Major Changes in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition

Last Updated on November 10, 2020 by Ayla Myrick

Students in the thesis or dissertation writing process are all about to transition into the seventh edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

APA Format: Consistency (for the most part) throughout the Decades

In one breath, the APA manual creates a portrait of itself, the society it inhabits, the ways our writing will be influenced, and a diaspora of newly displaced rules. Most injunctions in any new edition of the manual, however, will remain phrase-by-phrase doppelgangers of their predecessors. The single space following a period at the end of a sentence, for example, did not change in the transition from the fourth edition, in the late nineties, to the fifth edition, in the early eighties. With the sixth edition, though, a lush two spaces suddenly advanced into vogue, only to now revert back to one-space minimalism in the seventh edition.

APA Format per the Seventh Edition

The Prime Mover of such changes is the need to strike a balance between (a) societal trends, (b) precision, and (c) concision. Reflecting American gender sensitivities, the editors of the fifth and sixth editions of the APA manual championed the precise and gender-inclusive phrases “he or she” and “his or her” in sentences such as “A psychology student’s grade will usually depend on how accurately he or she knows his or her gender-inclusive phrases.” The editors of the seventh edition, abandoning grammatical precision, now favor societal trends (over traditional grammar rules) and concision by insisting on the so-called singular, gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “their.” Example: “Any particular psychology student’s grade will now depend on how accurately they know their gender-neutral pronouns.”

See the manual’s introduction chapter for a complete list of changes in the seventh edition.

Clarification: Theses, Dissertations, and Capstone Projects

Students will be happy to know that this seventh edition finally clarifies what has always been the case: that the manual pertains to academic papers only to the extent that any given institution or instructor specifies. This is because, as the manual’s title indicates, although it is a publication manual, and student papers are not published, some university departments have nevertheless insisted that students write papers in APA style.

The American Psychological Association, however, does not designate formal requirements for the nature or contents of an APA-style student paper. The 7th edition of the manual, though, makes students fell more welcome within the manual by including new sections and samples specifically for formatting student papers and dissertations. Because educational institutions are still currently using the 6th edition of the manual, however, it may be months before they decide which seventh-edition changes, if any, to adopt. Therefore, the American Psychological Association advises asking your instructor which edition of the manual to use, if any. 

The major changes from the sixth to the newly released seventh edition follow.


  • It is no longer necessary to include the publisher location in a reference.
 ✖Liu, J. C. (2001). Bringing up children. Wheaton, IL: Tower Press.  
Liu, J. C. (2001). Bringing up children. Tower Press.  
  • In-text citations for works having three or more authors include, from the very first citation, only the first author’s name and “et al.”
 ✖(Roy, Anand, & Milosz, 2018)  
(Roy et al., 2018)  
  • A maximum of up to 20 authors may now be listed in reference entries; previously the maximum had been seven. 
 ✖Brown, T. C., Rey, M. L., Li, L. O., Ito, P. M., Singh, Y., Roy, P., . . . Ray, A. (2019)    
Brown, T. C., Rey, M. L., Li, L. O., Ito, P. M., Singh, Y., Roy, P., Rubin, J., Yu, K. S., Slupski, Z., Hare, P., Chan, R., Duara, X., Metha, V., Kuhn, G., Garcon, P., Patel, K. Kominz, L., Ames, U., Ooms, H., . . . Ray, A.  (2019)  
  • Format journal doi entries as you would a “” URL rather than using a “doi” prefix.
 ✖ doi: 10.1023/075297263.2923.1660377  
  • Website URLs are no longer preceded with “Retrieved from,” unless a retrieval date is needed (e.g., for social media or wikis). Note that the name of the web site now appears before the URL, and the title of the particular web page appears in italics.
 ✖Cherry, K. (2019). Child development theories and examples. Retrieved from
Cherry, K. (2019). Child development theories and examples. verywellmind.
  • Ebook references no longer include the format, platform, or device (e.g., Kindle). They do include the publisher.
   ✖Powell, J. N. (2009). River, raft, and shore: The semiotic and the symbolic in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi [Kindle version]. dp/ B07JFR9R9M/  
Powell, J. N. (2009). River, raft, and shore: The semiotic and the symbolic in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi. Ponui Press.

For additional information about formatting references, see: APA Style. 7th Edition. Reference Quick Guide.

  • Since the 6th edition came out, sources from online media have become more important (e.g., podcasts, social media, YouTube). The 7th edition of the publication manual includes many new guidelines for citing and referencing these sources.


  • At the end of a full sentence, use one space after a period, unless your instructor or publisher advises otherwise.
 ✖This is not a cigar.  This sentence is a lie.   
This is not a cigar. This sentence is a lie.
  • Words or letters used linguistically are no longer italicized. Rather, they are enclosed within double quotation marks.
 ✖The letter a The word word The singular they    
The letter “a” The word “word” The singular “they”    
  • For professional papers to be published, the title page’s running head is no longer prefixed with the words “Running head.” The running head now consists of an abbreviated version of the paper title.
  • For student papers, running heads are no longer needed unless the instructor requires it. The header for a student paper requires only the page number.
 ✖Running head: WHY RUNNING HEADS?  
  • Fonts have changed.

Whereas the sixth edition prescribed Times New Roman, 12-space font, unless otherwise specified by a publisher or instructor, the seventh edition allows a wide variety of fonts for student papers. These include 11-point Calibri, 11-point Arial, 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode, or 12-point Times New Roman, 11-point Georgia or 10-point Computer Modern.  

  • Heading levels have also changed, as follows:
Level 1

Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading

First paragraph.

Level 2

Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading

New paragraph

Level 3

Flush left, Boldface, Title Case Heading

     New paragraph.

Level 4

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

Level 5

     Indented, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading End With a Period. Text continues on the same line.
  • Anthropomorphism has been added the Bias in Language section.
 ✖Rat couples (cage mates) were allowed to forage together. 
Pairs of rats (cage mates) were allowed to forage together.
  • Tables and figures now both share a standard format, with a numbered title at the top and a note at the bottom.

                                   Table 1

                                   Example of APA Table

Table or Figure7th Edition Guidelines
Tables     FiguresDo not use shading or vertical borders   Now use same title format as figures.  

                   Note. For clarification, a note may be included under a table.

                                    Figure 1

                                    Example of APA Figure


       Note. For clarification, a note may be included below a figure.

Writing a thesis, dissertation, capstone, or research paper is time- and brain-intensive. A student also needs to know their university’s style guide because it may overrule specific instructions within the APA Manual. Consider hiring an experienced APA editor. It is their responsibility to keep up with all the rules, and they know when and how to apply a university’s style guide.