Finding and Using Images

These webpages explore different types of image sources, explain how to search more effectively for visual materials, provide resources for Creative Commons and public domain images, offer information on copyright and fair dealing, and provide examples of image citations by style.

Stereoscopic image called The Ghost in the Stereocope
The Ghost in the Stereoscope, c. 1856, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved from Image in the public domain CC0.

Questions to ask yourself before you start your image search:

1. What type of image does my work require?

  • Do you need to seek out specialized databases with reliable metadata and information attached to the image? Is the image central to your argument? Is it meant to illustrate your point or add appeal?

2. To what extent do I plan to use this image?

  • Will you be using this image once or are you planning to re-use this image multiple times? Will your project, report, or presentation that includes this image change in nature and move beyond educational use to commercial use?

3. How am I going to reproduce this image?

  • Are you including this image in a PowerPoint presentation, on a large-format poster, in a printed essay, or in a paper uploaded to CULearn?

Remember: Images need to be properly cited just like texts, so whenever possible choose images that allow you to identify their creator and their source. Also, using images in your work requires an awareness of their limitations. Factors that affect how you can use an image include:

  • The reliability of the information attached to an image
    • If there is no reliable information associated with an image it may not be appropriate for inclusion in academic work.
  • Restrictions on use due to copyright and licensing term
    • Just because you find an image online does not mean that it’s free to use.
  • Image format, quality, and resolution
    • The visual quality of the images you include have an impact on the overall quality of your work.


Content last updated: February 6, 2019