Images, whether illustrations or photographs, can enhance or center a paper’s argument. However, just how you format an MLA image citation will depend on where you viewed it (in person, online, or in print). This comprehensive guide explores how to cite an image in MLA format, providing clear instructions for referencing visual elements in academic writing. Mastering the art of citing images in MLA upholds academic integrity, enriches research, and engages readers with visually enhanced scholarly work.
Definition: How to cite an image in MLA
MLA is a writing style outlined by the Modern Language Association. This writing style is adopted by the humanities, particularly, within literary, cultural, and media studies departments. As these subjects frequently deal with visual material, you’ll need to learn how to cite an image in MLA properly.
How to cite an image in MLA depends on its source. Is it an artwork held by a collection, published in a book, or available to view on the internet? Each has different rules on how to cite an image in MLA. These are in place to help your reader locate the source. As many images are readily found online, you’ll most likely use this method of citation:
How to cite an image in MLA: Books
When citing an image that appears in a book, the MLA image citation method depends on whether the author created the image. If it is, simply cite the book as a whole with a figure or page number in-text to indicate where to find the image.
If you’re citing an image in a book that’s not attributed to the same author, you need to provide extra details in your MLA image citation. These include the image’s author, its title, and year of production if known.
As the page number here is provided in the Works Cited listing, you don’t need to add a page number to the in-text citation.
How to cite an image in MLA: Museums
Museums and galleries are common sources of images. To cite an artwork or other such image, name the institution and city it’s in. If the city is self-evident from the name, you can skip this.
Similarly, if you viewed the artwork via the institution/collection’s website, add the URL to your citation.
How to cite an image in MLA: Journal articles
Images from journal articles can be cited just like a book. How to cite an image in MLA this way depends on whether the journal author is the same or different from the image creator. Where the journal author is the same, simply cite the source as you would any other article and provide the figure/page number in-text.
If the author of the journal article is not the same as the image creator, extra information is required in the Works Cited entry.
How to cite an image in MLA: As a figure
If an image is important to your argument, you can place it within your paper for clarity. It will be listed in your paper as a figure. How to cite an image in MLA as a figure is formatted as follows. Figures are shortened to “fig” and are placed as close to the in-text reference as possible.
When formatting your figure on the page, begin by placing a centered caption below the image with the title “Fig” followed by its number, like “Fig. 2”. This number corresponds to the figure’s entry within your essay. You then have two options when captioning your MLA image citation:
- Provide full bibliographic information on where you sourced the image just as you would with a Works Cited entry. The only difference here is that the author’s name isn’t inverted, so “Millais, John Everett” is listed as “John Everett Millais”. As you provide this within the caption, you don’t need to repeat it with a separate Works Cited entry.
- Provide basic information, like the image’s author, date, and title. If you do this, you’ll have to provide a more detailed Works Cited entry for the image later. You may want to do this, for instance, when the bibliographic information is long and detailed.
If your image source has no title, use a description in plain text with no italics or quotations. Do not write “untitled” in your MLA image citation.
Whenever you’re referring to images that aren’t your own. You can also consider reproducing the image as a figure when helpful.