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Citing Sources Correctly in Your Dissertation

Citing sources correctly in your dissertation is a crucial aspect of academic writing. It not only demonstrates your ability to conduct thorough research but also gives credit to the original authors and allows readers to verify your claims. In this article, we will explore the importance of citing sources correctly in your dissertation and provide you with valuable insights on how to do it effectively.

The Purpose of Citing Sources

When writing a dissertation, it is essential to understand the purpose of citing sources. Citing sources serves several important functions:

  • Providing evidence: By citing sources, you provide evidence to support your arguments and claims. This adds credibility to your work and shows that you have conducted thorough research.
  • Giving credit: Citing sources gives credit to the original authors and acknowledges their contributions to the field. It is a way of showing respect for their work and avoiding plagiarism.
  • Allowing verification: Citing sources allows readers to verify the information you have presented in your dissertation. They can refer to the original sources to check the accuracy of your claims and evaluate the reliability of your research.
  • Building on existing knowledge: By citing sources, you demonstrate that your work is built on existing knowledge and contributes to the ongoing scholarly conversation in your field. It shows that you are aware of the existing literature and have engaged with it critically.

Common Citation Styles

There are several citation styles commonly used in academic writing, and the choice of citation style may depend on your field of study or the guidelines provided by your institution. Some of the most widely used citation styles include:

  • APA (American Psychological Association): This style is commonly used in the social sciences and is known for its emphasis on author-date citations.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association): MLA style is often used in the humanities and focuses on author-page citations.
  • Chicago/Turabian: The Chicago Manual of Style is used in a variety of disciplines and offers two different citation systems: notes and bibliography, and author-date.
  • Harvard: The Harvard referencing style is widely used in the UK and is known for its use of in-text citations and a reference list at the end of the document.
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It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements of the citation style you are using and follow them consistently throughout your dissertation.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations are used to acknowledge the source of a specific idea, quote, or paraphrase within the body of your dissertation. The format of in-text citations may vary depending on the citation style you are using, but they generally include the author’s last name and the year of publication.

For example, in APA style, an in-text citation would look like this:

“According to Smith (2019), the results of the study indicate…”

In MLA style, the same citation would be formatted as:

“The results of the study indicate…” (Smith 45).

When citing a specific page or range of pages, you can include the page number(s) in the citation. If the source has no page numbers, you can use other identifying information, such as paragraph numbers or section headings.

Creating a Reference List

A reference list is a separate section at the end of your dissertation that provides detailed information about the sources you have cited in your work. The format of the reference list may vary depending on the citation style you are using, but it generally includes the following information:

  • Author’s name(s)
  • Title of the work
  • Publication date
  • Publication information (such as the name of the publisher or the journal)
  • Page numbers (if applicable)
  • URL or DOI (for online sources)

It is important to follow the specific guidelines of your chosen citation style when formatting your reference list. Pay attention to details such as punctuation, capitalization, and italicization.

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Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that can have severe consequences. It involves using someone else’s work or ideas without giving them proper credit. To avoid plagiarism in your dissertation, it is crucial to cite your sources correctly.

Here are some tips to help you avoid plagiarism:

  • Always cite the original source when using someone else’s ideas, even if you have paraphrased them in your own words.
  • Use quotation marks when directly quoting someone else’s words, and provide an in-text citation.
  • Keep track of your sources as you conduct your research. Make a note of all the necessary information (such as author, title, and publication date) to create accurate citations later.
  • Use plagiarism detection tools to check your work for any unintentional instances of plagiarism.
  • When in doubt, consult your supervisor or a writing center for guidance on proper citation practices.


Citing sources correctly in your dissertation is essential for several reasons. It provides evidence to support your arguments, gives credit to the original authors, allows verification of your claims, and demonstrates your engagement with existing knowledge. By following the guidelines of the chosen citation style, using in-text citations, creating a reference list, and avoiding plagiarism, you can ensure that your dissertation is well-researched and academically sound.

Remember, citing sources is not just a requirement imposed by academic institutions; it is a fundamental aspect of scholarly writing that contributes to the integrity and credibility of your work.

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