How to cite pictures, figures, tables and maps

Last changed: 06 July 2021

On this page you can read about how to write references to illustrations, i.e. pictures, photographs, tables, maps etc according to the SLU Harvard reference style. You also need to be aware of copyright restrictions when you use other people’s illustrations in your work.

Pictures, figures, tablesmaps etc. are different varieties of illustrations. Illustrations that you have not created yourself, that do not have a Creative Commons-license or that are free to use in any other way, are copyright protected, and you need the copyright holder’s permission to publish them. 

When you include an illustration in your work there needs to be a figure or table description in addition to the illustration, that tells the reader what the illustration shows. (Figure descriptions are placed below the figure and table descriptions are placed above the table.) The description should also include information about the origin of the illustration, to inform the reader where the illustration can be found and who the creator is. 

Every illustration needs to be referenced in the text, to help the reader know when it is relevant. By numbering the illustrations in the figure and table descriptions, it is easier to refer to them in the text. 

These are the three most common ways to cite illustrations: 

  • Sometimes you can include the reference in the figure or table description only 
  • In case you want to include many illustrations in your work we recommend you create a separate list of figure references 
  • A third option is to include complete illustration references in your regular reference list 

If you are unsure of what practice is preferred at your department, please ask your teacher or supervisor. 

How to write references to different kinds of illustrations 

Illustration from the web or a database

The reference can look like this, next to the picture/photograph/drawing etc: 

If you have the information, write in the figure description below the picture: 

  • Title (if the illustration lacks a title, create one that describes it) 
  • Creator/organization 
  • Year 
  • Link to the source 

Example of how to write the figure description if the image has a single-person creator

Bumblebee on flower, close up.

Figure 1: Bumblebee on Lavender Blossom(Falbisoner 2015) (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Example of how to write the figure description when an organization holds the copyright

Illustration of flowers, painting.

Figure 2: Nature study with pink and white flowers and grass (Uppsala University Library 1879)

Example if the image/figure has a Creative Commons licence 

In this case  you should also provide a link to the CC-definition, in the figure description and/or in the figure list. 

Mushrooms, close up.

Figure 3. Mushrooms (ONeal 2009) (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) 

The reference list

If you want the source to be a part of the reference list, provide, when possible, this information: 

  • Creator/organization 
  • Year 
  • Title (if the illustration lacks a title, create one that describes it) 
  • What kind of illustration it is [i.e. photograph] 
  • Available: Archive/Database (if the illustration is available in an archive or database) 
  • Link to the source 
  • [Date] when the illustration was obtained 

Creator (Year) Title [kind of illustration] Available: Archive/Database. Link [Date] 

If the figure description is created automatically in your formatted document, you can add this information manually. 

Falbisoner, M. (2015). Bumblebee on Lavender Blossom.[photograph]. [2020-02-13]  

Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek (1879). Nature study with pink and white flowers and grass [drawing]. Available: ALVIN. [2020-02-13]  

ONeal, C. (2009). Mushrooms. [photograph]. [2020-02-13]  

Illustration from a book, article or report

When the illustration is from a book, an article or a report, you cite that source, as well as the page where the illustration can be found, instead of the illustration directly. 

The figure description should contain: 

  • Title 
  • A reference to the source, including author, year and page number 

Example of how to write a reference where the image creator is the same person as the source’s author 

cell division, black and white illustration

Figure 1: How a cell divides. (Burkett 1914:10) 

The reference to the source is written in the figure list or the reference list, based on publication type. 

Burkett, C.W. (1914). The Farmer’s Veterinarian. New York: Orange Judd Company 

Example of how to write a reference where the creator is someone other than the source’s author: 

In this case the creator of the illustration should be named in the figure description, instead of the source’s author. 

Swallow, water colour.

Figure 2: Treeswallow (Singer 1977:61)  

Write in the figure list or the reference list: 

  • The creator of the illustration 
  • Publication date of the source 
  • The title of the illustration 
  • What kind of illustration it is i.e. [photograph] 
  • The word In: followed by a reference to the source, i.e. author, title, place of publication, publisher 

Singer, A. (1977) Tree swallow [drawing]. In: Scott, V.E., Evans, K.E., Patton, D.R. & Stone, C.P. (eds.) Cavity-Nesting Birds of North American Forests. Washington: Forest Service U.S. Department of Agriculture 


When you use a table in your work, you need to include a table description that explains the content directly above it. The text should also contain a reference to the table to provide context. If you use many tables you can create a table list. If you use someone else’s table you need to be aware of any copyright restrictions. If you only use the data, but create the table yourself, you only need to cite the source. 

Example of how to write a reference to a table from a book: 

Table 1: Singapore’s domestic household water consumption (Rowe & Hee 2019:59) (CC BY 4.0)  

table chart.

In the text: 

Water consumption is expected to decline (table 1) in the years to come. 

In the table list or the reference list: 

Rowe, P.G. & Hee, L. (2019) A City in Blue and Green : The Singapore Story. Singapore: Springer [2020-03-16]  

Maps and geodata

Maps are copyright protected and you need to follow copyright restrictions if you want to use a map in your work. If you’ve used a map and added information about roads, buildings, bodies of water etc (geodata) you need to cite both the map and the geodata. 

You can draw your own map without needing any permissions. If you copy a map or change only details, you may be in danger of plagiarizing. If you use someone else’s map you need the creator’s permission (unless it’s free to use). 

SLU has an agreement with the Swedish Land Survey (Lantmäteriet) that gives students and employees at SLU the right to use their digital maps, both current and historical, in their works and publicationsYou have access to digital maps and geodata from several sources, as well as historical maps. 

How to cite dynamic digital maps 

It is hard to give an example of a generic reference, since maps can be created using many different online tools. The most important aspects are that you follow copyright rules and cite the map in a way that gives the reader enough information about where you got the map, and to possibly recreate it. 

Write in the reference, if possible: 

  • Publisher 
  • Year 
  • Details of the map, i.e. coordinates or place 
  • Format/dataset 
  • [Map] 
  • Link to the map 
  • Date of map creation 

Publisher (Year) DetailsFormat/dataset [Map] Link [Date] 

Example of a reference to a dynamic digital map: 

Swedish Land Survey (2020) Alnarp. SWEREF 99 TM, RH 2000. Aerial photograph [Map] [2020-05-11]  

Students and employees at SLU have the right to use maps from the Swedish Land Survey, SGU, SCB or the Swedish Maritime Administration in their works and publications. If you use those maps, include the following text in your work: 

Data source/map name © Name of admininstrative authority 

Different map tools have different user terms. Find out what restrictions that might apply to the map you’ve created: 

 How to cite geodata 

Wikipedia defines geodata as a “series of standards as data and information having an implicit or explicit association with a location relative to Earth”. 

It is hard to give an example of a generic reference, since geodata can be obtained using different tools. The most important aspects are that you follow copyright rules and cite the data in a way that gives the reader enough information about where you got the data, and possibly to recreate it. Make sure to check what copyright restrictions apply to the data you’re using. 

How to cite historical maps 

When you use historical maps, you should cite both the kartakten (map details) and the archive that holds the map. If you use a digital map, i.e. the Swedish Land Survey’s Historical Maps archiveyou should give that information in your reference. If you have information about i.e. scaleparishcounty or surveyor you can add those under details. 

Write in the reference, if possible: 

  • Publisher 
  • Year 
  • Details of the map, i.e. coordinates or place 
  • File designation
  • [Map] 
  • Available: Name of map archive 
  • [Date] when the map was obtained 

Publisher (Year) Details. File designation [Map] Available: Name of map archive [Date] 

Lantmäteriverket (1775). Storskifteskarta över Luttra, Luttra socken, Skaraborgs län 1775. Akt: P137-3:1 [Kartografiskt material]. Tillgänglig: Lantmäteriets historiska kartarkiv [2020-04-22]  

How to cite a printed map 

Write in the reference, if possible: 

  • Creator/organization 
  • Year 
  • Title 
  • [Map] 
  • Edition (if more than one exists) 
  • Scale 
  • Place of publication 
  • Publisher 
  • Series   

Creator (Year) Title. [Map]. Scale. Place of publication: Publisher 

Lantmäteriverket (2003). Topographic map produced for Swedish Armed Forces to be used for national and multinational exercises. [Map] 1:50 000. Gävle: Krigstryckningsorganisationen (KTO). 

If the printed map is published online, add: 

  • Link 
  • [Date] when the map was obtained