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Research Style & Usage: APA/MLA


APA Style: Figures and Tables



  • Provide figures on separate sheets of paper, one figure per sheet, labeled Figure 1, Figure 2, etc. Do not include figures in the body of your paper.

  • Use a sans-serif font, such as Arial or Helvetica, for all text within figures.

  • Always refer to and briefly explain figures in main text:

    • As shown in Figure 5, the correlation between . . .

    • The population data (see Figure 8) suggest . . .

  • Use different types of graphs to display different types of quantitative data:

    • Bar graphs for categorical independent variables

    • Scatter plots for correlations

    • Line graphs to illustrate the relationship between two variables

    • Circle/pie graphs for percentages

    • Pictorial graphs to show quantitative differences between groups

  • Use other types of figures to display data that cannot be conveyed in a graph:

    • Charts to show hierarchies and sequences

    • Dot maps and shaded maps (data superimposed on a map) to show population densities, averages, and percentages

    • Drawings to show perspectives and angles

    • Photographs to show specimens (use black-and-white photos only; if color is absolutely necessary, consult with your publisher)

  • Use legends and captions to explain the content of figures:

    • Legends explain the symbols used in a figure. Include legends within the figure.

    • Captions explain the contents of a figure. Provide captions to your publisher on a separate sheet of paper.

  • Provide figures to your publisher in either electronic form or high-quality photographic proof.



  • Use tables to display crucial data or to clearly present information that would be difficult to incorporate smoothly into the text.

  • Number tables in the order they are mentioned in the text: Table 1, Table 2, etc.

  • Refer to each table in the main text and describe what it contains: As shown in Table 3, the rate of change . . .

  • Give each table a title that describes the measure(s) and the relevant variable(s).

  • Give each column and row of each table a descriptive heading.

  • Segregate different measures (e.g., mean, standard deviation, sample size) in different parts of the table.

  • Use horizontal lines to separate rows, but do not use vertical lines to separate columns.

  • Place table notes directly below the table, e.g., Note. Values enclosed in parentheses indicate . . . Include information in the following order (although not all three types are always necessary):

    • General: Begin with general information about the table, including an explanation of the abbreviations used.

    • Specific: If necessary, explain specific features of the table relating to particular columns or rows.

    • Probability: If necessary, explain symbols in the table that represent probability or significance levels. Fewer asterisks represent greater probabilities, for example: * p < .10, ** p < .05. To distinguish between one- and two-tailed tests, use different symbols, such as asterisks and daggers.