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Overview of APA 6th Edition

The American Psychological Association was hard at work over the summer publishing… yes, you guessed it, the APA Publication Manual, 6th Edition, which ran its first publication in July, 2010. While the general requirements for formatting is similar and the same in many cases, there are some important changes from the 5th to the 6th editions of this publication manual that fall into one of five categories: Formatting, word usage, statistics, organization, and referencing.


Formatting changes include spacing, headings, and title placement.


The 6th edition of the APA manual now requires two spaces between sentences. The main rational behind this change is to increase readability. An easy way to make sure you have two spaces between your sentences is to click your paragraph button (¶). This is the symbol for "paragraph;" however in Microsoft Word®, it will also show you all the spaces using small dots everywhere you hit the space bar. You can find this button in the paragraph tool bar of MS Word.


Headings with the 6th edition no longer use italics. Using all bold for headings has been used with other formatting styles for years and now APA has adopted this style as well. To review:

  • Level 1 heading is centered and bold
  • Level 2 is left, justified, and bold
  • Level 3 is indented, bold, with a period
  • Levels 4 is indented, bold, italicized, with a period
  • Levels 5 is indented, italicized, with a period

Important to note here is that the text under a level 3 heading actually begins after the period (don't forget your 2 spaces). Also, while the Reference and Abstract are technically formatted as a Level 1 heading, they are not bold.

Title placement

All article titles are another heading related change, where in the 5th of the APA were required to be vertically and horizontally centered. While the 6th edition still requires article titles to be vertically centered, they must be in the top half of the page.

Word usage

Word usage is the next category of changes in the 6th edition of the APA and covers word counts and general usage.

Word count

Restrictions have always been placed on the number of words in the abstract of a research paper and with the 6th these restrictions are less stringent from a concrete 120 words or fewer in the 5th edition to a range of 150-250 words using the 6th edition.

General usage

Regarding general word usage begins with the plural form of Appendix that, with the 6th edition the required word is Appendices versus Appendixes that was indicated in the 5th edition of the APA.

Additionally, as words like website and e-mail become more commonplace, the APA has also changed the standards from Web site being written as two words in the 5th edition to being written as one word and not capitalized in the 6th edition. Also, not included in the 5th edition, e-mail is written with a hyphen.


The way some statistics are reported has also changed, specifically concerning p-values and figures.


Changes for p-values include using exact values with the 6th edition, where the 5th edition allowed a more general less than or equal to report.


The change with figure captions is minimal in that figure captions are now placed below the figure rather than on a separate page as was required in the 5th edition.


The 6th edition of the APA manual has made two significant changes to the organization of papers: Bullets and order of sections.


Bullets are now allowed in order to separate lists or main points of the text. As a rule, if a list indicate an order, such as most important to lest importation, or a list of steps of a processes, numbers should be used. For all other lists simple bullet points should be used.

Order of sections

Additionally, the 6th edition has moved the tables and figures before the appendices and now requires all footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page in which the footnotes are referenced. Therefore, the full organization, according to the 6th edition should follow:

  1. Title page
  2. Abstract
  3. Body
  4. References
  5. Tables
  6. Figures
  7. Appendices


References and in-text citations is the final major category of changes from the 5th edition to the 6th edition of the APA publication manual. Specifically, these concern reference abbreviations, and the various components of the full reference in the reference section.

Abbreviation usage

According to the APA 6th edition the following must now be spelled out when referenced in the text:

  • Chapter
  • Equation
  • Figure
  • Chapter

When referencing the location of quoted material, the abbreviation para., must be used rather than the pilcrow symbol.

Reference components

Many research articles referenced within the text will be found in databases such as EBSCO and ProQuest. While with the 5th edition it was necessary to include the database name in the reference, this is no longer the case with the 6th edition; rather the article's doi will be included.

Just when you got all the periods, commas, ampersands, and parentheses, they added the doi or Digitial Object identifier. While not difficult to find for most sources, these numbers are long, so always double check them. If a doi and publisher information are both available, the reference need only include the doi.

Additionally, much of the information retrieved online will not change regularly. As such, retrieval dates for websites need be included only when the information on the website is likely to change on a regular basis.

Finally, publishing information for print materials such as books must include both the city and the state of publication. This was changed from needing only the city with the 5th edition.

Note corrections from the first printing of the APA 6th edition. References and Abstract headings are not bold. A complete list of these corrections can be found on the American Pyschological Association website:

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