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MLA 8th ed. Style Guide: Dissertations, Theses

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Essential Elements

Citations for dissertations/master's theses should include the following:

1. Name of Author 

2. Title of dissertation/thesis (italicized)

3. Date of Publication

5. Institution granting the degree (optional)

6. Description of the work (optional)

7. Database and URL if accessed through a database or repository

Sample Citation - Dissertations

Dissertations

The institution granting the degree and description of the work are optional. If you accessed the work online, include that information. 

Miller, Ryan. Understanding the Process of Multisensory Integration. 2016. Wake Forest U,  	PhD dissertation. WakeSpace, wakespace.lib.wfu.edu/handle/10339/59318.

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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in MLA

How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in MLA

Citing a thesis or dissertation.

Thesis – A document submitted to earn a degree at a university.

Dissertation – A document submitted to earn an advanced degree, such as a doctorate, at a university.

The formatting for thesis and dissertation citations is largely the same. However, you should be sure to include the type of degree after the publication year as supplemental information. For instance, state if the source you are citing is an undergraduate thesis or a PhD dissertation.

MLA Thesis and Dissertation Citation Structure (print)

Last, First M.  Title of the Thesis/Dissertation. Year Published. Name of University, type of degree.

MLA Thesis and Dissertation Citation Structure (online)

Last, First M.  Title of the Thesis/Dissertation. Year Published. Name of University, type of degree.  Website Name , URL.

ThesisDissertationImage

Wilson, Peggy Lynn. Pedagogical Practices in the Teaching of English Language in Secondary Public Schools in Parker County . 2011. University of Maryland, PhD dissertation.

In-text Citation Structure

(Author Last Name page #)

In-text Citation Example

(Wilson 14)

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How do I cite a dissertation in MLA style?

Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook . For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook .

A dissertation is a unique type of source. It is a finished, stand-alone work written under the auspices of an institution. In a change from the previous edition of the MLA Handbook ,    we do not distinguish between published and unpublished dissertations. To cite a dissertation, include in the entry the author, title, and date of publication as core elements. As an optional element, list the institution granting the degree and a description of the work.

Njus, Jesse. Performing the Passion: A Study on the Nature of Medieval Acting . 2010. Northwestern U, PhD dissertation.

If you accessed the dissertation through an online repository, include this fact as the title of the second container:

Njus, Jesse. Performing the Passion: A Study on the Nature of Medieval Acting . 2010. Northwestern U, PhD dissertation.  ProQuest , search.proquest.com/docview/305212264?accountid=7432.

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Dissertations and theses

Dissertations and theses are written to fulfil an academic degree requirement, usually at the Masters or PhD level. They usually have only 1 author.

For the most part, treat them like books with supplemenal elements.

  • Since dissertations and theses are often re-worked into articles and books, it is important to note when your source was written to fulfill an academic degree requirement
  • The publisher is the degree-granting instution
  • Do not include the program, department, school, division, or similar information
  • Usually placed before the container of the online repository which houses the publication
  • Automatic citation generators often treat online theses and dissertations as websites or journal articles, so will be missing the key information

Author's Last Name, First Name. Title of Book: Subtitle. Publication Date. University name, Degree conferred .

Author's Last Name, First Name. Title of Book: Subtitle. Publication Date. University name, Degree conferred . Online Repository , URL.

In-Text Citation

(Author's Last Name ##)

Replace ## with page number(s) for quotes or where the idea is discussed.

Smith, Kate Elizabeth. The Influence of Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy on American Fashion, 1952-1965 . 2001. Michigan State University, MA Thesis.

Austin, Katherine. Rasquache Baroque in the Chicana/o Borderlands . 2012. McGill U, PhD thesis. eScholarship , https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/theses/8p58ph61j. Accessed 6 Jan. 2023.

  • eScholarship is McGill University's online repository of dissertations and theses
  • Followed McGill's lead and used "thesis" instead of "dissertation"

Grullon, Jaymi Leah. Campy Musical Black Queer Forms: Finding Utopia in Lil Nas X's World of "Montero ". St. John's University, MA Thesis. St. John's Scholar , https://scholar.stjohns.edu/theses_dissertations/477

  • St. John's Scholar is the university's online repository of dissertations and theses

Hutchinson, Jennifer. Emotional Response to Climate Change Learning: An Existential Inquiry . 2021. Antioch University, Antioch University, Doctoral dissertation. EBSCOhost , search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=ddu&AN=29DBEAFBF585BC45&site=eds-live&scope=site.

  • Found record in OwlCat, so used EBSCOhost as the repository
  • Could be more specific and replace the EBSCOhost info with: OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center , http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=antioch1602019356792951.
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MLA Citation Style Guide: 7th Edition

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Dissertation and Theses: Unpublished

Dissertation and theses: published, contact kelly.

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General, Electronic:

Last-name, First-name. “Title of Dissertation.” Diss. Place of Study, Year. Title of Database . Web. Date Month Year of Access.

Forrester, Pearl. “Psychological Distress and Repeated Television Viewing.” Diss. Miskatonic University, 1990. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses . Web. 13 May 2010.

General, Print:

Last-name, First-name. “Title of Dissertation.” Diss. Place of Study, Year. Print.

Forrester, Pearl. “Psychological Distress and Repeated Television Viewing.” Diss. Miskatonic University, 1990. Print.

General Rule:

Author's Last-name, First-name. Title of Disstertaion . Diss. Place of Study, Year. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Format.

Diamond, Oscar. How to Care for Your Diabetic Cat . Diss. West Virginia University, 1999. New York: Knopf, 2000. Print.

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All you need to know about citations

How to cite a PhD thesis in MLA

MLA PhD thesis citation

To cite a PhD thesis in a reference entry in MLA style 9th edition include the following elements:

  • Author(s) name: Give the last name and name as presented in the source (e. g. Watson, John). For two authors, reverse only the first name, followed by ‘and’ and the second name in normal order (e. g. Watson, John, and John Watson). For three or more authors, list the first name followed by et al. (e. g. Watson, John, et al.)
  • Thesis title: Titles are italicized when independent. If part of a larger source add quotation marks and do not italize.
  • Year of publication: Give the year of publication as presented in the source.
  • University: Give the name of the institution.
  • Degree: Type of degree.

Here is the basic format for a reference list entry of a PhD thesis in MLA style 9th edition:

Author(s) name . Thesis title . Year of publication . University , Degree .

Take a look at our works cited examples that demonstrate the MLA style guidelines in action:

A PhD thesis with one author

Confait, Marina Fatima . Maximising the contributions of PHD graduates to national development: the case of the Seychelles . 2018 . Edith Cowan U , PhD thesis .
Bowkett, David . Investigating the ligandability of plant homeodomains . 2015 . Oxford U , PhD thesis .

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This citation style guide is based on the MLA Handbook (9 th edition).

More useful guides

  • MLA 8th ed. Style Guide: Dissertations, Theses
  • MLA, 8th Edition: Master's Thesis or Project
  • How do I cite a dissertation in MLA style?

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MLA 9th Edition Style Guide: Dissertation/Thesis

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Njus, Jesse. Performing the Passion: A Study on the Nature of Medieval Acting . 2010. Northwestern U,

MA thesis.  ProQuest , search.proquest.com/docview/305212264?accountid=7432.

Dissertation

PhD dissertation.  ProQuest , search.proquest.com/docview/305212264?accountid=7432.

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Citation Help for MLA, 8th Edition: Master's Thesis or Project

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Panasuk, Noel. What Variables Appear to Work in Stress Management Programs in      the Workplace and How Effective are These Programs?  MS Thesis, The College of      St. Scholastica, 2008.

Explanation

Author: Panasuk, Noel. Last name first, followed by first and middle names. End with a period.   

Title & subtitle of the book: What Variables Appear to Work in Stress Managment Programs in the Workplace and How Effective are These Programs? The title and subtitle are separated by a colon. Capitalize all important and proper words. Place in Italics and end with a period or if it has a question mark in the title, that is sufficient.    Status of Publishing: MA Thesis, Use the words MA Thesis followed by a comma. If it is a project, then use the words MA project. If it is a doctoral dissertation, use the word Dissertation. Name of Institution Where Degree was Granted: The College of St. Scholastica, The full name of the college or university followed by a comma. Year of Publication: 2008. List the year of publication, which appears on the title page or the title page verso (back side of title page). End citation with a period. 

[Th e above information is based on   Purdue OWL .]

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Cite a Thesis in MLA

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Consider your source's credibility. ask these questions:, contributor/author.

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