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Centria Guide for Thesis and Academic Writing

Guidance for the final thesis writing at Centria


The choice of source materials needs to be carefully considered taking a critical approach. In a thesis the sources should primarily be reliable and recent printed or electronic sources; like books, research reports and articles providing the latest information on one’s own field of study.

Moreover, other theses, patents, standards, product brochures, expert interviews and information given by authorities can be used as sources in a thesis. Sources that are vague and rapidly regenerated, such as opinions presented in online discussion forums or chatrooms, are not to be used. In addition, if one cannot reliably assess the expertise and qualifications of the author, one should not use the source in the thesis. It is advisable to search for information using several different databases or sources of information in order to find the best possible sources on the thesis topic.

In the thesis the sources used are referred to using the Harvard referencing style and its name-year system. Through this referencing system the reader can immediately see whose text is referred to, from what year the text is and the page number of the information. An in-text reference is a short reference to the detailed source information found in the list of references.

                             Examples of in-text references:

                             Torkki (2007, 106) discusses how the speaker can affect the audience.

                             A speaker with good rhetorical skills is able to consider the audience (Torkki 2007, 35).

Whenever one refers to a text written by someone else, one must include a reference. The in-text reference written in brackets consists of the author’s last name and the year of publication, followed by a comma and the page number or the pages where the information is taken from. If the entire work is referred to, page numbers are not included. All electronic sources do not have page numbers and in that case, page numbers also are not included in the reference.
Usually the source text is paraphrased in the thesis, i.e. the writer of the thesis rewrites the information in his/ her own words and the in-text reference follows immediately. It must be evident for the reader exactly which part of the text is based on a source. The placement of the full stop in the in-text reference indicates which part of the text is based on a source.

If the in-text reference concerns more than one sentence, the in-text reference is marked in brackets after the last full stop of these sentences, almost as if the in-text reference is a sentence of its own. In this case a full stop is also included last inside the brackets. An example of a case where the in-text reference concerns more than one sentence:

The student knows how to refer to sources. He or she is careful and follows the instructions. This ensures that the reader knows which information is based on what source and which part of the text represents the student’s own opinion. (Aro 2015, 21-23.)

If the in-text reference concerns only one sentence, the reference is included within that sentence. Thus, the full stop is marked outside of the brackets. An example of a case where the in-text reference concerns only one sentence:

                             This is easy (Aro 2015, 18).

If the source has two authors, the last names of both authors are mentioned when referring to the source. The names are joined using the symbol &.

(Lumijärvi & Kela 2014, 5)

If the reference has three or more authors, the last names of all authors are given in the first in-text reference to that source (Lumijärvi, Kiiskinen & Särkilahti 2014, 21–22). However, in later references to the same source, only the last name of the first author is given, followed by the abbreviation et al. meaning “and others”. (Lumijärvi et al. 2014, 23–24).

If the information used comes from several sources, all source references are placed inside one set of brackets, separated by a semicolon (Kiuru 2012; Perälä & Perälä 2010).

When referring to more than one publication by the same author, the publications are differentiated by the year of publication and are indicated in the chronological order of publication (Black 2013, 2015). If two works have been published in the same year, they are differentiated with letters of the alphabet (Black 2001a, 2001b). The same applies to electronic sources such as websites published in the same year by the same organization (BBC 2020a; BBC 2020b).

When the name of the author is unknown, the title of the publication and the year of publication are cited, and in some cases also the publishing organization. This method is also used with journal articles when the author’s name is unknown.

(Wall Street Journal 31 January 2020)

Moreover, laws and acts as well as committee reports etc. are cited using this method.
(Universities of Applied Sciences Act 932/2014, § 3)
(Committee for corporate analysis 2015)


In-text references to electronic sources, for example websites and electronic books, are given as above, depending on the source. The references normally include the author’s name and the year of publication. If the source has page numbers, they are marked out as well. The Internet address of the source is included only in the list of references, never in the in-text reference. Page numbers are marked out always when they exist in the source.

Internet site: (Greene 2019)

Electronic book: (Luopa, Karvonen & Jokela 2014, 13)

In case page numbering is not used in the electronic book, the chapter or paragraph that the reference is based on is mentioned in the in-text reference. Either the chapter number or title can be used when referencing, for example:

If the chapters of the book are numbered:

 (Varhela & Virtanen, chapter 5).

If the chapters are not numbered, the chapter title is included in the in-text reference:

 (Varhela & Virtanen, chapter "Tuotemerkinnät").

An in-text reference can be made even more exact by referring to a specific paragraph in the source material. In this case the first words of the source paragraph are included in the in-text reference:

 (Varhela & Virtanen, chapter 5, paragraph "Ostajaa ei saa johtaa harhaan").


(Varhela & Virtanen, chapter "Tuotemerkinnät", paragraph "Ostajaa ei saa johtaa harhaan").

In case the author of an Internet site cannot be identified, and only the organization responsible for the site maintenance is known, this organization is used in the in-text reference as the author.

(Finnish Library Association, 2019.)

In case the responsible organization of a site is not identifiable, the in-text reference includes the name of the work/ article or the title of the web page. However, if the responsible person or organization behind a web page cannot be identified, it is worth questioning if that source can be used in a thesis at all.

 (Ihmissuhdeympyrä 2017.)

The title of a web page can be used in the in-text reference also if referring to the web page title is more exact than referring to the organization behind it. The reason can be, for example, the organization having very extensive web pages.

(Kestävä kehitys 2017.)    vs. (Metso 2017)

(Opintolainoissa huima nousu -taustalla elokuinen uudistus 29.9.2017.)   vs. (Yle 29.9.2017).

Other examples of cases when references often use the title of the electronic document are texts in social media. The more exact information on availability and form of publication is then provided in the list of references.

YouTube video: (How it’s made: Aluminium cans 2015.)

Facebook-pages: (K-Supermarket 2014.)

Direct quotations

One should avoid using direct quotations, and if used, these should be as short as possible. Primarily direct quotes are used when referring to laws or quoting definitions. When a direct quotation is needed, it should be separated from the rest of the text by using a 2.3 cm indentation on the left-hand side. The spacing in the direct quotation is 1. In this case, the direct quote does not need quotation marks. If the direct quotation is longer than three lines it is always indented.

An example of an indented quotation:

In the Guide for Thesis and Academic Writing the following is stated on the use of verb tense in abstracts:

The abstract is best written in the past tense, if possible, especially when describing the author’s own research work.
The abstract should give a full understanding of the thesis even without reading the whole thesis. (Guide for Thesis and Academic Writing, 2020.)

If the direct quotation is short, on the other hand, for example one sentence of a part of it, this can be quoted inside the text using quotation marks.

An example of a short direct quotation:

A diary-based thesis is also often a practice-based work. Diary-based theses have been written for example when a student is already in working-life and the thesis topic is connected to their work. The topic and the problem or the development task is connected to the student’s own work. “The aim of a diary-based thesis is to enhance the student’s preparedness for independent professional development also after graduating” (Lagerstedt & Kotila 2015).

Often it is wise to leave out unnecessary parts of direct quotations. Two hyphens are added instead of the words left out.

Direct quotations from the research material can also be necessary for the thesis. For example, part of an interview done for the research can be included as a direct quotation. This quotation is done in the same way as the quotations from sources above, but the quoted text is written in italics.

 I had been without medicines for about a week or so, but then my hip, my right hip, started aching so much that I just had to take meds again. There wasn’t anything else to do but to go on sick leave again. (Interviewee 11.)

Secondary sources

It is considered responsible conduct of research to always use primary sources. Sometimes, however, this is not possible due to practical reasons. When the original source is referred to in another text and one still wishes to refer to the original source, we talk about using a so-called secondary source. It must always be made clear to the reader if secondary sources are used. The secondary source is written in square brackets. Both the primary and the secondary source must be listed in the list of references.

Lewin’s [1951; 1958] well-known change management model consists of three stages (Hitt, Miller & Colella 2009, 493).

The change process of an organization can be divided into three stages (Hitt, Miller & Colella 2009, 493 [Lewin 1951; Lewin 1958]).

In the list of references secondary sources are listed in the same way as primary sources:

Hitt, M.A., Miller, C.C. & Colella A. 2009. Organizational Behavior: A Strategic Approach, 2nd Edition. Jefferson City: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Lewin, K. 1951. Field theory in social science. New York: Harper & Row.

Lewin, K. 1958. Group decisions and social change. Teoksessa E.E. Maccobby, T.M. Newcomb & E.L. Hartley (eds.) Readings in social psychology, 3rd Edition. Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 201 – 216.


Checking the thesis for plagiarism

All finished theses are checked for plagiarism, i.e. unauthorized copying, to make sure that the thesis does not violate copy rights. The Urkund system is also used for detecting potential plagiarism.

Use of pictures

Pictures can be used in theses according to the right of quotation. Check if the instructions are met in the clear guide from Aalto University . Screenshots or screen captures from the user interface are not pictures that exceed the prerequisites of originality for pictures, and can be used, but if text or other pictures are shown in them, guidelines and laws regarding copy rights and personal data have to be considered. In this case you can for example blur one part of the picture.

Pictures taken or made by oneself can of course be used freely according to copyright laws, as long as legislation on personal data is followed.