Dates in Dissertations/Theses
Since dates can be expressed in a variety of ways, it is often confusing as to which format is correct. For example, how does one choose the correct format from the following?
15 May 2022
May 15, 2022
Sunday, May 15, 2022
Sunday, 15 May 2022
When writing the date in an essay, thesis, or other academic document, the date format depends on whether it is written in American, Australian, or British English. Secondly, it is helpful to consult a style guide provided by the academic institution. Thirdly, consistency is essential whichever format is chosen.
Date format in American English
The format in American English is month-date-year, and a comma should be inserted between the date and year; for example, May 15, 2022. The date may also be expressed in figures such as 05/15/22 or 05/15/2022. Where the day of the week is used, the format should be Sunday, May 25, 2022.
Date format in British English
In British English, the format is date-month-year, and no comma is used; for example, 15 May 2022. The date may also be written in figures such as 15/05/22 or 15/05/2022. Where the day of the week is used, the format should be Sunday, 8 May 2022. Note that in this case, a comma is used after the day of the week.
Date format in Australian English
Australian English tends to follow British English when expressing the date in a dissertation, journal article or other academic document. The main difference in Australian English is that the day of the week is included in all official documents in the format Sunday, 15 May 2022. In newspapers the format is Sunday, May 15, 2022.
Some comments on all formats
It is not usual to use ordinals (15th May) in essays and other academic documents. However, if they are used, it should be in the format fifteenth of May. In some cases, it is not always necessary to write the year. Consider the sentence, ‘It was decided that the experiment would be conducted in 2021, and it was performed on March 20.’ Here it is obvious that March 20 is in 2021. Similarly, it is not always necessary to repeat the month; For example, in the sentence, ‘The university examinations are always held in June, and this year they will begin on the eighth.’
Most academic institutions provide a style guide. This should always be consulted before the thesis or essay is written. The style guide will specify whether the date format is to be in British, American, or Australian English, and whether it is to be in words (15 May 2022) or in figures (15/05/22). It may also state if abbreviations are to be used for months (such as, Jan, Feb). However, in all cases, the months of May, June, and July are not abbreviated. The reader, as well as the writer, needs to be aware of whether British or American format is being used, otherwise the date could be misread, thereby causing confusion. For example, in British English 04/03/22 means 04 March 2022, while in American English it means April 04, 2022.
As previously mentioned, there is a considerable variety of formats for dates in academic documents. The choice of which format to use depends on whether the document is in American/Australian/British English and the requirements of the style guide, while personal preference may also be a factor. Nevertheless, whichever format is chosen, consistency is vital. A lack of consistency (such as use of British English for one date and American for another) will undoubtedly cause confusion and result in incorrect dates.