Dissertation - how many references?

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peanutbuttercup
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I'm at the point where I'm beginning to think about my dissertation for next year and I'd just like to know how many references are required just so I can get a rough idea... how many did you guys use?

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peanutbuttercup
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Jackieox
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A good method is 1 reference per 100 words =)
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David B
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(Original post by Jackieox)
A good method is 1 reference per 100 words =)
Doing a thesis of 80,000 words would require you to have 800 references.
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UWS
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No one can give you a proper answer because it depends on the dissertation topic and the course you're doing
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gutenberg
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(Original post by peanutbuttercup)
I'm at the point where I'm beginning to think about my dissertation for next year and I'd just like to know how many references are required just so I can get a rough idea... how many did you guys use?

Thanks
As others have said, we can't really give you an answer as it will depend on the topic. For example, I did my dissertation in history, but an earlier time period (15th/16th century). Because of the nature of the topic, I actually only had a couple of primary sources, mostly manuscripts from the college archive and a few printed accounts. However, friends doing topics in modern history had a lot more primary sources than me: newspapers, images, government documents, etc. The topic I was working on hadn't been extensively investigated before, so there wasn't a huge amount of secondary literature either, while friends who did a Vietnam War topic were inundated with historiography. So when you compared our bibliographies, it might appear that they did a lot more than me, and that they did better. They didn't. A good-quality topic is one that is original, and it can't be measured by how many references you have at the end of the thesis.

So don't panic about it. Expect of course that you will have plenty of references (after all, there is usually *something* written about most undergraduate dissertation topics), but don't stress yourself out about a number.
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ozzy12
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I did my dissertation in politics as an undergraduate - it was 10'000 words and used 45 references - 80% of it were books and maybe 20% of it journals.

But it all depends on your thesis, the availability of sources and many other factors. One example dissertation which was a first had about 33 references, another which was also a first I looked at had 91 references - but most/a lot of it it were links to websites.

Seriously, I wouldnt worry about it. I wouldve also asked this question last year (just finished uni) but once you get going the references will come naturally. And I wouldnt worry about the number of references - I did at first, but it mattered to me less as the argument you make is more important than number of sources.
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JamesManc
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One reference for every 100 words as someone said, so e.g. 6,000 words - 60 references.
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depends on your course, how literature focussed your diss needs to be, what the topic is (i.e. will there be 5 big referenced or 20 small ones) etc

I think I used like 90 for 7,000 words but I've always gone quite reference heavy
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Panda23
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I am a BSc Hons, and have just handed in my thesis (chemistry related), I did 11,000 words and got 35 references 50/50 books and journals. My supervisor said that it was a decent amount for a BSc level. Masters (or Mchem) it should be 50-60 with a minimum of 15,000 depending on the subject. As my subject was on a very new research subject, 35 was classed as a lot. So it varied depending on whos marking and the material available. However, with reading everybody else's responses try for 1 reference for every 100 words! you might be surprised at how much you can find!
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Connor0912
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I find it completely depends on your course. I did a masters in Bioinformatics and my thesis only had around 15 references. I ended up getting 85% for it. I think my undergraduate genetics dissertation had around 20. As long as you're referencing when you're getting background from places and you reference the tools you use you'll be fine. I'd assume more literature based subjects such as English or History would have higher reference counts though as there'd be less original contribution to the work.
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izpenguin
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My diss was 8000 words and I had 44 references. And no-one ever said that it wasn't enough. But I did a science degree so a large proportion of my diss was my methods and results which were about what I did, so required no references. All of my references were journal articles, although a lot were reviews and I was told that there were occasions when I should have used a primary paper instead of a review.
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tessimoghaddam
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Hey, I know this discussion was a long time ago, but I’m doing my diss on Iranian films and there isn’t a lot of academic resources available. Any suggestions? I’m worried I’ll be marked down because of my lack of references
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GloriousFailure
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(Original post by tessimoghaddam)
Hey, I know this discussion was a long time ago, but I’m doing my diss on Iranian films and there isn’t a lot of academic resources available. Any suggestions? I’m worried I’ll be marked down because of my lack of references
I don't know anything about Iranian films, but you'll have been assigned the best disseratation supervisor for your topic so talk to your dissertation supervisor about worries over academic sources, they may point you in the right direction. Otherwise, whatever non-academic sources you need check you reference them correctly - e.g. you might reference films, videos, scripts, photos etc. Use a website like Citethemright or whichever your university recommends and subscribes to to ensure you reference non-academic sources correctly.
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Fox Hound
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(Original post by tessimoghaddam)
Hey, I know this discussion was a long time ago, but I’m doing my diss on Iranian films and there isn’t a lot of academic resources available. Any suggestions? I’m worried I’ll be marked down because of my lack of references
I don't think it's too important, I got a good mark and only had about 50 references for a 10k word accounting dissertation. All of the example dissertations, even the really low one's in the 40's had more references than I did and so did many of my classmates. It's more important that you're able to critically analyse the references, all of the lecturers and supervisors couldn't stress this point enough - they kept saying that main reason some students didn't do well was that there wasn't enough analysis. Too many references may also take up a lot of word count because you'll have to explain what each reference is about, which can leave less for the analysis that relates to your own topic. Its's something to think about, but right now you should definitely consult your supervisor over this issue. After you've written a draft, ask your supervisor for feedback and he should point you in the right direction if you're still unsure.
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tessimoghaddam
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(Original post by GloriousFailure)
I don't know anything about Iranian films, but you'll have been assigned the best disseratation supervisor for your topic so talk to your dissertation supervisor about worries over academic sources, they may point you in the right direction. Otherwise, whatever non-academic sources you need check you reference them correctly - e.g. you might reference films, videos, scripts, photos etc. Use a website like Citethemright or whichever your university recommends and subscribes to to ensure you reference non-academic sources correctly.
Yeah there isn’t much here in the UK so, it’s been very hard to find relevant sources. I’ve spoken to my dissertation supervisor but she doesn’t specialise in this topic. So, she couldn’t give me much advice apart from to look at gender and Iran. Thank you! I need to use Harvard style referencing. Thanks again
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tessimoghaddam
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(Original post by Fox Hound)
I don't think it's too important, I got a good mark and only had about 50 references for a 10k word accounting dissertation. All of the example dissertations, even the really low one's in the 40's had more references than I did and so did many of my classmates. It's more important that you're able to critically analyse the references, all of the lecturers and supervisors couldn't stress this point enough - they kept saying that main reason some students didn't do well was that there wasn't enough analysis. Too many references may also take up a lot of word count because you'll have to explain what each reference is about, which can leave less for the analysis that relates to your own topic. Its's something to think about, but right now you should definitely consult your supervisor over this issue. After you've written a draft, ask your supervisor for feedback and he should point you in the right direction if you're still unsure.
Thank you! That makes a lot of sense. I didn’t have many in my undergrad diss and still got a 2.1 which isn’t that bad. I do think my own ideas and analysis is more important than just lots of references. My undergrad diss was a lot easier to find sources though. I have spoken to my diss supervisor but she wasn’t the most helpful. She had some great points in helping me narrow down my diss topic. But she didn’t know much about Iranian films either and suggested just looking at gender and Iran. So, maybe that could help thanks for the advice!
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Fox Hound
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(Original post by tessimoghaddam)
Thank you! That makes a lot of sense. I didn’t have many in my undergrad diss and still got a 2.1 which isn’t that bad. I do think my own ideas and analysis is more important than just lots of references. My undergrad diss was a lot easier to find sources though. I have spoken to my diss supervisor but she wasn’t the most helpful. She had some great points in helping me narrow down my diss topic. But she didn’t know much about Iranian films either and suggested just looking at gender and Iran. So, maybe that could help thanks for the advice!
You're welcome, best of luck!
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tessimoghaddam
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(Original post by Fox Hound)
You're welcome, best of luck!
Thank you!
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University of Portsmouth Student Rep
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(Original post by peanutbuttercup)
I'm at the point where I'm beginning to think about my dissertation for next year and I'd just like to know how many references are required just so I can get a rough idea... how many did you guys use?

Thanks
Hiya @peanutbuttercup,

It's great to start thinking of ideas early! Every dissertation will differ depending on the course and university. For example, some dissertations are 5,000, 8,000 or even 10,000.

Typically a dissertation structure will be based upon 4 or 5 chapters. These chapters will usually be an introduction to your topic, a literature review, your methodology (where you will use primary or secondary data), results of your research and a discussion of the results. For my literature review, I have been advised (i'm a student in the business faculty) to aim for around 25-30 references for my 1,500 lit review. This will vary depending on the size of your diss.

Sam- Official Student Rep
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