Notable changes in APA 7th Edition -APA 7th edition – Find out what’s new

Note: This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which was 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.

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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)- Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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) -Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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) -Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

APA Headings
LevelFormat
1Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings

Text starts a new paragraph.

2Flush 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) -Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

APA Headings
LevelFormat
1Centered, Boldface, Title Case Heading

Text starts a new paragraph.

2Flush left, Boldface, Title Case Heading

     Text starts a new paragraph.

3Flush 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 starts 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 -Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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 centred 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.

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Writing Style and Grammar (Chapter 4) -Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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)- Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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)- Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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 Similarly, one might write about study participants who have to choose between the choices “agree,” “disagree,” and “other,” rather than the choices agreedisagree, and other.

This chapter also contains 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) –Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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)- Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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) –Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

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.

References and in-text citations in 7th Edition APA Style -Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

When it comes to citing sources, more guidelines have been added that make citing online sources easier and clearer.

In total, 114 examples are provided, ranging from books and periodicals to audiovisuals and social media. For each reference category, an easy template is provided to help you understand and apply the citation guidelines. The biggest changes in the 7th edition are:

  1. The publisher location is no longer included in the reference.
    • Covey, S. R. (2013). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
    • Covey, S. R. (2013). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change. Simon & Schuster.
  2. The in-text citation for works with three or more authors is now shortened right from the first citation. You only include the first author’s name and “et al.”.
    • (Taylor, Kotler, Johnson, & Parker, 2018)
    • (Taylor et al., 2018)
  3. Surnames and initials for up to 20 authors (instead of 7) should be provided in the reference list.
    • Miller, T. C., Brown, M. J., Wilson, G. L., Evans, B. B., Kelly, R. S., Turner, S. T., … Lee, L. H. (2018).
    • Miller, T. C., Brown, M. J., Wilson, G. L., Evans, B. B., Kelly, R. S., Turner, S. T., Lewis, F., Lee, L. H., Cox, G., Harris, H. L., Martin, P., Gonzalez, W. L., Hughes, W., Carter, D., Campbell, C., Baker, A. B., Flores, T., Gray, W. E., Green, G., … Nelson, T. P. (2018).
  4. DOIs are formatted the same as URLs. The label “DOI:” is no longer necessary.
  • doi: 10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449
  • https://doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449
  • URLs are no longer preceded by “Retrieved from,” unless a retrieval date is needed. The website name is included (unless it’s the same as the author), and web page titles are italicized.
    • Walker, A. (2019, November 14). Germany avoids recession but growth remains weak. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-50419127
    • Walker, A. (2019, November 14). Germany avoids recession but growth remains weak. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-50419127
  • For ebooks, the format, platform, or device (e.g. Kindle) is no longer included in the reference, and the publisher is included.
    • Brück, M. (2009). Women in early British and Irish astronomy: Stars and satellites [Kindle version]. https:/doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2473-2
    • Brück, M. (2009). Women in early British and Irish astronomy: Stars and satellites. Springer Nature. https:/doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2473-2
  • Clear guidelines are provided for including contributors other than authors and editors. For example, when citing a podcast episode, the host of the episode should be included; for a TV series episode, the writer and director of that episode are cited.
  • Dozens of examples are included for online source types such as podcast episodes, social media posts, and YouTube videos. The use of emojis and hashtags is also explained.

Inclusive and bias-free language -Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

Writing inclusively and without bias is the new standard, and APA’s new publication manual contains a separate chapter on this topic.

The guidelines provided by APA help authors reduce bias around topics such as gender, age, disability, racial and ethnic identity, and sexual orientation, as well as being sensitive to labels and describing individuals at the appropriate level of specificity. Some examples include:

  1. The singular “they” or “their” is endorsed as a gender-neutral pronoun.
    • A researcher’s career depends on how often he or she is cited.
    • A researcher’s career depends on how often they are cited.
  2. Instead of using adjectives as nouns to label groups of people, descriptive phrases are preferred.
    • The poor
    • People living in poverty
  3. Instead of broad categories, you should use exact age ranges that are more relevant and specific.
    • People over 65 years old
    • People in the age range of 65 to 75 years old

APA Paper format -Notable changes in APA 7th Edition

In the 7th edition, APA decided to provide different paper format guidelines for professional and student papers. For both types a sample paper is included. Some notable changes include:

  1. Increased flexibility regarding fonts: options include Calibri 11, Arial 11, Lucida Sans Unicode 10, Times New Roman 12, and Georgia 11.
  2. The running head on the title page no longer includes the words “Running head:”. It now contains only a page number and the (shortened) paper title.
    • Running head: THE EFFECT OF GOOGLE ON THE INTERNET
    • THE EFFECT OF GOOGLE ON THE INTERNET
  3. The running head is omitted in student papers (unless your instructor tells you otherwise).
  4. Heading levels 3-5 are updated to improve readability.

Mechanics of style

In terms of style, not much has changed in the 7th edition. In addition to some updated and better explained guidelines, there are two notable changes:

  1. Use only one space after a period at the end of a sentence.
  2. Use double quotation marks instead of italics to refer to linguistic examples.
    • APA endorses the use of the singular pronoun they
    • APA endorses the use of the singular pronoun “they”

Thank you for reading today. Do you have questions or any information to clarify on Notable changes in APA 7th Edition? Kindly use the comment section to reach or make your input.



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