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Evaluating Resources: Dissertations


Dissertations, doctoral studies, project studies, capstones, and theses are all student-produced works that present and discuss an individual's research.

Note: While dissertations are definitely scholarly and are reviewed and edited before publication, they do not go through a peer-review process, and thus, aren't considered peer-reviewed sources.

Identify dissertations

A distinguishing characteristic of dissertations is that they generally start with a cover page.

Dissertation reference citations are perhaps the easiest citations to recognize; they include the words doctoral dissertation right in the citation! They also contain:

  • Retrieved from: For dissertations that are downloaded from a database, the database name is included. This is generally the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database.
  • UMI number: In ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database, this is the Dissertation/Thesis Number.


In APA 6th, dissertations retrieved from the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database generally follow this format:

Author. (Year). Title of dissertation (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database. (UMI No.)


Here is an example:

Burley, M. A. (2009). Working for social change: Using student-centered instructional designs to improve achievement (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database. (UMI No. 3379796)

Note: Not all dissertation reference citations will follow this format exactly. If you have questions about citing a capstone using APA 6th style, please contact the Writing Center.


Here is an example of what the first page of a dissertation may look like:


Walden University College of Education doctoral study first page