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References in Thesis

How to Write References in Thesis?

You can write references in a thesis using a minimum of five (5) different styles. References in a thesis are essential to recognize other authors whose ideas were pivotal to the completion of your essay.

Over the years, unique referencing styles continue to gain wide acceptance across colleges and other academic institutions. However, few students can easily write references in a thesis using appropriate styles without extra information.

Let’s see how you can write references in a thesis and get the most marks for recognizing relevant authorities in your research.

Types of Referencing Styles in Theses


The American Psychological Association (APA) style is a parenthetical system with references in brackets within your essay. Information within these brackets usually include the author’s surname and year of publication. APA references always go at the end of a sentence and appear before the full stop sign.


The Modern Languages Association (MLA) style is a parenthetical referencing system widely used by academics and students in the Humanities. Most MLA referencing styles in recent years currently adopt the 9th edition format, which is the most recent.

The MLA format requires writers to apply double-spacing, indented paragraphs, and one-inch margins.  


The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a numbered reference list and parenthetical style mostly used by students in computer science, telecommunications, and many technical disciplines.

The citation format relies on numbering references inside an essay and listing each at the end of an essay.


The Chicago referencing style is widely used in the humanities and places citations as endnotes or footnotes. After listing footnotes, the style requires you to list all sources in full later on in your essay.

Two forms of the Chicago style exist – the author-date style and the notes and bibliography style.

A variation of the Chicago method, called the Turabian style also exists. The Turabian style has minor variations from Chicago referencing, but is largely similar in its elements and format.


The Harvard referencing style is a parenthetical style that should appear wherever you paraphrase sources.  It is similar to the APA style in in-text citation, but has major differences

How to Write References in Thesis Using Different Styles

1.    APA Style

You can use two different methods to write in-text references in APA inside the body of your thesis.

Smith (2011) – at the beginning of a sentence

(Smith, 2011) – in the middle or at the end of a sentence

Example of APA bibliography:

Author’s Last name, initials, Year, Book Title, Publisher: City

Forsyth, M. (2011) An Introduction to Design and Analysis of Experiments, Aegean Publishing: Accra

2.    MLA Style

The MLA style has identical in-text citation styles with APA referencing.

Example of APA bibliography:

Author’s Last name, initials, Book Title, Publisher: City, Year, Page Number

Forsyth, M. An Introduction to Design and Analysis of Experiments, Aegean Publishing: Accra, 2011, pp. 132

3.    IEEE Style

The IEEE style provides information about your sources and arranges them in a numbered format. Unlike the APA style, you don’t need to arrange references in alphabetical order with this citation method.

In-text citations will assume different numbers according to their order of appearance in your essay. For example, let’s see an idea from John McGee’s thesis in 2003 appears as the second citation in your essay. The IEEE format mandates writers to cite such a thesis as [2] instead of including any author’s name or publication year.

Referencing such article at the end of your essay will take this form using IEEE style:

Author’s initial, Last name, Title of Book, City of publishing (and state for US only), Country: Publisher, Year

Example of IEEE referencing

[2] J. McGee, Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering, London, England: Heinemann, 2003

4.    Chicago Style

For the author-date style, you can write the Chicago style in full note or short note form.

Full note Chicago style:

Author’s full name, Title of Book, Subtitle, Book Edition (City of Publication: Publishing company, Year), Page number, URL (if any)

Example of full-note Chicago style:

Yeremy Toulalan, Football 101: The Basics of Football Management, 2nd ed., (Paris: Capri Publishing, 2016) 210 – 223.

Short note Chicago style:

Author’s surname, Shortened Title of Book, Page Numbers

Example of short-note Chicago style:

Toulalan, Football 101, 210 – 223.

It’s worth noting that you can include multiple authors in the Chicago style of referencing. You can add “et al.” after the first author’s last name if authors are more than four.

The notes and bibliography style of Chicago referencing places references in endnotes and lists your sources in full at the ending of your essay. Most academics and students prefer the notes and bibliography style of Chicago reference to the author-date method. The method works best when you have more than ten (10) sources in your essay.

5.    Harvard Style

The Harvard style in-text citations are similar to

Example of Harvard style referencing:

Author’s Last name, initials, Publication year, Title, Edition, City of publication, Publisher

Reed, J. N., 2011, Dimensions of 3-plane tetrahedral designs, 3rd ed. Paris: Chateaux

It’s worth noting that there are slight variations if you want to reference a contribution, journal, paper, thesis, or publication using Harvard style.


How many referencing styles can I use in a thesis?

You can only use one referencing style at a time in a thesis. Using multiple referencing styles in your essay could reduce your score and cause several revisions.

Consult your supervisor(s) for information about accepted referencing styles for your thesis or look up your college’s thesis-writing guidelines.

How do I reference a source I’ve seen quoted in another citation?

You can quote a source indirectly if you do not have access to its original essay. You need to mention the original source and where you found it. For example:

Young (1991, cited in Arnoldson, 2004) references Young’s contribution found in Arnoldson’s essay.

Who uses the IEEE referencing style?

The IEEE citation style is popular among students in telecommunications, sciences, and engineering fields. This referencing style has several distinct features from other citation types and is one of the least used formats.

Final Word

Using the proper referencing style in your thesis ensures you get full marks allotted to this section. Well-drafted references ensures all sources of information for your thesis get proper recognition. Learn the referencing style recommended by your institution and write references in your thesis with ease.