Tables and illustrations should be used to add substantive information to your work. Place them as close to the parts of the text to which they relate. If a table or illustration does not add to the argument of your work, or if it duplicates information already presented elsewhere in your work, then it should not be included.
Tables in MLA should be used to clearly and concisely present data that readers will need to understand for your paper. They should include any data that is necessary to provide a sufficient set of the statistics collected in order to support the argument you are making. When using a table, discuss only the highlights of the table in your paper. Do not duplicate the information presented by a table in your text.
Follow this basic structure when creating a table:
Table label and number
|Column Heading 1||Column Heading 2||Column Heading 3 a|
Adapted from source information.
a. Note for the table.
Table label number: Label every table in your work as "Table." Follow the label with an Arabic numeral, numbering each table sequentially in your work (e.g. 1,2,3,4,5). The table label and number should be flush with the left margin of the paper on a new line.
Table title: On the next line after the table number, provide a short, descriptive title for your table. It should make it easy for readers to identify what the table is about. Capitalize the first letter of every word of the title, except for prepositions and conjunctions. The title should be flush with the left margin of the paper.
Column headings: Keep your headings for columns clear and brief. Capitalize the first letter of every word of a heading, except for prepositions and conjunctions.
Body: The body of a table contains the actual data expressed in that table.
Row: A row is a horizontal line of information in a table. All of the numbers that are lined up horizontally 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 Heading" in the above example are part of the same column.
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.
Adapted from: Include source information immediately below the table, if the information presented comes from another source. Provide a full MLA 9th edition Works Cited entry for the source of the information being used, including any relevant links and page numbers. This citation is separate from your main Works Cited. If you use other information from the source elsewhere in your work, you will need to cite it separately in your Works Cited. When including source information as a Works Cited entry under a table, do not invert the first author's name. For more details on how to cite different types of sources, see the Works Cited - Page formatting and creating an entry and the Works Cited - Examples sections of this guide.
a. Note for the table: Include any notes for a table directly below the table, after the source information. To differentiate the notes and avoid confusion from any notes possibly used in the body of your text, number notes for a table using lowercase letters, followed by a period, before the note itself. The letters for the notes should also appear in the table, in superscript.
Figures in MLA can include graphs, drawings, photos and other images. 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, or even a description in the text of your essay.
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 below the figure. Begin the caption with the label "Figure," abbreviated as "Fig." Follow this with an Arabic numeral for the figure, followed by a period (e.g. Fig. 3.). The numbering of figures is sequential according to where they appear in the text.
Immediately after "Fig." and the figure number, include a short but descriptive phrase for the figure. Make sure the phrase has enough detail to help your reader make sense of the figure in your essay. You can provide a full Works Cited entry for the figure as a caption. If you do so, and the source for the image is not used elsewhere in your work, you do not need to include that source in your Works Cited. When providing a Works Cited entry as part of a caption, don't invert the author's name. For more details on how to cite different types of sources, see the Works Cited - Page formatting and creating an entry and the Works Cited - Examples sections of this guide.
Using the rules detailed above, here is an example of a figure as it would appear in an MLA citation:
Fig. 1. Creativity score results for Torrence testing of creativity in the dimensions of originality, abstractness, and elaboration of subjects that have performed an ill-defined task, a well-defined task, and a control group, 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, vol. 53, no. 1, 2016, p. 23.
Note: A descriptive caption has been placed under the figure to clarify its contents and the original source of the figure is given in MLA format.
MLA has special rules for inserting musical illustrations into an essay. A musical illustration is any musical notation or score. As with any other image or table, they should only be used if they add substantive information to your paper. If a musical illustration doesn't add to your paper, or if it duplicates information already presented elsewhere in your paper, then it should not be included. When using musical illustrations, you should also ask yourself if it is the best way to represent the information in your paper.
Include musical illustrations directly in your text, as close as possible to where you refer to it in your essay. Unless you teacher tells you to do so, do not put musical illustrations in an Appendix.
Every musical illustration in your paper must have a caption. The caption is both an explanation of the musical illustration and the title for the illustration. It appears directly after the musical illustration in your text, and should begin with the label "Ex." (an abbreviation of "Example"), followed by an Arabic numeral for that illustration, followed by a period (e.g. Ex. 5.). The numbering of musical illustrations is sequential according to where they appear in the text. Numbering for musical illustrations is separate from the numbering for other figures in your paper. Even if you have a non-musical figure in your paper before a musical illustration, the first musical illustration should still be labeled "Ex. 1." not "Ex. 2."
Immediately after "Ex." and the example number, include a short but descriptive phrase for the musical illustration. For musical illustrations, this should include information about the piece that is being excerpted in the illustration, including the composer's name, the name of the piece, the name of the movement if the piece has multiple movements, and the part of the movement that is being excerpted (e.g. "opening").
Example: Ex. 1. Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Symphony no. 6 in B, opus 74 (Pathétique), finale.
If you are referencing the score elsewhere in your work, you will need to include a Works Cited entry for the full score in your Works Cited at the end of your paper, in addition to the information provided in your caption.
Using the rules detailed above, here is an example of a musical illustration in MLA:
Ex. 1. Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony no. 3 in E flat, opus 55 (Eroica), first movement, opening.
The MLA Handbook, 9th Edition, published by the Modern Language Association, is the definitive guide on MLA citation style. It was last updated in 2021. Copies of the Handbook are available at the Reserve Desk in the Library.
Additional information on MLA style may be found on the following websites: