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APA Citations (7th ed.): Figures

This guide will help you learn how to properly cite sources in APA style and how to avoid plagiarism.

Figure Components

In APA Style, all types of graphical displays other than tables are considered figures.

The basic components of a figure include the following:

  • Number: The figure number (e.g., Figure 1) appears above the figure in bold.
  • Title: The figure title appears one double-spaced line below the figure number in italic title case.
  • Image: The image portion of the figure is the chart, graph, photograph, drawing, or other illustration itself.
  • Legend: A figure legend, or key, if present, should be positioned within the borders of the figure and explains any symbols used in the figure image.
  • Note: Three types of notes (general, specific, and probability) can appear below the figure to describe the contents of the figure that cannot be understood from the figure title, image, and/or legend alone. Not all figures include figure notes.

Figure Example

More examples may be found on pp. 233-250 of the manual.

Figure Numbers

Number all figures that are part of the main text (i.e., not part of an appendix or supplemental materials) using Arabic numerals--for example, Figure 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3.

Assign numbers in order which each figure is first mentioned in the text.

Write the word "Figure" and the number in bold and flush left.

Figure Titles

Give every figure a brief but clear and explanatory title; the basic content of the figure should be easily inferred from the title.

Write the figure title in italic title case below the figure number and double-space the figure number and title.

Avoid overly general and overly detailed figure titles.

Figure Images

The image part of the figure (e.g., graph, chart, diagram) should be saved in a resolution sufficient to allow for clear printing or viewing.

Limit the number of different shadings used in a single graphic. If different shadings are used to distinguish bars or segments on a graph, choose shadings that are distinct.

Avoid the use of gridlines in figures unless the gridlines will substantially aid readers in understanding the content. Likewise, avoid 3-D effects for mere decoration.

If a figure contains citations to other works, use an in-text citation.

For more information, see pp. 227-229 of the manual.

Figure Legends

A legend (or key) explains any symbols, line styles, or shading or pattern variants used in the image portion of the figure. Only figures that have symbols. line styles, or shadings needing definition should include legends.

The lettering of the legend should be of the same kind and proportion as. that appearing in the rest of the figure. Capitalize words in the legend using title case.

When possible, placed legends within or below the image instead of to the side to avoid having empty space around the legend.

Figure Notes

Figures may have three kinds of notes:

  • General notes
  • Specific notes
  • Probability notes

general note should explain units of measurement, symbols, and abbreviations that are not included in the legend or defined elsewhere in the figure. Explain the use of shading, color, and any design element that carries meaning.

Also include in the general note any acknowledgment that a figure is reprinted or adapted from another source. Placed explanations of abbreviations and copyright attributions for reproduced figures last in the general note.

specific note explains a particular element of the figure and appears in a separate paragraph below any general notes. Specific notes are indicated by superscript lowercase letters.

Place any superscripts for specific notes near the element being identified.

It is preferable to report exact values; however, if statistically significant values are marked with asterisks or daggers in the figure, explain them in a probability note.