Key Differences Between APA 6 and APA 7 Explained

The American Psychological Association (APA) formatting style is a standard used by many disciplines within the social sciences for writing and citing sources. Over time, the APA formatting guidelines have evolved to address new academic …

The American Psychological Association (APA) formatting style is a standard used by many disciplines within the social sciences for writing and citing sources. Over time, the APA formatting guidelines have evolved to address new academic demands and technology changes. The transition from the 6th edition to the 7th edition brought several significant updates. Understanding these updates is essential for researchers, students, and professionals to ensure proper compliance. This article explores the key differences between APA 6 and APA 7, focusing on various aspects such as in-text citations, reference lists, paper formatting, and more.

In-Text Citations and References

Author Names

One of the noticeable changes from APA 6 to APA 7 is how author names are handled in citations. In APA 6, when a source has up to seven authors, all names must be listed in the reference entry. For sources with eight or more authors, the first six names are listed, followed by three ellipses, and then the last author’s name. APA 7 simplifies this approach by listing up to 20 authors in the reference list. If a source has more than 20 authors, the first 19 authors are listed, followed by an ellipsis, and then the last author’s name.

Multiple Authors in the Reference List

In APA 6, in-text citations for a work with three to five authors include all authors’ names the first time the citation is used. Subsequent citations use just the first author’s surname followed by “et al.” APA 7 simplifies this by using “et al.” for any citation of a work with three or more authors from the first use. This reflects a shift toward conciseness and ease of reading in academic writing.

Publisher Information

APA 6 required that the location of the publisher (city and state) be included for all book references. APA 7 eliminates this requirement, only necessitating the publisher’s name. This change acknowledges the increasing prevalence of digital and international publishing, reducing redundancy in citations.

DOI and URL Formatting

The formatting of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and URLs also saw changes. In APA 6, DOIs and URLs could begin with “doi:” or “http://”, depending on publisher guidelines. APA 7 standardizes this format by using the URL format, preferring “https://” for all DOIs and URLs. This change ensures consistency and accessibility, aligning with modern digital practices.

Website Name

When citing a web page, APA 6 did not always require the inclusion of the website name if the author was the same as the website’s name. APA 7 now requires the website name in the reference entry, even if it matches the author, facilitating clearer distinction between similar online resources.

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Paper Formatting

Running Head

In APA 6, a running head was required on every page, including both the title page and subsequent pages. The phrase “Running head” precedes the shortened title on the title page. In APA 7, the format is simplified: the running head is only required for manuscripts being submitted for publication, and the phrase “Running head” is omitted. For student papers, the running head is generally not required.

Fonts

The 6th edition of the APA guidelines was relatively restrictive regarding font choices, primarily recommending the use of 12-point Times New Roman. APA 7 provides more flexibility in font selection, allowing options such as 11-point Calibri, 11-point Arial, and 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode, among others. This change acknowledges the readability and accessibility requirements of digital texts.

Title Page

The format of the title page has also evolved. APA 6 mandates a title page containing the title, author’s name, and institutional affiliation, followed by the running head and page number. APA 7 revises this, especially for student papers, which now include the title, author’s name, institutional affiliation, course number and name, instructor name, and assignment due date, without the need for a running head. This added information provides clearer context for the paper’s academic setting.

Heading Levels

APA 6 has five levels of headings for displaying the hierarchy of sections. This structure remains in APA 7; however, the formatting guidelines for these levels have been refined to enhance clarity. For example, the font size, style (bold or italic), and indentation are more explicitly defined in APA 7, ensuring consistency and readability across various types of documents.

APA 6 vs. APA 7: Comparison Chart

This section provides a quick reference comparison between APA 6 and APA 7:

  • In-Text Citations: APA 6 uses “et al.” after first citation for works with 3-5 authors; APA 7 uses “et al.” from the first citation for works with 3 or more authors.
  • Reference List: APA 6 lists up to 7 authors; APA 7 lists up to 20 authors.
  • Publisher Information: APA 6 requires location; APA 7 does not.
  • DOI/URL Formatting: APA 6 allows “doi:” or “http://”; APA 7 standardizes to “https://”.
  • Website Name: APA 6 sometimes omits; APA 7 always includes.
  • Running Head: APA 6 requires on all pages; APA 7 only for publication manuscripts.
  • Fonts: APA 6 primarily Times New Roman; APA 7 allows several fonts.
  • Title Page: APA 6 basic info; APA 7 includes additional course-related details.
  • Heading Levels: APA 6 has five levels with specific formatting; APA 7 refines and clarifies this.

Changes in the Number of Author Names Listed

One of the notable differences between **APA 6** and **APA 7** revolves around how author names are listed in both in-text citations and reference lists. In APA 6, when citing a source with more than seven authors, you list the first six authors, followed by an ellipsis (…), and then the last author’s name. This format could sometimes lead to long citations that might even reduce the readability of references.

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**APA 6 Example Reference:**
Smith, J.A., Brown, L.B., Johnson, K., Kent, T., Miller, S., Harris, L., … Davis, M. (2010). Study on learning. Educational Research Journal, 45(3), 234-256.

In APA 7, the guidelines have been simplified to enhance clarity and consistency. Now, for a source with up to 20 authors, you must list all author names in the reference list. When citing a source with more than 20 authors, include the first 19 names followed by an ellipsis (…) and then the final author’s name, eliminating the often confusing switch from six authors to the last.

**APA 7 Example Reference:**
Smith, J.A., Brown, L.B., Johnson, K., Kent, T., Miller, S., Harris, L., Hughes, F., Clark, B.T., Williams, N.O., Wilson, R.K., Garcia, J.M., Turner, C., Lewis, H., Moore, L., Murphy, P., Martin, Q., Taylor, A., Martinez, R.E., … Davis, M. (2010). Study on learning. Educational Research Journal, 45(3), 234-256.

In-text citations have also been streamlined in APA 7. For works with three or more authors, you only need to cite the first author followed by “et al.” in every instance, unlike APA 6, where the first citation included all authors up to five, with subsequent citations using “et al.”

**APA 6 Example In-Text Citation (first citation):**
(Smith, Brown, Johnson, Kent, & Wilson, 2010)

**APA 7 Example In-Text Citation:**
(Smith et al., 2010)

These changes reflect APA’s aim to simplify the citation process and ensure that references are both comprehensive and easy to read, improving the overall flow of scholarly writing.

Formatting of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and URLs

A significant alteration between **APA 6** and **APA 7** is the presentation and formatting of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and URLs. This change affects how sources with online components are documented, contributing to modernizing these reference elements.

In APA 6, the DOI is presented starting with “doi:” followed by the numeric string, and URLs are preceded by “Retrieved from.” This format, while functional, often led to inconsistencies, especially when links were subject to change or removal.

**APA 6 Example:**
Brown, L. (2012). The study of urban wildlife. Journal of Urban Ecology, 45(2), 123-145. doi:10.1016/j.jue.2012.03.005

For URLs:
Smith, J. (2011). Climate change adaptations. Environmental Studies, 38(9). Retrieved from https://www.environmentstudiesjournal.org/adaptations

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In APA 7, the handling of DOIs and URLs has been updated to better align with current digital practices. DOIs are now presented as URLs. Entire DOI links beginning with “https://doi.org/” are used, providing a more straightforward method for readers to access digital content. The “Retrieved from” notation has been discarded, streamlining the appearance of the reference entry.

**APA 7 Example:**
Brown, L. (2012). The study of urban wildlife. Journal of Urban Ecology, 45(2), 123-145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jue.2012.03.005

For URLs:
Smith, J. (2011). Climate change adaptations. Environmental Studies, 38(9). https://www.environmentstudiesjournal.org/adaptations

Additionally, APA 7 removed the requirement to include “Retrieved from” and the retrieval date for less dynamic content, a change that makes references shorter and less cumbersome for evergreen content—articles and studies unlikely to be updated regular intervals.

These revisions reflect APA’s commitment to making references more user-friendly and adaptable to the rapidly-evolving digital landscape. By ensuring that readers have a clear and direct route to the sources, APA 7 enhances the accessibility and functionality of academic writing in the digital age.

FAQS

1. What is one major change from APA 6 to APA 7 regarding the use of “they” as a singular pronoun?
Answer: APA 7 allows the use of “they” as a singular pronoun to be more inclusive of all gender identities, whereas APA 6 did not explicitly sanction this usage.

2. How have the guidelines for citing online materials changed from APA 6 to APA 7?
Answer: APA 7 requires the inclusion of a DOI or URL in references, while APA 6 allowed the omission of this information if it was not easily accessible or if the source was considered stable.

3. Are there any changes in the format of in-text citations between APA 6 and APA 7?
Answer: Yes, in APA 7, in-text citations for works with three or more authors are shortened to the first author’s name followed by “et al.” from the first citation, whereas APA 6 required listing all authors the first time and then using “et al.” for subsequent citations.

4. What modification has APA 7 introduced regarding the number of authors listed before using an ellipsis in reference lists compared to APA 6?
Answer: APA 7 lists up to 20 authors before using an ellipsis, while APA 6 listed up to 7 authors before doing the same.

5. How has the format for professional titles in reference lists changed from APA 6 to APA 7?
Answer: APA 7 no longer includes the publisher location in the reference list, simplifying the format compared to APA 6, which required the city and state (or city and country) of the publisher.

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