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How to Best Use References in a Dissertation

Using references in a dissertation paper


Writing a dissertation can be tough if this is the first time you are doing it. You need to look into relevant literature, analyze past researches, conduct surveys, interviews etc. and also reference and cite information that you’ve gathered from different sources. A lot of students are usually confused regarding which sources should be mentioned and which be omitted. This confusion arises because they are unaware of the fact as to which sources are credible, reliable and authentic, and which are not. Thus, the question always remains ‘How to Best Use References in a Dissertation’?

While there is no single way to best use references in a dissertation, students should have a clear understanding of the concept of the use of credible and reliable sources in their dissertation paper. In today’s world where changes take place frequently, some newspaper articles published online are also categorized as authentic and credible sources. Information and/or data can be extracted from these articles and included in dissertations with proper use of citation. In order to make sure that references are used appropriately in dissertations, here are a few ways that you can follow:

Research Relevant Studies

Depending on the topic of your dissertation, make sure to research and look into similar researches that have been conducted in the past (Www2.le.ac.uk, 2017). In addition to this, you could also read, analyze and review researches that have utilized the same model or talk about the same theory as you are applying in your dissertation. Doing so will add a lot of value to your dissertation and you will be able to include models and theories with correct references and citations.


Include Recent Researches

As important as relevant studies are for your dissertation, including recent studies only is equally important. Using reference in a dissertation that belong to the past five to ten years are acceptable; however, using references of the 1980s or 1990s is not recommended. The main reason being changes in time, settings, environment, participants, etc. All these factors contribute a lot towards accurate conclusions, thus are regarded as essential when using a study for reference purposes (Deakin.edu.au, 2017). Also, writing a dissertation in the current setting, considering the current environment, it is important that only recent researches are included in the dissertation. This gives readers the idea that the research that has been conducted is recent.

Cite/Reference while Writing

Many of us are guilty of extracting information from various sources when writing, without noting down the reference. As a result, we lose track of that particular reference and end up spending hours looking for that specific article or research. Thus, it is best that you always note down the reference, as soon as you refer to it in your dissertation or when you are including data or information. In this manner, you will have a complete list of references that you’ve used when you’ve finished writing your dissertation. Also, doing so will save you a lot of your time and you will be able to finish your dissertation without any delays.

Know When and Where to Cite

Remember the hours you spent looking for the statistics or the specific piece of information that you mentioned in your dissertation, but forgot to cite? This usually happens when the deadline is nearing and we’re in a hurry to complete our dissertation. However, what you should always keep in mind that when you rush things, you tend to spend a lot more time than needed. Thus, whenever you’re mentioning a fact, statistics or a particular piece of information that is exact and accurate, always cite it (Libguides.einstein.yu.edu, 2017). Not doing so will keep your readers in doubt whether the statistic or number mentioned is accurate or not. On the other hand, if you cite those exact numbers, readers will have an impression that you have done your research, and they can even crosscheck it by referring to your citation. This is one of the best ways to use references when you’re faced with the question, ‘how to best use references in a dissertation’.


Choose the Correct Referencing Style

There are various referencing styles. Depending on your university and other requirements, the right referencing style is chosen and conveyed to you. What you should make sure is to understand the required referencing style, so you can cite accurately. A Harvard style referencing style example includes reference list with the name of authors, the journal or book name, name of the publisher along with the date and page number (Www2.le.ac.uk, 2017). When citing the exact words of an author or when defining a theory or model, make sure that you include the page number as they are required for direct quotations. If, in case you do not understand any of the referencing styles, you should either follow the guidelines provided by your tutor or you can also search the internet for your required referencing style. With time, new editions of referencing styles have been introduced to make sure that all thesis and dissertations follow the same pattern. Thus, make it a practice to crosscheck your referencing style from the internet, to make sure that you’re following the latest format and edition.

Proofread your Reference List

This is one of the most important, but often most ignored aspect when looking at how to use references correctly. Your reference list should be sorted as soon as you finish writing your dissertation. For instance, it should be alphabetically arranged, the number of references should be appropriate with respect to the dissertation and should be free from all types of errors such as formatting, grammatical and style. The correct style should be followed, the reference list should be properly formatted and proofread in order to eliminate any and all errors. An ideal list of references example includes, correct mention of the author name, year of publication and name of the book. The publisher name should be italicized and the page number should also be mentioned. For academic journals, mentioning volume and issue number is mandatory. All these aspects should be considered in order to make sure that an accurate reference list is prepared for your dissertation.

Crosscheck your Citations

When citing your dissertation, you need to make sure that your text corresponds with the in-text citation that you’re including. Not doing so will make your research unreliable and unauthentic (Libguides.einstein.yu.edu, 2017). Readers will get an impression that the in-text citations have been included just for the sake of it, instead of being related to the text and information that is being mentioned. Thus, the best in text citation example includes the name of the author along with the year of publication. If there is a direct quote or a definition included in the exact words of the author, then it is necessary that the page number is also indicated while citing. Make sure that all your in-text citations are in line with the information that has been presented and discussed in the paper.


Number of References to be Used

How many references should I use for my dissertation’? This is a question that most students face. They usually get confused when it comes to the number of references that should be used in a dissertation. There’s no right number of references that should be used in a dissertation (Www2.le.ac.uk, 2017). It depends on the topic, the academic level of the dissertation and the literature review that is being presented. Also, the models and theories used in the paper contribute to the total number of references. Ideally, it is recommended that every paragraph of 100 words or more should have a reference; however, this is not required and mandatory in all cases. Literature review is usually the chapter that uses the most number of references. This helps in formulating a dissertation that is not only informative, but is backed by credible resources as well.

Referencing a dissertation is an easy task if done in the right manner. In order to answer the question, ‘how to best use references in a dissertation’, you need to make sure that you’ve collected the right sources and are referring to credible and reliable information only. Once you’ve sorted your references, you’re on your way to right an authentic dissertation. Literature review is an important aspect of every dissertation with respect to mentioning relevant theories, models and information. Thus, this section is critical when it comes to referencing. You should make sure that the models and theories are referenced appropriately, and all references are recent.

If you’re still unsure of whether you’re using references in the right manner or not, or you’re seeking help with referencing your dissertation, get in touch with our professional dissertation writing services. At Research Prospect, we make sure that your dissertation is not only properly referenced, but also accurately cited. All our information is up to date, and we make sure that only recent references are included in the dissertation to leave a lasting impression on the readers. Contact us today and leave your referencing worries to us!




  • le.ac.uk. (2017). Referencing and bibliographies — University of Leicester. [online] Available at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/writing-resources/ref-bib [Accessed 2 Oct. 2017].
  • edu.au. (2017). Why reference?. [online] Available at: http://www.deakin.edu.au/students/studying/study-support/referencing/why-reference [Accessed 2 Oct. 2017].
  • einstein.yu.edu. (2017). LibGuides: Cite it Right! A Guide to Thesis Preparation: Managing Citations. [online] Available at: http://libguides.einstein.yu.edu/c.php?g=123461&p=808402 [Accessed 2 Oct. 2017].
  • le.ac.uk. (2017). 2.23 Ten tips for good referencing — University of Leicester. [online] Available at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/harvard/content/2.23-ten-tips-for-good-referencing [Accessed 2 Oct. 2017].


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