APA Style Gets a Makeover After a Decade: What’s New in the 7th Edition

The American Psychological Association (APA) released the much-anticipated 7th edition of its style manual this month. After nearly a full decade of the previous edition’s reign over academic writing in the social sciences, this announcement no doubt strikes fear in the hearts of many. Fortunately, it is far from a complete overhaul of the style recommendations. The changes are few and subtle, clarifying ambiguities and simplifying implementation for its users.

Read on to learn about the most pertinent changes.

1. Expanded Font Options

Where the previous version required the use of 12 pt. Times New Roman font, writers now have both serif and sans serif options. Acceptable fonts now include:

  • 11 pt. Calibri
  • 11 pt. Arial
  • 10 pt. Lucida Sans Unicode
  • 12 pt. Times New Roman
  • 11 pt. Georgia

APA does advise scholars to be consistent with the font they choose.


2. Separate Guidelines for Student and Professional Papers

No more running head for students!

APA recognizes in this edition that many of its users are university students not likely to submit manuscripts for publication in a scholarly journal. The organization offers simplified instructions tailored to this audience, omitting superfluous elements like the running head, abstract section and keywords for student papers. APA still requires a separate title page, however the paper title now appears in bold followed by an extra space. The remaining lines include not just the student’s name and university, but also the department, course name and number, professor’s name, and due date. Click here for the complete new student title page guidelines.

Most of the differences between the “student version” and “professional version” of APA occur in the title page and front matter. Professional papers no longer require the words “Running head” on the title page but still include a running head throughout. The title page requires more author information than before, as well as author affiliations and notes. An abstract and keywords guide is available online here.


3. Simplified Heading Levels

APA still specifies five levels of headings for use throughout your paper (though it does not require any beyond the title). The title of the paper is now treated as a first level heading. The second level is unchanged, but the third is no longer indented. Levels four and five are indented and the text begins immediately following the heading. All headings are now bold and the title case, with each major word capitalized. You still do not need a heading for the introduction.


4. Streamlined In-text Citations

In-text citation in APA style now allows for less repetition and greater flexibility. Citations still consist primarily of the authors’ last names and publication year in parentheses. Students are now permitted to use the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” for any source with three or more authors, even when citing for the first time in-text:

6th edition: (Jones, Smith, & Leery, 2015)      vs      7th edition: (Jones et al., 2015)

The table below shows the appropriate in-text citation format for each type of citation in the new edition.


One author:(Qubein, 2020)Qubein (2020)
Two authors:(Qubein & Carroll, 2020)Qubein and Carroll (2020)
Three or more authors:(Qubein et al., 2020)Qubein et al. (2020)
Group author (no abbreviation or date):(Stanford University, n.d.)Stanford University (n.d.)
Group author (with abbreviation)
First citation:
Subsequent citations:
Write out the first time only.
(High Point University [HPU], 2020)
(HPU, 2020)
Write out the first time only:
High Point University (HPU, 2020)
HPU (2020)
No author listed (use shortened version of title):Book: (Leading Schools, 2020)
Article: ("Leading Schools," 2020)
Book: Leading Schools (2020)
Article: "Leading Schools" (2020)
Personal communications (cite in-text only):(N. Qubein, personal communication, May 5, 2019)In a personal communication with N. Qubein (May 5, 2019)


Page numbers are now permissible for paraphrases as well as direct quotes, and additional source parts or locators can be used as well. For example, you can use “Slide 7” to point to content in a PowerPoint presentation, or add a timestamp (e.g., 1:20) to isolate a segment of a video or audio clip. Publication years no longer need repeating parenthetically after the first narrative citation unless necessary to distinguish two sources. Narrative content (phrases like “see also”) are also now allowed within citations.


5. Consistent Table & Figure Formatting

Guidelines for tables appear relatively unchanged except for the table numbers appearing now in bold font. Figures are now introduced the same way as tables, with the figure number and title going above the table (boldface as well) instead of below it. These are welcome changes as they standardize the presentation of tables and figures—scholars no longer have to memorize a separate set of rules for each.  Many sample figures using the new setup are available on the APA Style Blog.


6. Four-Part “Formula” for Writing References

The new APA guidelines follow the lead of the 8th edition of MLA in that they focus less on source formats and more on general guidelines that can be applied to cite all sources, print or online. Rather than breaking citations down into nine parts, however, APA specifies only four, to be displayed in this order: (1) author, (2) date, (3) title, and (4) source. This does not actually differ from the way references are written following the previous edition—rather it gives those writing references “from scratch” a way to better conceptualize them.

 Four Elements of an APA Reference:









The following example references are color coded so you can easily identify the four parts:

Teo, T. (2005). The critique of psychology: From Kant to postcolonial theory. Springer.

Grady, J. S., Her, M., Moreno, G., Perez, C., & Yelinek, J. (2019). Emotions in storybooks: A comparison of storybooks that represent ethnic and racial groups in the United States. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 8(3), 207–217. https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000185

National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute. (2011). What is an arrhythmia? http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/

While most of the changes to writing references affect the “source” element, there is one major change to the “author” element. In the 7th edition, up to 20 author names (as opposed to 7) are now listed at the beginning of a reference. APA justifies this change as giving full representation to even minor contributors as works in the social sciences rarely exceed this number of authors. The “date” and “title” elements remain unchanged.

As you can see in the above examples, specific elements within the “source” part of the citations have undergone considerable changes, the most notable of which is the omission of the publisher location when referencing books or book chapters. Book chapters may also now be identified with a DOI.


7. Format DOIs as URLs

This brings us to another significant change: DOIs are now exclusively written as URLs instead of an alphanumeric string.

6th edition: doi:10.1037/a0028240    vs    7th edition: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028240

You can easily convert any DOI to a URL by sumply adding this prefix before the number: https://doi.org/

URLs to library or subscription databases are now omitted as they are seldom accessible to the reader. You also no longer need the words “Retrieved from” to introduce a URL unless you are including a retrieval date. Just tack the URL onto the end of the reference and you are good to go!


8. Guidelines for Citing Social Media Sources

It is easy to apply these formulaic basics to cite all types of online formats not covered adequately in the previous editions. In the 7th edition, however, plentiful guidelines and examples are given for referencing social media posts, profiles, comments, etc.

Below is an example format for a Twitter profile and for a tweet (color-coded according to the 4-part formula described previously):

Trump, D. J. [@realDonaldTrump]. (n.d.). Tweets [Twitter profile]. Twitter. Retrieved January 3, 2020, from https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump

American Psychological Association [@APA_Style]. (2019, October 1). It’s finally here! Today we publish the 7th edition of the Publication Manual and launch a new APA Style website [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/APA_Style/status/1179019738166501377

Include the username in brackets after the author name, and include the first 20 words of a tweet or post as the title. (Notice the retrieval date is included in the first example because the profile page is likely to change over time, whereas an individual tweet is expected to remain static.)


9. Bias-Free Language Recommendations

The new edition focuses on inclusivity, promoting the use of bias-free language in scholarly writing. These guidelines help the writer avoid the “implied or irrelevant evaluation of the group or groups they are writing about” (APA, 2020, p. 131). For example, the manual recommends:

  • use the singular “they” pronoun instead of “he or she”
  • use specific age ranges over broad groupings (e.g., “18-25” instead of “young adults”)
  • use descriptive phrases rather than potentially disparaging nouns when referring to groups of people (e.g., use “people living in poverty” instead of “the poor.”)
  • avoid using labels which equate a group with their condition (do not use “schizophrenics,” for example, instead use “people suffering from schizophrenia”)
  • avoid hierarchical language (e.g., “minority” or “abnormal”)

See Chapter 5 of the 7th edition manual or this APA webpage for more insight into these welcome changes.


10. Further Resources Abound!

As mentioned throughout this post, the new APA Style Blog is already delivering on its promise; the number and quality of free online resources APA provides alongside its new edition is impressive. Particularly helpful are the student sample paper available in both annotated PDF format and downloadable as an editable Word Document. HPU Libraries is, of course, updating its own Citation Guide for the 7th edition along with the Quick Guide (printable PDF).

You can check out a library copy of the 7th edition of APA style at each of the three library locations. Majors in social science disciplines may want to pick up a personal copy. Print copies range from $25 to $50 and are available to purchase in paperback, hardback, or spiral-bound format. E-copies are available to purchase or rent by individuals only from VitalSource or RedShelf (cost is $31.99). This means the library cannot offer eBook access to the style manual, but we do provide our own guides you can access online.

Faculty considering adopting the new edition for use in a course can request a free review copy directly from APA. As always, just ask us if you need help using or teaching the new APA rules!

-Blog post by Leanne Jernigan, Wanek Center Librarian