Referencing a Dissertation in APA

Because doctoral dissertations involve scholarly work and research, they might serve as effective sources for your research in the social and behavioral sciences, hard sciences and nursing. The specific style for referencing a dissertation in APA style varies depending upon whether the paper is published and the format in which it appears.


As explained in the sixth edition of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association," citations in APA format generally include the author's last name and the year of publication. When citing any dissertation in your work, follow this model. The name may appear in a signal phrase immediately followed by the year, as in "According to Keller (2013)." Alternatively, the entire citation may appear in parentheses, with a comma between, at the borrowed words or ideas: (Keller, 2013).


The references entry changes slightly depending on whether the dissertation is published. For an unpublished piece, the entry begins with the author's name, inverted, ending with a period. Then the date appears, in parentheses, followed by a period. Then, give the title of the dissertation, in italics, capitalizing only the first word and any proper nouns. In a regular font inside parentheses, you need to indicate the form as follows: (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Place a period after the parentheses. Then give the publication information, typically the name of the school, a comma and the location. Such an entry might look like this:

Keller, J. (2013). My doctoral thesis (italicized) (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Published from Database

You may often find published dissertations through databases. Reference entries for these sources begin just like other book entries, with the author's name, a period, the date in parentheses and another period. Italicize the title, capitalizing just the first word and subsequent proper nouns. Before the next period, type (Doctoral dissertation) in regular format. The database service appears next, with a period. Then you must give the order number or accession number in parentheses, leaving off any end punctuation. Such an entry might appear like this:

Keller, J. (2013). My doctoral thesis (italicized) (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from University Doctoral Dissertation and Thesis Database. (UDD No. 249982)

Published Electronically

If you find the dissertation through an institutional database or other website, the entry ends with the URL of the page. After author name, date and title of the dissertation, type "Retrieved from" (but without the quotation marks) and the full address of the university database or specific page for the site. You want your readers to be able to access the source as easily as possible. An entry might appear like this:

Keller, J. (2013). My doctoral thesis (italicized) (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Note the entry does not end with a period.