How to Search, and Properly Cite Images & Social Media

Students are using images they find online for projects on the daily. We are also encouraging students to remix images and content they find online to create their own unique artifacts of learning. Below are some important tips about how to search for images in a way that respects copyright, along with information about how to properly cite content found online.

Copyright Matters

We want our students to learn how to protect their work, but it is equally as important to teach them to respect and credit the work created by others. Work created by others should not be used without permission. Now more than ever we have a collective responsibility to educate ourselves and our students about copyright.

Copyright Matters is a free educational resource that was written for teachers to simplify copyright into a user-friendly language that teachers and students can understand and apply. The online booklet is updated regularly, and provides information about copyright law and how it relates to the use of resources both in and outside of the classroom. The booklet is short, divided up into frequently asked questions to make searching for the “How do I…” questions easy and efficient. Take for example the question about remixing images teachers and students find online. Copyright Matters provides clear direction on how this should be done in a way that protects works created by others:


Did you know…

Searching for Images to Use Online:

1. One way to search for images online is through Creative Commons. Creative Commons provides users with a tool to find content that has been shared, and that you/ your students can use and remix. It should be noted that is not a search engine, but rather offers access to search services provided by other organizations (e.g. Flicker, Google, etc). It is still your responsibility to ensure that the work you are using is actually under a CC license by following the link associated with the image and looking for the CC attribution.

2.  Another way to search for images online that have been licensed for re-use is by using Google’s Search Tools. Type your search term in Google Images. Then select the Tools button on the right hand side of the screen.  The menu that appears gives users the option to select Usage Rights. From there choose the appropriate usage rights and search for images as you normally would using Google. (When you enter in a search term in Creative Commons and select Google as your search engine, what you are actually doing is searching Google and filtering images by usage rights)

Citing Images

Citing images (illustrations, photographs, graphics, etc) should become a required part of the process when locating images online for reuse.

To properly cite an image found online, the citation should include the following elements:

Creator’s Last name, First name. “Title of the digital image (if one doesn’t exist, briefly describe the image in your own words).” Title of the website, First name Last name of any contributors, Version (if applicable), Number (if applicable), Publisher, Publication date, URL.

EXAMPLE:  Vasquez, Gary A. Photograph of Coach K with Team USA. NBC Olympics, USA Today Sports, 5 Aug. 2016,

Websites that Create Citations for Users

There are a number of websites that create citations for users for free. These sites often require a limited amount of information like the URL to begin generating the citation for you. In some cases, a complete citation is generated without any additional work. However, in most cases, users are redirected back to the website (where the image was found) to locate one or more missing pieces of information. This is a worthwhile process that reinforces our accountability to cite sources properly.

Some examples include:

Citing Social Media

I came across this graphic on Although it’s a few years old, after checking it against citation sites like EasyBib, the format for citing social media websites using MLA and APA format is fairly consistent.

Rao, Aditi. “How To Cite Social Media: MLA & APA Formats.” TeachBytes. Aditi Rao, 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
As always, your feedback helps us all learn more and do better! Please share your thoughts, ideas, resources, questions below 🙂

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