APA Citation Dissertation Writing: How to Do It like a Pro

APA Citation Dissertation Writing: How to Do It like a Pro

In the process of scientific research, any scientist has to turn to scientific sources, which he is obliged to refer to when using their theoretical basis and applying them in his dissertation. This is where following APA formatting rules is important. On top of that, all those who are going to obtain their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree have to be aware of features of APA citation dissertation formatting.

The design of bibliographic references and bibliographic lists should correspond to universal APA standards. Further, the way you format the title page, in-text citations, quotations, and headers is also important here.

General Overview

APA is most used to cite sources in the social sciences. In particular, the style is used to form citations and design sources in dissertations in psychology, education, and social sciences. Considering the universality of the style, many medical journals follow guidelines of American Psychological Association when working on the article (6th edition).

It is not for nothing. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association provides recommendations on the organization and structure of the article, the formulation of quotations, footnotes, and tables.

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Key Features of APA

Among main features of the style is that it requires a dissertation to have a title page, author-year standard of designing in-text citations and having a running head on top of each page. Get accession in our database below.

Running head

  • It is a shortened version of the paper’s full title;
  • It should not exceed 50 characters including spaces.
  • It should be written in capital letters.
  • It should be flush left, with page numbers being flush right.
  • It should include the words “Running head” followed by a colon (on the title page only).

Title page

  • It should contain the topic of the paper – centered, typed in 12-point Times New Roman Font, NOT bolded, underlined, or italicized. The paper topic should be in title case.
  • It should contain the author’s name and the title of the university.
  • This information should be double-spaced and centered, without being be bolded, underlined, or italicized.

In-text citations

Designing rules of citations in dissertations are based on the author-date format. When citing any source, you are to indicate the author's last name and the year of source publication. Place this information in brackets at the end of the sentence (Ainsaar, 2016). The in-text citation should be indicated each time you use other people's ideas and cite their works. In case you indicate the author’s (authors’) name in the text of the sentence, write down only the source publication year in brackets and place the in-text citation after the name of the author.


In the opinion of scientists, appraisers are not interested in quality of content; they are more focused on indicators (Uustalu, 2013).
Uustalu (2013) writes that according to scientists, ....
In 2013, Uustalu wrote that .....
When writing a quote in the paper, you must specify the page number where the quote is taken from. The number is indicated after the year and is separated by a colon.


Uustalu (2013: 15) writes that "....."
If the author’s name is not specified in the source, it is necessary to indicate the title of the cited work and its publication year.


Different designing rules are applied to different level of headers in the dissertation. Heading APA style has 5 levels – each designed as follows:

  • First-level headers are centered, boldface, and written in title case in the dissertation;
  • Second-level headers are left-aligned (flush left), boldface, and written in title case in the dissertation.
  • Third-level headers are indented, boldface, and written in sentence case, with a period put at the end. The paragraph starts after period (from the same line).
  • Fourth-level headers are indented, boldface, italicized, and written in sentence case with a period. The paragraph starts after period (from the same line).
  • Fifth-level headers are indented, italicized, and written in sentence case with a period. The paragraph starts after period (from the same line).

When writing APA citation dissertation, follow the header order logic. This means that you cannot jump from one level to another, skipping “in-between” levels in the dissertation.


When citing a source in a dissertation, make sure to cover it both in in-text citations as well as on the Reference page, where used sources are listed.

  • It should be on a separate page in the dissertation.
  • It should be labelled “References” – centered at the top of the page (NOT bolded, underlined, or italicized, without quotation marks), just like in Chicago formatting style.
  • All lines after the first line of each entry in the list should be indented from the left margin (1,5 inch).
  • All entries in the list are to be double-spaced.
  • Order of source-related information should be the following one: authors' last name, author’s first name; year of publication; title of the work; and where it has been published.
  • For the online sources, the wording “Retrieved from” is used. Indicate exact URL of the source used.
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