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Citation Styles Guide: Tables and Figures

This guide is intended to help students with the different citation styles used at the College.


Tables in Chicago Style should be as simple as the material allows and readable on their own. In other words, the table should make sense as its own entity and not require the accompanying text for explanation. Finally, always remember that a table should be supplementing your text, not duplicating it. If you can easily express the necessary information in your text, then you probably don't need to include a table. When using a table, discuss only the highlights of the table in your paper, referring to the table as necessary using the assigned table number (e.g. Table 1, Table 2, Table 3).

Basic table structure

Follow this basic structure when creating a table:

TABLE #. Table title
  Spanner head  
Stub column head Column head Column head Column head Column head
Stub entry        
   Stub subentry 123 456 789 101
   Stub subentry 112 131 415 161
Stub entry        
   Stub subentry 718 192 021 222
   Stub subentry 232 425 262 728


TABLE #: Number every table in your paper, using "TABLE," followed by that table's number (e.g. 1,2,3,4,5), followed by a period. When referring to the table in your text, reference "Table," followed by that table's number (e.g. "In Table 4, we can see that. . . ").

Table title: Provide a succinct title for your table. The title should not suggest any interpretations of the data being presented. Table titles can be capitalized in sentence style (only capitalize the first letter of the first word, and the first letter of any proper nouns) or headline style (capitalize the first letter of the first word and any major word except for words like "the, an, and, a"). Whichever style you choose, you must remain consistent with it for all title of all tables in your work. You may include important explanatory or statistical information in a title in parentheses, after the title proper. This information should always be capitalized in sentence style.

Column heads: Keep your column heads clear and as brief as possible. Capitalize the the heads in sentence style, only capitalizing the first letter in the first word of the head, and the first letter of any proper names. The first column (the "stub") only needs a head if all the entries in the stub column are of a like kind. If the entries in the stub column are self-explanatory, or if the stub entries are too unlike each other to be grouped, a stub column head is not necessary. Symbols or abbreviations (e.g. $, %, km, etc. . .) are acceptable in column heads, as they help save space.

Spanner heads: Spanner heads can be used to note grouping of columns in your table. A horizontal line, sometimes called a spanner rule, should appear under the spanner head and the column heads to show which columns the spanner head applies to. Capitalize spanner heads in sentence style, the same way you would any other head in your table.

Stub entries: This column often contains information about the major independent or predictor variables that are represented in the table in all the cells to the right of that stub. If all stub entries are of a like link, the should also include a stub column head that helps define them. If they are self-explanatory, or if the stub entries are too unlike each other to be grouped, the stub column head is not necessary. Capitalize stub entries in sentence style, the same way you would the heads in your table. If you stub entry runs over to the next line, indent it by at least two spaces. If your are using stub subentries, the runover text must be indented further than the subentry (e.g. if you indent your subentry two spaces, you should indent the runover text by at least four spaces). Symbols or abbreviations (e.g. $, %, km, etc. . .) are acceptable in stub entries, as they help save space

Stub subentries: Sometimes, it may be necessary to list subheads for your stub entries. For example, if you have a classified list of information (e.g. Countries listed by continent, with the continent name as a stub entry, and the countries in that continent as subentries). Indent subentries by approximately 2 spaces, to differentiate them from the main entries. Capitalize stub subentries in sentence style, the same way you would the heads in your table.

Row: A row is a horizontal line of information in a table. all of the numbers that are lined up horizontally with a "Stub subentry" in the above example are part of the same row.

Column: A column is a vertical line of information in a table. All of the numbers that are lined up vertically with a "Column Head" in the above example are part of the same column. Whenever possible, cells in the same column should all carry the same type of information (e.g. amounts of money, percentages, demographic information, etc. . .), and be expressed to the same decimal point.

Cell: A cell is the individual box in a table for a given piece of information. In the above example, "456" is in a single cell of the table. Cell data should be aligned with the stub entry for that cell's row. If a stub entry is multiple lines long, align the data, with the last line of the stub entry. In a vertical column, numbers without decimal points should be aligned on the last digit with each other. Numbers with decimal points should be aligned on the decimal point. You shouldn't have both numbers with decimal points and numbers without decimal points in the same column. If you have cells consisting of words, they should be aligned to the left of the cell, like normal text would align to the left of a page.

Notes in tables

Tables can have four kinds of notes: (1) source notes, (2) other notes applying to the whole table, (3) notes applying to specific parts of the table, and (4) notes on significance levels. Notes should appear in the order stated above. All notes are placed immediately after the body of the table, and should be numbered separately from the footnotes that appear in the rest of your paper.

Source notes: These acknowledge any sources you may have used for the data in your table. Introduce the note with the word Source or Sources, in italics, followed by a colon. Include a full footnote for the information, as if you were citing the data in the table of your text.

example: Sources: Data from Richard H. Adams Jr., "Remittances, Investment, and Rural Asset Accumulation in Pakistan," Economic Development and Cultural Change 47, No. 1 (1998): 155-73; David Bevan, Paul Collier, and Jan Gunning, Peasants and Government: An Economic Analysis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 125-28.

Other notes applying to the whole table:  These explain, qualify, or provide information about the table as a whole, and can include things like explanations of abbreviations used in the table. Introduce them with the word Note, in italics, followed by a colon. Especially brief notes that may be expressed as a short phrase can be added parenthetically to the title of the table.

example: Note: CI = confidence interval; LL = lower limit, UL = upper limit.

Specific notes: These explain information presented in a specific row, column, or cell of a table. Specific notes are indicated by a superscript lowercase letter (e.g.: a,b,c ), number (e.g.: 1,2,3), or symbol (e.g.: *, †, ‡) in the row, column, or cell that requires the note, and at the beginning of the note itself. Usually, superscript numbers are preferred, although you may choose to use letters or symbols, depending on the context of your table. If you have multiple specific notes, order them in the table from left to right and from top to bottom, starting in the top left of the table. Start your list of notes with either a, 1, or *, depending on whether you are using, letter, numbers, or symbols. When using symbols, always use the following sequence:

  • * (Do not use for specific notes if you are also using significance level notes - see below)
  • §
  • ||
  • #

When more than six symbols are needed, repeat the order with the symbols doubled-up (e.g. **).

example: 1This participant did not complete the survey.

Notes on significance levels: Also called probability notes. They are used to indicate relevant p (probability) values for the table, and should always begin with a p for probability, in italics. Notes should begin with an asterisk (*). If two or three standard significance levels are noted, use a single asterisk for the least significant level, two for the next higher, and three for the highest. If you have more than three standard signifcance levels, or if you are giving values other than these, Chicago style prefers that you use footnote letters instead (e.g. a,b,c).   When it is not possible to express an exact p value, add a "<" after the p to represent "probability is less than." Probability notes should follow all other notes.

example: *p < .05

Figures or illustrations

Figures in Chicago style can include charts, graphs, photos, line art, and other images. They should only be used if they add substantive information to your paper. If a figure doesn't add to your paper, is not referenced in the paper itself, or duplicates information already presented elsewhere in your paper, then it should not be included. When using figures, you should also ask yourself if a figure is the best way to represent the information in your paper. In some cases, a table may be more precise.


Figure placement

Include figures directly in your text, as soon as possible after your first reference to the figure in your text. Unless your teacher tells you to do so, do not put figures in an Appendix.


Figure numbering

All types of figures should be numbered together in on continuous sequence throughout your work, preceded by the word "figure." 

example: Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3

The only exception to this rule are figures that appear in a different medium (e.g. videos or other multimedia files presented in electronic versions of papers). These figures should be numbered separately from text or static image figures.

example: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3


Text references to figures

Refer to your figures explicitly in the body of your text. For example "as figure 1 shows. . ." or "compare figures 4 and 5. . ." would be appropriate ways to refer to a figure. Never use vague terms like "the above figure" or "the figure on the next page."


Figure legends

If necessary, include a legend with your figure. A legend explains the symbols used in your figure, and should be placed within the figure itself.


Charts/graphs as figures

Charts, also called graphs, are a device that provides data in a simple, easily understandable format, usually along a set of x and y axes. They should be used to summarize data more quickly than would be possible in words. Charts are considered line art and should be labeled as figures.

When creating charts in your paper, be consistent in their graphic and typographical style, especially if they deal with comparable material. Whatever graphic device you use (e.g. bar chart, pie chart, etc. . .), elements of the same kind must always be represented in the same way, and visual effects should only be used to distinguish one element from another.


Figure captions

Every figure in your paper must have a caption. The caption is both an explanation of the figure and a title for the figure. It appears directly after the figure in your text, and should begin with "Figure" and the number of that figure, followed by a period (e.g. Figure 3.). For details on the numbering of figures, see "Figure numbering," above.

Immediately after "Figure" and the figure number, include the caption itself. The caption may consist of a word or two, an incomplete or a complete sentence, several sentences, or any combination thereof. All the normal punctuation rules apply to captions that are complete sentences. No punctuation is necessary for a caption that consists of an incomplete sentence, but if other captions in your work have full sentences, any caption with an incomplete sentence should be followed by a period for consistency. All captions should be capitalized in sentence style, and any formal title of a work referenced in a caption should be capitalized in headline style, and follow all the normal rules for italics and/or quotation marks that apply to titles in the body of your work.

Example: Figure 2. The head of Venus 0 a detail from Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

If you need to identify elements of a figure in your caption, use locator terms such as top, bottom, left, right, above, below, left to right, clockwise from left, or inset. Always italicize these terms in your caption. If the term precedes what is describes, follow it with a comma or, if it is followed by a list, as colon ":". When it appears midsentence or follows the element, put it in parentheses.

Example: Figure 7. Left to right: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo.

Example: Figure 12. Stick insect (top) with details of head and legs, further details (center) of parts of stick insect, praying mantis (below) with details of head and legs.

When captioning a chart or graph, include the title of the chart in the caption immediately following the figure number. It should be capitalized sentence-style (capitalize the first letter of the first word only).

Example: Figure 5: A genealogical chart of the Stark family.


Figure captions - crediting your source

A brief statement of the source of a figure, known in Chicago style as a credit line, should appear at the end of a caption for any figure you took from another source (in other words, did not create yourself). Note that this includes photographs of artwork, even if you took the photograph yourself, unless the artwork in the photograph is also yours. The credit line should follow the caption, in parentheses. While there is not strict formatting for a credit line, it should include information like the name(s) of the original creators of the figure, the name of the original work depicted in the figure, where you found the depiction, and relevant publication information, if applicable. When in doubt, use standard footnote format as a guide. At the beginning of your caption, include "Adapted from" if you altered the original figure. While Chicago style also recommends getting permission to reproduce an image that is in copyright, and to state in the credit line that you have obtained the permission from the owner, this is not necessary for your papers, as they are not being formally published.

Example of a figure

Using the rules detailed above, here is an example of a figure as it would appear in an Chicago style citation:

Sample figure

Figure 1. Creativity score results for Torrence testing of creativity in the dimensions of originality (left), abstractness(middle), and elaboration (right) of subjects that have performed an ill-defined task, a well-defined task, and a control group. (Adapted from C. Page Moreau, and Marit Gundersen Engeset, "The Downstream Consequences of Problem-Solving Mindsets: How Playing with Lego Influences Creativity,", Journal of Marketing Research 53, no.1 (2016): 23.)

Note: This figure, a chart, includes a legend in the figure that explains the colour-coding used in the chart. A descriptive caption has been placed under the figure to clarify its contents. Finally, the original source of the figure is given.


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