or video files, or other multimedia content.

Each table or figure should include a label, caption, and source (citation) information.

Example of a Figure

pedestrians walking by a wall with grafitti and the word love

Fig. 1. Pedestrians walking by street art graffiti of the word love from "Pedestrian Street Art Protest," 26 Dec. 2016, Accessed 29 Nov. 2017. 

In text citation example:

Some grafifti artists protest the status quo by promoting messages of love or peace in locations that get frequent pedestrian traffic (see fig. 1).


Labels depend on the type of visual information inserted into your document. There are three options for labels:

  • Table - Data presented in a table format
  • Figure - Other visual formats such as charts, graphs, illustrations, images, etc.
  • Example - Only used for examples of musical illustrations showing a portion of a musical score

Each label is numbered according to the order it appears in your document.

The label for "Table" is always spelled out. The labels for "Figure" or "Example" may be abbreviated "Fig." or "Ex." due to space constraints.

The illustration label and number should always appear in two places: the document main text (e.g. see fig. 1) and near the illustration itself (Fig. 1).

Table 1

Fig. 1.

Ex. 1.


Captions may provide titles, explanatory notes, and source information.

  • Tables get a label, title, and caption as needed.
  • Figures and Examples get a label and caption.

Titles appear above the table, while captions appear below the table, figure, or example.

If the caption of a table or illustration provides complete information about the source and the source is not cited in the text, no entry for the source in the works-cited list is necessary.

[Figure/image is inserted here]

Fig. 1. Description of the figure from: citation for source figure was found in.

Table 1

Title of Tablea

[Table is inserted here]

Source: Citation for source table was found in is included in the caption.

a. Note: Additional explanatory information may be included in the caption using MLA's note format. The letter "a" refers to the "a" found at the end of the Table title.

Source Information

Source information documentation depends upon the type and source of an illustration--just like it does with works cited list citations. The required information depends on if you found the illustration online, in a book, in an article, etc. Follow works cited list guidelines for what information to include about your source.

If you provide complete source information with your illustration captions, you do not need to duplicate this information on the Works Cited page.

The format for source information provided in captions is slightly different than the citation details format in the works cited list.

  • Creator names are written FirstName LastName.
  • Commas are substituted for periods (except for at the end of the sentence).
  • For long entries that are confusing to read when only commas are in use, use semicolons to separate sections.
  • Relevant page numbers or other location information follow the publication information when applicable.