Don’t Take Risks – Reference on How to Cite a Dissertation APA

September 01, 2021


If you don’t know how to cite a dissertation APA, you should either learn to do it now or find help with dissertation structure that includes proper resource citation. Once a student enters a university, there are no excuses allowed for improperly citing research resources. The APA citation format can become a bit complex, and the point of this piece is to provide the detail you need to use APA correctly.

Ultimate Guide on How to Cite a Dissertation APA

Dissertations are considered primary resources because you are reviewing the direct work of an author. University students at the upper levels of study often review theses as a part of their research. Master’s degree candidates may not use an APA secondary source for research – they must use only primary source material. And, of course, Ph.D. students must conduct literature reviews of dissertations on any related topic of their own research.

There is no easy answer for how to cite a thesis in APA. Even experts writing papers for money make mistakes in citations. There are variations for APA dissertation and thesis citations, and these will be detailed below.

Citing a Dissertation or Thesis in APA 7th Edition

APA publishes new editions of its formatting style every ten years. The 7th edition, published in 2019, has not changed the methods by which theses are to be cited from the 6th edition.

That said, let’s unpack the multiple ways to cite dissertation APA depending on variations in detail. The same applies to theses.

In general, the citation includes the author name (last, first), year of publication, the title in parenthesis, publication number (if published), identification as a thesis, the college/university, publisher (if published) or URL (if from a web database or archive). Here are two examples:

1. A published APA dissertation reference

Stevens, D.A. (2016). Impact of a Differentiated Instructional Model on Behavior of At-

Risk Middle School Students (Publication No. 46172) [Doctoral dissertation,

Southern Illinois University]. ProQuest dissertations and Theses database.

2. Citing a thesis APA

Wasserman, S. (2016). The Underground Railroad [Master’s thesis, University of

Missouri]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.

Note: Both of these citations are housed with an established publisher. This is not the case with theses that are published online or that are not published at all. Citation formats for those will be different.

Citing a Dissertation or Thesis when Published Online

Sometimes, a student finds theses through an online search. In this case, there is no publisher involved, but the URL must be cited, so that another researcher may find it. Here are some examples:

1. An APA citation dissertation

Davidson, C. (2017). Impact of a Differentiated Instructional Model on

At-Risk Middle School Students [Doctoral dissertation, Tulsa


2. An online APA Master’s Thesis

Selkirk, B. (2018). Role of Margin Buying in the Stock Market Crash of 1929 [Master’s

thesis, Lewis University]. Lewis University Campus Repository.

Citing a Dissertation or Thesis of Unpublished Works

Unpublished dissertations and theses will not be found in databases or through normal publishers of such works. Instead, they will be found in university libraries or, as is becoming more common, in student online portfolios. If a student is seeking dissertation help online from a writing service and wants to use an unpublished APA citation thesis, they have to provide access to that piece to their writer.

If you know how to write a dissertation without outside help, you still should master citation formats. And if you use unpublished theses, it’s important to understand the uniqueness of their formatting.

Here are a couple of examples of formats for citing dissertation APA as well as for a thesis, when the resource is not published.

Johnson, P. (2016). A Model for Parental Involvement in Alternative School

Environments [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of South Florida.

Calloway, D. (2017). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Behavior Disorders [Unpublished

Master’s Thesis]. Washington University.

The Information You Need to Cite Dissertation APA Correctly – Where to Find It

The examples above should give you a pretty good idea of the information you require to cite a thesis in APA style. But let’s quickly recap:

  • Author
  • Type of work thesis or dissertation
  • Year it was written
  • Published, online, or unpublished?
  • Where it was found – database publisher, URL, portfolio, university library
  • College or university where it was written

For published theses, this information is included on the publisher’s “cover” page. For other sources, you may have a small search. Look at the title pages and abstracts on dissertations; student portfolios containing unpublished works will house the information you need, as well as in university library databases.

Using Primary and Secondary Sources

At the college level, professors want primary source material. Given that the average dissertation length is 200 pages, reading one in its entirety only to discover that it's not a good fit is frustrating. Enter secondary sources. These have bibliographies and acknowledgements that include primary resources that match your topic.

Importance of Varying Source Citations

It’s tempting to take the easiest route to find primary source material – through a database like ProQuest, for example. But it is more impressive to a committee to see a variety. In writing a dissertation proposal, you should include some initial research and citations, and you can demonstrate your variety early on.

The Wrap

Now that you know how to cite a master’s thesis APA and its close cousin, a dissertation, you should be able to use this citation format correctly. But don’t take any risks. There are many essay proofreading services that can perform a final check for you.


Can you cite dissertations?

Yes, we can. Many students who request, “Do my dissertation for me” are looking for help only with certain parts or sections. One common need is for proper citations.

How do you cite an undergrad thesis in APA?

Use the same format that you do for a graduate level thesis. If you plan to cite other secondary sources, though, check the format for those.

How do you cite a dissertation in APA 6th edition?

Although the 7th edition is now the most current, the 6th edition is still available. Use its examples to guide you.