If I use photos in my thesis that I found on Internet, should I cite them? If so, how should the photos be cited? Should I write something like "In Figure 4.5 [9]" or should I cite it in the Appendix? Or should I add the source in the caption?

  • The problem with "found" photos is you don't know how reliable they are, and you can't always get hold of enough information about them to cite them properly anyway.
    – Chris H
    Jan 5, 2015 at 20:34
  • 1
    Also see this question on copyright concerns related to reusing images.
    – ff524
    Jan 5, 2015 at 21:03
  • This is specifically a question about a thesis, where the position is different regarding "publication" to a journal paper, and at least in some places the fair use or equivalent works differently.
    – Chris H
    Jan 5, 2015 at 21:11
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    @ChrisH I'm not sure there is any difference between a thesis and a journal paper, actually, except that the journal paper is more widely distributed. Including an unlicensed copyrighted photograph in a thesis is still unauthorized distribution of the work, which is illegal unless covered by an appropriate fair use exemption. (Note also that the US has a rather broader definition of "fair use" than most jurisdictions; the asker is in Turkey.) Jan 5, 2015 at 22:35

2 Answers 2


You must cite them!

Failure to cite photographs and figures is just as much plagiarism as stealing quotations. To some extent, it is tougher to use pictures from other sources, because you need to make sure you have the permissions to use them.

You should add the citation in the caption, as well as the requisite acknowledgments required by the author or publisher.

  • If I take the pictures by myself, should I also tell this to readers?
    – padawan
    Jan 5, 2015 at 20:21
  • 5
    Any photos without attribution will be assumed to be yours - which is why it's so important to cite other people's as you don't want to give that impression. So just like text you wrote or figures you drew, nothing is needed beyond the upfront declaration that it's your own work except where stated. I would however cite results/methods etc that you have published, even as lead/sole author - for a different reason - published work carries more weight.
    – Chris H
    Jan 5, 2015 at 20:33

here's usa library of congress copyright source:


for using other's copyrighted photos you need reproduction rights permissions.

for using your own photos, you should protect your own copyright with the three-part copyright notice mentioned at loc - copyright symbol or word, date, name - on or near the photo. otherwise you have put your photo into public.

  • 2
    While this is true, the question was about citation (i.e. attributing sources), which is an orthogonal concern from copyright.
    – ff524
    Jan 5, 2015 at 21:02
  • @ff524 The second part is also not true. US law doesn't require a copyright notice, and neither do any of the other nations that are parties to the Berne Convention (pretty much everywhere).
    – Hotchips
    Jan 6, 2015 at 4:33
  • @Hotchips And, even more strongly, there are places where you cannot voluntarily place your work in the public domain. In the UK, for example, you can assign your copyright to somebody else, or you can choose not to enforce your rights (e.g., by giving it a very liberal license) but the only way to actually place something in the public domain is to die and wait 75 years. Jan 6, 2015 at 9:20

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