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University of Vaasa writing guidelines: Frequently asked Questions

The guidelines contain instructions about the layout and contents of theses and other written assignments as well as instructions on how to refer to source literature and other material used in the work.

Text and layout issues including pictures, figures, or tables

Why doesn't the layout of the writing guidelines follow the APA style?

The layout follows the University of Vaasa's own guidelines, and the APA 7 style is the basis only for citing and referencing. Dissertations follow the University’s guidelines for publication series.

The summary page says Discipline: Own degree program

What does that mean, subject or degree program?

The practice appears to be relatively varied. Some name their concrete discipline and some a degree program. Check with your thesis supervisor for your unit's policy.

In which language should I write my abstract?

If your thesis is written in English, the abstract must be written in Finnish. If your school language before university was not Finnish, the abstract may be written in English or in a language agreed upon with your supervisor.

Is there a space or a blank line after the title? The guidelines say that there should be, but there are no spaces after the title in the template.

Yes, there should be a blank line after the title. In the template, an empty row is already included in the header styles. The template does not automatically follow the writing guidelines, so even if you use the template, you are responsible for ensuring that your work follows the writing instructions. This means that sometimes the template has to be modified. You should therefore read the guidelines carefully so that you can recognise where the template needs to be changed to comply with the instructions.

When are typographical emphases used or can they be used?

The body of the dissertation is written in Calibri and font size 12. Use bolding and italics ­according to your supervisor's instructions. Italics are often used to indicate the substance of a language (e.g. the word word contains four letters). In terms of accessibility, bolding is better than italics. Underlining is not recommended because it is associated with weblinks. Colours may be used, but they must not be the only way to convey information. Typographical emphasis must be used consistently but sparingly.

You should check with your supervisor if using them is appropriate in your thesis.

My thesis has many different illustrations. Do I have to somehow list them?

If your thesis has no more than three pictures, figures, or tables­, you do not have to make a list of them. If there are more than three of them, then listing them is necessary. "Other lists" in the guidelines refers to lists of pictures, figures, tables, symbols, terminology, and abbreviations. These lists are placed after the table of contents on their own page. Pictures, figures, and tables are listed by heading and page number on separate lines. List headings have a font size of 14 and are bolded. Sources are not cited in the lists.

How are examples laid out?

All examples from research material must be numbered consecutively. The examples must be distinguished from the rest of the text by indentation (1.5 cm: example number, 2.5 cm: example text) and using line spacing 1. Usually chapters or sections do not end to examples, and are followed by text. All examples must be referred to in the text and be also adequately explained. In other words, you must not leave the interpretation of your examples to the reader. Examples are not enclosed in quotation marks and are not italicized. You will find examples from the Word file version of the guidelines on LibGuides.

What does "alt text" mean?

Figures, pictures, and tables must have alternative texts, so-called alt texts. An alternative text must state what information the reader does not get if the image or illustration is not visible.

Why does my work have to be accessible and how can I make it accessible?

Accessibility means, for example, that the content of a work can be accessed using technical aids such as screen readers, the content can be easily navigated from one heading to another, and the essential content is given in alternative ways when necessary, i.e. the content of images is also described in the text. By law, theses must be accessible.

To consider:

- A file can be made accessible by writing it using the styles in Microsoft Word. Formatting titles or headings simply by changing a specific part of their appearance is not allowed.

- Figures, pictures, and tables must have alternative texts, so-called alt texts. An alternative text must state what information the reader will not receive if the image or figure is not visible.

- Captions and also headings of tables must be defined so that the heading of the table is repeated even if the table is divided into several pages.

- Web addresses in a source list should be given as hyperlinks to make accessing the source material easy.

More information and instructions on accessibility is available in the writing guidelines on the LibGuide’s section "Structure and layout".

I was not able to get the Word template's figure / table list to work. Is it a big mistake to make a table without the tool in the template?

For accessibility, you should look into the LibGuides instructions on making spreadsheets.

How do I refer to a source in an illustration, if I've edited it based on different sources?

The original source of all pictures, figures, and tables, including those that are translated, must always be mentioned. If you have modified the picture, figure, or table, use the wording (adapted from…).

What should be the line spacing in the list of references and how are the sources separated?

The line spacing in the list is 1.5, and no blank lines are added between different sources. Sources are separated using hanging indentation.

What can be included in the appendices?

Any appendices are given after the list of references. They are given a heading, numbered consecutively, page numbered and also listed in the table of contents. ­The appendices can contain, for example, questionnaires or interview forms used, other documents connected to collection of material, as well as possible examples from the material. The entire material is never attached to a thesis. Appendices may also include figures and tables that illustrate the content of the thesis but are too large to be placed in the text.

Source citation questions

What does a narrative or parenthetical reference mean?

Parenthetical reference

Text text text text (Saleem & Larimo, 2016, p. 248).

Narrative reference

Saleem and Larimo (2016, p. 248) state that [– –].

According to Koskela (2003, p. 225) [– –].

Can I still put the citation in parentheses at the end of paragraph, so that it refers to the entire paragraph as in:

Text text text. Text text text. (Author, time, p. page numbers.)

or have there been any changes to this?

The third chapter of the writing guidelines, the Word file on the LibGuides site, deals with APA 7-style citation, in which the "voice of the sentence" plays a major role. It is no longer possible to use that old style where a reference could be outside the previous sentence and the full stop could be inside the parentheses to indicate the extent of the reference, and now the dot always comes outside the parentheses. Thus, you must use both parenthetical and narrative citation style so that your text becomes fluent despite numerous citations. Each sentence must have some origin, that is, you must use word choices or references in parentheses to express where the idea comes from. In APA 7style, it is important that the source is placed immediately at the beginning of the paragraph and then referred to in the following sentences, either narratively or using parenthetical reference to focus on content, for example:

There are a few ways to formulate a paragraph. According to Kunelius (2010, p. 14), when quoting a source for the first time in a paragraph, it is worth naming the author of the publication. He also writes that it is possible to use, for example, pronouns so that there is no need to repeat the surname. If you do not know the gender of the author, or the author so prefers, you can use the singular they, but do not use s/he (APA 2020). Then you can write another sentence based on a source and cite the publication (Koiranen, 2015). Lastly, you can add your own ideas.

You can also start with your own idea, or summarise the main idea as your own statement. Vartiainen (2020) points out that you can then continue with support from a source. According to them, it can be done like this, for example.  Also Ahola and Zafar (2010, p. 70) maintain that it is worthwhile to start with your own idea, continue by citing a source, and then continue again with your own statement. On the other hand, there are other ways too (Tiainen, 2018, p. 114). This is where your own idea or conclusion(s) would begin. In this way, you will also be able to build dialogue into the text.

In the previous examples, each sentence has a clear origin. The source is mentioned either in parentheses or narratively, and the source is referred to by pronouns or various verbs indicating reference. Those sentences that do not clearly indicate a source are interpreted as your own voice and ideas.

When and where is the &-symbol used in in citations and when is and used?

The ampersand (&) is used in parenthetical citations (inside parentheses), and the word and is used in narrative citations (in the text body). The exception is the expression et al. in English theses which is used in both cases. The ampersand (&) is used in lists of references. For a template and more information, see the Word file version of the writing guidelines on LibGuides.

If there are several authors, are all authors mentioned in the first citation?

If there are several authors (more than two), then et al. is used, as in according to Kunelius et al. (2020, p. 54) ... or (Kunelius et al., 2020, p. 54). So, not even in the first citation are all authors mentioned.

If there are only two authors, then the ampersand (&) is used in parenthetical references (Kunelius & Piha, 2020, p. 12) and the word and in a narrative reference. According to Kunelius and Piha (2020, p. 12) [– –].

What if I can't find the year of a publication?

If the time (year) is not found anywhere, for example, on the website, the expression n.d. is used. To see what to do when one of the source elements is missing, please see the table in the Word file version of the guidelines on the LibGuides website.

What if I have sources that have the same name and have been published in the same year?

Publications by the same author published in the same year are separated ­in citations and list of references by lower case a, b, c, etc. Lowercase letters are added as publications are mentioned in the text: the first mentioned in the text is a, the second b, etc. If the sources have two authors with the same surname, they are specified by initials of their first names. If the year is not known, the expression n.d. is used as in n.d. -a, n.d. -b.

How are direct quotes signified?

­In direct quotations, the source is cited word-for-word as it appears in the original text. Direct quotes are marked with quotation marks if they are at least three words or at most three lines long. Such a short quotation is separated from the text by quotation marks. Quotations longer than three lines are written in line spacing 1, indented (1.5 cm), and come without quotation marks. However, long direct quotes should be avoided. If a direct quote contains for example a typo, it can be indicated by [sic] after the incorrect word. Sic (lat.) = Thus, in that way; indeed so. Direct quotations always include the page number of the source. You will find examples from the writing guidelines Word file on LibGuides.

I am writing my Bachelor's thesis in Finnish, but I would like to add a direct quote, which is in English. Do I have to translate the citation myself? 

­In direct quotations, the source is cited word-for-word as it appears in the original text. In exactly the same form means that the language must also be unchanged. However, the interpretation must not be left to the reader, so you must discuss the citation in the text so that the message of the citation becomes clear to your reader. Thus, your own translation or description is necessary in cases of a language other than the main language of your work.

How is a reference made if the source I use refers to another source?

The premise is that you use the primary, i.e. the original source­. If a second-hand source is used, the secondary nature of the source must be expressed in the text. When using a second-hand source, reference must be made to the source you have read. The following examples illustrate how to refer to second-hand material.

(1)          Director Kilpeläinen (Kunelius, 2010) has stated [– –].

(2)          Director Kilpeläinen has stated in Kunelius' (2010) book, that [– –].

How is law cited the first time or after that?

The best option is to discuss the matter with your supervisor. Theses in law studies do not follow the APA style but their own well-established citation styles. However, other theses should follow the APA style. When a statute is cited for the first time, the reference is made as follows:

According to the Act on Financial Aid for Students (1994/65) 15 f §, [– –].

Text text text (Act on Financial Aid for Students 1994/65, 15 f).

Then at later times:

Text text text (AFAS 15 f §).


Text text text text (Act on Financial Aid for Students 15 f §).  

Where reference is made to several articles:

(AFAS 15 a §, 15 b §).

However, it is worthwhile to confirm from your supervisor that these examples are in line with the established practices in your legal field.

Questions regarding list of references

What needs to be included in a source entry?

An entry in a list of references consists of four elements

Author. (time). Name. Origin.

For example:

Klemola, A. (2019). Finance Research Letters. Laurence King Publishing.

Is a full stop placed at the end of an entry?

Each element is followed by a full stop, unless the element itself ends in a full stop, an exclamation point, or a question mark. Web addresses are not followed by a dot. Microsoft Word can be allowed to break a link, but do not break them yourself, so that they work according to accessibility requirements. Also, a full stop is not added if the element itself ends in a full stop, for example, Surname, A. A.

How do I list a source if it doesn't have a permanent identifier?

In that case, provide the date you used the website, so that the reader can compare if the site has been updated since then. Also, add Retrieved.

Piippo, I., Vaattovaara, J. & Voutilainen, E. (2016). Kielen taju. Retrieved 2020-4-17 from

Is edition or place of publication mentioned in an entry?

If information about the edition is available, it can be entered as follows:

Surname, A. A. (year of publication). Name of the book (edition). Publisher.

The place of publication is not named.

How do I enter a date in the list of references?

If the work is written in Finnish, dates are entered according to the Finnish model: (12.3.2021). Similarly, in an English work the date follows the English model: yyyy-mm-dd (2021-03-12).

When is an ISBN used in a list of references?

If an ISBN is available, you can mention it but it is not necessary. 

Some articles do not have a DOI / URN link or the link does not work. There are also articles that can only be read with credentials from the University of Vaasa. How are such sources listed?

Not all articles have a permanent identifier (DOI or URN). In those cases, enter “Retrieved xx.xx.xxxx from [the web address]”. If the web address does not work, it is unnecessary. However, all working addresses (either regular web addresses or permanent identifiers) must be placed in the list of references as a hyperlink so the text adheres accessibility requirements.

If passwords or credentials are required to read the source material, you need to indicate the restricted access. For more information, see Chapter 4 of the Word version of the writing guidelines on LibGuides.

Do I have to list my research material sources separately?

All sources (including research material sources) are alphabetically listed in the same list of references.

What should be included in an entry of a statute according to APA style?

Theses in law studies do not follow the APA style but their own well-established citation styles. In jurisprudence, statutes are not customarily entered in the list of references because of the dogmatic method.

However, in other sciences it is necessary to enter the statutes in the references according to APA, for example: 

Act on Financial Aid for Students 1994-1-21/65. Finlex. Retrieved 2020-11-17 from

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