Proper Referencing for Your Dissertation

Although your dissertation’s analysis and discussion are very crucial, an important element that should not be ignored is referencing.  When referenced well, your paper becomes more “academic,” and it gives your professor a better idea of how well you understand the topic.

Many doctoral candidates, however, ignore proper referencing or do a haphazard job at the start. This leads to confusion later on for themselves (as they might not be able to remember anymore who said what) and major proofreading revisions that cost a lot.

So do take note of the following advice so that your dissertation is properly referenced.

What scholarly referencing is

This is a system of standards that direct the reader to the sources (e.g. articles, books, and videos) mentioned in your paper. The format must be consistent throughout the paper, according to what your university requires.  Although there are several reference styles, they usually require the same information: author, title of the source, publication type, date published, publisher, and other details (volume and pages).

The purpose of good referencing

1. Avoid plagiarism

Arguably, this is the most important reason why a dissertation must be referenced well.  Plagiarism accusations can hurt your credibility, especially if you aim to do more researches in the future. The ideas of others mentioned in your work must be cited.

2. Assist others

Good referencing helps future researchers who may be viewing your dissertation. As they read your paper, the citations can quickly link them to other sources they need.

3. It saves time and even money

As earlier mentioned, if you don’t reference well at the start, you might become confused about which ideas are yours (may lead to plagiarism) or who said what (can be hard to remember which sources you used). It will save much time and even money (major proofreading) if you do it right the first time.

The system to use

The referencing system you need is determined by your university (check with the professor). Most universities choose among APA, Chicago Manual of Style, Harvard referencing, and MLA. Once known, make sure you download a copy of the style’s requirements for easy access.

Referencing efficiently and effectively

Because successful dissertations involve multiple sources, it is essential to have a system that is easy to return to. Otherwise, not only will you have problems citing your sources, but you might not even remember the things you have read.

This can be resolved by creating an annotated bibliography on paper or a spreadsheet. This allows you to alphabetize sources or organize them according to particular arguments or topics. As the annotated bibliography has a summary of the important points, it also saves time trying to remember what each source contains.

The other option is to use reference management software. Many universities already have subscriptions to such packages which may be free to use or already part of your tuition. So ask your advisor about that. If not, there are also freeware packages available.


Proper referencing is a vital part of the dissertation writing process. Even before writing the first line of your introduction, make sure your sources are organized, and you understand the referencing process. Doing so will save you a lot of future headaches.

Post Your Comment Here

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *