Skip to Main Content

Using Images and Non-Textual Materials in Presentations, Papers, Theses, and Dissertations

This guide offers basic information on using images and media in research. Reasonable use of images and media in teaching, course papers, and graduate theses/dissertations is generally covered by fair use.

Examples of Authoritative Image Sources

These sources include not just image reproductions but also information about them, such as creator, title, image location, description, analysis, etc., that can be used for citing.


  • Books

Books are an important source for images, which have been well identified and described.  To find books, search through the USC Libraries discovery page. You can change "Everything" on the left of the search box to search the "catalog."

  • Journal and Newspaper Articles

Like books, journals and newspapers are a good source for identifiable images.  Disciplinary databases of journal articles, as well as historic newspaper databases, are listed in the USC Libraries database resources.

  • Institutional Image Databases

Libraries, museums, and cultural organizations provide access to print and digital collections of images. 

Below is a list of select digital USC Image Databases, available through the USC Libraries:

  • USC Digital Libraryprovides a wealth of historic resources such as photographs, oral histories, recordings, etc., located in the USC specialized collections and in the collections of collaborating institutions. 
  • ARTSTOR an important and growing collection of over a million images in the visual disciplines.
  • David Rumsey Historical Map Collection – contains over 20,000 digitized maps, focusing on rare 18th and 19th century North American and South American maps and other cartographic materials. Historic maps of the world, Europe, Asia, and Africa are also represented.
  • Museums and libraries often make high resolution images from their unique collections available online. A few examples include: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the USC Libraries digital image collection, the Los Angeles Public Library's digital image collection, the Library of Congress, the various national libraries in other countries, etc.


  • Photojournalistic Sources

Examples of photojournalistic sites that have large image archives and manage reproduction rights are Getty Images or Magnum Photos. These and other photojournalistic sites may provide students with usable images without charging a fee.

Common Internet Sources

Below is a short list of frequently used free Internet image sources that may not always give authoritative information about the images they reproduce.

  • Wikipedia usually provides basic information about images in its articles, and often identifies the source.
  • Google images is a great source for images, but it does not always provide appropriate image identification.
  •,, and social media sites allow individuals to post visual materials.  However, they do not always provide appropriate image identification.