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Using and Citing Images: How to Include Pictures in a Research Paper

If you think to include pictures, charts, images, and other non-textual elements in your essay or research paper, it can be a very wise decision. An image can make your writings more understandable and visually attractive. Some pictures serve as an example of what you describe in your research.

There are many good reasons to use images for your academic writing. However, most students avoid it, losing their chance to make their papers more interesting. Often, scholars don’t know that a picture or graphic can be used in their essay, thesis or research papers. Sometimes students understand that using non-textual elements is allowed, however, they don’t know how to include pictures in a research paper correctly with proper citing.

In fact, it’s quite easy to understand how to include images in a research paper. It’s also simple to remember some basic rules and recommendations for including non-textual elements. You can easily upgrade your skills in writing academic papers with our special guide. Here we included clear explanations and guidelines that will teach you to choose and use images for your academic writings.

The best experts from our research paper writing service have prepared a detailed guide on including pictures, graphs and charts in your research paper. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

Why would you need to use Images in your research paper?

It’s not necessary to include images in your research paper. However, sometimes it can be very useful. There are several reasons to use images when writing research paper:

    1. To explain a process.

Some processes are complex and are not easy to explain. If you feel that words are not enough to describe something, you can illustrate it with a picture. For example, you can write pages describing the arranging of driving gear or use a single illustration to show it.

    1. To show the example.

Any statement you use in your article or research paper shall be supported with evidence and an example. You can use a picture or chart as an understandable example to support your idea. For example, speaking about the effect of different drugs on bacteria, you can use before-after pictures and graphs as illustrative examples.

    1. To classify terms.

If you use a lot of terms to write research paper, you can group and classify them with the help of a chart or scheme. Such a format allows you to make a huge piece of information structured and understandable.

    1. To attract attention.

Sometimes a graphic image can serve for attracting the attention of your readers. Such images may be included in a research paper when you write about pieces of art, cultures, etc. In such a case, images are not necessary; however, they will make your writing more entertaining and visually attractive.

We’ve described some popular reasons that make students use images when writing their essays, theses, research papers or dissertations. It’s possible that you will find your own perks of using images.

What types of images can you include in your paper?

In order to make your academic paper better structured and more understandable, you can use several types of images, including photos, drawing, infographics, charts, etc. There are no strict limitations of the types of images that you can use, creating research paper. However, there are clear requirements for those images.


Choosing a picture for your research paper, you shall be sure it fits your writing adequately. You can use almost any type of pictures. However, it’s better to make detailed pictures research and choose those that have some important characteristics:

  • Visible and clear both in web-document and on a printed paper.
  • Legal to use (it’s fair to place your own images or those that are allowed to use by their owner.)
  • Correspondent to the context.

There are three main ways to include pictures research paper needs in its text:

  1. At the end of your research paper. You can place pictures after the text of your research writing, living a reference or a link to a correspondent picture inside your text.
  2. Inside your paper, separately from the text. It’s also possible to place a picture on a separate page inside your research paper. In this case, you can also mention the correspondent picture in the text, addressing your reader to it.
  3. Inside the text. You are also allowed to place a picture inside your text using in-text citations to indicate each image. However, many teachers ask to avoid it as it may make text formatting more complicated. If you choose this way of picture placement, your teacher may also recommend you to put a picture to a separate page repeatedly for its better presentation.

Don’t forget that each picture shall have its name, description, and number, so your reader can easily find a picture that belongs to a text extract easily. Moreover, you may need to include some data about the picture owner, so you won’t violate any copyright norms.

If you plan an edition of a picture before placement (cropping it, adding some elements, etc.) it’s better to be sure that the owner of the picture allows it. You don’t have to worry about it if you draw or design the picture on your own.

Graphs & Charts

Graphs and charts often have great informative value and can be used instead of long and wordy explanations. There are many reasons to include these elements in your research paper. The most common are:

  • To compare two or more objects, phenomena or terms;
  • To illustrate some statistics data;
  • To illustrate meaning, size or level of influence of different phenomena.

Using graphs and charts decides several problems at once. It gives a huge amount of information in a very laconic way and allows comparing different results and criteria. Such elements make your research paper easier to read. Moreover, such technic guides the attention of your focus group to some important facts and data presented in your writing.

You can use ready materials after some graphs research or create your own graphics, using simple computer programs or online tools. Support your graphs and charts with understandable comments and name each of its illustrated parts, so a reader can easily understand what your graphic or chart shows.

Just like with pictures, you can choose one of three possible ways to place a graph or histogram: after the text of your research paper, on a separate page right after the correspondent paragraph or right inside the text.

How to use and cite images and graphs in your research paper

If you decide to place any type of images in your research paper, you shall understand that there are special rules for the fair use of pictures and graphs. Following these rules will help your readers to find the needed image easy and fast. The correct citing is also crucial for making the whole research paper more understandable.

While the rules of using and citing images are not difficult, they may differ depending on the academic style required by your university. That’s why it’s important to recognize the academic styles and to know the differences between them to use and to cite images correctly.

APA example

APA format is widely used for scientific works and media presentations. In addition, this style is very common for museums, exhibitions, galleries, libraries, photo collections, etc. Choosing this style to cite your images and to mention resources it was taken from, you give a full list of important information concerning an image.

In the case of APA style, image citations shall include:

  • Name of a picture creator (an artist, web-designer, photographer) or an owner of an image;
  • Full date: day, month, and year when a picture or photo was created. If you use some historical photos or images, you can mention the year only as the exact date may be unknown;
  • Place where an image was published: country, city, state, etc.
  • A name or a title of an image if there’s any;
  • A publisher: organization, association or a person who presented the image.

N.B.: If you use a picture that was published on the Internet, you provide a link to it instead of the name of a publisher.

Example #1: Johanson, M. (Photographer). (2017, September, 5). Vienna, Austria. Rescued bird. National gallery.

Example #2: Hendricks, N. (Photographer). (2008, July 29). Reconstruction of a building [digital image]. Retrieved from //

MLA example

MLA style is one of the most commonly used for academic paper and publication. It allows using nearly any picture without risk of violating the rights of its owner or creator. Moreover, it allows giving background information about an image in a very laconic and informative way.

In the case of MLA style, image citations shall include:

  • Name of a creator or owner of an image;
  • The title, name or description of an image;
  • Site or resources where it was published or presented;
  • Names of contributors responsible for an image if there are any;
  • Version or serial number of an image if there’s any;
  • The name of an image’s publisher;
  • The full date of creating or publishing an image;
  • The link to an original image used for your research paper.

Example: Austeur, Henry. “Abandoned gardens, Potawatomi, Ontario.” Historical Museum, Reproduction no. QW-YUJ78-1503141, 1989,

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