Formatting tables and figures in APA
Sometimes you are required to include a table or a figure in an assignment. Before, however, you insert a table or figure, it is important to ask yourself if it is necessary. Would your information be better presented in text? You should not use a table or figure if your information can simply be discussed in text. Usually tables with two or fewer columns or rows should be discussed in text. Large amounts of numerical data, or summarising contrasting concepts, may be suitable for a table or graph. Images such as artwork being discussed, may be suitable as a figure.
If you choose to insert a figure or table in your assignment, then APA style referencing has specific guidelines about formatting.
- In APA style, the descriptive caption for a table goes above the table.
- The table should be placed on the page after the paragraph where it is first mentioned.
- Number each table with an Arabic number (e.g., Table 1, Table 2, Table 3…) in the order they are first mentioned in your text. Do not refer to a table by its position relative to the text (e.g., “the table below”) or its page number (e.g., “the table on page 12”). Do not use suffix letters (e.g., Table 5a, Table 5b).
- The caption should be descriptive but not too long. The caption should be italicised, with the first letter of each major word (usually words with 3 or more letters) capitalised. Give the descriptive caption on a new line under the table number. E.g.
Covariances of 10 Weighted Industry Portfolios from Mar. 2014 to Mar. 2019.
- In general, use 12-point type, double-spacing, and 1-inch (2.54 cm) margins, although check with your assignment instructions or lecturer for specific formatting requirements. You may use a landscape orientation to keep your table on a single page.
- Make sure each column (or row, depending on how you orientate information) has a clear heading.
- If your appendix includes a table, identify which appendix with a capital letter (e.g., Table A1 is the first table of Appendix A, Table A2, is the second table of Appendix A, Table B1 is the first table of Appendix B).
- Sometimes you may have multiple sources within the same table. You can cite each source within each cell individually in the standard parenthetical author-date format. However, if the same citation applies to multiple cells, or you have a number of different sources and parenthetically citing each one would make the table look too cluttered, you can use a superscript, lowercase letter to denote the source in notes below the table.
Sample Responses to the 2018 Health and Wellbeing Survey
|Happiness||What brings you happiness?||“My children are my greatest joy.”a|
|Sadness||What makes you sad?||“I am still sad about my dad dying.”b|
|Anxiety||What makes you anxious?||“I lose sleep at night thinking about the future of the planet.”a|
- Limit the use of lines (rules) in your table. Usually in APA style, the vertical lines are eliminated.
- In APA style, the number and descriptive caption for a figure goes below the figure.
- The figure should be placed on the page after the paragraph where it is first mentioned.
- Number each figure with an Arabic number (e.g., Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3…) in the order they are first mentioned in your text. Do not refer to a figure by its position relative to the text (e.g., “the figure below”) or its page number (e.g., “the figure on page 12”). Do not use suffix letters (e.g., Figure 5a, Figure 5b).
- The caption should be descriptive but not too long. Figure and the figure number should be italicised. The caption should not be italicised, and it should describe what is being presented in the figure. Give the descriptive caption on the same line as the figure number. E.g.
Figure 1. A flowchart of data collection methodology used in Experiment 1.
- In general, use 12-point type, double-spacing, and 1-inch (2.54 cm) margins, although check with your assignment instructions or lecturer for specific formatting requirements. You may use a landscape orientation to keep your figure on a single page.
- If your appendix includes a figure, identify which appendix with a capital letter (e.g., Figure A1 is the first figure of Appendix A, Figure A2, is the second table of Appendix A, Figure B1 is the first figure of Appendix B).
Referencing tables and figures
APA has strict rules about crediting images, figures, or tables that have been reproduced or copied and a footnote should be included with a full reference that states that permission has been sought to use the table or figure. However, unless your assignment is going to be professionally published, this level of detail is unnecessary. Instead, treat the image as a direct quotation. Provide a citation in the caption, with author, year, and page number. The source should also have an entry in the reference list.
Further table and figure resources
These pages are provided as a guide to proper referencing. Your course, department, school, or institute may prescribe specific conventions, and their recommendations supersede these instructions. If you have questions not covered here, check in the style guide listed above, ask your course coordinator, or ask at Academic Q+A.