Using Images in your Academic Projects

So you're going to spice up your project by including some images. Excellent! So that means it's time to go to Google Images, find something, slap it in, and hand in your paper/project/etc, right?


What to Remember About Using Images

As much as we like to think of everything on the web as being free for us to use, we have to remember that technically everything on the web is someone's intellectual property. We're allowed to view and enjoy these images for free, but reusing them is another situation entirely.

It is VERY important to remember that when you use something in a paper that is not your own work, you need to give credit for that image, or else you're technically claiming that it is your own work.

What About Copyright?

While this is by no means intended to be legal advice in any way shape or form, you should be ok in terms of copyright. Since your use of an image is more than likely a single usage for a course related assignment, you should be covered by fair use.

So How Do I Cite an Online Image Anyway?

It can be tricky!

APA requires 4 basic components for a reference. Author/creator, Date, Title, and Publication data. I'm sure you can already see how this can be tricky. Here are some tips for including each of these and some samples based on my interpretations of the 6th edition style manual for APA.


  1. If you can find a real name for a photo or image, use it as you would for any other author.
  2. If there is a screenname attached to the photo (as in on flickr or the like) and no author name, use the screenname and the site that screenname is used.
  3. If the image is included on an authored page with no photocredit, then you can use the page author much like you would a Editor's name.
  4. If an organization is responsible for the image (or unauthored page on which the image appears) use that organization when no photo credits are available.


  1. If a year is available, include it in parentheses.
  2. If a date is available on the page in which the image is included (as in part of an article or blog post, use that date).
  3. If no date is available, put n.d. in paretheses.


  1. If the image has been given a title by the creator use this.
  2. If the image has no title, but has been given a caption in the article, use the caption as the title.
  3. If there is no title at all, include a brief description of the image in the fashion of [Image of ...]. Be sure to use the square brackets!

Publication Data:

Prefix the URL with "Retrieved from" using, in order of preference:
  1. The link for the site on which the image is available
  2. The direct link to the file itself if the image isn't included as part of a page.
Retrieval date isn't necessary unless you believe the image or page will be changing frequently!

Some Examples

Scui3asteveo on Flickr. (2006). Studying. Retrieved from

Forbes, E. (1981). Grounds of the University of Stirling. Retrieved from

Service Dog. (2008). In C. P. Smith's Information Resources on the Care and Welfare of Dogs, Retrieved from

AOL News. (2009). [Image of full moon]. Retrieved from

[Image of a shark underwater. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Citations in APA style must be indented on additional lines if they take up more than one line.