I am currently writing my master's thesis in physics and part of the introductory section is taken from a lecture my advisor gave during a group meeting. How do I site such a lecture?

3 Answers 3


References serve two purposes. First, they attribute priorities of thought. Second, they allow readers to go deeper on some issues. While there is now a tendency to ensure that readers can find the reverenced resource (with the use of DOI more common, etc.), attributing to the right person is still important. It used to be common in Mathematics paper to find citations of the type:

[14] Jane Doe, personal communication

It seems to me that this applies in your case as well. Your masters thesis was informed / based / provoked by a lecture and you rightly want to attribute this to the lecturer.

I can understand that a reference to a lecture leaves the reader somewhat unsatisfied. In your case it might be possible to ask the lecturer and see whether (s)he can lead you to another publication or publications that were the base of the lecture. This type of reference is preferable as it allows the reader to access the original material. In this case, you can thank the lecturer in the introduction for the lecture.


I would not typically cite a lecture in a master's thesis, though you could ask your advisor for their thoughts which may differ from mine. It might be appropriate for a course assignment, but I'd expect a master's thesis to be more in the form of a publishable work, and there's not much use citing a private lecture for other readers unless it's truly the only source for the information, which I doubt is the case.

You'll need to instead find some other reference that covers the same topic, and read and understand it in more depth. It may be appropriate to ask your advisor for relevant references, but you likely should also be doing some reading on your own.

I'd also recommend getting advice on the scope of your thesis, as you do not want a thesis to spend too much time on the basics, otherwise you will not have space to develop depth of argument.

If, by some unusual circumstances, it actually is most appropriate to cite this lecture, you'd have to check whatever citation guide you are using for a related item like a speech or conference talk. You'd want to note at least the speaker, date, and venue

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    I agree. I have seen citations of conversations before, but it is a very rare situation and typically indicates that the conversation was absolutely critical to the paper. An inline informal citation might even be okay depending on the tone of the thesis. Perhaps something like: "The main problem addressed in this thesis was proposed in a lecture (etc.)." Sep 7, 2022 at 23:29

IEEE style covers this.

J. K. Author. (Year). Title of lecture [Type of Medium]. Available: URL

Section F of the linked document

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