English Editing Researcher Services

Figures: Permissions and Acceptable Reuse

Preparing a good manuscript involves more than just writing up your results. You also need to consider what information to present as figures or tables, and the most effective way to present them. Occasionally, particularly when writing reviews or follow-up studies to your previous work, this may mean that you want to use a figure or table from another previously published source. In these cases, there are some important considerations to keep in mind.



If you’re using a display item from a previously published article, you must obtain permission to use this figure from the original publisher, ideally before submission. This permission can be obtained in several ways:

  • From the journal website. There is often a link next to an article or on the journal homepage that will direct you to an online permission request form.
  • From the Copyright Clearance Center. This online site allows you to request permissions for a wide variety of resources, including books and journals. Once complete, you will receive an electronic permission statement that you can submit along with your new manuscript.
  • From the journal editor. If the journal you want to submit to doesn’t have an online option for permissions, you can write to the editorial office at the original journal and request permission to either reuse or modify the display items for use in a new manuscript. The confirmation letter you receive back from the editor can then be submitted with your new article.

But don’t forget to include a statement in your new manuscript that the figure was reproduced! Standard phrasing such as ‘This figure has be reproduced with permission from [Publisher]” should be placed at the end of the figure or table legend to which it applies.


Using Display Items Under a Creative Commons Licence

Recent changes in the academic publishing environment have led to increased online sharing of data, figures, and results in advance of publication in traditional journal articles. Much of this data can be found in repositories like figshare or Dryad, and is available for use under a Creative Commons license. This means that the information is freely available for use as long as you include a citation to the original source. Although data shared in this manner is not normally considered as a prior publication, under the terms of the Creative Commons license, you must still include a statement such as “Figure copyright [Author], licensed under CC-BY 2.0.”

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to reuse a figure or table in your work if it will enhance understanding by your readers. What is important to academic integrity is the fair use of these items and that credit is given to original source.