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Adapted from American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000
- Italicize the title
- Identify whether source is doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis in parentheses after the title
See Ch. 10 pp. 313-352 of APA Manual for more examples and formatting rules
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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / APA Format / How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in APA
How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in APA
In this citation guide, you will learn how to reference and cite an undergraduate thesis, master’s thesis, or doctoral dissertation. This guide will also review the differences between a thesis or dissertation that is published and one that has remained unpublished. The guidelines below come from the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020a), pages 333 and 334. Please note that the association is not affiliated with this guide.
Alternatively, you can visit EasyBib.com for helpful citation tools to cite your thesis or dissertation .
Citing an unpublished thesis or dissertation, citing a published dissertation or thesis from a database, citing a thesis or dissertation published online but not from a database, citing a thesis or dissertation: reference overview, what you need.
Since unpublished theses can usually only be sourced in print form from a university library, the correct citation structure includes the university name where the publisher element usually goes.
Author’s last name, F. M. (Year published). Title in sentence case [Unpublished degree type thesis or dissertation]. Name of institution.
Ames, J. H., & Doughty, L. H. (1911). The proposed plans for the Iowa State College athletic field including the design of a reinforced concrete grandstand and wall [Unpublished bachelor’s thesis]. Iowa State University.
In-text citation example:
- Parenthetical : (Ames & Doughty, 1911)
- Narrative : Ames & Doughty (1911)
If a thesis or dissertation has been published and is found on a database, then follow the structure below. It’s similar to the format for an unpublished dissertation/thesis, but with a few differences:
- The institution is presented in brackets after the title
- The archive or database name is included
Author’s last name, F. M. (Year published). Title in sentence case (Publication or Document No.) [Degree type thesis or dissertation, Name of institution]. Database name.
Knight, K. A. (2011). Media epidemics: Viral structures in literature and new media (Accession No. 2013420395) [Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
Trotman, J.B. (2018). New insights into the biochemistry and cell biology of RNA recapping (Document No. osu1523896565730483) [Doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University]. OhioLINK Electronic Theses & Dissertations Center.
In the example given above, the dissertation is presented with a Document Number (Document No.). Sometimes called a database number or publication number, this is the identifier that is used by the database’s indexing system. If the database you are using provides you with such a number, then include it directly after the work’s title in parentheses.
If you are interested in learning more about how to handle works that were accessed via academic research databases, see Section 9.3 of the Publication Manual.
In-text citation examples :
- Parenthetical citation : (Trotman, 2018)
- Narrative citation : Trotman (2018)
Author’s last name, F. M. (Year Published). Title in sentence case [Degree type thesis or dissertation, Name of institution]. Name of archive or collection. URL
Kim, O. (2019). Soviet tableau: cinema and history under late socialism [Doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh]. Institutional Repository at the University of Pittsburgh. https://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/37669/7/Olga%20Kim%20Final%20ETD.pdf
Stiles, T. W. (2001). Doing science: Teachers’ authentic experiences at the Lone Star Dinosaur Field Institute [Master’s thesis, Texas A&M University]. OAKTrust. https://hdl.handle.net/1969.1/ETD-TAMU-2001-THESIS-S745
It is important to note that not every thesis or dissertation published online will be associated with a specific archive or collection. If the work is published on a private website, provide only the URL as the source element.
In-text citation examples:
- Parenthetical citation : (Kim, 2019)
- Narrative citation : Kim (2019)
- Parenthetical citation : (Stiles, 2001)
- Narrative citation : Stiles (2001)
We hope that the information provided here will serve as an effective guide for your research. If you’re looking for even more citation info, visit EasyBib.com for a comprehensive collection of educational materials covering multiple source types.
If you’re citing a variety of different sources, consider taking the EasyBib citation generator for a spin. It can help you cite easily and offers citation forms for several different kinds of sources.
To start things off, let’s take a look at the different types of literature that are classified under Chapter 10.6 of the Publication Manual :
- Undergraduate thesis
- Master’s thesis
- Doctoral dissertation
You will need to know which type you are citing. You’ll also need to know if it is published or unpublished .
When you decide to cite a dissertation or thesis, you’ll need to look for the following information to use in your citation:
- Author’s last name, and first and middle initials
- Year published
- Title of thesis or dissertation
- If it is unpublished
- Publication or document number (if applicable; for published work)
- Degree type (bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral)
- Thesis or dissertation
- Name of institution awarding degree
- DOI (https://doi.org/xxxxx) or URL (if applicable)
Since theses and dissertations are directly linked to educational degrees, it is necessary to list the name of the associated institution; i.e., the college, university, or school that is awarding the associated degree.
To get an idea of the proper form, take a look at the examples below. There are three outlined scenarios:
- Unpublished thesis or dissertation
- Published thesis or dissertation from a database
- Thesis or dissertation published online but not from a database
American Psychological Association. (2020a). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000
American Psychological Association. (2020b). Style-Grammar-Guidelines. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/citations/basic-principles/parenthetical-versus-narrative
Published August 10, 2012. Updated March 24, 2020.
Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau. Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at EasyBib.com. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.
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To cite a published thesis in APA style, it is important that you know some basic information such as the author, publication year, title of the thesis, institute name, archive name, and URL (uniform resource locator). The templates for an in-text citation and reference list entry of a thesis, along with examples, are given below:
In-text citation template and example:
Use the author surname and the publication year in the in-text citation.
Author Surname (Publication Year)
(Author Surname, Publication Year)
Reference list entry template and example:
The title of the thesis is set in sentence case and italicized. Enclose the thesis and the institute awarding the degree inside brackets following the publication year. Then add the name of the database followed by the URL.
Author Surname, F. M. (Publication Year). Title of the thesis [Master’s thesis, Institute Name]. Name of the Database. URL
Cartmel, J. (2007). Outside school hours care and schools [Master’s thesis, Queensland University of Technology]. EPrints. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/17810/1/Jennifer_Cartmel_Thesis.pdf
To cite an unpublished dissertation in APA style, it is important that you know some basic information such as the author, year, title of the dissertation, and institute name. The templates for in-text citation and reference list entry of an online thesis, along with examples, are given below:
Author Surname (Year)
(Author Surname, Year)
The title of the dissertation is set in sentence case and italicized. Enclose “Unpublished doctoral dissertation” inside brackets following the year. Then add the name of the institution awarding the degree.
Author Surname, F. M. (Publication Year). Title of the dissertation [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Name of the Institute.
Averill, R. (2009). Teacher–student relationships in diverse New Zealand year 10 mathematics classrooms: Teacher care [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Victoria University of Wellington.
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Format for dissertations and theses
Dissertations and theses database.
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Author last name, first initial. (Year). T itle of dissertation/thesis (Publication No.) [Doctoral dissertation/Master's thesis, University]. Database. URL
- Author: List the last name, followed by the first initial (and second initial). See Authors for more information.
- Year: List the year between parentheses, followed by a period.
- Title of dissertation/thesis: In italics. Capitalize the first word of the title, subtitle, and proper nouns.
- Publication number: Can be found in Dissertations and Theses database, listed in the item record as “Dissertation/thesis number.”
- Doctoral dissertation/Master's thesis: List whether it is a dissertation or a thesis.
- University: List the university associated with the dissertation/thesis.
- Database: List database the dissertation/thesis was found in, if found in a database.
- URL: List URL if found on the free Web rather than in a database.
Pecore, J. T. (2004). Sounding the spirit of Cambodia: The living tradition of Khmer music and dance-drama in a Washington, DC community (Publication No. 3114720) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.
Hollander, M. M. (2017). Resitance to authority: Methodological innovations and new lessons from the Milgram experiment (Publication No. 10289373) [Master's thesis, University of Wisconsin - Madison]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.
APA calls for the citation to include a unique identifying number for the dissertation, labeling it “Publication No.” That number can be found in Dissertations and Theses database, listed in the item record as “Dissertation/thesis number.”
Karamanos, X. (2020). The influence of professional development models on student mathematics performance in New Jersey public elementary schools [Doctoral dissertation, Seton Hall University]. Seton Hall University Dissertations and Theses (ETDs). https://scholarship.shu.edu/dissertations/2732
Bordo, V. C. (2011). Making a case for the use of foreign language in the educational activities of nonprofit arts organizations [Master's thesis, University of Akron]. OhioLINK Electronic Theses & Dissertations Center. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=akron1311135640
Caprette, C. L. (2005). Conquering the cold shudder: The origin and evolution of snake eyes [Doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University].
Angelova, A. N. (2004). Data pruning [Master's thesis, California Institute of Technology].
See Publication Manual , 10.6.
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Reference Page Examples - Dissertations or Theses
- Published Dissertation or Thesis
- Unpublished Dissertation or Thesis
A dissertation or thesis is considered published when it is available from a database such as ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.
If the database or archive requires users to log in before they can view the dissertation or thesis, meaning the url will not work for readers, end the reference with the database name., author, a. a. (year). title of dissertation (publication no. xxxxxxxxx). [doctoral dissertation or masters thesis, name of, institution that awarded the degree]. name of source i.e. proquest dissertations and theses global. url for, the dissertation or thesis., d'arcangelis, g. s. (2009). the bio scare: anthrax, smallpox, sars, flu and post-9/11 u.s. empire (order no., 3388146). [doctoral dissertation, university of california los angeles]. proquest dissertations and theses, global. , * ** remember: each source listed on the reference page must correspond to at least one in-text citation in the body of the paper; each in-text citation must correspond to a source listed on the reference page., when a dissertation or thesis is unpublished, include the description “[unpublished doctoral dissertation]” or “[unpublished master’s thesis]” in square brackets after the dissertation or thesis title., in the source element of the reference, provide the name of the institution that awarded the degree., author, a. a. (year). title of dissertation [unpublished doctoral dissertation or unpublished, masters thesis], name of institution that awarded the degree. , johnson, b. (2005). balanced scorecard applications [unpublished master's thesis]. worthington university..
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All you need to know about citations
How to cite a dissertation in APA
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To cite a dissertation in a reference entry in APA style 6th edition include the following elements:
- Author(s) of the dissertation: Give the last name and initials (e. g. Watson, J. D.) of up to seven authors with the last name preceded by an ampersand (&). For eight or more authors include the first six names followed by an ellipsis (…) and add the last author's name.
- Year of publication: Give the year in brackets followed by a full stop.
- Title of the dissertation: Only the first letter of the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.
- URL: Give the full URL where the document can be retrieved from.
Here is the basic format for a reference list entry of a dissertation in APA style 6th edition:
Author(s) of the dissertation . ( Year of publication ). Title of the dissertation (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from URL
If the dissertation is available from a database, archive or any online platform use the following template:
- Author(s) of the dissertation: Give the last name and initials (e. g. Watson, J. D.) of up to 20 authors with the last name preceded by an ampersand (&). For 21 or more authors include the first 19 names followed by an ellipsis (…) and add the last author's name.
- Publication number: Give the identification number of the dissertation, if available.
- Name of the degree awarding institution: Give the name of the institution.
- Name of platform: Give the name of the database, archive or any platform that holds the dissertation.
- URL: If the dissertation was found on a database, omit this element.
Here is the basic format for a reference list entry of a dissertation in APA style 7th edition:
Author(s) of the dissertation . ( Year of publication ). Title of the dissertation ( Publication number ) [Doctoral dissertation, Name of the degree awarding institution ]. Name of platform . URL
If the dissertation has not been published or is available from a database use the following template:
- Location: Give the location of the institution. If outside the United States also include the country name.
Author(s) of the dissertation . ( Year of publication ). Title of the dissertation (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Name of the degree awarding institution , Location .
If the dissertation is not published, use the following template:
Author(s) of the dissertation . ( Year of publication ). Title of the dissertation [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Name of the degree awarding institution .
APA reference list examples
Take a look at our reference list examples that demonstrate the APA style guidelines for a dissertation citation in action:
A dissertation found in an online platform
Guo, J . ( 2018 ). Trust-based service management of internet of things systems and its applications ( Doctoral dissertation ). Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/82854
Guo, J . ( 2018 ). Trust-based service management of internet of things systems and its applications [ Doctoral dissertation , Virginia Tech ]. ETDs: Virginia Tech Electronic Theses and Dissertations . https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/82854
An unpublished doctoral dissertation
Neel, B. L . ( 2017 ). Three flute chamber works by Alberto Ginastera: Intertwining elements of art and folk music ( Unpublished doctoral dissertation ). University of Nebraska-Lincoln , NE .
Neel, B. L . ( 2017 ). Three flute chamber works by Alberto Ginastera: Intertwining elements of art and folk music [ Unpublished doctoral dissertation ]. University of Nebraska-Lincoln .
This citation style guide is based on the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association ( 6 th edition).
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- APA 6th Edition Citation Style
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How to Write an APA Methods Section | With Examples
Published on February 5, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on June 22, 2023.
The methods section of an APA style paper is where you report in detail how you performed your study. Research papers in the social and natural sciences often follow APA style. This article focuses on reporting quantitative research methods .
In your APA methods section, you should report enough information to understand and replicate your study, including detailed information on the sample , measures, and procedures used.
Table of contents
Structuring an apa methods section.
Example of an APA methods section
Other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about writing an apa methods section.
The main heading of “Methods” should be centered, boldfaced, and capitalized. Subheadings within this section are left-aligned, boldfaced, and in title case. You can also add lower level headings within these subsections, as long as they follow APA heading styles .
To structure your methods section, you can use the subheadings of “Participants,” “Materials,” and “Procedures.” These headings are not mandatory—aim to organize your methods section using subheadings that make sense for your specific study.
Note that not all of these topics will necessarily be relevant for your study. For example, if you didn’t need to consider outlier removal or ways of assigning participants to different conditions, you don’t have to report these steps.
The APA also provides specific reporting guidelines for different types of research design. These tell you exactly what you need to report for longitudinal designs , replication studies, experimental designs , and so on. If your study uses a combination design, consult APA guidelines for mixed methods studies.
Detailed descriptions of procedures that don’t fit into your main text can be placed in supplemental materials (for example, the exact instructions and tasks given to participants, the full analytical strategy including software code, or additional figures and tables).
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
Begin the methods section by reporting sample characteristics, sampling procedures, and the sample size.
Participant or subject characteristics
When discussing people who participate in research, descriptive terms like “participants,” “subjects” and “respondents” can be used. For non-human animal research, “subjects” is more appropriate.
Specify all relevant demographic characteristics of your participants. This may include their age, sex, ethnic or racial group, gender identity, education level, and socioeconomic status. Depending on your study topic, other characteristics like educational or immigration status or language preference may also be relevant.
Be sure to report these characteristics as precisely as possible. This helps the reader understand how far your results may be generalized to other people.
The APA guidelines emphasize writing about participants using bias-free language , so it’s necessary to use inclusive and appropriate terms.
Outline how the participants were selected and all inclusion and exclusion criteria applied. Appropriately identify the sampling procedure used. For example, you should only label a sample as random if you had access to every member of the relevant population.
Of all the people invited to participate in your study, note the percentage that actually did (if you have this data). Additionally, report whether participants were self-selected, either by themselves or by their institutions (e.g., schools may submit student data for research purposes).
Identify any compensation (e.g., course credits or money) that was provided to participants, and mention any institutional review board approvals and ethical standards followed.
Sample size and power
Detail the sample size (per condition) and statistical power that you hoped to achieve, as well as any analyses you performed to determine these numbers.
It’s important to show that your study had enough statistical power to find effects if there were any to be found.
Additionally, state whether your final sample differed from the intended sample. Your interpretations of the study outcomes should be based only on your final sample rather than your intended sample.
Write up the tools and techniques that you used to measure relevant variables. Be as thorough as possible for a complete picture of your techniques.
Primary and secondary measures
Define the primary and secondary outcome measures that will help you answer your primary and secondary research questions.
Specify all instruments used in gathering these measurements and the construct that they measure. These instruments may include hardware, software, or tests, scales, and inventories.
- To cite hardware, indicate the model number and manufacturer.
- To cite common software (e.g., Qualtrics), state the full name along with the version number or the website URL .
- To cite tests, scales or inventories, reference its manual or the article it was published in. It’s also helpful to state the number of items and provide one or two example items.
Make sure to report the settings of (e.g., screen resolution) any specialized apparatus used.
For each instrument used, report measures of the following:
- Reliability : how consistently the method measures something, in terms of internal consistency or test-retest reliability.
- Validity : how precisely the method measures something, in terms of construct validity or criterion validity .
Giving an example item or two for tests, questionnaires , and interviews is also helpful.
Describe any covariates—these are any additional variables that may explain or predict the outcomes.
Quality of measurements
Review all methods you used to assure the quality of your measurements.
These may include:
- training researchers to collect data reliably,
- using multiple people to assess (e.g., observe or code) the data,
- translation and back-translation of research materials,
- using pilot studies to test your materials on unrelated samples.
For data that’s subjectively coded (for example, classifying open-ended responses), report interrater reliability scores. This tells the reader how similarly each response was rated by multiple raters.
Report all of the procedures applied for administering the study, processing the data, and for planned data analyses.
Data collection methods and research design
Data collection methods refers to the general mode of the instruments: surveys, interviews, observations, focus groups, neuroimaging, cognitive tests, and so on. Summarize exactly how you collected the necessary data.
Describe all procedures you applied in administering surveys, tests, physical recordings, or imaging devices, with enough detail so that someone else can replicate your techniques. If your procedures are very complicated and require long descriptions (e.g., in neuroimaging studies), place these details in supplementary materials.
To report research design, note your overall framework for data collection and analysis. State whether you used an experimental, quasi-experimental, descriptive (observational), correlational, and/or longitudinal design. Also note whether a between-subjects or a within-subjects design was used.
For multi-group studies, report the following design and procedural details as well:
- how participants were assigned to different conditions (e.g., randomization),
- instructions given to the participants in each group,
- interventions for each group,
- the setting and length of each session(s).
Describe whether any masking was used to hide the condition assignment (e.g., placebo or medication condition) from participants or research administrators. Using masking in a multi-group study ensures internal validity by reducing research bias . Explain how this masking was applied and whether its effectiveness was assessed.
Participants were randomly assigned to a control or experimental condition. The survey was administered using Qualtrics (https://www.qualtrics.com). To begin, all participants were given the AAI and a demographics questionnaire to complete, followed by an unrelated filler task. In the control condition , participants completed a short general knowledge test immediately after the filler task. In the experimental condition, participants were asked to visualize themselves taking the test for 3 minutes before they actually did. For more details on the exact instructions and tasks given, see supplementary materials.
Outline all steps taken to scrutinize or process the data after collection.
This includes the following:
- Procedures for identifying and removing outliers
- Data transformations to normalize distributions
- Compensation strategies for overcoming missing values
To ensure high validity, you should provide enough detail for your reader to understand how and why you processed or transformed your raw data in these specific ways.
The methods section is also where you describe your statistical analysis procedures, but not their outcomes. Their outcomes are reported in the results section.
These procedures should be stated for all primary, secondary, and exploratory hypotheses. While primary and secondary hypotheses are based on a theoretical framework or past studies, exploratory hypotheses are guided by the data you’ve just collected.
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This annotated example reports methods for a descriptive correlational survey on the relationship between religiosity and trust in science in the US. Hover over each part for explanation of what is included.
The sample included 879 adults aged between 18 and 28. More than half of the participants were women (56%), and all participants had completed at least 12 years of education. Ethics approval was obtained from the university board before recruitment began. Participants were recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk; www.mturk.com). We selected for a geographically diverse sample within the Midwest of the US through an initial screening survey. Participants were paid USD $5 upon completion of the study.
A sample size of at least 783 was deemed necessary for detecting a correlation coefficient of ±.1, with a power level of 80% and a significance level of .05, using a sample size calculator (www.sample-size.net/correlation-sample-size/).
The primary outcome measures were the levels of religiosity and trust in science. Religiosity refers to involvement and belief in religious traditions, while trust in science represents confidence in scientists and scientific research outcomes. The secondary outcome measures were gender and parental education levels of participants and whether these characteristics predicted religiosity levels.
Religiosity was measured using the Centrality of Religiosity scale (Huber, 2003). The Likert scale is made up of 15 questions with five subscales of ideology, experience, intellect, public practice, and private practice. An example item is “How often do you experience situations in which you have the feeling that God or something divine intervenes in your life?” Participants were asked to indicate frequency of occurrence by selecting a response ranging from 1 (very often) to 5 (never). The internal consistency of the instrument is .83 (Huber & Huber, 2012).
Trust in Science
Trust in science was assessed using the General Trust in Science index (McCright, Dentzman, Charters & Dietz, 2013). Four Likert scale items were assessed on a scale from 1 (completely distrust) to 5 (completely trust). An example question asks “How much do you distrust or trust scientists to create knowledge that is unbiased and accurate?” Internal consistency was .8.
Potential participants were invited to participate in the survey online using Qualtrics (www.qualtrics.com). The survey consisted of multiple choice questions regarding demographic characteristics, the Centrality of Religiosity scale, an unrelated filler anagram task, and finally the General Trust in Science index. The filler task was included to avoid priming or demand characteristics, and an attention check was embedded within the religiosity scale. For full instructions and details of tasks, see supplementary materials.
For this correlational study , we assessed our primary hypothesis of a relationship between religiosity and trust in science using Pearson moment correlation coefficient. The statistical significance of the correlation coefficient was assessed using a t test. To test our secondary hypothesis of parental education levels and gender as predictors of religiosity, multiple linear regression analysis was used.
If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Normal distribution
- Measures of central tendency
- Chi square tests
- Confidence interval
- Quartiles & Quantiles
- Cluster sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Thematic analysis
- Cohort study
- Peer review
- Implicit bias
- Cognitive bias
- Conformity bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Availability heuristic
- Attrition bias
- Social desirability bias
In your APA methods section , you should report detailed information on the participants, materials, and procedures used.
- Describe all relevant participant or subject characteristics, the sampling procedures used and the sample size and power .
- Define all primary and secondary measures and discuss the quality of measurements.
- Specify the data collection methods, the research design and data analysis strategy, including any steps taken to transform the data and statistical analyses.
You should report methods using the past tense , even if you haven’t completed your study at the time of writing. That’s because the methods section is intended to describe completed actions or research.
In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion . The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation , or research proposal .
Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.
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