How to cite screenshots

(updated 2023-11-29 with suggestions on how to use BibTeX)

by Thomas Mejtoft

When we see any structure highly perfected for any particular habit, as the wings of a bird for flight, we should bear in mind that animals displaying early transitional grades of the structure will seldom have survived to the present day, for they will have been supplanted by their successors, which were gradually rendered more perfect through natural selection.

Charles Darwin*

When writing a thesis, paper or report, screenshots from applications are, from time to time, essential for the reader to understand the content of the publication. Since screenshots do not show your original work, It is tricky to navigate the dos and don’ts when using screenshots.

When submitting a thesis, report, or paper to a university for examination, copyrighted figures (e.g., photos, figures, diagrams, etc.) tables, or similar can not be used in the report without permission from the copyright owner (this is however a general statement, no publication should contain copyrighted figures without proper permission). This is due to both legal and ethical reasons. Since almost all material is under some type of copyright (if not explicitly under public license), this applies to most photos, graphics, illustrations, tables, etc. found in print or digital sources. There are two problems that can occur,  (1) if material is used without the appropriate citation, it is regarded as plagiarism, and (2) if a copyrighted work is used (i.e. a figure, table, etc. is copied and placed in your work) without permission, it is (most certainly) a copyright violation. The latter can occur even if the correct citation is used and vice versa.

It is the responsibility of the author (e.g., the student) of a paper/report/thesis to ensure that all necessary permissions have been obtained and/or the appropriate credits are given in the text before the paper/report/thesis is published or submitted for examination.

There is no need to make a reference to your own original work. That is figures/images/photos or other original artwork created by the author of the report/paper should not be in the reference list.

Here is a page with resources and material to use. If you are looking for how to use and cite figures, screenshots, code etc. please refer to the following documents: How to use and cite figures from other sources, How to cite screenshots, References to secondary sources and review articles, Writing references to personal communication, Writing references to programming code, Citing content created by generative AI (ChatGPT), and How to visualize your data in an understandable way.

How to cite screenshots

These guidelines are loosely based on the following sources:

What do I need to know about using and citing screenshots? by Simon Fraser University
Citing a Screenshot by the MacOdrum Library at Carleton University

When taking screenshots or using other content, it is important to follow the policies and guidelines for the website, software or company of which you are taking a screenshot. The policies differ a lot and must be read carefully. Most major companies have policies regarding regarding the use of screenshots and content from their applications or web. Examples are GoogleMicrosoft and Electronic Arts. Depending on use, there might also be a need to gain permission to use a screenshot in some cases based on policies and guidelines.

Citing and using screenshots from the Internet in your work

When the appropriate policy have been followed, the reference can be written just as any other reference used with the addition of the text “Screenshot by author“. However, if the screenshot is not made by the author and has e.g., been found on any other page already as a screenshot, that author of the screenshot and page need to be mentioned instead as “Screenshot by Name Nameson, <URL>“. Furthermore, there might be a need to gain permission to use the screenshot, this is done in a similar way as any material you get permission to use.

Figure 1. Screenshot of Google on iPad (Google, 2019).
Figure 1. Screenshot of Google on iPad [14].


APA style
Google. (2019, May 13). Google search on iPad. Retrieved May 13, 2019, from Screenshot by author.

ACM style
[14] Google. 2019. Google search on iPad. Retrieved May 13, 2019 from Screenshot by author.

BibTeX-entry (if needed)
Use "note" to add information on screenshot.

  Author = {Google},
  Year = {2019},
  Title = {Google search on iPad},
  url = {},
  lastaccessed = {May 13, 2019},
  note = {Screenshot by author},

If the screenshot is of an application (e.g., mobile app or desktop software) and no URL should be mentioned in the reference, use @software (see example References using BibTeX). Is this case the date when the screenshot was made can be added in the note.

note = {Screenshot by author May 13, 2019},

If the screenshot is not made by the author makes reference to the figure used, using this reference style:
(observe that permission might be necessary, see How to cite and use of figures from other sources)

APA style
Google. (2019). Google search on iPad. Screenshot by Thomas Mejtoft, Retrieved January 6, 2020, from

ACM style
[14] Google. 2019. Google search on iPad. Retrieved January 6, 2020, from

Citing and using screenshots from electronic media, e.g., video games/computer program, or video in your work

When using a screenshot from a video game or a video a similar approach can be used. The creator should be credited for the work and it could be e.g., the artist, director, writer and/or publisher (last resort), depending on what’s available. Then the name of the work, publication date (year) and e.g., URL or similar should be stated in the reference.

Example of references

Citing a published video game:

Paradox Interactive AB. (2013). Europa Universalis IV (v. 1.32) [video game]. Stockholm, Sweden: Paradox Interactive AB. Screenshot by author.

Citing a computer program:

Microsoft. (2023). Microsoft Excel for Microsoft 365 MSO (v. 2308) [computer program]. Screenshot by author.

Citing a mobile application:

nShift. (2023). Mina Paket (v. 3.0.12) [mobile app]. Screenshot by author.

Citing a published movie:

Burton, T. (producer/writer), Di Novi, D. (producer), Selick, H. (director). (1993). The nightmare before Christmas [motion picture]. Touchstone Pictures. Screenshot by author.

Citing a online published movie:

Macdonald, K. (director), Marshall, L. (producer). (2011). Life in a day [motion picture]. Scott Free Productions/YouTube/LG Corp. Retrieved September 1, 2023, from Screenshot by author.

Citing a online video:

jawed. (2005). Me at the zoo. YouTube. Retrieved September 2, 2023, from Screenshot by author.

Citing a recording (this is not a screenshot, but rather a quote. However, an instruction fits fairly well here):

Bowie, D. (writer/producer), Scott, K. (producer). (1971). Changes. On Hunky Dory [LP]. RCA.

If the screenshot is not made by the author, include the creator of the screenshot and the URL where found. See example with citation of screenshot of website (above).

*Quote from The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection (Darwin, 1872, p. 140).
Darwin, C. (1872). The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection (6th ed.). John Murray.

Licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Creative Commons license.

(First published by Thomas Mejtoft: 2019-05-13; Revised: 2021-09-10; Last updated: 2023-11-29)