How to Cite a Dissertation and Master’s Thesis in MLA 8 with Examples

Students pursuing a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral diploma and writing papers in MLA 8 must prepare to undertake unique academic projects before completing their studies. For bachelor’s and master’s students, the project is writing a thesis, while for doctoral students, it is a dissertation. Basically, this academic project in MLA 8 aims to allow students to demonstrate to themselves, their supervisors, the university, and the public that their knowledge levels have expanded during their time at the university. In this sense, both a thesis and a dissertation in MLA 8 mark the end of a student’s time at the university and entry into another higher learning level or the job market. Hence, students need to learn how to cite a dissertation and Master’s thesis in MLA 8 by reviewing the main rules discussed in this simple guide.

General Aspects of Citing a Dissertation and Master’s Thesis in MLA 8

In higher education, students undertake various activities to advance their academic qualifications. Basically, one of these activities is the writing of a dissertation or Master’s thesis in MLA 8. In particular, it is defined as a single educational project for students in undergraduate or postgraduate studies that accounts for a significant part of their degree. Also, a dissertation is known as a thesis in some contexts, meaning that both are interrelated. While a dissertation is a written project, students sometimes undergo an oral examination to prove their points and defend their work in front of assessors. In turn, it is standard practice in many universities that assessors of students’ oral presentations to be professors.

How to cite a dissertation in mla

Purpose of a Dissertation and Master’s Thesis

The primary purpose of writing a dissertation and Master’s thesis in MLA 8 is to allow undergraduate and postgraduate students to demonstrate their ability to explore and present scientific findings on a topic. In this case, the academic project provides students a platform upon which they show they have become significantly knowledgeable during their years at the university. Generally, the length of an undergraduate dissertation or Master’s thesis in MLA 8 is a maximum of 12, 000 words, while a postgraduate one does not exceed 25,000 words. Hence, writing a dissertation or Master’s thesis in MLA 8 is the most complicated academic project that students undertake during their lifetime at the university.

Contents of a Dissertation in MLA 8

The general characteristic of a dissertation and Master’s thesis in MLA 8 is that it differs from standard essays and other writing projects that students undertake by capturing specific information. Depending on the format of the paper, a student should ensure their dissertation has:

  • a title page;
  • a copyright page;
  • an abstract;
  • optional dedication, acknowledgments, and preface pages;
  • a table of contents that covers page numbers of headings and subheadings;
  • a list of tables, figures, or illustrations;
  • a list of abbreviations (if applicable);
  • a list of symbols (if applicable);
  • chapters throughout the main body;
  • an appendix page;
  • Works Cited page, References, Bibliography, or List of References.

Types of Dissertations

The three main types of dissertations are an undergraduate thesis, a Master’s thesis, and a doctoral dissertation. Basically, the core difference between a Master’s thesis and a dissertation is that the former marks the completion of an undergraduate or Master’s program, while the latter marks the end of a doctoral program. Consequently, a thesis paper is a student’s compilation of research, denoting an advanced level of knowledge since the day the person joined the undergraduate or master’s program to the day of completion. On the other hand, writing a dissertation in MLA 8 is a doctoral student’s compilation of knowledge that advances knowledge and theories in a specific field. Hence, a dissertation is an academic project that allows students to use what they have learned to develop new concepts in a discipline.

Structural Differences in Citing a Dissertation in MLA 8

Based on the difference in purpose, it stands to reason that citing a Master’s thesis differs from a dissertation in structure by considering the MLA 8 format. In a Master’s thesis, a student researches a topic, analyzes different sources, and comments on the information gathered. Basically, this commenting entails discussing how the information researched relates to the particular subject under investigation. Therefore, a Master’s thesis showcases a student’s ability to think critically about a topic and knowledgeably discuss the information and to expand upon a topic relevant to a specialty area they wish to pursue as a profession. In contrast, a dissertation showcases a student’s ability to use others’ research as a guide in developing and proving a new theory or concept. Hence, the bulk of the information in a Master’s thesis is borrowed, while, in a dissertation, the bulk of the information is attributable to the student.

Citing a Dissertation in MLA 8

When writing academic texts, such as essays, students sometimes cite dissertations in MLA 8 as sources of essential, relevant knowledge. Basically, such citations intend to provide student’s arguments with a strong foundation. Therefore, learning to cite a dissertation in MLA 8 is a critical academic exercise. In this case, the core elements that a student should capture in a citation of a dissertation in MLA 8 are the name of the author, the title, and the date of publication. However, other optional components include the name of the institution granting the degree and a description of the work. Hence, a typical citation in the MLA 8 format indicates:

  • the author’s name;
  • an italicized title;
  • the date of publication;
  • the university granting the degree;
  • a description of the work;
  • the database or URL (if available);
  • the date of access (if available).

1. Author’s Name

The first element in citing a dissertation in MLA 8 is the name of the author of the dissertation. Basically, the name should start with the last name, a comma, and then the first and middle names (if any). In this case, students should complete this citation with a period. Moreover, a student gets the author’s name from the publication, which can be accessed as a print, on an online database, or on a web page.

2. The Title

The title of the dissertation or Master’s thesis in MLA 8 is the second element in the citation. Basically, students should capture both the title and subtitle, if any, separating both with a colon. Also, they should use a title case, meaning that all the words in the title should be capitalized, and italics when writing the title, ending it with a period or a question mark, whatever applies. Just like the name, a student can access the dissertation title from the publication in its print form, in an online database, or from a web page.

3. Date of Publication

The third element in citing a dissertation in MLA 8 is the date when the dissertation is published. Basically, a student can find this information by looking at the dissertation title, which can be found in the dissertation in its print form, on an online database, or from a web page. Moreover, the date can appear on the backside of the title page in the case of a printed dissertation. In turn, students should end the citation with a period.

4. Name of the Institution

As an academic project in undergraduate and postgraduate studies, a dissertation is affiliated with the university that grants the student a degree. In this case, the university’s name is the fourth element in the citation of a dissertation. Like most of the information about a dissertation, a student can access the name of the institution by accessing the dissertation in its print form, in an online database, or from a webpage. In turn, students should complete the MLA citation with a comma.

5. Status of Publishing

When citing a dissertation in MLA 8, a student should indicate whether it is an undergraduate thesis, a master’s thesis, or a doctoral dissertation. In the case of a Master’s thesis, students should use the word “thesis,” indicating whether it is an undergraduate or a master’s. In the case of a dissertation, students should write it in its short form – Diss. Also, scholars can access this information by accessing the publication in its print form, in an online database, or from a webpage.

6. Dissertation Scenarios

Three scenarios involve a dissertation – unpublished dissertation, database-based dissertation, and online-based dissertation. Basically, the significant difference between these scenarios is based on exposure. Ideally, an unpublished dissertation has limited exposure, as it is only the student, the supervisor, and the university reserves copies. In contrast, both a database- and an online-based dissertation have broad exposures.

Citing an Unpublished Dissertation in MLA 8

When an undergraduate, postgraduate, or doctoral student writes a dissertation in MLA 8, entities that gain access to the work are the student, the dissertation supervisor, and the university library. In some cases, a copy is made for the archive. Also, an unpublished dissertation is rarely widely read. In that case, after serving its purpose of helping a student gain a degree, this type of discourse fades into obscurity.

Published Dissertation

After students gain degrees, it is recommendable that they publish their dissertation to protect their work from fading into obscurity. Basically, a published dissertation is often found in peer-reviewed databases, but it can also be found online. In this case, publishing a dissertation in a database ensures it gains the critical title of peer-reviewed academic work, meaning that it is widely read and used as a reference in various works.

Online Publishing

Sometimes, students can publish their dissertations and make them accessible through the online platform and not a database. For example, the Internet has become home to publishers of academic content, especially those who desire to have their work freely accessible to students and other consumers. Basically, such dissertations help to broaden the reach of the publication while expanding the influence of the author. In this case, authors reach a significant number of people and get feedback from influential academics. As a result, such reach and relationships help authors to find access to journal and book publishing.

Scheme of Citing a Dissertation and Master’s Thesis in MLA 8

The scheme of an MLA 8 citation denotes its format, the way it must appear in both in-text and Works Cited citations. As stated above, the MLA 8 format must capture both core elements (author’s name, the title, date of publication) and optional elements (the name of the institution and a description of the work). However, for unpublished dissertations, there is no date of publication. As a result, for the three scenarios described above, the structure of the MLA 8 citation for a dissertation or Master’s thesis would be as follows:

1. Unpublished Dissertation:

Structure:

Last Name, First and Middle Names. “Title of the Dissertation.” University, Dissertation or Master’s Thesis.

Example:

Dong, Yu Ren. “Non-Native Graduate Students’ Thesis/Dissertation Writing in Science: Self-Reports by Students and Their Advisors from Two U.S. Institutions.” 1998. Queens College, Ph.D. Dissertation.

2. Database-Based Published Dissertation:

Structure:

Last, First and Middle Names. Title of Dissertation. Dissertation or Master’s Thesis, University, Date of Publication. Name of Database. Accessed Date.

Example:

Dong, Yu Ren. Non-Native Graduate Students’ Thesis/Dissertation Writing in Science: Self-Reports by Students and Their Advisors from Two U.S. Institutions. Master’s Thesis, Queens College, 1998. Elsevier Dissertations and Theses. Accessed on 31 July 2020.

3. Online-Based Dissertation:

Structure:

Last, First and Middle Names. Title of Dissertation. Dissertation or Master’s Thesis, University, Date of publication, Link. Date accessed.

Example:

Dong, Yu Ren. Non-Native Graduate Students’ Thesis/Dissertation Writing in Science: Self-Reports by Students and Their Advisors from Two U.S. Institutions. Master’s Thesis, Queens College, 1998, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889490697000549. Accessed on 31 July 2020.

Note: these examples are based on a peer-reviewed scholarly article, while such samples serve only for learning purposes.

Summing Up on How to Cite a Dissertation and Master’s Thesis in MLA 8

Students in higher education (undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral studies) undertake a single academic project to mark the end of their studies. Basically, this project is a dissertation, which is also known as a Master’s thesis. Despite the differences in purpose and structure between these two notions, they provide insight into students’ grasp of knowledge during their years at the university. When citing a dissertation and Master’s thesis, a student should determine which scenario best describes the work. In this case, the three primary scenarios are unpublished dissertations, database-based published dissertations, and online-based published dissertations. On differences, the title of an unpublished dissertation is put under quotes, while that of the other two scenarios is italicized. Also, the date noted in an unpublished dissertation denotes the year it is written.

Tips:

Despite the stated differences, a student should note the following tips when citing a dissertation:

  • The author’s full name.
  • Which scenario best describes the dissertation.
  • The year the dissertation was published.
  • The title of the dissertation.
  • The type of degree- undergraduate or post-graduate (master’s or doctoral).
  • Whether the work is a thesis or a dissertation.
  • The name of the institution awarding the degree.
  • The name of the database (for database-based dissertation) or the URL (for an online-based dissertation).