I just want to mention a picture/table in my text in APA style, without using the image in my work.

I think of something similar as follows:

Page and Brim (2016) show in Figure 99 "Description of Figure" that ...

What different ways of mentioning figures/tables are allowed in APA style?

Are the following for example allowed:

  • Page and Brim (2016) show in Figure 99 "Description of Figure" that ...
  • Figure 99: "Description of Figure" in/of? Page and Brim (2016) shows ...
  • Figure 99: "Description of Figure" contained in? Page and Brim (2016) shows ...
  • The structure is illustrated in Figure 99: Description of Figure (Page & Brim, 2016).
  • Figure 99: "Description of Figure" (Page & Brim, 2016) illustrates ...

And how about the quote symbols ("...") for the title of the image, should they be used, or should this text be italic? One could get confused whether the number of a figure references a figure within this paper or not, right? Should a colon (":") be used?

Are there other allowed ways?

I have literally no clue what is right and I could not find any specific information about that in the web.

2 Answers 2


You don't cite figures, you cite research.

It does not matter whether the information you refer to is given in text, in a table, or in a figure. A reader of your article who wants to look at the source that you cited will find the information regardless of where in that source it was presented.

For example, Page and Brim (2016) – whose article I have no read – might report some mean of their data in text, in a table, or in a figure. For a reader of your article it will be irrelevant where the mean was reported, all they want to know is what article you found it in, if you discuss it.

So cite Page and Brim (2016) as you would cite them if the information was given in text.

You would only refer to an illustration if the fact that it was an illustration was somehow important to your argument. I cannot think of such a situation, so I am making one up: Maybe your article discusses coloring barplots, and you think that the red bars in Page and Brim (2016) are very good. Then mention the number of the figure in any way that you want. There is no rule for that. Usually, figures are either cited (that is, they are included in your text) or not mentioned at all.

  • The problem is, that I cannot include the figures/tables from the paper, as I would need to ask the publisher for permission, as my work will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. As I need to discuss the content of some external figures and tables in my work, I need to refer to them without including them into my work. The decision was made not to ask the publisher for permission and to just refer to the figures/tables without including them so that the reader can look up the images/tables.
    – Anderson
    Jan 24, 2017 at 9:04
  • 1
    I think, you made it clear to me, as you stated, that I can refer to the images in any way by mentioning the number of a figure in any way I want, by properly referring to the original paper. I will also include the page number where e.g. the image can be found, so that it is easier to find. One such example like I will write it is as follows: Figure 99: Description of Figure (Page & Brim, 2016, p. 123) shows ...
    – Anderson
    Jan 24, 2017 at 9:07
  • @Anderson I think the example citation you give in your comment is perfectly acceptable. But it is bad practice to not include all the necessary information in your article and thereby force readers to refer to outside sources to understand your own argument. Your text must be comprehensible on its own. Some of the sources may even be paywalled or otherwise unaccessible to some of your readers. Why don't you try to get a permission and only use your solution if you don't get it? If you write a scholarly article, it is quite likely that you will get permission.
    – user5645
    Jan 24, 2017 at 9:20
  • The reason is that it was decided afterwards to use this more restrictive license. I created the work with all the images/tables and now I need to remove and just refer to them, as we are lacking time and it was decided to do it this way. This was not my decision but I need to make the changes. Thank you very much for your support!
    – Anderson
    Jan 24, 2017 at 9:25

I suggest you reference the paper with only the specific page number. Typically, there is no need for specifically referencing a Figure. That way, you can describe what it is from that figure that you want your readers to know, and readers that want to find that information will find it on the page you reference.

Page and Brim (2016, p. 123) show that/how...

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