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MLA Tables, Figures, and Examples


MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Contributors:Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2016-08-18 03:51:39

The purpose of visual materials or other illustrations is to enhance the audience's understanding of information in the document and/or awareness of a topic. Writers can embed several types of visuals using most basic word processing software: diagrams, musical scores, photographs, or, for documents that will be read electronically, audio/video applications.

General guidelines

Labels, captions, and source information

Illustrations appear directly embedded in the document, except in the case of manuscripts that are being prepared for publication. (For preparing manuscripts with visual materials for publication, see Note on Manuscripts below.) Each illustration must include a label, a number, a caption and/or source information.

Source information and note form

For source information, MLA lists sources in note form. These entries appear much like standard MLA bibliographic entries with a few exceptions:

Note: Use semicolons to denote entry sections when long series of commas make these sections difficult to ascertain as being like or separate. (See examples below.) The MLA Handbook 8th edition states that if the table or illustration caption provides complete citation information about the source and the source is not cited in the text, authors do not need to list the source in the Works Cited list.

Examples - Documenting source information in "Note form"


Tom Shachtman, Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, Houghton Mifflin, 1999, p. 35.

Website (using semicolons to group like information together)

United States; Dept. of Commerce; Census Bureau; Manufacturing, Mining, and Construction Statistics; Housing Units Authorized by Building Permits; US Dept. of Commerce, 5 Feb. 2008;  table 1a.

In this example, the commas in Manufacturing, Mining, and Construction Statistics prompt the need for semicolons in order for the series information to be read easily. Even if Manufacturing, Mining, and Construction Statistics had not appeared in the entry, the multiple "author names" of United States, Dept. of Commerce, and Census Bureau would have necessitated the use of a semicolon before and after the title and between ensuing sections to the end of the entry.

Furthermore, the publisher and date in a standard entry are separated by a comma and belong together; thus, their inclusion here (US Dept. of Commerce, 5 Feb. 2008) also necessitates the semicolons.

MLA documentation for tables, figures, and examples

MLA provides three designations for document illustrations: tables, figures, and examples (see specific sections below).


Table Example

In-text reference:

In 1985, women aged 65 and older were 59% more likely than men of the same age to reside in a nursing home, and though 11,700 less women of that age group were enrolled in 1999, men over the same time period ranged from 30,000 to 39,000 persons while women accounted for 49,000 to 61,500 (see table 1).

Table reference:

Table 1

Rate of nursing home residence among people age 65 or older, by sex and age group, 1985, 1995, 1997, 1999a

This image is an example table showing research findings.

Image Caption: Example Table

Source: Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, Older Americans 2008: Key Indicators of Well-Being, Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, Mar. 2008, table 35A.

     a. Note: Rates for 65 and over category are age-adjusted using the 2000 standard population. Beginning in 1997, population figures are adjusted for net underenumeration using the 1990 National Population Adjustment Matrix from the U.S. Census Bureau. People residing in personal care or domiciliary care homes are excluded from the numerator.


Figures Example

In-text reference:

Some readers found Harry’s final battle with Voldemort a disappointment, and recently, the podcast, MuggleCast debated the subject (see fig. 2).

Figure caption (below an embedded podcast file for a document to be viewed electronically):

Fig. 2. Harry Potter and Voldemort final battle debate from Andrew Sims et al.; “Show 166”; MuggleCast; MuggleNet.com, 19 Dec. 2008, www.mugglenet.com/2015/11/the-snape-debate-rowling-speaks-out.


Note on manuscripts

Do not embed illustrations (tables, figures, or examples) in manuscripts for publication. Put placeholders in the text to show where the illustrations will go. Type these placeholders on their own line, flush left, and bracketed (e.g. [table 1]). At the end of the document, provide label, number, caption, and source information in an organized list. Send files for illustrations in the appropriate format to your editor separately. If you provide source information with your illustrations, you do not need to provide this information on the Works Cited page.

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