I am using an image from a users’ manual of a piece of software, and I was wondering if I can put a citation in the caption of the image. For example:

Figure 1.3 Illustration of WonderSoft’s interface. Image taken from WonderSoft’s users’ manual (Bitsmith et al., 1821).

  • 3
    Mention the page, too.
    – Klaster
    Aug 17, 2015 at 12:43
  • 1
    The general rule of thumb is, if you reference someone else, you cite them. Fortunately, there aren't many special rules about where citations are or are not allowed - they go anywhere they're appropriate.
    – Kevin
    Aug 17, 2015 at 15:23
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    @Klaster It's not at all necessary to include the page number. I would include it only if it was anyhow relevant or interesting. But I wouldn't ever feel obliged to do so.
    – yo'
    Aug 17, 2015 at 15:54
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    Citations are also common in the captions of tables (especially tables of things like material parameters).
    – Chris H
    Aug 17, 2015 at 15:55
  • @yo' If taking an illustration directly out of a paper or manual, I'd definitely include the page, too. I guess it depends on the journal you submit to or your university's policy, after all.
    – Klaster
    Aug 17, 2015 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


Unless your journal, advisor or institution insist against this (which we cannot know), yes, you can.

I have done this myself in publications and nobody complained.

  • 7
    And why should they? If the picture is taken from somewhere, providing the reference in the caption is clearly the most appropriate place! Aug 17, 2015 at 14:48

While you haven't mentioned the context of the citation, AFAIK, reproducing someone's graphical artifacts usually requires not only proper citation, but, first and foremost, permission from the copyright holder (author or, likely, publisher) to reproduce the artifact with or without modifications.

What it practically means is that you will need to add the following (or similar) phrase to a caption: "Copyright ... Reproduced with permission" (alternatively, if the artifact has been modified, instead of "reproduced", use word "adapted"). If a permission has not yet been received, but the request has been submitted, you should add "[pending]" after the word "permission" (this is sufficient most likely only for working papers or submissions like a revision of a thesis/dissertation). Please take a look at my relevant answer for full citation example and other details.

  • I am using an image from this manual (page 53) s3.amazonaws.com/osculator/doc/OSCulator+2.12+Manual.pdf
    – KonVas
    Aug 18, 2015 at 9:35
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    Yes, reproducing an image requires permission of the copyright holder. However, the wording and placement of a copyright notice, if any, depends entirely on the agreement you make with the copyright holder. Aug 18, 2015 at 11:32
  • @EmilJeřábek: I think you're wrong. The placement and wording of copyright and permission notices are governed by a publication style guide, chosen to be used for a particular paper, not an agreement with copyright holder. Aug 18, 2015 at 11:47
  • @user16128: As you see in the legal notices section, the guide's content is copyrighted by Wildora. So, in my opinion, you should contact them to request permission to use the image (or any part of content, for that matter) from that guide. Aug 18, 2015 at 11:52
  • @AleksandrBlekh: That doesn’t make sense. You ask the copyright holder for permission, they tell you what they want in return. It’s perfectly possible they will be happy with just a “thank you” in the Acknowledgements section. On the other hand, if they insist on a formal copyright notice, they will not accept if you write it as “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” and claim that that’s your publication style guide. Aug 18, 2015 at 12:34

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