How many sources should you include in a dissertation?

/thread for discussing any other dissertation nightmares you want to talk about.

I’m still doing mine :frowning:. I know it’s more about the ‘quality of your argument/analysis (etc)’ but there must be a ‘safe’ number of sources to have. I’ve got about 40 sources lined up (half of them are just chapters I’ve made quite exhaustive notes on, the rest are just passing sources/smaller bits of information for the analysis). I genuinely can’t tell if that’s too many or not enough. It’s for a 12,000 word undergrad English dissertation, on quite a niche topic that hasn’t been widely researched.

I had er, quite a few. I did manage to do the whole 12,000 in one day but uh, wouldn’t recommend that it almost broke my mind permanently. But yeah I’d say it was in the dozens (probably not the hundreds). Sounds like a fine number to me as long as they’re good.

meh. Most of my references were authors that people who I’d actually read had referenced themselves. 40’s a bit on the low side I guess but it depends on the context. If everything in your thesis that needs a reference has (a good) one, I don’t really see the problem.

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let me count mine. brb.

Is it? My tutor said 40 might be too many.

Fuck. I’m a bit worried now.

I’ve got about 20 sources for the literature review (3000 words), the rest is just bits and bobs for the analysis.

It’s not a very widely researched topic. We are told to ‘fill a gap in the literature’ if that’s the case.


i repeatedly referenced handful of specific texts throughout. i heavily researched my topic and credited a lot of books, essays and articles as sources for specific facts and they probably took up half of my references, tbh

completely depends on the context of your argument and the type of texts or media types you’re referencing on throughout

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lol obviously heed your tutor’s advice over mine


40 seems like a fine number. As long as the arguments run properly and everything is correctly referenced. The worst thing you an do is start adding references for the sake of it.

christ that sounds terrifying. I thought blasting out 4000 words in 5 or so days was bad.

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I’ve got the opposite problem where I have all the time in the world to do it but I just can’t. I’m finding it really easy to get into the habit of not doing it (which is causing me anxiety). I’ve wasted so, so much time not working on it, I have trouble sleeping just thinking about it.

Pretty much every other essay I’ve done has been an all-nighter. I usually work better just bashing out the whole thing in one horrible go (whereas all sorts of distractions and obstacles over the last month have made it difficult for me to be in the mood).

I’m also hoping to get at least a high 2:2 in it. Not aiming for a high 1st or anything like that.

It’s about leaflets. I’m comparing loads of them basically.

Can’t really say much more than that. My tutor likes Pavement so could well be a DiSer.

Three. No more no less

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Enough to fill 2 sides of a4 comfortably

I would say 40 is a bit low too. I had just over 50 for 9000 words for my Masters. BUT your tutor knows best (assuming he/she is marking).

mine had 18
worst student of all time

I had a pretty small number of sources. Aside from the primary texts, there were only a dozen or so secondary books / critics I mention, a few reviews and so on.

Does a source have to be a whole chapter you’ve read?

Or can it just be a paragraph or even a sentence you’ve come across?

For actual the ‘literature’ part, I’ve made intensive notes on about 20 chapters. The remaining sources are just bits/extracts I’ve read elsewhere, which I thought would be good to explain things I’ve analysed.

Or do I actually have to read, say, 70 entire chapters? Because the idea of that fills me with dread.

I’ve never really got this. I mean a reference just means ‘referring to something’, right?

what system are you supposed to use?

it’s best to reference specific chapters. you’re generally supposed to have read the stuff you’re referencing? so that you know what it is you’re talking about, unless it just happens to be the source of a specific statistic or fact.

in my experience, literature reviews mean fuck all (didn’t do one and i got a first)