The Case of the Missing Reference

Posted January 15, 2018

When you are working through your dissertation, or come to the very end, it is of utmost importance to perform a cross-check of your references (i.e., check that the in text citations match the reference list and vice versa). Per APA, you should not have references listed in the reference list that are not used in the text; likewise, you should not have references used in the text that are not listed in the reference list. This seems like a pretty basic concept, but when working with a 100+ page document that goes through multiple changes and revisions, it is very easy to lose track of references. The importance of properly citing your sources is twofold: (a) to increase your credibility as a researcher, and (b) to increase future readers’ ability to find the exact sources you used.

Although it is ideal to keep track of your references and properly cite information throughout each step of the dissertation writing process, you should always cross-check your references at the Proposal stage (when Chapters 1–3 are completed), and then again after the entire dissertation is completed. At this point, you may realize that some of the in text citations are not listed in the reference list, or that some of the sources listed in the reference list are not used in the text. For the unused reference list sources (assuming the dissertation is complete), simply delete all sources in the reference list that are not used in the text. In terms of the in text citations, however, you will need to find that article and include the proper source information in the reference list.

One traditional way to cross-check references is to print out the reference list and then scan through all of the references in the dissertation text to make sure that you properly cited your sources (e.g., author spelling and year match in both locations). However, there is a much easier and FREE tool online that will automatically cross-check your references for you!  This software is called ReciteWorks and can be accessed at The software identifies referencing errors between the Author-date citation style that APA follows and will quickly produce a report of errors for you to address—as opposed to the slower and more error-prone option I previously mentioned.

For a tutorial on how to properly format your references and how to use Recite, please view the webinar linked below where I provide a tutorial on using the software and other resources to find missing reference information!

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