A. General Overview and Guidelines for Usage

  • The purpose of utilizing visual aids in a paper is to further enhance the reader’s comprehension of what is being said in-text. It is important, however, to use careful discretion when deciding to include a visual aid in a paper, as it is not smart to include an aid to take up space, or because the author believes it “adds” to the paper. Thus, visual aids should only be used when necessary.
  • As per MLA style, visual aids are embedded directly into the document
  • Before anything, be sure to collect the appropriate sources and information required by MLA to properly document the visual aid (e.g. the source medium; print, Web, etc.).
  • Be sure to think through which visual aid will best suit the intended purpose of the author. Consider how the use of a certain visual aid, such as a table or figure, will help aid in reader comprehension of the presented information.
  • The visual aid that is used should be of absolute best quality. To avoid poor quality, be sure that the visual aid chosen is not blurry, pixilated, or distorted (this often occurs when something is edited more than it should be).
  • It is still possible to plagiarize through a visual aid; be sure to include all source information, and present original source information (if, for example, the visual aid is not produced by the author, but by a previous author/creator). Do not manipulate another’s creation to fit a specific paper; that is still plagiarism, as it is misrepresenting another’s work.

B. Labels and Captions

  • Regardless of the type of illustration being used in the paper (e.g. tables, figures, photographs, etc.), each must include a label, a number, a caption, and/or source information (if applicable; information on source information is listed separately)
  • The illustration label and number will appear in two places:
    • The main text of the document (e.g. “Consult fig. 1 for more information”)
    • Near the actual illustration
  • Captions provide titles or explanatory notes (e.g. if an abbreviation is used in a table or a figure, the caption would provide the full name of that abbreviation)

C. Source Information

  • Source information, which appears in-text, depends on the medium of the source illustration
    • If the source information is provided for all illustrations, then the information does not need to be provided on the Works Cited page
  • Source information in MLA is listed in note form, which is much like standard MLA bibliographic entries, besides a few exceptions (explained below):
    • Author names are in First Name—Last Name format
    • Commas are substituted for periods (except in the case of the period that ends the entry)
    • Publication information appears in parentheses (e.g. location: publisher, year)
    • Page numbers follow the publication information
  • Below is an example of the format of source information in note form, if the source is from a book:

First name Last Name, Title of Book (City: Publisher, year of publication)
          page(s). Medium of publication (In this case, Print).

D. Tables

  • Tables, typically, provides the reader with supplemental, descriptive information
  • The author should refer to the table and its corresponding numeral in-text (this is typically done in parentheses); the word table is never capitalized
    • Example: Insert information (see table 1).
  • The table should be situated near the text to which it relates, and will be aligned flush-left to the margin
  • Label the table “Table ___” (The open space being the corresponding Arabic numeral)
    • Example: Table 1; Table 2; Table 3
  • Right below the label, provide a caption (usually the table title); use standard capitalization rules
  • The table is placed below the caption
  • Below the title, signal the source information with the descriptor “Source” followed by a colon, then provide the correct MLA bibliographic information for the source in note form
    • Utilize hanging indentation for any subsequent lines after the first
    • Remember: If the source information is provided in-text, it does not also need to be provided in the Works Cited
  • If any additional information (i.e. caption information, explanatory notes, etc.) is needed, use lowercase letters formatted in the superscript in the caption information/table
    • Below the source information, indent, provide a corresponding lowercase letter (not in superscript), a space, and the note
  • Note: labels, captions, and notes are double-spaced

E. Figures

  • Any visual or illustration that is not a table is considered a figure (labeled “Figure” or “Fig.”)
    • Examples include maps, diagrams, charts, videos, photographs, podcasts, etc.
  • As is with tables, figures are referred to in-text as either “figure” or “fig.” (no capitalization) and an Arabic numeral that corresponds
  • There are no specific alignment requirements for figures, as per MLA
    • Figures may be embedded within the document as the author believes they should be
    • Figures do, however, follow all other MLA format (e.g. margins, double-spacing, etc.)
  • A label name and its corresponding Arabic numeral are placed below the figure (no bold or italics) followed by a period. The label name is capitalized.
    • Example: Fig. 1.
  • On the same line as the label and number, provide a title and/or caption, along with any relevant source information in note form
    • As with tables, if the source information is provided alongside figures/illustrations, then it is not necessary to provide this information on the Works Cited page