I know this question has been asked before, but I am still confused. That’s why I am asking again, but in a detailed way.

In a scientific work, a master’s thesis for example, you will insert figures and tables. Each figure and each table should be given a caption. For example:

Figure 1.1: This is my first figure in my first chapter.

Table 2.1: This is my first table in my second chapter.

When I am referencing Figure 1.1, I think I have to capitalize it, as it is considered a name:

In Figure 1.1 it can be seen that ...

The same holds for Table 2.1. But how do I reference multiple figures? I’d suggest:

In Figures 1.1 – 1.4 it can be seen that ...

And what about equations, sections and chapters? Let’s say there is an equation:

x + y = z (1)

Personally, I would reference this equation as follows:

In equation (1) it can be seen that ...

I am also not sure whether to use (1) or just 1. I am using lower case letters for everything but figures and tables. So, when referencing a section, I would say:

In section 1.1, it is stated that ...

I am not sure, if this is correct though. I have seen capital letters as well. I have seen abbreviations, such as Fig., Figs., Sec., Chp., Eq., Eqs. and so on. I am an engineer, so the recommended citing style is IEEE. Now, can anyone give me some insight into this trickery?

  • A note from a guy who started a bounty. To put the Luk's question in different words, we want to know whether we should use the upper-case letter when referencing multiple figures (or tables, or examples). Whether we should use "For ..., see Tables 5A and 5B" or, instead, "For ..., see tables 5A and 5B".
    – john c. j.
    Oct 21, 2020 at 23:48
  • The part about equations is actually a different question and should be asked separately. Although suggestions regarding equations are still welcome, of course.
    – john c. j.
    Oct 21, 2020 at 23:53

3 Answers 3


Absent guidance from a style guide, the best rule of thumb I can think of would be to use the same capitalization in the text as appears in the caption of the figure: Figures 1 to 3; Figure 5, etc. In this way, you are treating the caption of the figure as you would the title of a book or even a chapter in a book, and thus you maintain consistency.


You are going to have to check the style that is used by your university for your subject. Normally, a particular standard that many institutions use is the one you need. Then check the style manual that is relevant, e.g. Chicago.

  • In my country, it is not easy to buy Chicago Manual of Style. And there is no guarantee that it really answers this question.
    – john c. j.
    Oct 23, 2020 at 13:55
  • 2
    The IEEE Editorial Style Manual (available to download) is silent about captions and capitalisation. However, on re-reading your question, I would capitalise words like 'section' and 'figure' when you are using them to talk about a particular one e.g. In Equation 1 it is clear ... I wouldn't put brackets around the numbers. Oct 23, 2020 at 15:27
  • If you want to down vote an answer, indicate in a comment why. Oct 27, 2020 at 19:42
  • As far as I remember, if a user don't award a bounty manually, it will be awarded automatically. There are no really great answers here, but I like this one answer more than the others. So to avoid automatic awarding to someone else, I award it to S. Mitchell.
    – john c. j.
    Oct 29, 2020 at 1:59

I am an engineer in a similar situation as well. I was quite confused about formatting and capitalization as well. My advisor suggested that I follow formatting rules based on the thesis of one of the previous students who graduated from my research group. Hopefully, my committee won't ask me to change any of it.

Having said that, I personally agree with all the formatting suggestions you have except the following:

I would just write

In equation 1 it can be seen that ... without the parenthesis and since you are capitalizing many nouns, for the sake of consistency, I would also write In Section 1.1 / Chapter 3, it is stated that ...

At least based on my conversation with my advisor, it seems like the thesis committee is more concerned with consistency than with a particular type of formatting.

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