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Images--How to Find, Use and Cite

Do I Need to Cite?

Images obtained off the web or scanned from a print source,  that you use in a presentation or research paper,  must be cited. 

Exceptions to the need to provide a citation to an image include royalty free clip art, such as the clip art available in Microsoft Word or Powerpoint.  To credit a photo from these sites, always check the terms and conditions for the individual photo, if available, and link or mention the source institution (Image Gallery, Artefacts Canada, etc.) and the creator, if given, where the image appears in your document.

The Copyright Act does not specify any citation requirements beyond the source of the material used and, if available, the name of the creator (ie:Creator, Source). While there is no legal requirement to attribute works in the public domain to their creator(s), doing so is good academic practice.. Generally, image citations should meet the same requirements as a text citation; that is, a reader should be able to find the source of the image, and the image itself, based on the information in the citation.

If permission to use the image is obtained from the copyright holder, the copyright holder may require a particular citation style or that certain information be included. Examples of where permission requirements go beyond the basic copyright requirements are licensed library databases, creative commons licenses, and individual use agreements.

To cite image sources in a bibliography, reference list or works cited list,  consult  the guides for MLA, APA, and other styles.

Include the citation as close to the image as possible, within the limitations of the medium.

How to Create a Citation

As a general rule, the following elements should be included in the citation

  • Artist's, photographer's etc name (if known)
  • Title of the image (if known); if not use a description
  • Institution (gallery, museum) where held (if applicable)
  • Date the image (or work represented by the image) was created
  • Date you accessed the online image)
  • Website and/or Database name

Other information that might be needed, depending on where you found the image:

  • Title of article or book
  • Author of article or book
  • Title and date of journal
  • Database name

The MLA citation format for images found online will depend on whether the image represents a work originally held in a museum or collection, or whether the image only exists on the web.

MLA Format for a work of art or photograph that exists in a museum or collection:

Creator's last name, first name. Title of Image or Description of image. Year of creation. Gallery or museum where the image is physically located. Title of the Website or Database. Medium of publication ("Web"). Date of access (Day Month (abbreviated) Year).

MLA Format  if the  image only exists on the web:

Creator's last name, first name. Title of Image or Description of image. Date of creation. Title of the Website where the image is located. Publisher or sponsor of the site (if available). Medium of publication ("Web"). Date of access (Day Month (abbreviated) Year).


Examples of Citations

For examples of citations from the UBC Citation Guide, click here.

Some helpful examples from SFU's citation guide.