Formatting Graphics and Visuals in APA Style

Statistics and results from data analysis are often best presented in the form of a table, and a theoretical model or pages of information are often best presented in a well-designed visual such as a chart or graph. The American Psychological Association (APA) distinguishes between two types of visuals: tables and figures. Both are used to provide a large amount of information concisely and to promote greater understanding of a text. This article explains how to format tables and figures according to APA Style 7th Edition.

Tables in APA Style (7th ed.)

Tables are organized in a row and column format and provide information that is not already given in the text. Tables should also be able to stand alone and be understandable without the accompanying text. Therefore, having a descriptive title for the table is important and so is using a “note” to explain any symbols, abbreviations, or asterisks used in the table.

When inserting a table in your work, include the following information (also exemplified by Table 1):

  1. Table number, aligned left, bolded, and presented in sequence: Table 1, Table 2, etc.
  2. Table title, aligned left, italicized, and offering a brief description the table: Title of Table
  3. The table itself, without shading or vertical borders; use horizontal boarders only for clarity such as a top and bottom border or to separate a row containing the sums of column data. Tables are double spaced unless one or one and a half spacing would enable the table to be displayed on a single page.
  4. Table note, double-spaced below the table, after the label “note” in italics: Note.

Use a callout such as “See Table 1” in the paragraph before the table to point the reader to it.

Example Table APA 7th Ed.

Table Notes

Table notes are only used when needed, and there can be up to three notes per table, ordered by type:

  1. General Note: General notes are given first. Table 1 in this article has a general note. General notes provide definitions, keys, and copyright statements for any information that came from a source.
  2. Specific Note: Specific notes provide information about individual columns or rows. If, for example, a specific column or cell’s data needed explanation, a superscript letter such as “a” would be placed by the data, e.g. Xa, and the same superscript letter would be placed before the note about it.
  3. Probability Note: Probability notes explain asterisks (*) or other symbols that provide probability values used in statistical hypothesis testing used for ruling out something occurring due to chance alone.
  • In statistical testing, researchers use a probability level between 0 to 1 to describe the chance of an event occurring, with 0 meaning the event will never occur and 1 meaning the event will always occur. In a table or figure, probability levels are assigned asterisks to indicate a range in probability such as p < .05 and *p < .01, and ***p < .001 (APA, 2020). The fewest number of asterisks indicates the largest probability and the greatest number of asterisks indicates the smallest probability level.
  • Plus (+) and minus (-) signs are also used in probability notes to show confidence intervals. For example, the results of an opinion poll may show 56% of the respondents prefer candidate A. If the confidence interval is +/-3, then 53%-59% of the population agrees with those sampled.
  • Probability notes may also provide confidence levels to indicate how certain the researcher is that the general population will agree with the poll respondents. For example, if the confidence level is 95%, then there is a 95% certainty that 53% to 59% of the population agrees with those polled. Researchers typically use a 95% confidence level.

Example of a general note, specific note, and probability note:

Note. The poll revealed that respondents prefer candidate A. YA = ages 18-30. A = ages 31-43. Adapted from “Title of Article,” by A. Author, Copyright Year, Publication Title, vol(issue) page-page. (URL). Copyright year by Copyright holder or Copyright License or In the public domain.

Data are for all genders.

p < .05. *p < .01.

In the example above, the notes are to be double spaced as shown in Table 1, and each type of note begins on a new line with the first note providing general information about the table including a copyright note for the data used in the table. The second note gives specific information about the data in the rows, and the third note provides the probability (p) values.

Reference Entries for Table Data

A reference entry would also be included for any source of information used in the table and noted in the table note. The reference entry goes on a reference list at the end of the paper.

Table Checklist

  • Is the table necessary?
  • Is the table mentioned in the text?
  • Is the table inserted under the paragraph where it is first mentioned?
  • Is the title brief but explanatory and one double-spaced line below the table number?
  • Are all vertical borders in the table eliminated?
  • Does every column have a heading including?
  • Are the notes in the following order: general note, specific note, probability note?
  • Are the notes double spaced?
  • Are all abbreviations, symbols, and special uses of dashes, italics, or boldface explained in a note?
  • If the table is for statistical testing, are probability levels identified?
  • If more than one table is used, are probability level asterisks consistent from table to table?
  • With statistical testing data, are confidence intervals reported and consistent for all tables?
  • If all or part of a copyrighted table is reproduced or adapted, does the general table note give full credit to the copyright owner and have a corresponding reference entry?

Figures in APA Style (7th ed.)

Figures include visuals such as charts graphs, pictures, maps, etc. When inserting a figure in your work, include the following information (also exemplified in Figure 1):

  1. Figure #, aligned left, bolded, and in sequence: Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.
  2. Figure title, aligned left, italicized, and offering a brief description the table: Figure Title
  3. The figure itself
  4. Figure note, double-spaced below the table after the label “note” in italics: Note.

Use a callout such as “See Figure 1” in the paragraph before the figure to point the reader to it.

Example Figure APA 7th Ed.

The Chart tool in Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint provides options for various types of graphs and charts. With so many types to choose from, it’s important to carefully consider which type will best present the information. For example,

• a column chart displays categories of variables;
• a bar chart demonstrates comparisons between single items;
• a pie chart shows percentages;
• a scatter plot illustrates correlations; and
• a line graph demonstrates relationships.

The Microsoft Office Support webpage provides examples of these types of charts and more.

Figure Notes

As with tables, there can be up to three notes under the figure, ordered by type: (a) general information about the figure including a copyright statement for compiled data or images from the Internet, (b) specific information about individual sections, bars, graphs, or other elements of the figure, and (c)) probability explanations as discussed in the section on tables.

Copyright Statements for Compiled Data

When you use data and information in your table or figure that was compiled from research, the figure must contain a general note with a copyright statement identifying the copyright holder of that information. Because you are using this information for an academic purpose that is not for profit, you will not need to also acquire permission from the copyholder. It is considered “fair use” for students and scholars to use information that has been previously published if the information is attributed to the copyright holder with proper documentation.

Use the following copyright statement template in a note for data or information that came from a journal or book:

Journal: Note. From [or Adapted from] “Title of Article,” by A. A. Author, year, Journal Title, Volume(Issue), p. xx (DOI or URL). Copyright year by Name of Copyright Holder or In the public domain or Copyright License such as CC BY-NC.

Book: Note. From [or Adapted from] Title of Book (p. xx), by A. A. Author, year, Publisher (DOI or URL). Copyright year by Name of Copyright Holder or In the public domain or CC BY-NC.

Copyright Statements for Images

Images are different than compiled data. Depending on where the image is from, it may or may not require a copyright statement in a note under the image.

Copyrighted images: To use a copyrighted photograph, permission from the copyright holder is needed. It is an act of plagiarism to use a copyrighted image without permission.

Copyright statement template for copyrighted image that you have permission to use:

From [or Adapted from]. Title of Work [Photograph], by A. A. Author, year of publication, Site Name (URL). Copyright year by Name of Copyright holder. Reprinted or Adapted with permission.

Creative Commons licensed images: Photographs with Creative Commons licenses may be used without permission, but each type of Creative Commons license has different stipulations. You can read about each here: The licenses generally all require attribution to the source or creator of the image. (See Figure 2).

Copyright statement for Creative Commons image:

From [or Adapted from]. Title of Work [Photograph], by A. A. Author, year of publication, Site Name (URL). License such as CC BY-NC.

Figure 2

Photograph With a Creative Commons License for Reproduction With Attribution

Note. From Lilies After Rain [Photograph], by C. Cairns, 2015, Flicker. ( CC BY 2.0.

Public Domain images: Public domain works are not protected by copyright law or they have expired copyrights such as works published before January 1, 1924. In APA Style, works in the public domain are credited in a copyright statement in the note. (See Figure 3).

Copyright statement for image in the public domain:

From [or Adapted from]. Title of Work [Photograph], by A. A. Author, year of publication, Site Name (URL). In the public domain.

Figure 3

Photograph in the Public Domain

study for the cellist

Note. From Study for The Cellist [Photograph], by A. Modigliani, 1909, Abcgallery ( In the public domain.

Free Photos Online: Some photo sites allow for reproduction of images without attribution to the source or creator of that image. Sites such as Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash, for example, provide images that do not require attribution. A copyright statement is not needed for these images.

Reference Entries for Figures

In addition to a copyright attribution, include a reference entry for any source credited in a figure note. Below is the APA Style (7th ed.) reference entry template for a photograph:

Author last name, First initial. Middle initial. (year). Title of photograph [Photograph]. Site or Source Name. URL

Figure Checklist

  • Is the figure necessary?
  • Is the resolution of the image clear enough to be read and understood?
  • Is the figure mentioned in the paper’s text?
  • Is the figure inserted under the paragraph where it is first mentioned?
  • Does the text explain how the figure is relevant to the discussion in the paper without repeating all the information from the figure in the text?
  • Does the figure title provide a brief explanation?
  • Are all elements of the figure clearly labeled?
  • Are all figures numbered consecutively?
  • Is proper credit given to the source of the figure in the figure note?
  • Are the notes double spaced?
  • Has a reference entry been provided for the source of the figure?


American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association: The official guide to APA style (7th ed.).

© 2020 by Purdue Global Academic Success Center and Writing Center

4 Responses

  1. Leslie Ann Braniger says:

    What size should the visual be in the actual paper? I have students ask this, and frequently their visuals cover half an entire page, but I cannot find the answer.

  2. dana gugin says:

    I”ve learned a lot from reading this.. I have never an apa paper before

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