How to Cite a Diagram

How to Cite a Diagram
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In this digital era and at the heart of scholarly discourse, diagrams bridge the gap between complex concepts and visual clarity. Diagrams are important tools in academic writing as they reveal the intended information quickly and clearly.

There are rules to be followed when using diagrams in your article, essays, or research paper. Failure to which you will be undermining the principles of academic integrity and credibility of our work.

This blog will discuss the art of diagram citations. We will elaborate on citation styles to enable you to cite diagrams accurately and ethically to unlock your door to academic excellence.

What is a diagram?

Before talking about diagram citation, we must first discuss what it is. Diagrams are visual representations comprising flowcharts, graphs, maps, tables, and illustrations used in academic writing. They are used to simplify complex ideas and present data for effective communication and clarity.

Features of a diagram

When using diagrams in your researched paper or article, it must include the following features;

  • Number: The figure number (e.g., Figure 3). The number appears above the figure in bold (no period finishing).
  • Title: The title should be one double-spaced line below the figure number in Italics (no period finishing).
  • Image: The image portion of the figure is the chart, graph, photograph, drawing, or illustration itself.
  • Legend: A figure legend, or key, if present, should be positioned within the borders of the figure and explain any symbols used in the figure image.
  • Note: A note may appear below the figure to describe contents of the figure that cannot be understood from the figure title, image, and legend alone (e.g., definitions of abbreviations, copyright attribution). 

Not all figures include notes. Notes are placed on the left, non-italicized, and should begin with Note. (italicized, period ending). The notes area will include reference information, if not an original figure, and copyright information as required.

Rule of thumb

  • In the text, refer to every figure by its number, with no italics, but with a capital "F" for "Figure." For example, "As shown in Figure 1, ..." 
  • There are two options for the placement of figures in a paper. You can place all figures on separate pages after the reference list or embed each figure within the text.
  • If you reproduce a figure from another source, you should include a copyright acknowledgment in the figure note and indicate the origin of the material in addition to a reference. 
  • For postgraduate students and researchers: If you wish to reproduce or adapt figures you did not create in your thesis, dissertation, or other published work, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder/s unless the figure is in the public domain (copyright free). 

How to cite a diagram in your work

Below are the in-depth process of citing diagrams in your work. If you find the process tedious, you can reach us at Acemyhomework to get assistance from our experts on the entire process and other academic writing problems.

  • Provide Context: 

Before introducing a diagram, briefly explain its relevance to the topic or your point. This helps readers understand why the diagram is used and enhances its overall impact.

  • Introduce the Diagram: 

Introduce the diagram by mentioning its type (e.g., graph, flowchart, illustration) and briefly describe its content or purpose. This allows readers to anticipate the information they will gain from the diagram.

  • Number the Diagram: 

Assign a number to each diagram, such as "Figure 1," "Table 2," or "Diagram A." Refer to the diagram consistently throughout your text using these numbers or labels to maintain clarity and easy reference for readers.

  • Reference the Diagram In-Text: 

When discussing the diagram in your text, refer to it by its assigned number. For example, "As shown in Figure 1..." or "Table 2 illustrates...". This connects the diagram to your written analysis and ensures smooth integration.

  • Interpret and Analyze: 

After introducing the diagram, interpret and analyze its content or significance. Explain the diagram's key findings, patterns, or relationships and how they support or contribute to your argument or research.

  • Use Captions: 

Provide informative captions for each diagram, placed directly below or adjacent to the diagram. Captions should include the assigned number or label, a descriptive title, and any necessary additional information (e.g., data sources, units of measurement).

  • Include In-Text Citations: 

Include in-text citations to acknowledge the source when referring to the diagram's details or data points. This can be done by mentioning the author's name, publication year, or the source title within parentheses or as part of the sentence.

  • Format the Diagram Clearly: 

Ensure that the diagram is presented clearly within your document. Use high-quality images or create diagrams with legible text and visible details. If necessary, resize or adjust the layout to fit the document's format without compromising clarity.

  • Follow Citation Style Guidelines: 

Adhere to the specific citation style guidelines (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago) for formatting in-text citations and the diagrams' reference list or bibliography entries. Consistency in formatting and adherence to style guidelines are essential.

  • Proofread

After completing your writing, carefully review the integration of the diagram citations. Check that the numbering, references, captions, and citations align correctly and accurately with the diagram content and the corresponding entries in your reference list or bibliography.

How to cite diagrams in different citation styles

University professors and lecturers often give easy assignments with clear instructions on citation style types. It's important to follow the specific guidelines based on the styles required. If you don't understand the different citation styles, don't fret, you can reach us at Acemyhomework. We will gladly help with the assignment using the citation style required. That being said,  below are some of the commonly used citation styles.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style:

You can create a citation and format in APA with these simple steps, whether you cite a figure from a book, an article, or a website.

  • Figure

Begin with "Figure" and then the number of the figure (in chronological order) in italics. For example, if the figure is the first to appear in the paper, you would start the citation with “Figure 1.”

  • Description

Give a brief explanation of what the figure is about by summarizing the information in the figure in a clear way. For example, if you cite a graph with statistics, you may write, “Graph of statistics on Malaria patients in France in 2023.”

  • Note the source of the figure used.

Write "Reprinted from" or "Adapted from," followed by the title of the book, article, or website where you found the figure. Include the page number where you found the figure. For example, 

  1. You may write in a citation for a book, "Reprinted from The Narrative Life of Fredrick Douglas  (p 34)."
  2. For a citation for an article, you may write, "Adapted from 'Statistics Mexico Reveals Shift in Census.'"
  3. If you cite a figure from a website, you may write, "Reprinted from The Washington Post." 
  • When referencing 

If the reference is a book, note the year the book was printed and the city and state of the publisher. Include the name of the publisher as well. For example, you may write, "2008, New York, NY: Homer Press" or "2010, New Haven, CT: Beehive Press."

If you use an article reference, include the year the article was published, the journal's name, journal volume, and page number in italics. For example, "2017, Statistics Canada56, p. 103" or "2002, Children Today14, p. 90."

  • For a website, note the year the figure was published on the website, if available; if not available, use "n.d." for "no date." Then, Note "Retrieved from" and the URL of the website. 
  • Note the copyright information. 

Note the copyright year and the copyright holder's name for the figure. You can find this information in the citation in the source. For example, you may write, "Copyright 187 by the Statistics U.S.A  Bureau". Leave the information out if you cannot find copyright information for the figure. 

  • Proofread

After creating the citation for the figure,  check the information again to ensure all information is covered. 

A complete citation for a figure from an article would be: “Figure 4. Graph of statistics on household income in Canada in 2010. Adapted from 'Statistics Canada Reveals Shift in Census,' by B.Lork and M.Casper, 2017, Statistics Canada56, p. 103. Copyright 217 by the Statistics Canada Bureau.”

  1. Modern Language Association (MLA) Style:
  2. Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
  3. Harvard Referencing Style:
  4. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Style:
  • In-text citation: Include the author's last name or the diagram's title in parentheses when referring to it within the text.
  • Works Cited: Include the author's name, the title of the diagram (italicized or in quotation marks), source information, and publication details.
  • Footnote/Endnote: Use superscript numbers to reference the diagram within the text and provide a corresponding footnote or endnote with full citation details.
  • Bibliography: Include the author's name, diagram title, source information, and publication details.
  • In-text citation: Include the author's last name and the publication year when referring to the diagram within the text.
  • Reference list: Include the author's name, publication year, diagram title, source information, and publication details.
  • In-text citation: Use numbered citations within square brackets to reference the diagram within the text.
  • References: Include the author's name, the title of the diagram (italicized or in quotation marks), source information, and publication details.

What is the importance of citing diagrams in academic writing?

  • Show gratitude for intellectual contribution

It is ethical to recognize the intellectual contribution of others when using diagrams created by them. Citing the source not only gives credit to the original creator but also upholds the principles of academic integrity, promoting ethical research practices.

  • Act as supportive evidence

Researchers and students use diagrams to support their arguments, findings, and explanations. A properly cited diagram allows readers to locate the source, allowing them to verify the information and evaluate its credibility.

  • Enhances credibility

Through citations, writers demonstrate reasonable steps to their work. Citations show that the writer has consulted numerous sources, gone through the existing literature review, and cooperated relevant diagrams to improve their academic knowledge.

  • Promoting transparency

Diagrams can lay basic experimental setup methods and data misrepresentations. Through diagram citations, researchers promote transparency and facilitate the replication of studies, fostering scientific progress and advancement.

  • Avoid plagiarism

Engaging in plagiarism can have detrimental effects on one's academic career. By citing diagrams, writers avoid the risk of submitting someone else's work as their own, maintaining academic honesty and originality. Proper citations provide crucial information about the diagram's origin, enabling readers to access additional resources or alternative formats for individuals with visual impairments.

  • Encouraging collaboration

Citing diagrams promotes academic dialogue and collaboration by nurturing communitarianism among researchers and scholars. By acknowledging the work of others, writers contribute to the ongoing conversation within their field and open avenues for further exploration and collaboration.

How to cite different information used in academic writing

Different diagrams are cited differently as an intext and in the reference section. Below we are going to discuss how to cite diagrams.

Graphs and charts

When citing these diagrams, you should include the author's name, the graph's title, and the publication year. If the graph is sourced from a specific publication, such as a research article or a book, it should be cited in the reference list using the appropriate citation style. If you refer to a figure in an article but do not include it in your text, format the in-text citation and the reference list entry in the usual way for an article, citing the page number where the figure appears. Example

In-text citation: in the installation Talking about the Weather (Randerson, 2007, p. 332) ...

Reference list entry: Randerson, J. (2007). Between reason and sensation: Antipodean artists and climate change. Leonardo40(5), 350– 355


Maps are used to demonstrate statistical information. Include the organization or author responsible for the design when citing maps. When the information is sourced from a publication or website, the appropriate format should be followed when citing the map in your work.

Diagrams obtained from the internet should be cited in the following way. From Title of Webpage, by First Initial. Second Initial. Author Surname [or Group Author], Year, Site Name [omit if same as Group Author] (URL). Copyright Year by Copyright Holder [or In the public domain or Creative Commons license abbreviation]. Reprinted with permission. [or Adapted with permission.] if permission is sought and obtained.

Illustrations and Diagrams

These include schematic diagrams, anatomical drawings, or conceptual illustrations. During citations of these diagrams, provide as much information as possible, such as the creator's name, the title or description of the illustration, and the publication details. If you refer to a figure in a book but do not include it in your text, format the in-text citation and the reference list entry as usual, citing the page number where the figure appears. Example 

In-text citation: interpretations of the portrait Mona Lisa (Gombrich 1995, p. 302).

Reference list entry: Gombrich, E. H. (1995). The Story of Art (16th ed.). Phaidon.


Researchers and students use diagrams to support their arguments, findings, and explanations. A properly cited diagram allows readers to locate the source, allowing them to verify the information and evaluate its credibility. There are rules to be followed when using diagrams in your article, essays, or research paper. We have listed the rules and regulations with examples above. 

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