APA 6th Edition

Last Updated on July 23, 2020 by Ayla Myrick

Depending on when you began your dissertation development process, some universities may allow you to follow APA 5th ed. (2001)—but it is your responsibility to confirm in writing you are allowed to follow 5th ed. An addendum to the 5th ed. published in 2007 specifically addresses formatting of electronic references but is no longer available for sale.

Which APA edition is your review committee using?

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) has undergone numerous revisions in its more than 50-year history. If you and your review committee or the editors of your target journal are using different editions of the Manual-or if your university or target journal applies its own standards in addition to (or instead of) APA-be prepared for problems. Ask your review chair, the journal editor, or your advisor before you begin writing and formatting, and again before you submit to make certain you’re all on the same page.

APA style is not universal among universities and journals.

Many institutions opt for publication standards that differ from the generic standards of APA. If your university or target journal has its own standards, not following those standards in favor of generic APA standards may keep you from completing your degree or being published. If it’s important enough for your institution or target journal to take the time to create and publish these specific standards, it’s important enough for you to follow them. Sometimes, journals post these standards (sometimes called a “style sheet”) and institutions post these standards (sometimes called a “dissertation manual” or “dissertation guidelines”) online and your network editor may be able to locate and retrieve them. Other times, you may need to provide the style standards to your editor.


Just as the Internet and availability of online journals has evolved, so have the formatting standards that dictate how electronic journal articles should be cited. The 5th edition of the Manual, published in 2001, lists the rules that applied in 2001. The AMENDED (as of 2007) rules were available only in the APA Style Guide to Electronic References, which is now out of print. The standards for electronic citations were incorporated in their entirety. You must determine whether a journal is paginated by volume/year or by issue to assess whether you need to include the issue number (only those journals page-numbered by issue, supplements, special issues, and continued “parts” require an issue number). information about the source of the article. Amended 6th ed. formatting guidelines specific to electronic references were published in 2012. Be certain you, your editor, and your university or journal are all following the same version of the standards.

What’s a DOI?

A DOI is a digital object identifier. Think of it as a journal article’s fingerprint. Most, but not all, online journals attach a DOI to each article. If a journal article included in your reference list has a DOI, that number must be included in the reference. If there is no DOI, you must cite the URL or name of the commercial database from which that article was accessed or downloaded. If an article is archived or the entire journal in which it was published is sold to another publisher, the DOI will likely change. Be sure to check your DOIs for accuracy before you submit your final dissertation or journal article for acceptance.

When to Use “Retrieved on” Dates.

If you retrieved information from an electronic journal, that document probably has a publication date (the month and year of the issue); once published, the article is unlikely to change or become entirely unavailable. If you retrieved information from a website, however, odds are much greater that the website will update its pages or disappear in its entirety. For this reason, retrieved information without a readily identifiable publication date must include a “retrieved on” date. It’s a good idea, before you submit your final manuscript, to make certain the information is still available (preferably from the same URL cited) and still matches that which you retrieved. If the site from which you retrieved the information has changed, be sure to update the URL. If the information is no longer available online, consider removing this reference completely because it cannot be verified.

Matching Citations.

Every item, whether it is a book, journal, presented paper, dissertation, thesis, capstone, or class handout, that you cite in your manuscript must be listed as a reference. Likewise, every item listed in your reference section must be cited somewhere in your manuscript. Citations not represented in the references must be added, and extraneous references not cited must be removed. E-mail messages and personal communications are not included as references.


Book titles are sentence-capped and italicized. Any edition other than first must be identified in parentheses after the book title (not italicized). APA 6th ed. requires the city and state of the publisher to be included, unless the publisher is a state university. Information identifying the publisher should be as concise as possible; do not include words like “Publishing,” “Publisher,” “Company,” and “Sons,” but do include “Press” and “Books.”

(Tip: If you don’t want to lose sleep wondering whether and how these frequent changes impact your project, rely on a qualified APA editor.)

Ayla Myrick