How To Use In-Text References & Footnotes in PhD Dissertation?

So, you have come to the end of the rope and are finally about to start working on your PhD dissertation. Good to know this. However, do you know what things you need to learn before starting working on your dissertation? Probably not because, as a student, you have not given attention to such things throughout your academic journey. So, please note that in-text references & footnotes, creating an informative table of contents, and organising the information right are some things you must know when writing a PhD dissertation.

The in-text references & footnotes are of more importance than any other thing. The reason is that if not given attention properly in a dissertation, the information might be counted as plagiarism. So, keeping this in view, today’s post is all about the use of in-text references & footnotes in a PhD dissertation. There will be a definition of both important things, their importance, and how to use them effectively. So, let’s get started.

What are in-text references, and how to use them in a dissertation?

In-text reference or a citation is a shortened reference to the source from which you have taken a piece of particular information. It is used to refer to that source and tell the reader that you have not plagiarised anything. It is important to remember that for every in-text reference in your dissertation, there must be a corresponding entry in the references list at the end of your PhD dissertation. An example of an in-text reference or citation is as follows:

“The study revealed that the participants who ate a dark chocolate bar every day did not develop any heart-related disease (Jones, 2009). The bracketed information at the end of the sentence is an in-text reference or citation.

How to use a citation in a dissertation?

The above information is a brief description or, you can say, a definition of a citation. However, our main topic of discussion is to explain how to use a citation in a dissertation. The style of in-text references & footnotes changes with changing number of authors. So, a brief description of the citation styles for different authors in a dissertation is as follows;

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One author

When there is only one author of the source that you want to cite in your dissertation, the general rule is that you start the citation with its last name. No suffixed prefixes like sir, Mr. and jr are used. After the name, the year of publication of the source is also used. An example of this is as follows:

  • This phenomenon was seen in an Australian Study (Cogner, 1999)
  • Cogner (1999) has argued that …..

Two authors

Sometimes, the number of authors of a source are more than one. In the case of two authors, the style of in-text reference changes a bit. In the citation, you use the surnames or last names of both authors, followed by the year of the publication of the source. Some examples of this kind of citation are as follows:

  • … (Davidson and Halliburton, 2005)
  • Davidson and Halliburton (2005) argued in their study that …

Three to five authors

It is a rare case, but sometimes the authors exceed two and jump to somewhere between three and five. The rules for this kind of citation are different. When there are three authors of a source, you cite the source by using the surnames of all three authors for the first time. If you still need to use it in the PhD dissertation for the second time, giving the surname of the first author and writing et al. after it is enough. The case of five authors is a bit difficult, so hiring a PhD dissertation help for those citations is the best. Some examples are as follows:

  • The first time citation: … (Brown, Soo, & Jones, 2007)
  • The second time cited: …. (Brown et al. 2007)

What are footnotes, and how to use them in a dissertation?

While reading a dissertation or a scholarly article, you have seen some numbers at the end of a sentence. What do those numbers depict in that writing? These numbers usually act as superscripts, and the information related to them can be found at the bottom of the page. Now, that information is called a footnote in a PhD dissertation. The footnote is also a type of citation in which the author does not give information in the text but at the end of the page. It is also the main difference between in-text references & footnotes.

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How to use footnotes in a dissertation?

The exact format of a footnote depends on the style guide provided to you by your teacher or university. Here, I will describe how to use footnotes using some common style guides. So, a brief description of rules with examples is as follows:

Modern Language Association (MLA)

This style guide does not encourage the use of footnotes in a PhD dissertation. However, the MLA does allow its use for giving additional information about the subject area or what you are talking about in a specific section. According to the MLA, the superscripts must be placed outside the punctuation.

American Psychological Association (APA)

Like MLA, the APA also discourages the use of footnotes in a PhD dissertation. It also permits the use of footnotes only for the purpose of supplemental or additional information about the text. The rules of placing the superscript numbers in the APA are the same like MLA.

The Chicago Manual Style (CMS)

Out of the above style guides mentioned above, the CMS relies on the in-text references & footnotes the most. The CMS style guide uses footnotes as in-text references. It means that the author only assigns a number to the text in the dissertation. The reference to the source is given at the end of the page. The following format should be followed in the footnote:

  • First name last name, title of the publication, year of publication, page number


Conclusively, in-text references & footnotes both serve the same purpose in the CMS style guide. There is an obvious difference in the place of these things in a dissertation. The citation comes in the text, and footnotes come at the end of the page. However, different style guides follow different rules and procedures to create both citations and footnotes. So, read the whole article if you want to learn those rules and procedures.

By Zain Liaquat

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