Citation in Thesis and Dissertation (APA)

What is the citation?

The literal meaning of citation is “a word or piece of writing taken from a written work”. Practically, in thesis and dissertation writing, you should support your statements with other researchers’ findings or even say what you want to say from their mouth. Since they are known researchers who their work was of enough value to be published. So you make your work more valuable by using their findings. When you refer to a researcher, you need to mention his/her name just after the statement, as well as in references at the end of your thesis or dissertation or it will be plagiarism.

Different styles of citation

There are different styles of citation one of which is APA standing for “American Psychological Association”. Other styles are MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, Vancouver, etc.

As it was stated at the first paragraph, you need to cite the references twice; once just after the statement which is called “in-text citation” and one more time in the references section at the end of your thesis which is called “reference citation”.

In-text citation

While you are referring to a researcher, you can use the exact words the researcher has used (direct quotation) or explain what you have understood from his/her text (indirect citation).

Direct quotation

Try to use direct quotation only for statements that every word of it is essential like definitions of keywords and special phrases. It is best to use your own words in any other case.

Now the rules of direct quotation based on APA style:

–          In-line quotation

If the quotation you are going to use in your thesis or dissertation is less than 40 words or it is relevant to your text, it should be included in the text, between double quotation marks.

The researcher’s last name, the published year, and the paper page in which the statement has been stated should be written whether after the quotations marks and before the sentence punctuation between parentheses, or you can include the researcher’s last name and the published year in your sentence followed with the quotation, and write down the page in parentheses after the quotations marks and before the sentence punctuation.

Pay attention to the following examples:

Chen and Starosta (2000) defined Intercultural Sensitivity as “active desire to motivate themselves to understand, appreciate, and accept differences among cultures” (p. 1).

Intercultural Sensitivity can be defined as “active desire to motivate themselves to understand, appreciate, and accept differences among cultures” (Chen & Starosta, 2000, p. 1)

If the statement has been expanded into more than one page, instead of p. -which stands for “page”- use pp. standing for “pages”.

–          Block quotation

Quotations longer than 40 should be set as block quotation i.e. start a new paragraph double spaced. Leave 0.5 inches space at the first and rest of the lines.

Do not use any quotation mark in a block quotation.

In block quotation, do not make any changes in words, letters, punctuations, etc. even capital or small letters need to be the same as the original one.

If you omit some words or sentences during the quotation, use three dots instead of the omitted part.

Before reading the following example, note that other citations written during the quotation you are to use need to be deleted.


Effectiveness refers to an individual’s ability to produce intended effects through interaction with the environment. This ability is treated either as a basic human skill that is obtained through learning and socialization processes (Weinstein, 1969; White, 1959) or as an acquired ability that is related neither to personal intellect nor to education (Foote & Cottrell, 1955; Holland & Baird, 1968). (Chen & Starosta, 1995, p. 356)

Or you can state the author’s name and the published year before the block, such as the below picture:

Indirect citation

It is better to use indirect citation mostly.

Read the source (paper, book, website, podcast, etc.), gain the main idea and write it in your own words. Even it would be better if you analyze and criticize it in your thesis or dissertation.

In indirect citation as direct quotation, write down the author’s name and the published year. The only difference is that you do not need the page number in indirect citation.

Reference citation

In-text citation was only a short introduction of the sources you have used. You need to write down them in detail at the end of your thesis or dissertation just before the appendix section.

It has its own rules and needs all the information including the journal’s name, the volume, the issue number, doi, etc. but since there are easier ways to write reference citation, you do not need to learn it. Instead, use citation machines.

Citation machines

It is good to know that there are some citation machines helping students with citing to the references they have been used in their theses or dissertations.

The most useful and famous citation machine is

It is simple to use. The only thing you need to do is entering the author’s name, the published year, and the paper’s title. Then, papers with the same information will be listed. Find out the paper you are looking for and click on the blue quotation mark below the description tag. [Sometimes, even the paper’s title does not need.]

Then click the text in front of APA and paste it in the reference section in your thesis or dissertation.

Note that the references should be organized alphabetically.

There are other citation machines. You can google “citation machine” and find them.

Sum up

Citation in just one short post does not be completed. Citation has lots of rules and there are lots of unanswered questions you may face while you are writing your thesis or dissertation. For example:

How would you cite a paper with two or more than one author?

How would you cite a website, podcast, video, etc.?

How would you cite a statement existing in more than one source?

And many other questions. But do not worry about them, we will answer all of them in future posts. Follow us.

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