7.3 The Basic Components of Complete Bibliographical References

Regardless of which system and style of referencing you use in your thesis, the same basic components are needed in almost all cases in order to produce complete bibliographical references – the kind of references, that is, that should appear in a list of references or works cited (both of which contain only the sources actually cited in a thesis), in a bibliography (which can contain sources beyond those cited in the thesis or in rare cases be selective and contain only some of the cited sources), in a list of further reading (which need not include any sources cited in the thesis itself) or in footnotes or endnotes (if they are used to provide full references). These essential components are listed in the sections below along with some of their most important characteristics. Exactly which components need to be recorded differs depending on the type of source, with some sources requiring more documentation than others – a chapter or essay within a book requires more information than the whole book, for instance – so whether or not a component should be included in a particular reference depends on whether it is relevant to the source being recorded. The order and format in which the components appear in full references vary as well, but in this case depending on the system and style of references required, so do check any available university or department guidelines for instructions on producing complete bibliographical references for your thesis. You will need to do your best to provide for each source all the information necessary in the correct order and format, and then check the entire list carefully for accuracy and consistency across all references with regard to the spelling, capitalisation, punctuation, fonts, abbreviations, positioning and so on used for similar or the same elements. Ideally, this check will be performed more than once, and engaging a second critical reader to look through your list with fresh eyes is a good idea as well.

7.3.1 Author’s Name

This is the name of the author of the work (article, book, web site or any other kind of source) cited. It appears as the first item in the reference unless there is no author acknowledged in the source, in which case the title of the source often appears first instead. As an alternative to a name, ‘Anon.’ (for ‘anonymous’) can be used, or if the author’s name is not supplied in the source but known from other sources, that name can be placed in square brackets: ‘[Brockle, S.].’ The name of an organisation or corporation (such as the American Psychological Association) instead of an individual author can be provided if relevant. If more than one author is responsible for the work, more than one author should be named, which can be done in three different ways depending on the requirements of the guidelines or style guide used: by listing all author names, by listing one or more (usually three or four) of the names followed by ‘et al.’ or by listing a set number of names, using an ellipsis to replace intervening names and ending with the name of the last author of the source. Whichever pattern is appropriate for your thesis should be maintained for all relevant sources you list. Author names are usually inverted in reference lists, with the surname appearing first (as I have ‘Brockle, S.’ above) and given names and/or initials following, although in some cases only the first author’s name is inverted and subsequent author names appear in the usual order. Depending on the referencing style used, given names might be included exactly as they are recorded in the source or provided as initials only, and the entire names might contain internal punctuation (Tolkien, J.R.R.) or not (Tolkien JRR), but commas should always appear between the names of separate authors (Brockle S, Taylor M) and in some cases an ampersand (&) or ‘and’ should appear instead of or along with a comma between the names of the last two authors of a source (see also Sections 6.3.9 and 7.2.1).

7.3.2 Editor’s Name

This should appear instead of the author’s name if the reference is to an edited book – the whole book, that is, rather than part of it. If more than one editor is responsible for the work, more than one editor should be named in one of the three ways indicated for listing multiple authors in Section 7.3.1, depending, as with the author names, on the requirements of the guidelines or style guide used, and maintaining consistency throughout the list. The format of editor names (inverted or not beyond the first author’s name, initials or full given names, the use of ‘and’ or an ampersand, internal punctuation etc.) should be the same as that used for author names in the list. Some conference proceedings (and other group publications) may not have named editors, in which case no editor name is required, and the reference is likely to appear under the name of the author who wrote the part of the collection that is actually cited in the thesis, or under the title of the book if the whole book is intended. An editor’s name should be accompanied by ‘Ed.’ or ‘ed.’ (for ‘editor’) with the plural forms usually being ‘Eds.’ and ‘eds.’ (on these and other abbreviations commonly used in references, see Section 6.3.10).

7.3.3 Translator’s Name

If a source is a translation, the translator’s name should appear as well as the name(s) of the original author(s). If more than one translator is responsible for the work, more than one translator should be named, again using one of the three ways for listing multiple author names indicated in Section 7.3.1, depending, as with the author and editor names, on the requirements of the guidelines or style guide used, and maintaining consistency throughout the list. Translators should be identified by ‘tr.’ or ‘trans.,’ one of which should be used consistently in all relevant references, but in some cases ‘translator’ or ‘translated by’ is used instead. Translator names should use initials or full given names, ‘and’ or an ampersand and internal punctuation or not depending on guidelines and the format used in the list for author and editor names, but translator names usually appear after the title of the source rather than before it and names often are not inverted in this position (The Confessions, trans. W. Watts), though they can be (see Section 7.3.7 for the similar treatment of the names of editors when recording a book in which a source is contained). If the original author’s name is included in the title of a translated book, the translator’s name can appear in the initial position usually occupied by the name of the author (Watts, W., trans., Augustine: Confessions), in which case the translator’s name is inverted (or, if there is more than one translator, all names or only the first may be inverted, depending on the pattern used for author and editor names).

7.3.4 Title of the Source

This is the title of the work (article, chapter, book, web site or any other kind of source) cited. It was once conventional to set book titles in italic font (or underscore them) and article and chapter titles in quotation marks (‘single’ or “double”), and some styles still retain both these marks of distinction, especially in the humanities, but many do not. Italics on book titles are used more widely in the early twenty-first century than quotation marks are on article and chapter titles, and, occasionally, article and chapter titles appear in bold or (more rarely) in italic font, but in some cases both kinds of titles appear in normal roman font and capitalisation alone is used to distinguish them (see also Section 6.2). Patterns of capitalisation can vary widely, with a title bearing initial capitals only on its first word and proper nouns, for instance, or also on the first word of the subtitle or on all main words, and the capitalisation of book titles can vary from that of article and chapter titles within the same style, but the pattern should be consistent for each type of title – the same, for example, for all book titles in the list (see also Section 6.1). Exceptions are often made for titles in foreign languages, as the capitalisation rules of the relevant language tend to apply (for more information on using foreign languages, see Butcher et al., 2006, Section 6.6, pp.246–247 and Appendices 5, 7, 9 and 10; the Chicago Manual of Style, 2003, Chapter 10; Ritter, 2005, Chapter 12). If an English translation of a foreign title is provided, it should appear in parentheses or square brackets immediately after the original title, generally in the same font as that title, and all such translations in the list should be enclosed in the same type of brackets.

7.3.5 Edition

If the source is a book, the edition may be relevant, but only for second and subsequent editions (e.g., ‘2nd Ed.,’ ‘3rd ed.,’ ‘4th Edn’ or ‘5th edn’); there is no need to specify the first edition of a book. When an edition number appears in a reference, it generally appears in conjunction with the title of the book, usually immediately after it (The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edn), and should appear in the same position in all references that include an edition number. All mentions of editions should also use the same abbreviation, whether ‘Ed.,’ ‘ed.,’ ‘Edn’ or ‘edn,’ but if you use either ‘Ed.’ or ‘ed.’ to indicate editions, it is a good idea to use the alternative format for identifying editors (an editor might be indicated by ‘ed.,’ for instance, and an edition by ‘Ed.’). Many books are published by different publishing houses at different times, so be sure to provide the correct information for the edition you actually use in your thesis.

Why PhD Success?

To Graduate Successfully

This article is part of a book called "PhD Success" which focuses on the writing process of a phd thesis, with its aim being to provide sound practices and principles for reporting and formatting in text the methods, results and discussion of even the most innovative and unique research in ways that are clear, correct, professional and persuasive.

The assumption of the book is that the doctoral candidate reading it is both eager to write and more than capable of doing so, but nonetheless requires information and guidance on exactly what he or she should be writing and how best to approach the task. The basic components of a doctoral thesis are outlined and described, as are the elements of complete and accurate scholarly references, and detailed descriptions of writing practices are clarified through the use of numerous examples.

The basic components of a doctoral thesis are outlined and described, as are the elements of complete and accurate scholarly references, and detailed descriptions of writing practices are clarified through the use of numerous examples. PhD Success provides guidance for students familiar with English and the procedures of English universities, but it also acknowledges that many theses in the English language are now written by candidates whose first language is not English, so it carefully explains the scholarly styles, conventions and standards expected of a successful doctoral thesis in the English language.

Individual chapters of this book address reflective and critical writing early in the thesis process; working successfully with thesis supervisors and benefiting from commentary and criticism; drafting and revising effective thesis chapters and developing an academic or scientific argument; writing and formatting a thesis in clear and correct scholarly English; citing, quoting and documenting sources thoroughly and accurately; and preparing for and excelling in thesis meetings and examinations. 

Completing a doctoral thesis successfully requires long and penetrating thought, intellectual rigour and creativity, original research and sound methods (whether established or innovative), precision in recording detail and a wide-ranging thoroughness, as much perseverance and mental toughness as insight and brilliance, and, no matter how many helpful writing guides are consulted, a great deal of hard work over a significant period of time. Writing a thesis can be an enjoyable as well as a challenging experience, however, and even if it is not always so, the personal and professional rewards of achieving such an enormous goal are considerable, as all doctoral candidates no doubt realise, and will last a great deal longer than any problems that may be encountered during the process.

Interested in Proofreading your PhD Thesis? Get in Touch with us

If you are interested in proofreading your PhD thesis or dissertation, please explore our expert dissertation proofreading services.


PhD Dissertation Proofreading

Our PhD dissertation proofreaders specialise in improving grammar, sentence structure, citations, references, clarity, logical flow and readability.

Master’s Dissertation Proofreading

To avoid failure and its consequences, send your dissertation to our master’s dissertation proofreading service.

Dissertation Proofreading Services

Our dissertation proofreaders specialise in correcting and perfecting the language, editorial styles and references across all science fields.


Allia Future Business Centre
The Guildhall
Market Square
United Kingdom

+44 (0) 20 31 500 431