I tried searching for a similar question but most I read dealt with published papers and not a PhD, so apologies if this is a duplicate. I will remove this question if it is.

I've read a number of PhD dissertations and I haven't come across one which cites a conference paper, only journals (and the occasional website). I guess also it depends on the university if they accept such citations but I was just wondering if this is commonplace?

  • 6
    This is probably very field dependent, and you should specify in your question what field you are working in, to get more relevant answers. Mar 13, 2015 at 13:00
  • @fileunderwater - Thank you for your tip, I already spoke to someone from our department (I work in the environment field) who has said that aslong as the citation is correct, it's fine to reference conference papers. I was only wondering if it's commonplace for conference papers to be cited as some titles are incredibly short and can look rather pathetic in the Bibliography :)
    – Joseph
    Mar 13, 2015 at 13:08
  • Heck I even cited a conference paper in my undergrad thesis - of course it is okay for a PhD! Mar 13, 2015 at 15:14
  • 2
    Who cares about the length of the title? Mar 13, 2015 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


There is no problem in citing a conference paper in a PhD thesis.

When selecting literature that you want to use in your scientific work, it is not uncommon to take the reputation of the hosting medium (journal, conference, etc) into account. The examiners of your thesis might question the quality of the work that you are citing when it origins from dubious sources. But that holds for dubious conferences, as well as for dubious journals.

There are, however, many conferences with an excellent reputation. And there is no reason why you should not cite papers that have been published there.

Furthermore, when you make use of a work (paper or anything else) that comes from a less established source, you are still obligated to refer to this work. After all, we want things to be verifiable in science. You might even cite a source that you are disagreeing with.

Sometimes, an extended version of the conference paper is published as a journal paper, and then you may prefer to cite the journal paper instead.

  • Thanks Danny, that makes a lot of sense. I always try to find more 'credible' sources when citing (I try to avoid websites etc) but if I can't find a conference paper published as a journal paper, then a conference paper it shall be. I will accept this answer as it's quite clear and was the first post :)
    – Joseph
    Mar 13, 2015 at 11:37

It has little to do with paper vs. thesis and everything to do with whether the person's field considers conference papers "real" publications. If you read computer science Ph.D. dissertations, you will find them to be filled with conference paper citations. In a field that disdains conferences, you will not.

  • Thanks jakebeal, that is quite clear and I happened to google a computer science thesis and found a citation for a conference paper!
    – Joseph
    Mar 13, 2015 at 11:38

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