Information is taken from the 7th edition Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, latest version, 2020.
Tables and figures are immensely helpful for easily sharing large amounts of information in an APA style essay without having to take up multiple paragraphs of space. Tables use rows and columns to organize information, while figures include any illustration that doesn’t.
Remember only to use tables and figures in APA papers when necessary, not just to take up space or break up the text of your essay. They can be convenient, but overusing them makes an essay look jumbled. Please refer to each table and figure you use in the text of your paper as well. Information presented in tables and figures needs to be expanded upon in the text to make sense of why you chose the table or figure you did.
Finally, remember to number tables (Table 1, Table 2, Table 3) and figures (Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3) with Arabic numerals in ascending order throughout your APA style essay.
APA Style Tables
Tables in an APA paper require a title, which should be italicized and should fall one line below the table number and one line above the table itself. Each column in the table must have a heading, and each heading should be short and concise. Headings used in tables shouldn’t be longer than the data presented in the table if you can help it.
There are four types of headings for tables in APA format. The stub heading describes the left-hand column. Column headings describe the information below them, so they only account for one column. Column spanners are above column headings, and they represent the information found in two or more columns. Table spanners cover the entire width of the table.
In your table’s body—the cells of the table—everything should be centered unless it’s easier to read as left-aligned text. If you’re using text in the body, you should use regular sentence case, not title case. And finally, if a cell doesn’t contain anything, place a dash inside it and use a note under the table to explain the dash.
There are three kinds of notes for tables in APA style papers: general, specific, and probability. They should appear in that order under the corresponding table. General notes explain the information presented in the table and provide further context if needed. They are delineated by placing the word note before it begins. Specific notes explain the information presented within a particular column, row, or cell. They are delineated by superscript lowercase letters. Probability notes share the statistical significance of quantities in the table when that is necessary. They are delineated by an asterisk or asterisks preceding the probability value (*p, **p, ***p).
Here’s an example of a table in an APA paper:
APA Style Figures
Figures include all illustrations that are not tables—charts, graphs, drawings, images, maps, etc. Don’t use anything too flashy or get too caught up in the special effects you can apply to figures because you don’t want to use anything that distracts your readers from the information of the table and text.
Each figure should be numbered and titled, and these labels should appear above the figure. Not all figures will require a legend, but you can include one if it’s needed. Legends should be in title case, and they should appear within or under the figure. Like tables, figures can sometimes require notes. General notes, specific notes, and probability notes can be used, and they follow the same formatting as table notes.
Here’s an example of a figure in an APA paper:
Don’t be afraid to use a table or figure in your APA paper, especially if it helps you convey information that doesn’t quite make sense without a visual. Tables and figures are super useful, and they’re not too tricky to format correctly, as long as you follow the simple rules laid out in this guide!
Emmi holds a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She’s been published in Adelaide Literary Magazine, and Atlantis Magazine. Emmi has written multiple articles for Writer’s Hive in the academic section with topics about MLA, APA, and Chicago Style essay writing.