At my school, PhD works are generally referred to as dissertations rather than theses.

My bibtex file has this entry:

    title    = {An examination of keystroke dynamics for continuous user authentication},
    school   = {Queensland University of Technology},
    author   = {Alsolami, Eesa},
    year     = {2012}, %other attributes omitted

And it gets rendered as:

[2] Eesa Alsolami. An examination of keystroke dynamics for continuous user authentication.
PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology, 2012.

Is there any way to make it say "PhD dissertation" rather than "PhD thesis"?

On another note, why is this the default in LaTeX? Would it be unusual or poor form to change it?

Edit: I'm using the plain bibliography style. I could probably use ieeetr as well:

  • This depends on your bibliography style, not your .bib file. So you need to show the LaTeX code you are using to produce the bibliography for us to help you. – Alan Munn May 4 '14 at 2:28
  • @AlanMunn Thanks, see edit. Using plain style. – jtpereyda May 4 '14 at 2:37

The text used in plain.bst is hard coded into the file itself, and so isn't customizable from within your document.

What you can do is make a copy of plain.bst and edit it, and then use the copy as your bibliography style.

On a TeX Live system, plain.bst is located in /usr/local/texlive/2013/texmf-dist/bibtex/bst/base/plain.bst. Make a copy of this file and call it plain-diss.bst (or some other name). Save this in the same folder as your document, or put it in your local texmf folder in texmf/bibtex/bst/.

Edit the file and search for "thesis". You will find the following function:

FUNCTION {phdthesis}
{ output.bibitem
  format.authors "author" output.check
  format.btitle "title" output.check
  "PhD thesis" format.thesis.type output.nonnull
  school "school" output.check
  address output
  format.date "year" output.check
  note output

Change "PhD thesis" to "PhD dissertation" and then save the file.

In your document, use \bibliographystyle{plain-diss} instead of {plain}.

The same general solution will also work for the ieeetr.bst.

A biblatex solution

Another way to do this would be to use biblatex, which provides easy customization of these sorts of things. Here's a schematic document that shows how to do this:

\DefineBibliographyStrings{american}{phdthesis = {PhD dissertation}}
  • Thanks! Worked perfectly. I had to search my system (Cygwin) for the file with find / -name plain.bst. My plain.bst was at /usr/share/texmf-dist/bibtex/bst/base/plain.bst. – jtpereyda May 15 '14 at 16:35
  • Somebody at my school also pointed out that my PhD titles were italicized while my master's titles were not. Comparing the entries, I changed format.btitle "title" output.check to format.title "title" output.check to make them not italic. – jtpereyda May 16 '14 at 2:09

For a quick fix, you can use the type field, although it makes the file non portable.

    title    = {An examination of keystroke dynamics for continuous user authentication},
    school   = {Queensland University of Technology},
    author   = {Alsolami, Eesa},
    year     = {2012},
    type     = {{PhD} dissertation},






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  • this seems perfect, but could you pls elaborate on the "non portable" part? – davyjones Aug 2 '16 at 14:09
  • @davyjones If you use the bib file for other purposes, you probably need to remove the type field. – egreg Aug 2 '16 at 14:23
  • that's nice. I thought the generated pdf file would be somehow self-contradictorily non-portable. Thanks~ – davyjones Aug 2 '16 at 14:29

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