Citing Images

Just like other resources used in your work, images require proper citation. Check with your instructor to find out which style manual to use, for example, MLA, Chicago, or APA, and always consistently apply the rules of that style for both images and textual materials. If you are including illustrative material in your thesis see Thesis Requirements: Formatting Guidelines for addition information.

Properly citing your sources, including the images you reproduce and reference, is a way to ensure that you maintain academic integrity.

Image Citation Best Practices:

  • Gather information about the image: Record as much information as possible about the images you plan to use when you are doing your research. This may require a bit of investigation and tracing images back to their original source. The information required in a citation or caption could include:
    • Creator’s name
    • Title of the work
    • Date of creation
    • Repository, museum, or owner (in other words, where the work/image is now located)
    • City or country of origin
    • Dimensions of the work
    • Material or medium (e.g. oil on canvas, marble, found objects, etc.)
    • Image source (e.g. the name of the database, website, book, postcard, vendor, etc.) including the date accessed and the URL
    • Copyright status or Creative Commons license
  • Always check terms of use: Following an image back to its original source is another way to ensure it is being used legally on the site you found it. (For images taken from websites this is usually found under “Terms of Use.”) Also, some institutions may ask that you cite their images in a certain way and stipulate the inclusion of an accession number or collection information. Remember: Explicitly citing an image source is not a replacement for obtaining copyright permission if it is required.
  • When possible use the more authoritative source: If you have a choice of different versions of the same image use the version of the image that is more authoritative. The more reliable source is most often easier to cite. For example, if you have the option of choosing between citing an image on Wikimedia Commons or citing the same work on the museum website that owns the actual work, it is better to cite the museum website. Generally museum or institutional source information is clearer and more accurate.
  • Keep track of copyright information: In some cases, depending on the extent you plan to use the image, you may need the permission of the institution or organization that owns the work or provides online access to the work through a website or database. For in-text figures and images copied and added to your work always include copyright and licensing information as required by your source.
  • Cite it where you got it: There are often multiple versions of the same image on the Internet. If you are including a copy of an image in your work you must always cite the exact image and source you are using.
Content last updated: February 6, 2019