How to Cite Electronic Media in a Dissertation

A dissertation -- sometimes called a thesis -- is the capstone document that doctoral students write as the final requirement for conferral of an academic degree. This lengthy paper reports the author's original research and findings. The author's choice of writing style guides is dependent upon the content area of the degree and dissertation topic. It is essential that authors appropriately cite all electronic media used as part of dissertation research and writing. Some examples of electronic media include motion pictures, audio or television broadcasts, music recordings, blog posts and messages posted publicly online.

Most Common Academic Writing Styles

The three most common academic writing styles are the American Psychological Association style, the Modern Language Association style and the Chicago Manual of Style. APA style is used mainly in the social and behavioral sciences. MLA style is common in the humanities, modern language and literature and closely related areas. Chicago style is the most detailed of the three and is typically used by book authors, though some dissertations may require it.

APA In-Text Citations

APA style separates electronic media into two categories: audiovisual media and message boards, electronic mailing lists and online communities. Audiovisual media refers to television or audio broadcasts, podcasts, movies, maps, artwork and photographs. To cite these media, locate as much information about the primary contributors -- producer, writer, director -- as possible and list them as the authors. Also include the year of production.

For example, the 2012 movie "Lincoln" was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner. If you were to cite this movie in text, the citation would look like this: (Spielberg & Kushner, 2012).

For message boards, electronic mailing lists, and online communities, locate the author's name and the date of the original posting. If the author's real name is not available, use the exact screen name listed.

For example, if you cite a 2009 post from an online message board written by someone with the screen name "Gr8tWritur", the citation would look like this: (Gr8tWritur, 2009).

APA Reference Page

Provide as much information as possible when creating APA references for audiovisual media, message boards, electronic mailing lists and online communities.

This is the basic format: Author Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial. (year, Month day). Title. Title of Website (italicized). [Type of media] retrieved from: URL.

For example, the reference for an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" would look like this: Rimes, S. (Creator & Producer). (2013, May 2). Do you believe in magic. Watch ABC (italicized). Video retrieved from:

MLA In-Text Citations

MLA citation requirements for electronic media depend on the full reference from the Works Cited page. For in-text citations of electronic or Internet sources, use whatever comes first in the entry from the Works Cited page. It may be the author's last name, a website or a movie title.

The most significant difference from APA is the absence of a date in MLA electronic media citations. To cite the film "Lincoln", you only need the movie title in italics because of the way this movie would be referenced on the Works Cited page. The citation would look like this:


It is unnecessary to provide page or paragraph numbers for electronic sources. You should not include an entire URL in a citations unless it is absolutely necessary to locate the source.

MLA Works Cited Page

MLA uses reference formats that are very specific to particular types of electronic media. For example, the Works Cited page entry for the film "Lincoln" would look like this: Lincoln [italicized]. Dir. Stephen Spielberg. Perf. Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field. Dreamworks, 2012. Film. The citation for a message board would look quite different.

However, many of these types require similar information, though it may be in a different order. To have sufficient source information for a works cited page, make sure to gather as much of the following information as you can -- article name, author, editor, title of the parent source, post date, access date, publisher information, medium and URL.

Please refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers for the reference format unique to each type of media.

Chicago Style Citations

Chicago style separates citations for web sources from film and television recordings. Rather than in-text citations, use footnotes to attribute material.

For web sources, use the following generic format for your citation: First name Last name, "Title of Specific Web Page," Publisher or Name of Web Site [italicized]. Publication date and/or date of access. URL.

For example, if you wanted to cite the article "Heart Healthy Eating" on the website, it would look like this: "Heart Healthy Eating," [italicized]. Accessed on May 30, 2013.

For television, film, DVDs, and other recorded media, use the following generic format: First name Last name, Title of Work [italicized], Format, directed/performed by First name Last name (Original release year; City: Studio/Distributor, Video release year), Medium.

For example, a citation for the film "Home Alone" would look like this: Home Alone [italicized]. Directed by Chris Columbus (1990; Chicago, IL: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2006), DVD.