How to Cite Sources in a Dissertation: Suggestions from an Expert


Citing all those sources you have used for your dissertation is a tedious job, and a failure to do it properly may result in accusations of plagiarism. Use these expert tips to reference your sources most efficiently.

  • Sketch your reference list during the course of your research.
  • As you take notes from your sources, write out the name and authors of each one. Include other important details; such as the publication date, the name and location of the publisher (required in APA style), ISBN, and page numbers where appropriate.

  • Use note cards to organize your research.
  • Write each piece of evidence on a separate card. Include the source’s details on the card’s other side. Doing this for every card might seem tedious, especially if you use multiple pieces from one source. To save your time and effort, list full details only on the first card, and then just mention the author’s name and date. Sort your note cards by sources.

  • Write your reference list in the beginning.
  • Right after you finish your research, put your bibliography together. Find out which citation style you have to use for your dissertation, and follow it strictly. Make sure to include all your sources. If you write your reference list that early, you will be able to use it as a guide when writing the body of your dissertation.

  • Refer to academic style guides on how to cite unusual sources.
  • If you need to cite an interview, a personal email, or something else you have never cited before; look for a comprehensive APA or MLA guide online. Such guides are usually found on educational websites.

  • Code your references.
  • Instead of typing authors’ names and dates every time you need them, assign each reference a code that consists of both letters and digits, e. g. UL96. Codes should be short and memorable. Write a code into your dissertation text every time you need to cite this source, e. g. “UL96 argue that…” After you are done writing, you will just need to use auto-replacement option to change this code into proper authors’ names throughout your text. It is important not to use codes that contain only digits or only letters, as auto-replacing them can mess up your dissertation.

  • Create a code table.
  • As you use lots of sources for your dissertation, you may not be able to memorize all the codes. Make a table where one column will contain how names and dates should appear in your dissertation (Usher and Lloyd 1996), and the other with the respective codes (UL96). Use this table as your guide.

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