Learn How to Cite a Dissertation in APA with Our Detailed Guide

posted by Andy Preisler 06 Aug 2021
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Many students want to know how to cite a dissertation in APA since it’s one of the most common styles. When you work on a large project, citing sources like dissertations and formatting them correctly is a sure way to avoid plagiarism accusations and stay accurate. The problem is, you might be hesitant about what your reference list should include. We prepared a detailed guide for APA paper writer that will help you complete your task in no time at all.

2 Examples of How to Cite a Dissertation in APA 7th Edition

At the moment, APA 7th edition is the latest update, so when you need to cite Ph.D. papers, you should follow its guidelines. We are going to explain the structure of an entry both within the text and in a reference list. This is how it should look in general.

General structure of in-text entry

(Last name, date).

General structure of reference list entry

Last name, first and second name initials. (Year). Thesis title (Publication #) [Dissertation type, University]. Database.

Example in text

(Myers, 2018).

Example in a reference list

Myers, J. R. (2018). The use of insects in establishing time of death in victims of drowning (Publication #2137564) [Doctoral dissertation, Purdue University]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.

Sometimes you might be citing dissertation in APA that has 2 authors. It’s rare, but it can happen, especially when an author collaborates with their supervisor. That’s how everything would look like in this case.

General structure of in-text entry

(Last name of the first author & last name of the second author, date).

General structure of reference list entry

Last name of the first author, their first and second name initials, & Last name of the second author, their first and second name initials. (Year). Thesis title (Publication #) [Ph.D. paper, University]. Database.

Example in text

(Novak & Roberts, 2020).

Example in a reference list

Novak, S. F., & Roberts, J. O. (2020). Law as applied to wealthy vs. poor families within America throughout history (Publication #4927538) [Master’s thesis, North Dakota University]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.

Published vs. Unpublished Dissertations: What’s the Difference?

APA dissertation reference can take different forms. If you did any research in this area, you probably know that the thesis could be published or unpublished. When a person completes their work, they have two choices. First, they can submit it to some known online platforms like ProQuest or even release it in a book format in case their findings are truly amazing. This would make the paper published. One of the options you could ask for help from APA dissertation editing services.

On the other hand, when students don’t bother to share their work with anyone else, it sits in their university’s archive indefinitely. Very few people know about it and even fewer can access it freely. These papers are unpublished, but you can still cite them in your work. The most important thing is to know how to do that.

Citing Published Ph.D. Papers in APA

When you are citing a thesis in APA and it’s published somewhere, the model of structure is going to be the same as in the paragraph with examples we presented above. There might be several exceptions in terms of numbers, so we’ll provide one reference with it and another one without it.

General structure of published dissertation entry with a number

Last name, first and second name initials. (Year). Thesis title (Publication #) [Ph.D. paper type, University]. Database.

Example of such an entry

Lahey, E. S. (2010). Obscure effects fast food has that most people know nothing about. (Publication #4996073) [Doctoral dissertation, WV University]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.

Sometimes when you cite dissertation in APA, it might have no number. These entries will look in the following way:

General structure of published dissertation entry without a number

Last name, first and second name initials. (Year). Thesis title [Dissertation type, University]. Database.

Example of such an entry

Morgan, K. S. (2018). Effects of asexuality on family dynamics. [Master’s thesis, Washington University]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.

But what should you do when your paper is not published within a database? No worries, there is a solution.

Structure of dissertation not from a database

Last name, first and second name initials. (Year). Thesis title [Ph.D. paper type, University]. Name of archive/collection. URL.  

Example 1:

Simons, L. P. (2012). Obscure effects of fast food that most people know nothing about. [Doctoral dissertation, NY University]. Institutional Repository at the University of New York. https://repository.edu/4563.pdf

Example 2:

Ackles, J. C. (2009). The impact of Christian faith on cancer survivors. [Master’s thesis, University of California]. Campus California Repository. https://repository.edu/20994.pdf

Example 3:

Cosleks, J. M., & Michaella, A. G. (2017). Role of politics in everyday life of American Christian youth. [Master’s thesis, University of Illinois]. Illinois Campus Archive. https://archive.edu/il23.pdf

Citing Unpublished Ph.D. Papers in APA

If you want to know how to cite a Master's thesis in APA when it’s unpublished, we have some more examples for you. Remember that such works won’t have links or publishers, but there is still enough info to describe them. Take a look.

Structure of unpublished dissertation entry

Last name, first and second name initials. (Year). Thesis title [Unpublished dissertation type]. University.

Example 1:

Ramsey, B. H. (2006). New strategies for solving cold murder cases. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Washington University.

Example 2:

Miles, R. D., & Norr, T. A. (2010). Psychology behind belief in encounters with extraterrestrials. [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. University of Columbia.

Information You Need for Thesis Citation

Students who need custom coursework writing service often aren’t sure what info they should include in their reference list. When it comes to APA citation of dissertation, it’s simple! You need the author’s name, year of publication, work type (published/unpublished, Master’s/doctoral), as well as the medium where it’s stored. A link will be enough for theses found online.

Where to Find Info for Citation

If you access theses through the Internet or use essay services that do it for you, chances are, you’ll find all the info on a website or within a database. Author, date, and university are mentioned there. If thesis is unpublished, find information within a library where you got it in the first place.

Read also: How to structure a dissertation?

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Some students think, “I need help with my dissertation, so where to start?” Research on a chosen dissertation topic is your best bet.  Some sources are primary: their authors performed investigation and presented their raw data and findings. Their methods have a qualitative nature. Secondary sources are mostly quantitative and report info from other sources. Both types are needed, but make sure your APA secondary source citations don’t exceed the number of primary entries.

Cite a Variety of Sources

Any professional dissertation writing service is going to give similar advice: cite diverse sources in your work. Your APA citation for thesis will look more impressive if you use primary & secondary research, articles, interviews, books, scientific publications, etc. The fresher they are, the better.

Use APA Citations Correctly

Every student wants acknowledgements for their work. Correct APA citations help get it. Rely on other dissertations when working on your own, cite every relevant detail to avoid plagiarism, and your research will look credible. Are there some problems? Just tell us, “Write my annotated bibliography for me,” and we’ll get it done ASAP.


Can students cite theses?

Sure! Theses are considered credible sources, and they help enrich every academic work. Also, reading them may help to find necessary ideas or additional materials regarding your own thesis.

How do you cite an undergrad thesis in APA?

Follow the rules for unpublished theses — they are the same. Indicate author’s name, publication year in brackets, thesis title, type, and university.

How to cite a dissertation in APA 6th edition?

Everything is basically the same, but instead of publication #, you’ll need to point out UMI. It’s a special identifier mentioned in such papers. Also, use parentheses instead of brackets.

Andy Preisler

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay

Andy Preisler


Hey there!

I’m Andy Preisler, and I’m super happy to be joining the blog team at GrabMyEssay.com!

While I hail from Fayetteville, Arkansas (I know, not the most progressive state!), I left the Southern life behind me many years ago when I went to college for my first degree. I’ve received it in University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and I’m really proud of this. Since then, I have studied in the U.S., and later on, continued my education in Loughborough University, UK, where I actually my second Bachelor’s Degree along the way.

With my perpetual studies (my parents wonder if it will ever stop), I have become a bit of an expert on college life – academic, social, and financial – and love sharing my experiences and my methods of “circumventing the system” with others.  I will be sharing all of these great tips and strategies with my readers, so stay tuned!

When I am not blogging or enrolling in some new course that interests me, I am backpacking through Europe and staying in hostels, working on my second novel (a riveting murder mystery), and pursuing my interest in music. Yes, I travel with my guitar, and you would be amazed at the amount of cash I can accumulate, just performing on the streets of European cities (they are so much more tolerant of vagabond musicians). 

My other passion is environmental. In my short 27 years of life on this planet, I have witnessed the extinction of species, the destruction of rain forests, and irreparable harm to our oceans. I contribute both time and money to several international environmental organizations, because we all must do our part to save Mother Earth.

But I digress! If you are interested in the “ins and outs” of college life, and want some great tales of navigating through the game of “degree attainment,” as well as tips for easing the pain of those pesky essay and paper assignments, follow my blog!

I would love to hear from you, to give you advice, and to lend a listening ear. You can contact me at [email protected] anytime! And follow my posts – you won’t be disappointed!

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