How to Cite in a Degree Thesis and Write Your References Following the APA Standards

Last Updated on April 20, 2021 by Chrisantus Oden

How to Cite in a Degree Thesis and Write Your References Following the APA Standards

The American Psychological Association created the APA standards, which serve as a guide for the development of a research work (thesis). Students adopt these norms as if they were a religion during the last months of their university career, as it is an essential requirement to opt for the professional title.

Aware of what this research work represents, it goes without saying that the neatness of your written presentation is as important as the topic you wanted to address. The results of your research can be clouded by poor use of APA standards.

When it comes to citing and writing your references, the APA standards play a fundamental role because the credibility of your research depends on them and that it is not blatant plagiarism. Once you get the hang of the formats, the pace at which you conduct your research will return to normal.

A single author of book or thesis work

Author’s last name, A. (Year). Thesis or book title. Name of the Institution. Country: Place.

In this case, the “A” refers to the initial of the author’s first name. Remember to only put a single last name and order it in alphabetical order.


Chris, S. (2018). Life of a researcher, in Steven, B. An investigation into research methods. Twenty-first Century Publishers. Senegal: Dakar.

Two or more authors of the book or thesis work

Author’s last name, A., and Author’s last name, B. (Year).  Thesis or book title. Name of the institution, Country: Place.


Michael B., Success C. and Jordan D. (2016). Research methodology. Fourth edition. Outland Publishers. Spain: Madrid.

The chapter of a book

The author of the chapter, the year, the title of the book, the page length of the chapter, and the place are placed.


Rodríguez, R. (2020). Why scientists are taking over the world. The theories of the 21st century (pp. 45-86). England: Liverpool.

In case the book has more than one author, it is specified with an “In” followed by the names of the other authors and “(Coord.)”. After this, the title of the book and the pagination are written.

Rodríguez, R. (2020). Why scientists are taking over the world. In Paris, F. and Karma, G, The theories of the 21st century (pp. 45-86). England: Liverpool.

In case it is an unknown author

You can present yourself with two types of cases. If you do not have the author and do not belong to an institution, write this format:

Why Scientists are going to take over the world. Collection of Editorial Project Topics (2016). USA: California.


To quote in the theoretical and practical development of your thesis, you have the freedom to make direct quotes, a paraphrase, or a summary that evidences the point of view or the discoveries of the author you are referring to. However, always remember that every quote you make within your thesis needs to be analyzed or interpreted, to justify the motivations for your research.

Simple direct quote

If it is less than 40 words, simple direct quotes in a thesis are written as follows:

  • In the same vein, for Johnson (2017), “communication has become an important aspect of development initiatives. It is frequently found in health, nutrition, agriculture, family planning, education, and community economics programs” (p.16). This is how, the will to generate a change of consciousness in countries like Nigeria, can manifest itself with the creation of communicational models available to all, but oriented to communities so that there is a guarantee of effectiveness and interaction.

If the quotation is longer than 40 words

This usually happens when they are laws, but it is valid for any other postulate that does not have waste and therefore deserves a long quote. Here’s how you can do it:

In addition to this, in the final report of the Preparatory Committee for the Conference of the United Nations (UN), on this issue of 2010, it is stated that:

  • The concept of sustainable development is like a bridge. Its objective is to unite not only the three aspects – economic, social, and environmental – but also developed and developing countries, governments, companies, civil society, scientific knowledge and public policies, the city and the countryside, and present and future generations. It has also made people understand that environment and development are not two separate programs but rather two faces of the same program. Development helps to generate sustainability, just as sustainability is the life support system for development (p. 5)

The margin of the square quote is much smaller, usually two more spaces. The page number is placed at the end but does not have a period. Once the appointment is made, in the next paragraph you must write an analysis or an interpretation:

  • This means that sustainable development, as one of the social indicators that determine the Main Millennium Goals, outlined by the UN, has to be a priority in the consciousness of the group belonging to all social classes, and for this, the dissemination of content educational through the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), would be a decisive action…

One author quoting another author

When in a book or thesis work one author quotes another, you must specify said precedent, especially if it helps you to indicate that the concept or idea remains valid. Here is an example.

  • The use of these digital media by the community is an example of communication for development, which, according to Reed (1996), cited by Hernández (2012), “has people as its central point, in the sense that the main objective is to improve the quality of life of man” (p.48). Furthermore, this same author suggests that it will be the search for sustainability that “incorporates a social component in its dimensions, but although it is perceived as subsidiary to the economic and environmental, the achievement of sustainability would lie in the balance of the three” (p .49).

The order of the appointment does not matter

In either case, quotes from a thesis are used to reinforce the speech, not to interrupt it. Your interpretation can go before or after:

Understanding the consequences of the indiscriminate use of natural resources and communication for development as a dissemination tool in which issues such as sustainability are dealt with through urban projects, can propose solutions to the environmental crisis, since for MacBride (1980), cited by Servaes (2012), “it is at the community level where the problems of the population’s living conditions are discussed and interaction with other communities arises. The most developed form of participation is self-management” (p.12).

On the definition of basic terms

Most colleges require a glossary of terms or definitions of basic terms to be posted. In these cases, the appointments change a bit. Pay attention to these examples:

  • Reuse: Reduction requires awareness and decision, attitude; but reuse also needs more definition and attention. With it, the useful life of a material is prolonged when giving it another use. Paul (2018).
  • Sustainability: Possibility of maintaining indefinite growth, through the explicit inclusion of natural resources from systems theory (Doncic, et al. 2000).
  • Communication and Information Technologies: Also known as ICTs, they are defined as innovations and advances in computing and telecommunications that allow the processing and accumulation of enormous amounts of information, in addition to its rapid distribution through communication networks. From Hoper (2008).

The author’s last name and publication date are placed at the end and quotation marks are not required. Remember to put the year in parentheses ().

Final considerations

  • In case you want to add captions after the name of the title, you must separate them with a colon and followed () this way: Without communication, there is no development. Communication: for whom and why development?
  • Check how recent the publication dates of your references should be. While some universities ask you to cite books, monographs, and other degree projects published in the last 10 years, others may require you to have a maximum of 5 years.
  • Consult your seminar professors or in the theses that you will use as a background belonging to your university if they should have French indentation or not.
  • Separate the cited references with a single double space.

As a last piece of advice, we suggest that you write your sources on the definitive reference lists almost immediately after you make the citation. This will save you time and you will avoid an embarrassment or a sanction if any of the authors cited in the work is not referred to at the end.