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University of Vaasa writing guidelines: Images, figures, tables, and examples

The guidelines contain instructions about the layout and contents of theses and other written assignments as well as instructions on how to refer to source literature and other material used in the work.

Figures, images, tables, and examples supplementing the text. Their content must be clear enough to allow them to be viewed and understood without seeing the actual text.

Appearance and layout

  • separate figures, images, and tables from the rest of the text with a single line break (spacing 0) placed both above and below
  • figures and tables shall use the same overall graphical look used in your discipline's academic design


  • use font size 11 for captions and table legends
  • figure and table content does not necessarily need to be repeated word-for-word or number-for-number in the text, but they must be sufficiently interpreted and explained
  • the actual text should refer to each figure, image, or table at least once
  • the explanation may be placed before or after the item as long as it is a natural part of the text
  • appendices may also include figures and tables
  • for example, figures and tables can be referred to in the text as follows:
    • The interpersonal metafunction is divided into positioning and modality (see Figure 12).
    • Table 1 summarizes the number and percentage shares of Facebook content categories...


  • figures and images must have an alternative text
  • check the header rows of tables and reading order


  • the original source must always be mentioned in all images, figures, and tables, also for any translations of your own
  • if you've edited an image, figure, or table, indicate this when citing the source (adapted from...)

Figures and images

The actual text must include a reference to each figure or image before the actual figure or image occurs. Figures and images must be laid out clearly and be of an appropriate size. For example, figures and images should not include unnecessary empty space. They must fit into the specified margins and on one page.

  • images and figures must be either your own or you must have permission to use them
  • number each figure and image in its own series
  • list the images and figures in their own lists after the table of contents
  • separate figures and images from the rest of the text with a single blank line placed above and below the figure or image

Add a figure caption under the figure and place a full stop at the end.

  • use bold for the texts Figure 1 or Image 1, but do not use bold for the caption text
  • use the same font, but use font size 11 and a line spacing of 1
  • separate the caption from the figure or image with a single line break
  • if a caption runs onto a second line, indent the second line so that it starts from the same place as the first line of the caption
  • place possible references in parentheses after the caption text

The Windows clipboard might cause problems if you are copying PNG images. The clipboard does not know how to process a transparent background, and if you are, for example, creating a PDF file of your thesis, images might appear as black squares. So save the image to your computer, and add the image with the tools found in Word, and not by copying and pasting.

Tools for drawing


When creating a figure, bear in mind that small symbols can have large meanings. For example, the direction of a pointing arrowhead changes the factual contents of a figure significantly. Possible technical drawings and diagrams must use standardised drawing symbols and quantity indicators.

By creating figures yourself, you may be able to display your capacity to understand relationships between things. If a figure is taken from another source, the original caption and a source citation must be used. In some cases, only a part of a figure/table can be used, in which case there must also be a reference to the original source. In these cases, the text must clearly indicate what the author's own output is and what has been taken from the original source.

The alternative texts for figures, graphs and diagrams can be challenging. If the information is found in the text itself, you can refer to it in the alt text. Consider also if a table is needed to provide more accurate numerical data.


For example, photographs or screenshots should only be used in theses when needed for the thesis purpose and the method used. If the thesis method is image analysis, it is natural to use images in the analysis. In this case, however, copyright to the images must be noted. Photos almost always exceed the so-called copyright threshold, in which case the creator should be asked for permission. If the creator has transferred the right to a work to another party, such as a publisher or producer, permission is asked from this party instead. It is advisable to already ask for permission in the early stages of thesis writing in order to take possible prohibitions on the use of images into account in the research design.

Theses can use images to some extent without permission as allowed by the so-called fair-use principle. The fair-use principle means that academic works may cite published works when the image is closely related to the subject matter discussed in the work. A portion of an image or an entire image can only be used to the extent necessary to investigate the subject, which means no stock photos can be used. When an image is used in a thesis following the fair-use principle, the image must also be discussed in the text itself. The use is justified when it clarifies and illustrates your own presentation. When using images, you should always remember the related citation policies. Indicate the publisher’s or photographer’s name as the source of the image.


The actual text must include a reference to each table before the actual table appears. Statistical data must be presented in accordance with the general principles of statistical presentation. Tables must be laid out clearly and be of an appropriate size. For example, tables should not include unnecessary empty space. They must fit into the specified margins and on one page.

  • separate tables from the rest of the text with one blank line above the table caption and one below the table
  • number tables in their own series
  • list tables sequentially in their own list after the table of contents, and the lists of images and figures
  • align texts on the left and numbers on the right (usually 1–3 decimal places)
  • table fonts are the same as in the rest of the text, but the font size may be smaller

Write table titles, also known as table captions, above the table. Add a full stop at the end of the title.

  • use bold for the text Table 1, but not for the caption itself
  • use the same font, but use size 11 and a line spacing of 1
  • place possible references in parentheses after the caption text
  • separate the caption and the table with a single line break
  • if a caption runs onto a second line, indent the second line so that it starts from the same place as the first line of the caption

Tables may be used in theses, for example, to describe the material and to present the results of your analysis in a concise form. Tables consist of rows and columns where information is presented in a simplified manner.

Tables are also often used to present statistical data. Present statistical data as a separate table either in the text or as an appendix. If there is very little numerical data, you can also present them in untitled and unnumbered layouts. Not all statistical data necessarily need to be presented separately when focusing on the significant findings for the research. The same information shall not be presented both as a table and as a figure. When necessary, the precise numbers on which a figure is based can be included in an appendix. Quantitative descriptions in qualitative research are sometimes based on very limited sample sizes. In such cases, the text should take a critical look at the general applicability of the numerical data. When presenting percentages, it is good practice to include in the table the numbers on which the percentages were calculated.

There must be a header row in a table. In addition to colour, there should be some other way to provide information, for example, shape, symbol or an explicit text.


All examples presented in the research data must be sequentially numbered. All examples must be referred to in the text and must be adequately explained. Do not leave interpreting the examples to the reader.

Use indentation to separate examples from the rest of the text (1.5 cm: example number, 2.5 cm: example text) and a line spacing of 1. Generally, a section should not end in an example. Rather, the example should be followed by text:

Example begins.

However, neutral verbs may have their own specific function in reference structures alongside being an expression of communication. This can be seen in the following example (1).

(1) Juha Korkeaoja, Vice Chairman of the Party Parliamentary Group, said: “You should ask those the relevant parties first. This would considerably clarify the situation.” (Add information on where the example comes from, e.g., Helsingin Sanomat, 2017, Sept. 20)

In example (1), the fact that something was said is not the core of the news as such. Rather, – –.


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