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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The 6th edition of the Publication Manual brings an important and exciting change: a new way of doing headings. The updated headings style should make headings easier to understand, implement, and see in your finished paper. Here are five essential things you need to know:
APA has designed a five-level heading structure (we numbered them to talk about them, but you won’t actually number your headings in your paper). Click the image below to get a close-up view of the new heading style.
Proceed through the levels numerically, starting with Level 1, without skipping over levels (this is in contrast to the 5th edition heading style, which involved skipping levels depending on the total number of levels you had—how complicated!).
That first heading won’t be called “Introduction” or be the title of your paper; these are common mistakes. Actually, the first heading will likely be somewhere in the body of your paper. In an experimental study, for example, often the first real heading is the Method section, and it would thus go at Level 1.
Use as many levels as necessary to convey your meaning. Many student papers and published articles utilize two or three levels. Longer works like dissertations may demand four or five.
Need more guidance? Consult the Publication Manual (Chapter 3, Section 3.03) for more examples and explanation. Also look at published APA articles to see how it’s done—APA plans to fully implement the new heading style in its journals by January 2010.
How do you like the new heading style? Do you have any questions or comments about it? Please share!