How to cite screenshots

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 are, from time to time, essential for the reader to understand the content of the published version of the report.

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 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.

If you are looking for how to cite figures from other sources, please refer to this document: Figures from other sources

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.

Screenshot showing the google search box on a iPad.
Figure 1. Screenshot of Google on iPad (Google, 2019).


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

If the screenshot is not made by the author use this reference style:

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

Citing and using screenshots from video games/computer program and videos 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 video game)
Paradox Interactive AB. (2013). Europa Universalis IV. Stockholm, Sweden: Paradox Interactive. Screenshot by author.

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

(citing a movie)
Macdonald, K. (director), Marshall, L. (producer). (2011). Life in a day [motion picture]. Scott Free Productions/YouTube/LG Corp. Retrieved September 1, 2021, from Screenshot by author.

(citing a video)
jawed. (2005). Me at the zoo. YouTube. Retrieved September 1, 2021, from Screenshot by author.

(citing a recording)
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).

Licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Creative Commons license.

(First published by Thomas Mejtoft: 2019-05-13; Revised: 2021-09-10; Last updated: 2022-06-21)