Professional and Technical Writing/Documenting Your Sources/MLA Style Tables and Figures

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Tables and Figures[edit | edit source]

Many people use tables and figures in their papers to help explain certain points they are trying to make. The purpose of this illustrations is to help the audience understand visually what the writer is trying to convey. There are many ways to do this in a paper with the use of basic word processing software.

General Guidelines

  • Collect sources, gather the necessary source information required for MLA style formatting.
  • Determine what illustrations best suit your purpose, figure out how the table or figure will contribute to your paper.
  • Use tables and figures of the best quality, avoid poor pictures or images.
  • Use figures sparingly, make sure the images are used meaningfully.
  • Do not use images to boost page length, professors usually don't count space taken up by illustrations.

Labels, Captions, and Source Information

When using tables and figures they will be embedded in the document somewhere, therefore, these illustrations need to be labeled with a number and a caption. They must also be cited at the end of the paper.

Label The figure or table should have a label and number that will appear always in two places: the documents main text (ex. see table 2) and near the actual figure or table itself.

Captions Captions provide the title of the object and a brief statement explaining what the figure is about.

Source Information Source information documentation will depend upon the degree of the source illustration. You can provide the source information with all of the figures or tables and then won't need to be included on the works cites page.


The following are some guidelines for using tables

  • Make sure to refer to the table and its corresponding numeral in text. (ex. see table 4)
  • Insert the table near the text it relates to.
  • Align the table so it is set up to the left margin.
  • Label the table and provide the corresponding number.
  • Provide a caption for the table, most often this is the title of the table and what it relates to.
  • Underneath the title should be the source information with a descriptor source, followed by a colon, then provide the MLA bibliographic information for the source.
  • If there is additional information or explanatory notes list this below the caption information or the table.


The following are some guidelines for using figures

  • All images that are not tables or musical score examples are labeled as Figure or Fig.
  • When you refer to the figure in the text make sure the figure corresponds to the reference.
  • MLA style does not specify alignment of figures, therefore, they can be centered anywhere on the page.
  • At the bottom of the figure, provide a label name and number. (ex. Fig. 2)
  • Be sure to label with a title or caption as well as source information.