How to format tables and figures in APA Style

This article reflects the APA 7th edition guidelines. Click here for APA 6th edition guidelines.

A table concisely presents information (often numbers) in rows and columns. A figure is any other image or illustration you include in your text—anything from a bar chart to a photograph.

Tables and figures differ in terms of how they convey information, but APA Style presents them in a similar format—preceded by a number and title, and followed by explanatory notes (if necessary).

APA table format

Tables will vary in size and structure depending on the data you’re presenting, but APA gives some general guidelines for their design. To correctly format an APA table, follow these rules:

  • Table number in bold above the table.
  • Brief title, in italics and title case, below the table number.
  • No vertical lines.
  • Horizontal lines only where necessary for clarity.
  • Clear, concise labels for column and row headings.
  • Numbers consistently formatted (e.g. with the same number of decimal places).
  • Any relevant notes below the table.

An example of a table formatted according to APA guidelines is shown below.

Example of a table in APA format

The table above uses only four lines: Those at the top and bottom, and those separating the main data from the column heads and the totals.

Create your tables using the tools built into your word processor. In Word, you can use the “Insert table” tool.

APA figure format

Any images used within your text are called figures. Figures include data visualization graphics—e.g. graphs, diagrams, flowcharts—as well as things like photographs and artworks.

To correctly format an APA figure, follow these rules:

  • Figure number in bold above the figure.
  • Brief title, in italics and title case, under the figure number.
  • If necessary, clear labels and legends integrated into the image.
  • Any relevant notes below the figure.

An example of a figure formatted according to APA guidelines is shown below.

Example of a figure in APA format

Keep the design of figures as simple as possible. Use colors only where necessary, not just to make the image look more appealing.

For text within the image itself, APA recommends using a sans serif font (e.g. Arial) with a size between 8 and 14 points.

For other figures, such as photographs, you won’t need a legend; the figure consists simply of the image itself, reproduced at an appropriate size and resolution.

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Numbering and titling tables and figures

Each table or figure is preceded by a number and title.

Tables and figures are each numbered separately, in the order they are referred to in your text. For example, the first table you refer to is Table 1; the fourth figure you refer to is Figure 4.

The title should clearly and straightforwardly describe the content of the table or figure. Omit articles to keep it concise.

The table or figure number appears on its own line, in bold, followed by the title on the following line, in italics and title case.

Number and title
Table 4
Literacy Rates in European Countries

Formatting table and figure notes

Where a table or figure needs further explanation, notes should be included immediately after it. These are not your analysis of the data presented; save that for the main text.

There are three kinds of notes: general, specific, and probability. Each type of note appears in a new paragraph, but multiple notes of the same kind all appear in one paragraph.

Only include the notes that are needed to understand the table or figure. It may be that it is clear in itself, and has no notes, or only probability notes; be as concise as possible.

General notes

General notes come first. They are preceded by the word “Note” in italics, followed by a period. They include any explanations that apply to the table or figure as a whole and a citation if it was adapted from another source, and they end with definitions of any abbreviations used.

General note
Note. In this research, respondents were asked to self-assess their satisfaction. Adapted from Example Book, by J. Smith, 2014, p. 234. Copyright 2016 by Oxford University Press. SL = Satisfaction level.

Specific notes

Specific notes refer to specific points in the table or figure. Superscript letters (a, b, c …) appear at the relevant points in the table or figure and at the start of each note to indicate what they refer to. They are used when it’s necessary to comment on a specific data point or term.

Specific notes
a n = 350. b Five respondents failed to complete this part of the survey.

Probability notes

Probability notes give p-values for the data in the table or figure. They correspond to asterisks (and/or other symbols) in the table or figure.

Probability notes
*p < .05. **p < .01.

Where to place tables and figures

You have two options for the placement of tables and figures in APA Style:

  • Option 1: Place tables and figures throughout your text, shortly after the parts of the text that refer to them.
  • Option 2: Place them all together at the end of your text (after the reference list) to avoid breaking up the text.

If you place them throughout the text, note that each table or figure should only appear once. If you refer to the same table or figure more than once, don’t reproduce it each time—just place it after the paragraph in which it’s first discussed.

Align the table or figure with the text along the left margin. Leave a line break before and after the table or figure to clearly distinguish it from the main text, and place it on a new page if necessary to avoid splitting it across multiple pages.

Placement of tables in APA format

If you place all your tables and figures at the end, you should have one table or figure on each page. Begin with all your tables, then place all your figures afterwards.

Referring to tables and figures in the text

Avoid making redundant statements about your tables and figures in your text. When you write about data from tables and figures, it should be to highlight or analyze a particular data point or trend, not simply to restate what is already clearly shown in the table or figure:

  • As Table 1 shows, there are 115 boys in Grade 4, 130 in Grade 5, and 117 in Grade 6 …
  • Table 1 indicates a notable preponderance of boys in Grade 5. It is important to take this into account because …

Additionally, even if you have embedded your tables and figures in your text, refer to them by their numbers, not by their position relative to the text or by description:

  • The table below shows…
  • Table 1 shows…
  • As can be seen in the image on page 4…
  • As can be seen in Figure 3…
  • The photograph of a bald eagle is an example of…
  • Figure 1 is an example of…

Frequently asked questions about APA tables and figures

When should I use a table or figure to present data?

In an APA Style paper, use a table or figure when it’s a clearer way to present important data than describing it in your main text. This is often the case when you need to communicate a large amount of information.

Before including a table or figure in your text, always reflect on whether it’s useful to your readers’ understanding:

  • Could this information be quickly summarized in the text instead?
  • Is it important to your arguments?
  • Does the table or figure require too much explanation to be efficient?

If the data you need to present only contains a few relevant numbers, try summarizing it in the text (potentially including full data in an appendix). If describing the data makes your text overly long and difficult to read, a table or figure may be the best option.

Should I include lists of my tables and figures?

APA doesn’t require you to include a list of tables or a list of figures. However, it is advisable to do so if your text is long enough to feature a table of contents and it includes a lot of tables and/or figures.

A list of tables and list of figures appear (in that order) after your table of contents, and are presented in a similar way.

Should I include tables and figures in the reference list?

If you adapt or reproduce a table or figure from another source, you should include that source in your APA reference list. You should also acknowledge the original source in the note or caption for the table or figure.

Tables and figures you created yourself, based on your own data, are not included in the reference list.

Is this article helpful?
Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes and edits for Scribbr, and reads a lot of books in his spare time.

16 comments

Vanessa
May 6, 2021 at 7:42 PM

Hi! Thank you for the article and thorough explanation. I have a question about table placement that I cannot seem to find the answer for no matter where I look. I am editing someone's doctoral thesis and helping them place their tables and figures correctly. Let's say they've written the following in a single paragraph:

The results of the concurrent validity presented show... (Table 2.2). The plot shows... (Figure 2.1). The researchers have edited... (Table 2.3)

These are sentences I made up just for the sake of the question, they have all been written in the same paragraph. Following the APA guidelines of embedding a table or figure directly after the part it was mentioned in, how would I proceed here? Would I list Table 2, Figure 1, and Table 3 all after each other? Or should I suggest they divide the paragraph into separate sentences with the corresponding table/figure in between each one?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
May 10, 2021 at 3:47 PM

Hi Vanessa,

In that case, in my opinion it would make most sense to split the paragraph up, showing each table/figure after the reference to it. Though I don't think the other option would be incorrect either, it seems less elegant.

Another option to consider: APA also allows you to place all tables and figures at the end (after the reference list) instead of interspersed throughout the text. This would avoid this particular issue of course, though it has other downsides in terms of the accessibility of the tables and figures.

Reply

Corinne
May 1, 2021 at 8:58 PM

How do I use more than one table or refer to more than one table?
(Tables 8, 9, & 10).
As shown in Tables 8, 9, and 10

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
May 3, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Hi Corinne,

Yep, just like you do in your comment! Use an ampersand if it's within parentheses and the word "and" if not.

Reply

Karen Crosby
April 10, 2021 at 10:38 PM

If I have a figure in Chapter 2 Figure 1 and then I have a figure with different information in Chapter 4 - is that new figure in Ch 4 - Figure 1 or is it Figure 2

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 16, 2021 at 3:56 PM

Hi Karen,

APA's recommendation for papers is to number your figures consistently throughout the text, in the order in which they are discussed. So your second figure would just be Figure 2, regardless of the chapter in which it appears. The exception is if you include a figure or table in an appendix; these should be labeled separately from those in the main text. You can read more about appendices here if that's relevant for you.

Reply

Anne
March 30, 2021 at 10:40 AM

What font size is acceptable for the "note" under a figure? Should it be consistent with the font size used throughout the paper or can it be smaller?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 6, 2021 at 3:58 PM

Hi Anne,

Notes under a table or figure should appear in the same font size used throughout the paper, double-spaced and left-aligned like the rest of the text.

Reply

Karen Cinq-Mars
March 3, 2021 at 6:59 PM

I'm trying to figure out how to cite the authors of various articles that I'm providing a lit. review on. I'm creating a table referencing each article and comparing them within the article so I need to know how many authors I list before I put in et al.

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 8, 2021 at 5:23 PM

Hi Karen,

You can check out our article here for guidance on when to use "et al." in APA in-text citations and reference entries.

Reply

Kylene
February 26, 2021 at 5:48 AM

After the "figure 1" title does the spacing remain double-spaced or is it single-spaced?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 1, 2021 at 2:56 PM

Hi Kylene,

Yes, figure and table numbers and titles are double-spaced to match the rest of the text.

Reply

Chantal
January 23, 2021 at 12:06 PM

What happens if the table falls onto two pages? Do you place it before the alinea it is mentioned in? Or do you place it on the top op the next page? Or do you leave it cut in half?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
January 26, 2021 at 3:31 PM

Hi Chantal,

If it's possible to fit the table onto one page by placing it at the start of a new page, you should do so, even if this means not placing it straight after the paragraph it's mentioned in. If it's impossible to fit the table onto one page, split it across as many pages as necessary, but repeat the column headings at the top of each page to make it easy to read.

Reply

S. E.
August 28, 2020 at 3:25 AM

Regarding the font used in a table (according to APA 7th edition) - can the font in a table be different from the font used in the rest of a paper? My dissertation is written in 12 point Times New Roman, and I would like to display a table using 10 point Arial for better fit. According to section 2.19 in the APA 7th edition manual, other fonts may be used in figures, and I interpret 'other fonts' to mean other than the rest of the paper --- but I do not see anything about tables. Any advice, please?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
September 3, 2020 at 1:55 PM

Hi,

According to APA guidelines, you should use the same font in tables as you use in the rest of your paper. Hope that helps!

Reply

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