7.3.10 Date of Publication

All references should, if at all possible, contain a date of publication, which should be the date of the edition or version you actually used in your thesis. If the source does not bear a date, ‘n.d.’ (for ‘no date’) can be used or, if the date is known from other sources, it can be provided in square brackets: ‘[1995].’ The date can appear in a variety of different places within a reference, from immediately after the author’s name (a necessity in author–date referencing: see Section 7.2.1 above) to after the publication information at the very end of the reference. If the date does not appear after the author’s name in journal references, it generally appears in conjunction with the journal title and volume number. Punctuation around dates varies widely, but publication dates are often enclosed in parentheses: ‘(1995).’ Sources such as works published in several volumes over more than one year should be recorded as a date range (1986–1995), which can be elided (1986–95); most correctly, an en rule is used between the dates (as in the preceding examples), but a hyphen is often used instead (1986-95). Whatever formats are chosen should be used consistently throughout the list. For newspaper articles and for journal articles published online prior to print publication, full dates rather than the year alone tend to be used, and these dates can take different forms: ‘7 November 2014’ in British English, for example, and ‘November 7, 2014’ in American English. The dates recorded for web sites can vary – date of first publication, date of most recent update or date of your most recent access to the site, for instance – as can the format, and more than one of these dates may be provided.

7.3.11 Publisher and Place of Publication

For references to books, both the publisher’s name and the city of publication should be provided in most cases, but either one of these may suffice depending on the guidelines or style guide followed. Usually, the place of publication precedes the publisher’s name with the two separated by a colon, but this is not always the case: the publisher’s name can precede the place of publication, and a semicolon or comma can be used to separate the publisher’s name from the place of publication. Both elements tend to appear at the end of a reference and are often enclosed in parentheses, sometimes along with the publication date: ‘(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).’ Modern English forms of city names should be used if possible, and if the city of publication is not a well-known centre, an abbreviation (or occasionally a full name) indicating the country, state, province or the like usually follows, and this should especially be used if there is a potential for confusion regarding the city intended (e.g., ‘Cambridge, MA’ to avoid confusion with the Cambridge in England). Generally speaking, only the name of the first city noted on the title or copyright page of a book is required. Sometimes presses with names based on their location can be provided in an abbreviated form (‘CUP’ instead of ‘Cambridge University Press’), but only if the place of publication is provided as well. The information recorded and formats adopted should be maintained consistently across all relevant references in your list.

7.3.12 Type of Source

Occasionally, the type of source is indicated in a reference through the use of a word such as ‘Print,’ ‘Web,’ ‘Television,’ ‘CD,’ ‘DVD,’ ‘Videocassette’ and ‘Slide.’ The relevant word usually appears at or very near the end of the reference, as it does in the MLA example in Section 7.2.1 above.


7.3.13 Conference Paper

If it is published in a conference collection or proceedings, a conference paper is usually recorded in the same way as a chapter or essay in a book is or, occasionally, just as an article in a journal would be, citing page numbers in either case and sometimes including details about the conference itself (the date and location of the conference, for example) as well. When unpublished conference papers are cited, however, the author’s name and the title of the paper should be accompanied by the conference name, location, date and any other relevant information about the conference.

7.3.14 Thesis or Dissertation

Although treated in most cases much like a book, the titles of theses and dissertations can use the format of either book or article titles (using italic font or quotation marks, full or partial capitalisation etc.), or a format that differs slightly from both. Instead of the publication information provided for books (place of publication, publisher and publication date), the type of degree, the university and sometimes the department that granted the degree as well as the date the thesis or dissertation was completed should be supplied. Commas are usually used between these elements (D.Phil., University of York, Department of English and Related Literature, 1998), but semicolons can be used instead and a colon can appear before the date.


7.3.15 Audiovisual Sources

When constructing references for CDs, DVDs, works of art, slides and other audiovisual sources, a range of relevant information can be provided: the names of artists, directors and producers; the titles of songs, CDs, paintings and television programmes; and the publishers and places and dates of publication. The names of those responsible for creating the source should be treated as author and editor names are in other sources. Titles should use the formats used for other references, with the title of an individual song or episode of a television programme, for instance, using the format (capitalisation, quotation marks etc.) used for chapter or article titles, while the title of the CD or the television programme uses the format adopted for the titles of books. Similarly, the publication information (publisher, place of publication and publication date) for such sources should be recorded in the same format and order as the publication information for books in the list.

7.3.16 Web Site, Web Page or Online Document

As a fairly recent addition to bibliographical lists, references to web sites, web pages and online documents tend to vary more than other references, and the myriad forms of web sources increase this variation. Author names (both individual and corporate) should be included if available, as should the titles of web sites, web pages and individual documents, often in combination with each other, depending on which elements may be relevant to the information you used and/or required by the guidelines or style guide you are following. Publisher, version and update information can be provided, and at least one date (in some cases more than one) should be included, whether it is the date of publication, the most recent update of the web site or the latest date on which you accessed the source. These dates tend to be given in full – ‘7 November 2013’ (British) or ‘November 7, 2013’ (American) – rather than as years only, and in the case of access dates, they often include some defining information such as ‘Accessed 7 November 2013.’ Either a URL or, in the case of some independent web documents, a DOI must be provided in almost all instances, and for URLs guidelines frequently require something like ‘Available at: http://www.proof-reading-service.com/’ as well. URLs are often underlined – Word tends to do this automatically, changing the text to a hyperlink when it recognises a web address – which makes them one of the very few elements of formal writing that still use underscoring. As a general rule, the information provided for web sites and the like should be as thorough and specific as required to document the source accurately and successfully lead the reader to it, and because web-based resources often undergo frequent changes, all such sources should be checked immediately before you submit the final version of your thesis to be sure that the information you recorded is still valid.

PRS Tip: You may want to use a program such as EndNote to format and enter complete bibliographical references in your list automatically, and a tool of this kind can certainly save time and help with consistency, but if you choose to use such a program, do take special care when checking and proofreading any references created via automatic referencing. Never assume that the program has ‘got it right’ because this is all too rarely the case. Although a style very close to what is required will usually be achieved, often one particular detail will consistently be formatted incorrectly, or unusual or complicated references will be formatted in inappropriate ways. It is therefore essential to check every word, every number and every bit of punctuation, to pay attention to font styles and sizes as well as patterns of capitalisation and to correct and adjust manually anything that is inconsistent, incorrect or inappropriate. Automatic referencing can create other editing challenges as well: in-text citations created in this way can sometimes prove difficult to change and therefore correct, and the block format of reference lists constructed via automatic referencing prevents any proofreader whose services you may engage from making marginal comments within Word on individual features of the references, because when any part or element of the list, no matter how small, is selected for a comment, the entire list is highlighted and the comment is attached to the whole list, not to the individual element. This can result in a less precise means of communication between you and your proofreader, so if you are planning to have a professional proofreader check your references, which is always a good idea, you may want to avoid automatic referencing techniques.

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.

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