How to Cite a Dissertation: Guidelines, Format and Examples

How to Cite a Dissertation: Guidelines, Format and Examples

Citations are a big part of writing dissertations or theses. The citation style chosen depends on the formatting style used for research and academic writing. These different writing styles help format the information on an academic paper differently.

You can usually tell the style of a paper by looking at how it is formatted. This guide on dissertation citations and the different styles involved in formatting the research information will be beneficial to you. We’ll look at the various methods for referencing dissertations and provide brief examples of them.

How to cite a PhD dissertation

First, let’s start with definitions.

1. Formatting style

A formatting style is a method of developing an academic paper that is consistent and easily recognized. Research papers can be written in:

  • APA (the American Psychological Association style),
  • MLA (the Modern Language Association style)
  • CS (the Chicago Style).

Formatting includes specifications like where the paper’s title and author’s name will appear, how sources will be cited in the text, and the appropriate spacing between the lines.

Styles of formatting are essential because they provide standardization and methods of displaying source information used in the document.

2. Citation

Next, we have citations. A citation is a method of crediting people for their intellectual and creative works employed in your research and writing. It can also be used to find specific data sources and avoid plagiarism. A citation generally includes the author’s name, date, journal title, publishing company location, and other information sources.

Choosing a citation style is vital in referencing dissertations. There are various citation methods based on different formatting styles. And the form of citation used often depends on the research field involved.

Now that we’re conversant with the definitions and formatting styles let’s explain how to cite a doctoral dissertation using different styles.

How to cite a dissertation APA style

The American Psychological Association style uses an author and date citation method. It was created mainly for use in psychology, but other disciplines have adopted it, like the sciences.

Every in-text citation is composed of a reference list entry, which applies to reference lists. Unless you’ve written a one- or two-page document, an APA formatted style begins with a title page, and an abstract follows closely.

The title, quotes, and sources on the references page are all double spaced and alphabetized. Also, in-text citations should be used for quotes and paraphrases. And if there is no date available when referencing using author-date, use the abbreviation n.d. for ‘no date,’ as in (Kate, n.d.).

If you directly quote the source, remember to add the page number in the citation. For example:

“There are twenty-five studies on educational psychology in elementary schools,” said Dr Thomas (2014) (p.29).

In addition, a running head is needed in APA style, and it should begin on the title page, with the title in all caps. These are the major steps showing how to cite a dissertation using the APA format.

How to cite a dissertation MLA style

In the humanities, such as philosophy, music, art, and literature, the Modern Language Association style is often used. On the first page, instead of a title page, the student’s name, professor’s name, course name, and date are written in a double-spaced text that is left-justified.

The title is centered two spaces beneath the date, and all quotes and paraphrases should receive credited in-text citations. However, the subsequent information about the information source is written under the alphabetized “Works Cited” page.

Instead of footnotes or endnotes, the MLA system employs in-text citations. The citations in the text are very concise, with the author’s family name and page number included. MLA in-text citations use the author-page number format, e.g. (Abraham 37). The page number is always included in an MLA-style citation unless it is unavailable.

How to cite a dissertation Chicago style

Footnotes, rather than endnotes, are frequently used in student assessment tasks in the Chicago formatting style. Footnotes have the merit of allowing interested readers to see source details as they read easily. To make footnotes, use superscript reference numbers to brand your sources of information, like quotations, paraphrases, and ideas.

These reference numbers start at one and go up in order. Always place reference numbers after the punctuation, and the reference numbers in superscript should identify with the numbered notes at the bottom of each page.

You should add the author or authors’ names, the title and subtitle, and the publication information the first time you cite a source. Use shortened notes that only show the author’s surname and a short title when citing the same source again. The Chicago style often discourages using abbreviations to refer readers to the previous citation. Include page numbers in the first and shortened notes for quotations and references to particular passages.


The dissertation citation style you use depends on some factors. First, you should practice the various types of formatting or read up dissertations written in different styles. Secondly, determine your institution and discipline’s preferred formatting style. Lastly, write with these guidelines to accurately prepare your dissertation in the instructed format.

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