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Image Use & Citation

If you use an image in your work, you must cite it. This includes papers, presentations, theses/dissertations, publications, blogs, etc. Learn to use and cite images correctly.

Images in Theses and Dissertations

Images used often add to an authors critique or discussion, while offering a visual to help their argument.  If you use an image in your thesis or dissertation, you must cite it.  Before Theses/ dissertations were born digital, they were printed and added to the library of an institution for preservation and add to the collective scholarly community.  When using images, you will need to include commentary on it.  Images should add to one's discussion/ argument.  Fair Use of copyrighted work in print form, generally, was easy to determine for educational purposes.  However, this is not always the case with digital forms which reach a wider audience, because "images can be reproduced easily, users may copy and paste images repeatedly without realizing they are committing copyright infringement (Kennedy, 2015)."

If under copyright protection, as a best practice, you should gain permission to use it especially if you plan to publish your work later.  You must give credit where credit is due, even if it is your own work from a previous publication or class work. Images include, but are not limited to, drawings, paintings, photographs, tables, graphs, and charts.   Images fall into several categories: public domain, fair use, Creative Commons (CC), or used with permission.  If an image is under a CC license, pay close attention to the allowances set up by the creator.

For copyrighted works you will need to contact the person, publisher, or other entities who hold the rights to it.  Publishers may have a form you need to fill out for the request.  Artists generally have a personal website in which an email is provided or a contact form.  When a form is not already available for a request to reproduce you will need to include as much information as you can in your request.  

  • What image(s) you want to use.
  • Why you want to use the image (thesis/ dissertation)?  Explain how this is for educational purposes and not for commercial gain.  
    • If you do plan on publishing your work later, include that too.  This will help you in going through the publishing process in the future.
  • Include the thesis/ dissertation will be published electronically and included in the Mississippi State University Institutional Repository.

Keep in mind, you may have to pay a fee to use the image(s) if it is under copyright.

Further Reading:

Standards and Guidelines by the College Art Association

Statement on The Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Studying by the Visual Resource Association

ProQuest: Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities

ProQuest: Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis  (Includes request sample letter)