Tables & figures

Key words: tables, figures (e.g. graphs, diagrams, photographs, graphics), adapted, caption

At times, it may be permissible and appropriate to insert tables, figures and other graphics in your essay. These graphics may have been copied, adapted from sources of information or may be from your own research. They need to be relevant, correctly labelled and referenced—unless they are entirely your own work.

Please note that the APA referencing style is used in this workshop.

About tables and figures in your writing 

Tables and figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps) may be used as evidence to support academic argument. They are mostly used in report writing. It is important that tables and figures are used purposefully (i.e. with good reason) and referenced correctly.

Exercise 1: Inserting a figure into your writing

Click on ‘Start analysis’ to see how figures can be used in your academic writing.


For ALL tables and figures:

  • Labelling—put the label ABOVE for tables and BELOW for figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps)
  • Numbering—make sure that tables and figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps) are numbered sequentially. There should be two numbering series: one for tables and one for figures (e.g. Table 1., Table 2. AND Figure 1., Figure 2.)
  • Positioning—place tables and figures immediately below the paragraph/relevant text
  • In-text referencing—refer to the table or figure by number in your writing (e.g. Table 6 shows that …)
  • Diagram referencing—provide a reference to an authority if the table or figure is from or adapted from an outside source. If you have created the table or image yourself from your own data collection, you must still use a number and label, but no reference is required
  • Larger tables and figures—place large (one page and over) tables or figures in the appendices (see ASO Factsheet: Appendices )

Don’t do this! 

  • Don’t restructure data from an information source into another format (e.g. a graph, a flowchart) without referencing the author of your information. You may structure the graph, but the author still ‘owns’ the research!
  • Don’t just ‘plonk’ a table or figure into your writing. You need to refer to its existence and relevance to your argument in the preceding text.
  • Don’t give extensive descriptions in your writing of the contents of a table or diagram. The information in a table or diagram tells its own story—it’s your job to point out its significance to your argument.
More information:
ASO factsheet: to be uploaded