If your institution requires that you format your dissertation according to APA style, your APA manual is about to become an invaluable resource for you as you try to navigate an overwhelming number of style specifications. Keep in mind that your institution may also have its own template, style guide, or dissertation format document that you must adhere to in tandem with the APA manual. Consult both carefully to ensure that your dissertation is in compliance with your institution’s requirements.
General Dissertation Formatting per APA Style
Keep in mind the following overall formatting guidelines:
- Running head—Per APA style, every page must have a running head that is a shortened version of your title. The running head appears in all uppercase letters in the top left corner of the page. Additionally, your title page should have a running head that is slightly different from the rest of your dissertation. The first page’s running head is preceded by “Running head:” whereas the remaining pages just display the title. For example, if the title of your paper is The Changing Landscape of Defining Relationship Terms, your running head on your first page will be:
Running head: DEFINING RELATIONSHIP TERMS
The running head on all other pages will be:
DEFINING RELATIONSHIP TERMS
- Pagination—In addition to your running head, your top header will also include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of each page. Allow for 5 spaces between the end of the running header and the page numbers. The page number is omitted from the title page. Most dissertations require all front matter to be numbered with Roman numerals. The first page of the actual body of your text will be numbered with standard Arabic numerals (1).
- Margins—Each margin should be 1 inch wide. Your institution may require a larger margin on the left-hand side for easier binding, so be sure to check with your university’s guidelines. All justification should be flush left (except your title page and headings, when applicable) and paragraph indentations should be one half inch from the margin.
- Font—Times New Roman is the preferred font for APA style. All fonts should be 12 point, except for within tables and figures where it may be reduced to 10 point.
APA style provides strict guidelines for organizing your front matter, in terms of both order and appearance. APA requires that your front matter will include the following pages in sequence:
- Title page—Enter your title in title case (upper and lowercase letters), centered. The title may span one to two lines. Beneath your title, enter your name, and beneath that, enter your university. All of this information should be located in the top half of the page and your entire title page should be double-spaced.
- Abstract—Your abstract will be on the page immediately following your title page. At the top of the page, enter “Abstract,” centered (not bolded, italicized, underlined, or with quotation marks). Begin your abstract below this, and be sure it fits on one page. Your abstract should be less than 250 words and not indented. If you wish to include keywords, enter them on the final line, indented, and beginning with an italicized “Keywords:”
- Dedication page—This page is optional and should be no more than one page. The word “Dedication” should appear at the top, centered, not bolded, with no quotation marks.
- Acknowledgements page—This page is also optional but very common. It should be no more than one page and “Acknowledgements” should appear at the top, centered, not bolded, with no quotation marks.
- Table of Contents—At the top of the page, enter “Table of Contents,” centered and not bolded, without quotation marks. All major headings, front matter, and back matter should appear in your table of contents. If you have tables and figures in your dissertation, include a “List of Tables,” on the page after your table of contents, and on the following page, include a “List of Figures.”
Body of Text
Your actual dissertation will begin on a new page. Per APA style, the title of your paper should appear again at the top, centered, not bolded (though this may be omitted if required by your institution).
Your entire document should be double spaced with certain allowable exceptions for tables. Follow APA’s rules for organizational headings: your top-level headings (most likely the chapters in your dissertation) are centered, bolded, and in title case. Second level headings are left-aligned, bolded, and in title case. Refer to your APA manual or the OWL Purdue website for more information on headings.
References and appendices will follow the conclusion of the body of your dissertation. Starting on a new page, begin your reference page with “References” (centered, not bolded, italicized, underlined, or in quotation marks). Organize your reference list alphabetically by author’s last name.
Your appendices will follow your reference list, if applicable. If you have only one appendix, title it “Appendix” (top of the page, centered, not bolded, or in quotation marks). If you have multiple appendices, label them alphabetically as “Appendix A,” “Appendix B,” “Appendix C,” and so on.
Need Help Formatting Your Dissertation per APA Style?
These are just a few basics to help you with formatting your paper or dissertation. Be sure to refer to your APA manual often while formatting your dissertation. If you need any help formatting your content per APA, please feel free to hire one of our APA experts to transform your document into perfect APA style. Please call or email us at any time for a free consultation and price quote.
Note: The following references are not per APA style, as HTML coding does not allow for this.
American Psychological Association (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Paiz, J. M., Angeli, E., Wagner, J. Lawrick, E. Moore, K. Anderson, M. … & Keck, R. (2012, October 31). Reference list: Author/authors. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/06/
Paiz, J. M., Angeli, E., Wagner, J. Lawrick, E. Moore, K. Anderson, M. … & Keck, R. (2013, March 1). Reference list: Basic rules. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/05/
Paiz, J. M., Angeli, E., Wagner, J. Lawrick, E. Moore, K. Anderson, M. … & Keck, R. (2013, September 28). Reference list: Books. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/08/
Paiz, J. M., Angeli, E., Wagner, J. Lawrick, E. Moore, K. Anderson, M. … & Keck, R. (2013, October 5). Reference list: Articles in periodicals. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/07/
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APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:26:13
Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in APA.
To see a side-by-side comparison of the three most widely used citation styles, including a chart of all APA citation guidelines, see the Citation Style Chart.
You can also watch our APA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel.
General APA Guidelines
Your essay should be typed and double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11"), with 1" margins on all sides. You should use a clear font that is highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.
Include a page header (also known as the "running head") at the top of every page. To create a page header/running head, insert page numbers flush right. Then type "TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header flush left using all capital letters. The running head is a shortened version of your paper's title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation.
Major Paper Sections
Your essay should include four major sections: the Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.
The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. Include the page header (described above) flush left with the page number flush right at the top of the page. Please note that on the title page, your page header/running head should look like this:
Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
Pages after the title page should have a running head that looks like this:
TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
After consulting with publication specialists at the APA, OWL staff learned that the APA 6th edition, first printing sample papers have incorrect examples of running heads on pages after the title page. This link will take you to the APA site where you can find a complete list of all the errors in the APA's 6th edition style guide.
Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. APA recommends that your title be no more than 12 words in length and that it should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. Your title may take up one or two lines. All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced.
Beneath the title, type the author's name: first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (PhD).
Beneath the author's name, type the institutional affiliation, which should indicate the location where the author(s) conducted the research.
Image Caption: APA Title Page
Begin a new page. Your abstract page should already include the page header (described above). On the first line of the abstract page, center the word “Abstract” (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks).
Beginning with the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph, double-spaced. Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words.
You may also want to list keywords from your paper in your abstract. To do this, indent as you would if you were starting a new paragraph, type Keywords: (italicized), and then list your keywords. Listing your keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.
Image Caption: APA Abstract Page
Please see our Sample APA Paper resource to see an example of an APA paper. You may also visit our Additional Resources page for more examples of APA papers.
How to Cite the Purdue OWL in APA
Contributors' names and the last edited date can be found in the orange boxes at the top of every page on the OWL.
Contributors' names (Last edited date). Title of resource. Retrieved from http://Web address for OWL resource
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/