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APA Changes 6th Edition

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APA Changes 6th Edition

Note: This page reflects APA 6, which is now out of date. It will remain online until 2021, but will not be updated. The equivalent APA 7 page can be found here.

The American Psychological Association (APA) updated its style manual in the summer of 2009. This resource presents the changes made between the fifth and sixth editions. Please note that the first printing of the APA sixth edition contained misprints; if you are using the APA manual, make sure you are using at least the second printing of the sixth edition.

Traditionally, psychologists were the main users of APA, but recently, students and writers in other fields began using APA style. Therefore, the sixth edition was written with a broader audience in mind. The changes made to the sixth edition reflect this broader audience.

This resource was created following the APA manual’s “What’s New in APA,” is organized according to the APA manual chapters, and highlights updates to the sixth edition that most concern student writers instead of those interested in publishing manuscripts. For a more complete discussion of the changes, please visit this site.

Levels of Heading

Headings are used to help guide the reader through a document. The levels are organized by levels of subordination, and each section of the paper should start with the highest level of heading.

Fifth Edition (Section 3.31 in the APA manual)

APA Headings
Level Format
2 Centered Uppercase and Lowercase Headings
3 Centered, Italicized, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings
4 Left-aligned, Italicized, Uppercase and Lowercase Side Heading
5 Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.

Sixth Edition (3.03)

APA Headings
Level Format
1 Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings
2 Flush left, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading
3 Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.
4 Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.
5 Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.

For example, in a scientific report following APA style, a report contains three sections: Method, Results, and Discussion. Each of these sections start with level 1 headings:

Methods (Level 1)

Site of Study (Level 2)

Participant Population (Level 2)

Teachers. (Level 3)

Students. (Level 3)

Results (Level 1)

Spatial Ability (Level 2)

Test one. (Level 3)

Teachers with experience. (Level 4)

Teachers in training. (Level 4)

Test two. (Level 3)

Kinesthetic Ability (Level 2)

Reducing Bias in Language (3.11)

Using precise language is expected in scientific writing, and the sixth edition offers new ways in which to talk about research participants (note that “subjects” is still an acceptable term to use, but “participants” is more representative of the individuals’ roles in the research project).

Refer to participants at the appropriate level of specificity. The manual provides the example of using "women and men" to refer to all human beings instead of only using man. "Man" is appropriate to use when referring to one man, but not when referring to a population that includes men and women.  The APA Style Blog also includes a page that discusses the use a singular “they.” You can find it here.

Refer to participants how they wish to be called. Try to avoid labels if possible, but if this is not avoidable, be respectful. Focus on the people and not the label. For example, instead of labeling a group “the elderly" or "the arthritic," labels in which individuals are lost, try “older adults" or "a woman with arthritis."

Acknowledge participants’ participation while still following the rules in your field. For example, a cognitive psychology student might use the term “subjects” in her research report, but a nursing student might use the term “patients” to refer to those who participated in his research. Whatever term you choose to use, be sure you are consistent throughout your paper and with your field’s guidelines.

The Mechanics of Style

Spacing (4.01). Regarding punctuation in manuscript drafts, APA suggests using two spaces after periods ending sentences to aid readability.

One space: “Previous research shows that patients are interested in palliative care. This research project explores how to discuss palliative care with patients.

Two spaces: “Previous research shows that patients are interested in palliative care.  This research project explores how to discuss palliative care with patients.

Approximations (4.31-32). Use words to express approximations of days, months, and year.

I started spelunking about four years ago.

Reporting statistics (4.35, 44, and 10). Use a zero before the decimal point with numbers less than one when the statistic can be greater than one.

0.56 kg

Do not use a zero before the decimal point when the number cannot be greater than one.

r = .015

Include effect sizes and confidence intervals with statistics. This will allow the reader to more fully understand the conducted analyses.

Use brackets to group together confidence interval limits in both the body text and tables (5.15).

95% Cls [-7.2, 4.3], [9.2, 12.4], and [-1.2, -0.5]” (p. 94)

Displaying Results

The sixth edition includes a section (5.01) on the purpose of displaying data. This section can help you decide when and how to display your data. For example, your data might show that you are exploring data and information, or your data may serve a storage purpose for later retrieval.

More than likely, though, your data will serve either a communication purpose to show you have discovered meaning in data and you want to show/communicate to others this meaning.

Figures. Figures include graphs, charts, maps, drawings, and photographs. As a general rule, only include figures when they add to the value of the paper. If the figure merely repeats what is written in the paper, do not include it, as it does not add any new information to the paper.

The sixth edition also emphasizes the importance of clearly labeling electrophysiological, radiological, and genetic data (sections 5.26 – 5.28 in the Publication Manual).


Direct Quotations (6.01-21)

The sixth edition provides explicit rules for direct quotations and states that you must credit the source when “paraphrasing, quoting an author directly, or describing an idea that influenced your work” (p. 170).

If the quotation is less than 40 words, incorporate the quotation into the text and place quotation marks round the quotation. Cite the source immediately after the quotation and continue with the sentence.

Porter (1998) has stated that “The internetworked classroom has the potential (not yet realized) to empower students” (p. 5), and this research project examines this potential.

If the quotation you are using falls at the end of the sentence, enclose the quotation with quotation marks without including the quotation’s original punctuation. Here’s a sentence as it appears in the original text:

“Semantic frames/domains represent one of the two major organizing principles for conceptual structure” (Croft & Cruse, 2004, p. 32).

Here’s what the sentence looks like when quoted within a text:

In arguing for frame semantics, Croft and Cruse (2004) asserted, “Semantic frames/domains represent one of the two major organizing principles for conceptual structure” (p. 32).

If the quotation has more than 40 words, use a block quotation. Begin the quotation on a new line and indent a half-inch from the left margin. Double-space the entire quotation, and at the end of the quotation, provide citation information after the final punctuation mark.

John Nicholson (1820) anticipated this effect when discussing farming methods in the nineteenth century:

Perhaps it would be well, if some institution were devised, and supported at the expense of the State, which would be so organized as would tend most effectually to produce a due degree of emulation among Farmers, by rewards and honorary distinctions conferred by those who, by their successful experimental efforts and improvements, should render themselves duly entitled to them. (p. 92)

The Reference List

References that appear in the text must appear in the references list in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, with the exception of personal communication; only cite personal communication in the text, not in the reference list.

Electronic sources (6.31). Because electronic publishing has become a standard in research, the sixth edition provides an overview of electronic sources and how to reference them, specifically with URLs and DOIs.

URLs, more commonly known as a web address, locate information housed on the Internet. The fifth edition specified that references to electronic sources should refer to the article’s or document’s URL. However, they are prone to “breaking” or deleting, and to resolve issues associated with the unstable nature of URLs, publishers have started using DOIs with articles.

For more details on how to cite electronic sources with following the sixth edition, consult your APA manual or the OWL’s resource on citing electronic sources.

While citing from a webpage, you may not be able to find a page number to refer to, i.e., there is no pagination. Instead, refer to the paragraph number from which you are citing where you would usually insert a page number by using “para.” instead of “p.”. Be sure to include the author’s/s’ name/s and year, too, if applicable.

“The Purdue University Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement” (Purdue OWL, 2010, “Mission,” para. 1).

“Mission” is used here to refer to the section in which this quote was found.