The phrase “consider the source” has perhaps never been more apt than in our digital age. With the sheer volume of content being dumped on the internet every day, it’s often difficult even for savvy media consumers to sort the real from the fake.
When you’re creating infographics or any other content, it’s crucial to properly source and cite all references you use, whether that’s a study, news article or another infographic.
There’s really no single way to do this, but let’s make sure you understand best practices for infographic sourcing and citations, including what the popular style guides APA, Chicago and MLA have to say about it.
You can then get started bringing your infographic idea to life, properly cited and all that, with Venngage’s Infographic Maker.
Click to jump ahead:
Do infographics have citations?
If you’ve done your due diligence in developing the data for your infographic, you’ll probably have consulted many data sources, and listing those sources is part of making a good infographic.
In most cases, your infographics should have at least one link or reference to the source of your information, data, facts or other analysis. One big exception is in the case of infographics that rely entirely on internal data. That could include:
- Survey data
- User metrics
- Company history
- Processes and procedures
Common knowledge information doesn’t need to be cited, but if you use any outside piece of data, any facts or any other content that doesn’t fall into the common knowledge bucket, you should properly cite the source in your infographic.
Why? You want your audience to believe you, so by being upfront about where you got your information, you begin to build credibility with the people you want to read your content.
This infographic, for example, shares information that could be seen as common knowledge, but by including a reference to the original source of the information, it automatically appears more authoritative.
In this single-sourced example, the resource—Merriam-Webster—is the final word on, well, words. Merriam-Webster is such a trusted source that one of its two names is the generic definition of a dictionary (Webster’s.)
Another reason to cite sources in your infographics is that it can prevent users from challenging the conclusions you’ve reached. This is particularly important when you’re making a bold or potentially controversial statement.
The infographic below covers a sensitive subject—racial inequity in America—and even though it isn’t really making a bold claim, the information sources for all charts used are listed directly below the images so readers don’t have to bounce around to find the original source.
Some infographics may be informed by internal research of something external. For example, this infographic on the “Game of Thrones” TV show uses as its source material the program itself, and the methodology for generating the data is detailed in the introduction.
Similarly, infographics that rely on purely internal sources, such as those listed earlier, should reference the methodology. For a piece like the one below, that means including a link to the survey data upon which the infographic was based.
How to cite sources on an infographic
There’s no one way to cite the sources you’ve used to create your infographic, and later we’ll explore the different ways style guides recommend citing infographics in other works. Those methods should also be used to cite the sources you use in your infographic, and depending on which style guide you use, the general advice below may not apply to you.
That said, a good rule of thumb is that if you take a specific piece of information from the Internet, particularly a statistic or full data set, you should copy and paste the URL where readers can find that information, most often at the bottom of your infographic in a section or line labeled “Source” or “Sources,” depending on how many resources you used.
In some cases, like the one above, the information comes from a single source. Longer, more complex infographics will typically include more than one source, like the one below.
How do you do in-text citations on an infographic?
While it’s standard practice to list all sources at the bottom of an infographic or underneath a chart or graph, in some cases, you’ll want to reference the source directly in the text.
This could be because the information is novel or you want to drive home its importance. Think of it as telling your reader, “Don’t take it from me, take it from this expert.”
Let’s take a look at this infographic:
As this segment from a larger infographic shows, in-text citations can be incredibly simple, and in this case, no URL needs to be listed because the advice in question comes from a well-known public health agency.
Use your judgment on how to reference the source with in-text citations. If your audience knows who the organization or individual is, you don’t need to explain much.
It’s a good idea to do both, depending on the infographic topic. In this example, the organization providing the report is referenced in the introduction, while the full URL of the data is listed at the bottom.
This does a couple of things: One, it ensures the infographic conforms to accepted standards. Two, it ensures that even skimmers of the data will have a couple of places to see the source. Don’t assume that everyone is going to devour every word from top to bottom.
What’s the best way to keep track of infographic sources?
Especially during the research phase before you’ve begun to shape the narrative, keeping track of every source you might use is a challenge. That’s because you haven’t yet decided exactly what statistics or facts to use, but you want to keep the information handy so you don’t have to dig back through your browser history to find it again.
Some infographic writers and designers do their online research in one shot, leaving every tab open along the way and pulling the URLs as they write the content that will go in the infographic.
I’d call this the chaotic option, and that’s not a judgment. If it works for you, that’s great. But if you’re anything like me, the anxiety of keeping dozens of extra browser tabs open is simply too much to bear.
So here’s what I do:
- Create a rough infographic outline in Google Drive or Microsoft Word.
- Search for studies, statistics, data, analysis, articles—any content out there that applies to my topic and may support or contradict what I think the infographic is going to be about. Bad infographics contain low-quality data that’s often from non-reputable sources—make sure yours isn’t one of them.
- If I find the stat interesting and relevant, I’ll copy and paste it into my outline document. Directly underneath it, I’ll paste the URL where I found the statistic and add any other information needed to locate the specific data point. Many data points live only in PDFs, and to save time and ensure I don’t confuse myself later on, I’ll list the page number or table where I found the stat.
- Repeat. I do this process again and again until I feel I’ve got enough data to tell a complete, engaging and informative story through my infographic.
- At this point, I’ll go through and write the content that will appear in my infographic. If I don’t want to use a particular data point and take nothing else away from that source, I’ll delete it.
- By the end of this process, I’m left with a list of URLs, which I will most often place at the bottom of the infographic in its own section.
Of course, this doesn’t apply if all your information will come from just a single source, like the infographic below. However, the citation method remains the same: List the full URL where you got the information in a section or line labeled “Source.”
This example also provides a link where readers can get more information about the infographic’s sponsor, which is an ideal method for including some subtle branding in your infographic. Another good example of that is the one below about preventing COVID-19 spread.
How to cite an infographic
Good infographics become resources unto themselves. This is especially true if you’ve followed our advice about making great infographics. It’s easy to reference infographics in articles, blog posts and other text by linking to the URL, and you can reference other infographics in your infographics in the very same way.
But for other uses like research papers, white papers, business reports and academic research, your audience may expect a bit more. Here’s a look at what’s typically needed to cite an infographic, depending on the citation style you use:
- Infographic title
- Date published
- Date retrieved
How to cite an image from an infographic
Your research project may call for you to include a portion of the infographic in addition to citing it as a source, and the same rules apply as to what we’re listing below, depending on your citation method.
How to cite an infographic in MLA
The MLA Handbook, published by the Modern Language Association of America, is one of the primary set of rules governing citations in scholarly writing, particularly in humanities fields like language, literature and cultural studies.
In general, the order of information to be included in an MLA-correct citation is:
- Title of source
- Title of container
- Other contributors
- Publication date
If that seems like a lot more than what we’ve talked about to this point, that’s because it definitely is, and as is the case with all the other citation guides we’ll talk about, many infographics simply don’t come with all that stuff.
Here’s the basic structure for citing an infographic, according to the MLA:
Last Name, First Name. “Infographic Title.” Company Name. Publication Date. URL.
The title of the infographic should be in quotation marks, and if the company is a publication, their name should be italicized.
What about when you don’t have an author or a publication date, like in this example?
You’d just skip those, and your citation would look like this:
“Flexible Work From Home Jobs.” Venngage. https://venngage.com/templates/infographics/work-from-home-jobs-infographic-9fb8fe52-b10d-4266-a0a3-f776d21b6998
Note that MLA recommends not using placeholders for the information you’re not able to find, such as the author or date in this example, but your academic or corporate style may prefer you to use the date when you accessed the infographic.
You can also learn more about making Works-Cited lists in MLA style in this quick guide.
In-text citations for infographics in MLA are tricky because most infographics don’t include an author. But if you’re using a company as the author or one is named, your text could look something like this:
“Some of the best work-from-home options include online data entry, transcription and virtual call centers (Venngage).”
How to cite an infographic in APA
Guidelines published by the American Psychological Association (APA) are popular in academic writing, particularly in research and publishing in the fields of social and behavioral sciences.
The APA outlines a simple list for referencing an infographic or any other source in your work:
- Publication date
- Title [infographic]
- Source website name
When using APA style for the titles of standalone works and periodicals, you need to italicize them. The organization does not have specific guidance on infographics. As with MLA style, if no author is listed, no placeholder is required, but APA does call for a placeholder for publication dates.
This infographic would appear in an APA bibliography like this because there’s no author or publication date listed:
(n.d.) How To Clean & Disinfect Your Home [infographic]. Venngage.com. https://venngage.com/templates/infographics/how-to-clean-and-disinfect-your-home-infographic-0cafe393-0830-4394-a58a-ca5f77f48376
Learn more about how to deal with missing information in APA style.
In-text infographic citations using APA style should generally rely on narrative citation, which provides for a much more intuitive flow of information, and because many infographics are published without author names or dates, it creates a more readable format.
How to cite an infographic in Chicago style
The Chicago Manual of Style is popular in publishing, especially among history researchers, and it also serves as the foundation for the style used by many companies, including Apple.
Here’s the basic structure of an infographic citation in Chicago style:
- Date of publication
Let’s take this infographic as an example:
In this example, we’d interpret the author as being Maplewood Clinic by virtue of the logo that appears in the top right, but it’s also reasonable to interpret this infographic as not having an author. Here’s what that would look like:
Maplewood Clinic. “Key Risk Documentation Principles.” (n.d.) https://venngage.com/templates/infographics/key-medical-risk-principles-decision-table-9c35611c-0090-4249-bf6d-b34aea6f3cde
For in-text citations of infographics in the Chicago style, it’s usually sufficient to describe the infographic and what information you’re referencing. Using our previous example, that could look like this: “Maplewood Clinic’s infographic established four levels of risk …”
In summary: Knowing how to cite infographics is critical whether your work is academic or commercial in nature
Adequate sourcing in and around infographics is critical to building credibility.
Given that infographics are continuing to become more popular all the time, the chances are good that they will remain a go-to resource for information and analysis, which means you should provide as much transparency about your information as possible.
Once you’ve had all your sources noted and ready, you can start creating your own infographic with Venngage’s Infographic Maker. It’s free to get started.