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Changes in the 7th Edition

Note: This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style can be found here.

The American Psychological Association (APA) updated its style manual in the fall of 2019. This resource presents a list of important differences between the sixth and seventh editions. It reflects the most recent printing of the manual as of January 2020. If subsequent printings are released to correct errors or misprints (as was the case for the sixth edition), this page will be updated as needed.

The seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual contains a number of updates and additions designed to make APA style more useful for students, teachers, and other educational stakeholders. While there are too many changes to list here, we’ve chosen to focus on the changes that are most pertinent to students and teachers. These include changes to the ways academic papers are formatted, changes to the ways sources are cited, and more. For a much more detailed list of  changes, consult the Introduction chapter of the APA Publication Manual (7th ed.), which is available from the APA in PDF form here.

For your convenience, locations in the print versions of the sixth and seventh editions of the APA manual associated with each change are provided below where possible.

Paper Formatting (Chapter 2)

The Title Page (2.3)

The newest edition of the APA manual recommends different title pages for students and professionals. Professional title pages include:

  • the title of the paper,
  • the name of each author of the paper,
  • the affiliation for each author,
  • an author note (if desired),
  • a running head (which also appears on the following pages,
  • a page number (which also appears on the following pages.

Students are directed to follow their instructors’ directions with regards to title page formatting. If no directions are given, students may use the APA-specified title page for students, which includes:

  • the title of the paper,
  • the name of each author of the paper,
  • the affiliation for each author (typically the school being attended),
  • the course number and name for which the paper is being written (use the format used by the school or institution (e.g., ENGL 106),
  • the course instructor’s name and title (ask for the instructor’s preferred form if possible; e.g., some instructors may prefer “Dr.,” “Ms.,” “Mrs.,” “Mr.,” or a different title),
  • the assignment’s due date written in the format most common in your country (e.g., either January 3, 2020, or 3 January 2020 may be appropriate),
  • a page number (which also appears on the following pages.

Note also that student papers now lack a running head.

Heading Levels (2.27)

Headings are used to help guide the reader through a document. The levels are organized by levels of subordination. In general,  each distinct section of  an academic paper should start with a level one heading.

The seventh edition changes only level three, four, and five headings. All headings are now written in title case (important words capitalized) and boldface. Headings are distinguished only by the use of italics, indentation, and periods.

Sixth Edition (3.03)

APA Headings

Level

Format

1

Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings

     Text starts a new paragraph.

2

Flush left, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading

     Text starts a new paragraph.

3

     Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period. Paragraph text continues on the same line as the same paragraph.

4

     Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period. Paragraph text continues on the same line as the same paragraph.

5

     Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period. Paragraph text continues on the same line as the same paragraph.

Seventh Edition (2.27)

APA Headings

Level

Format

1

Centered, Boldface, Title Case Heading

     Text starts a new paragraph.

2

Flush left, Boldface, Title Case Heading

     Text starts a new paragraph.

3

Flush Left, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading

     Text starts a new paragraph.

4

     Indented, Boldface Title Case Heading Ending With a Period. Paragraph text continues on the same line as the same paragraph.

5

     Indented, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading Ending With a Period. Paragraph text continues on the same line as the same paragraph.

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)

     Graduate Teaching Assistants. (Level 5)

Test Two (Level 3)

Kinesthetic Ability (Level 2)

Other Paper Format Changes

A handful of additional formatting changes are recommended in the seventh edition. These include the following:

  • Running heads are no longer required for student papers.
  • Professional papers include a running head on every page, including the title page. However, the “Running head:” label used in the sixth edition is no longer used.
    • The running head is written in all capital letters. The running head should either be identical to the paper’s title, or a shortened form of the title that conveys the same idea. However, running heads should not exceed 50 characters (including spaces and punctuation).
  • The section labels for abstracts and reference lists follow the conventions for level one headings (i.e., in addition to being centered and written in title case, they are also in boldface).
  • Font guidelines are now somewhat looser in order to account for differences in computer specifications and users’ accessibility needs. So long as the same font is used throughout the text of the paper, a variety of fonts are acceptable.

Writing Style and Grammar (Chapter 4)

The most important changes here relate to pronoun usage, though it may bear mentioning that the APA has endorsed the "singular they" on its website for years prior to the release of the new manual:

  • The seventh edition of the APA Manual endorses the use of “they” as a singular pronoun. The manual advises writers to use “they” for a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant.
    • For instance, rather than writing "I don't know who wrote this note, but he or she has good handwriting," you might write something like "I don't know who wrote this note, but they have good handwriting."
  • Additionally, “they” should be used for a person who uses “they” as their personal pronoun. In both cases, derivatives of “they,” like “them,” “their,” “themselves,” and so on should also be used accordingly. Plural verbs should be used when "they" is referring to a single person or entity (e.g., use "they are a kind friend" rather than "they is a kind friend").
  • The manual also advises against anthropomorphizing language. Thus, non-human relative pronouns like “that,” and “which” are recommended for animals and inanimate objects, rather than “who.”

Bias-Free Language (Chapter 5)

The seventh edition of the manual updates guidelines for writing about “age, disability, gender, racial and ethnic identity, and sexual orientation” to bring them in line with current best practices. The guidelines are too extensive to reproduce here, but a few of the most important and general instructions are described below. Consult chapter 5 of the APA Publication Manual (7th ed.) for more details.

  • Use “person-first” language whenever possible. For instance, “a man with epilepsy” is generally preferable to “an epileptic” or “an epileptic man.”
  • Similarly, avoid using adjectives as nouns to describe groups of people (a la “the Asians” or “drug users”). Instead, use these adjectives to describe specific nouns or use descriptive noun phrases (a la “Asian people” or “people who use drugs”).
  • Use specific labels rather than general ones when possible. For example, “cisgender men” is more specific than “men.” Similarly, “Korean Americans” is more specific than “Asian Americans” or “Asians.”
  • When describing differences between groups of people, focus on the qualities that are relevant to the situation at hand. For example, in a study of sex chromosome-linked illnesses, study participants’ biological sexes are probably relevant, while participants’ sexual orientations are probably not.
  • In general, respect the language that people use to refer to themselves, and understand that the language used to refer to certain groups of people can and does change over time. Recognize also that group members may not always express total agreement about this language.

Mechanics of Style (Chapter 6)

In terms of mechanics, the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual contains a variety of minor changes from the sixth edition. Two of the most important are the following:

  • Use one space after a period at the end of a sentence unless an instructor or publisher dictates otherwise.
  • Use quotation marks around linguistic examples rather than highlighting these examples with italics. For example, one might write that a computer user should press the “F” key, rather than press the F key. Similarly, one might write about study participants who have to choose between the choices “agree,” “disagree,” and “other,” rather than the choices agree, disagree, and other.

This chapter also contain expanded guidelines that clarify a variety of mechanical issues, like whether certain proper nouns should be capitalized. The guidelines are too extensive to reproduce here, so consult chapter 6 for additional information.

Tables and Figures (Chapter 7)

Though the formatting for tables and figures has not dramatically changed from the sixth edition, a few relevant changes are as follows:

  • Tables and figures are now formatted in parallel—in other words, they use consistent rules for titles, notes, and numbering.
  • Tables and figures may now be presented either in the text of the document or after the reference list on separate pages.

In-Text Citations (Chapter 8)

Changes and updates to in-text citation procedure in the seventh edition include the following:

  • Regardless of the medium of the source, all sources with three authors or more are now attributed using the name of the first author followed by “et al.”
    • The only exception to this occurs when doing so would create ambiguity (e.g., if two papers have first-listed authors with the same name). In these cases, list as many names as needed to differentiate the papers, followed by “et al.”
      • Example: Fannon, Chan, Ramirez, Johnson, and Grimsdottir (2019) and Fannon, Chan, Montego, Daniels, and Miller (2019) can be cited as (Fannon, Chan, Ramirez, et al., 2019) and (Fannon, Chan, Montego, et al., 2019), respectively.
  • Oral traditions and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples are now treated as a distinct source category.
    • If the information has been recorded (e.g., as an audio file or an interview transcript), follow the ordinary directions for citing the appropriate form of media.
    • If the information was not recorded, but was gleaned from a personal interaction, use a modified form of the personal communication citation. Include the person’s name, the name of the indigenous group or nation to which they belong, their location, any other relevant details, the words “personal communication,” and the date of the communication. If the conversation took place over time, provide a date range or a general date. You do not need to provide a reference list entry.
      • Example: Following a series of conversations with Joseph Turnipseed (Tulalip Nation, lives in Portland, Oregon, personal communication, September 2017), we discovered connections between…
    • In both cases, capitalize not only the name of indigenous groups and nations (e.g., Crow, Seminole, Narragansett), but also most terms derived from indigenous culture (e.g., Oral Tradition, Elder, Traditional Knowledge, Vision Quest).
    • Finally, work closely with indigenous keepers of traditional knowledge to ensure that the knowledge is reproduced only with the permission of relevant indigenous stakeholders.
  • New guidelines describe how to present quotations from research participants. Quotations from research participants should be formatted like normal quotations (e.g., if they are longer than 40 words, use a block quotation). However, you do not need to provide an in-text citation or a reference list entry. Instead, simply indicate that the quote is from a research participant in the text.
    • If attributing the quote to a pseudonym, enclose the name in quotation marks the first time you use it. After the first time, do not use quotation marks.

Reference List (Chapter 9)

Reference list entries are handled largely the same in the seventh edition as they are in the sixth edition, barring a few important changes. Most pertain to electronic sources.

  • In the seventh edition, up to 20 authors should now be included in a reference list entry. For sources with more than 20 authors, after the 19th listed author, any additional authors' names are replaced with an ellipsis (…) followed by the final listed author's name. Do not place an ampersand before the final author's name.
  • Digital object identifiers (DOIs) and URLs are now both presented as hyperlinks for electronic sources.
  • The label “DOI:” is no longer used for entries that include a DOI.
  • The words “Retrieved from” (preceding the URL or DOI) are now only used when a retrieval date is also provided in the citation.
  • New guidelines describe how to use DOIs and URLs when citing sources obtained from academic research databases or online archives. In short, you should end the database/archive portion of the citation entry with a period, then provide the DOI or URL.
    • Note that, though database/archive information is typically not included in citation entries, it should be included when writers need to cite sources that are only available within a certain database.