New APA 7th Edition: Here’s What You Need to Know

When the very first edition of the APA Publication Manual came out in 1952, academic writers would typically cite printed books, journal articles, and conference papers. But now, writers might want to cite those as well as Reddit posts, Skype interviews, interactive e-books, or any of hundreds of other types of materials. A modern referencing system needs to be able to accommodate information sources that were unheard of even just a few years ago.

Not only that, but our standards for inclusivity have changed too. Academics have come to use (and expect) more sensitive language around gender identity, socio-economic status, age, race, sexuality, and other characteristics that might apply to research scholars and/or participants.

To accommodate the technological and social changes that have occurred since its 6th edition in 2009, APA has recently released its 7th edition. This updated manual contains new and revised guidelines about how to cite certain types of sources.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the major changes:

  • Publisher locations are no longer required
  • DOIs are now formatted as URLs; they don’t need the ‘doi:’ label
  • URLs are no longer preceded by ‘Retrieved from’ in most instances
  • URLs (including DOIs) should be live links
  • In-text citations for works with 3 or more authors can now be shortened using ‘et al.’ from the very first appearance
  • …and many more

There is also a new chapter in the 7th edition addressing standards for inclusive and bias-free language. For example, gender neutral pronouns ‘they’ and ‘their’ are now endorsed (over, for instance, ‘he/she’). Mentions of age ranges are now to be more specific as well. Additionally, the new edition specifies that groups of people should be referred to using descriptive phrases rather than ‘labelling’ words (e.g. ‘the poor’ becomes ‘those living in poverty’).

If you are using APA referencing in your thesis, you may need or want to update your citations to fit the guidelines in the 7th edition. However, this depends on your individual circumstances. At AUT, each faculty is making its own decision about when to require the use of APA 7th – and for research students, this may be decided on a case-by-case basis. In general, research students who are part-way through a thesis would be expected to continue using whatever referencing system they have started with, unless they are directed otherwise. However, you may wish to have a talk with your supervisor about whether it is appropriate for you to stick with APA 6th or switch to 7th.

If you do switch to APA 7th, you’ll need to read up on the new referencing guidelines. AUT’s Library holds copies of the full 7th edition manual on every campus, and they have published an APA 7th Referencing Style Guide. (They will also continue to hold copies of the 6th edition manual for those continuing to work with APA 6th.)

Making the switch can be a big job, but you may be able to automate much of the process using your citation management software. However, ALWAYS save a backup of your thesis and citation library before attempting a conversion. You also need to manually check your citations after using software to update them, as there may be some blips in an automatic conversion. Here is some more info about APA 7th from the major citation software publishers:

If you have any questions about making the switch from APA 6th to 7th, you can talk to your supervisor or your Liaison Librarian.

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink and leads the Researcher Education and Development team at Auckland University of Technology. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. These days she works with researchers at all levels to improve their research skills, and the most obscure of her own research skills is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

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