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Citing Dissertations and Theses in APA


Using doctoral dissertations and master’s theses is a useful way to bolster your research for your school paper. As post graduate students are required to do original research for their theses, these sources cover current, timely topics.

Students Citing Dissertations and Theses in APA for bibliography

Doctoral Dissertations and Master’s Theses

Teachers prefer you use as many primary sources as possible. It is good to incorporate secondary sources in your research, especially to guide you to authoritative, primary sources. Look through the reference list, works cited or bibliography for additional sources.

Finding Sources

Many graduate and post graduate students submit their theses to subscription databases, institutional archives and even publish on their own websites. Although there is a trend towards creating a portfolio rather than publishing a master’s thesis, there is still plenty of original material out there.

Some dissertation indexing and abstracting sources include Dissertations and Theses Global and ProQuest Dissertations. Usually you will have access to paid databases through your school and/or public library.


Doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis available from a database service format:

Author, A.A. (2003). Title of doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis (Doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis). Retrieved from Name of database. (Accession or Order No.)


Unpublished dissertation or thesis format:

Author, A.A. (1978). Title of doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis (Unpublished doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis). Name of Institution, Location.



  • Italicize title.
  • Indicate doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis in parenthesis after the title.
  • Provide accession or order number listed in the database in parentheses.

Commercial Database

McNiel, D.S. (2006). Meaning through narrative: A personal narrative discussing growing up with an alcoholic mother. (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 1434728)


Institutional Database

Adams, R.J. (1973). Building a foundation for evaluation of instruction in higher education and continuing education (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://


Online Dissertation

Elaiess, R. (2010). Developing information services for special library users by designing a low cost digital library: The experiment of NOC-digital library (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://works.bepress.com/ramadan_elaiess/1


Abstracted Dissertation

Appelbaum, L. G. (2005). Three studies of human information processing: Texture amplification, motion representation, and figure-ground segregation. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B. Sciences and Engineering, 65(10), 5428.


International Sources

Calborm, P. (2000). Carbody and passengers in rail vehicle dynamics (Doctoral thesis, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden). Retrieved from http://


Using a variety of sources makes the research process more interesting. Rather than just looking for easy online sources, finding primary sources in doctoral and master’s theses shows off your research skills. Using and reading abstracts of these sources helps you search for relevant sources quickly.

(Source: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition)

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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