APA Frequently-Asked Questions

All UWF dissertations must be written in APA style, as set forth in the APA publication manual, 5th edition. UWF provides additional guidance in the UWF Thesis and Dissertation Guide. If there appear to be conflicts between the guide and the APA publication manual, the UWF guidance takes precedence.

Question-and-Answer Links

Use the links below to access questions and answers regarding APA:



Other Formatting Questions

APA Writing Style

Internet Sites for APA


Q: How should I reference new technology, such as wikis, blogs, chats, and podcasts? Is it appropriate to use these new forms of publication?

A: The APA manual cautions against citing electronic sources that (a) are not peer reviewed, (b) do not have scholarly content, and (c) are not archived (see p. 277). However, if your dissertation involves technology that is so new that such sources are the only ones available, you could include them as personal communications (see p. 214), which are cited in text but not included in the reference list. If your electronic source (blog, podcast, or vodcast) has been developed by a reputable scholar, contains scholarly content, and is archived so that it will be available for others to reference, you may include it as a reference; however, be prepared to defend its use to your committee. Note that Wikis are not currently accepted because of the lack of control over the content. New provisions for denoting reviewed and authenticated wiki content may lead to the lifting of this ban for content that has been authenticated.

APA FAQ 1: Use the following format for a podcast:

AuthorName, I. (Producer). (2007). Title of podcast. Podcast retrieved September 1, 2007, from http://www.domain.com/podcast.mp3

APA FAQ 2: Use the following format for a vodcast (podcast with video):

AuthorName, I. (Producer/Director). (2007). Title of vodcast. Vodcast retrieved September 1, 2007, from http://www.domain.com/podcast.mp4

APA FAQ 3: Use the following example for an archived blog:

Downes, S. (2008, January 2). Wikipedia death watch? Message posted to http://www.downes.ca/archive/08/01_02_news_OLDaily.htm

Q: In a reference, how do I format a hyphenated first name, for example, Hyang-Jin Jung?

A: Place a hyphen instead of a space before the second initial: Jung, H.-J. (This answer is based on a citation example found on p. 214 of the publication manual.)

Q: A lot of the online journals are using DOI numbers. What are they? Should I include those in my references? If so, how?

A: One of the downsides of using electronic sources is their tendency to move as sites are reorganized or redeveloped. DOIs (digital object identifiers) provide a persistent link to an object, no matter where it is moved on the Internet. Therefore, APA recommends using DOIs, when available, instead of URLs, which can change. According to the APA Style Guide to Electronic References, "When a DOI is available, include the DOI instead of the URL in the reference" (p. 3). Sometimes the DOI is hidden and can be accessed only by clicking on a button labeled Article in an online reference. If you find a DOI, copy it exactly into your reference. Because the DOI is long, it is better to use your computer's copy and paste functionality. Accuracy is critical because when you make the electronic version of your dissertation, you will need to create a link to the article from the DOI.

APA FAQ 4: Following is an example of a reference with a DOI. Note that just as with URLs, there is no period after the DOI.

Jung, I. (2001). Building a theoretical framework of Web-based instruction in the context of distance education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32, 525-534. doi: 10.1111/1467-8535.00222

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Q: How do you cite direct quotes of bulleted lists?

A: If citing the entire bulleted list, first change the bullets to numbers. Insert quotation marks at the beginning of each item in the list, but do not use end quotation marks except for in the last bullet. Enter the citation before the end punctuation just as you would for any other quotation that uses quotation marks. Keep in mind that the following example would be double spaced if it were part of a dissertation:

Following are the competencies listed in the SCANS report (U.S. Department of Labor, SCANS, 1991):

  1. "Resources—allocating time, money/ materials, space, and staff;
  2. "Interpersonal Skills—working on teams, teaching others, serving customers, leading, negotiating, and working well with people from culturally diverse backgrounds;
  3. "Information—acquiring and evaluating data, organizing and maintaining files, interpreting and communicating, and using computers to process information;
  4. "Systems—understanding social, organizational, and technological systems, monitoring and correcting performance, and designing or improving systems; and
  5. "Technology—selecting equipment and tools, applying technology to specific tasks, and maintaining and troubleshooting technologies” (p. iii).

If quoting only some of the bullets for some reason (this is not generally advisable because it can be interpreted as biased "cherry picking" of an author's ideas), then put end quotations and a citation at the end of each bullet.

Q: Which is correct—Heller's and Firestone's (2002) study or Heller and Firestone's (2002) study?

A: Anytime you have a compound possessive, you must consider whether the thing that is possessed (in this case, the study) belongs to one or both. Since Heller and Firestone conducted the study together, cite it as Heller and Firestone's (2002) study. If they had conducted two separate studies, you would cite it as Heller's and Firestone's studies.

Q: How do you quote the Bible?

A: Quoting the Bible is no different from other quotes, except that you cite the book, chapter, and verse instead of providing a page number. In the first citation, you must also include the version that you use. Of course, if you are switching back and forth between versions, you would have to include the version in each citation. Also, according to APA, p. 213, there is no need to have a reference for the Bible.

Example of 1st citation:

Example of subsequent citations:

The Chicago Manual of Style provides the following Web page of commonly accepted Bible abbreviations: http://hbl.gcc.edu/abbreviationsCHICAGO.htm.

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Other Formatting Questions

Q: I am using two word tables, and both are somewhat lengthy. Can I use a 10-pt. font for my tables?

A: Using a 10-pt. font in tables is acceptable.

Q: What is the APA rule for spacing at the end of a sentence?

A: According to APA guidelines there should be only one space after periods and colons. Microsoft Word provides two helpful options for people who are in the habit of typing two spaces. If you have already begun a document, perform a search-and-replace to find two spaces and replace them with one. If you are just beginning a new document, change the options on your grammar check to check for spaces. That way the mistake is highlighted as you make it.

Q: Is there a template that we can use to check margins and spacing?

A: Yes, there is a margin template available on the Web site for the Office of Graduate Studies.

Q: I have one seriated, numbered list that is a direct quote. I treated it as "separate paragraphs" in a series (numbered, but with commas as in the quoted material), even though the list is really a series within a paragraph. Is this correct?

A: Format quoted material as it is in the source--in this case, as a paragraph.

Q: What headings should I use for my dissertation?

A: Use Level 5 headings for your chapter titles and titles of other major dissertation sections. Generally, you will use at least Level 1 and Level 3 headings to help organize the information in all your chapters. If you need another level, use Level 4 headings. Level 2 headings are rarely used; however, they are available in case you need that level of organization.

Q: How should I format the Definition of Terms section in chapter 1?

A: Arrange the terms in alphabetical order and use a separate paragraph for each term. Begin each paragraph with the term formatted as a Level 4 heading (indented, italicized, only the first word capitalized, and ending with a period). Begin the definition on the same line as the heading. Definitions must be complete sentences. Headings used to present terms in the "Definition of Terms" section are the ONLY headings that are not contained in the Table of Contents, and definition paragraphs are the ONLY one-sentence paragraphs allowed in a dissertation.

Q: The UWF Thesis and Dissertation Guide states that there are two options for page numbering. Starting a chapter with a page number at the bottom and then numbering all subsequent pages in the upper right is a formatting nightmare! Is it acceptable to format all page numbers in my dissertation at the bottom of the page?

A: The UWF Office of Graduate Studies has confirmed that both page-numbering styles are acceptable, so it is perfectly acceptable to have page numbers 1" from the bottom throughout your entire dissertation. The Dissertation Template has page numbers at the bottom of the page.

Q: I just got my comments back from a reader, and everywhere I have the word "see" (as in "See Table 1"), the word "see" has been crossed out. Using "see" is correct according to APA. Do I have to make those changes?

A: According to the 2008 version of the UWF Thesis and Dissertation Guide, the word "see" is not used in references to tables, figures, and appendixes. UWF guidance ALWAYS takes precedence over the APA manual, so go ahead and make the changes.

Q: What are the rules for formatting dates in a dissertation?

A: That's a wide-open question because dates are used in different ways. Here are four general guidelines:

Q: When I refer to another chapter in my dissertation, how should I format it? According to APA, "chapter" is not capitalized, but it looks weird to have chapter IV. Should I spell out the number? Do I capitalize the word "Chapter"? Do I use a Roman numeral?

A:You are correct that according to APA, the word "chapter" should not be capitalized. However, APA also specifies that a number should be used instead of a word. Follow this example: Teacher results will be presented in chapter 6.

Q: When I copied my consent form into the appendixes, I noticed that it had a couple of errors in it. Is it okay to just correct them?

A:Do not change any of the materials that you used in your study. Your dissertation is supposed to be an accurate record of what really happened—warts and all. That's why you report limitations. Since you know that there are errors in the form, double space down from the title of the appendix and enter the following: (Reproduced as used). That gives readers a heads-up that there are errors and allows them to consider whether the errors had any effect on your results.

Q: Is this correct? The first research question was, Is there a difference in online course satisfaction between students who meet in person with the instructor and those who do not?

A: No, that statement is not grammatically correct. It should be punctuated as follows:

The first research question was "Is there a difference in online course satisfaction between students who meet in person with the instructor and those who do not?"

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APA Writing Style

Q: What is anthropomorphism?

A: Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman entities. According to the APA Style Manual (American Psychological Association, 2001), it is inappropriate in scholarly writing: "An experiment cannot attempt to demonstrate, control unwanted variables, or interpret findings, nor can tables or figures compare (all of these can, however, show or indicate)" (p. 38). Following is a helpful explanation provided during the discussion: Think of a cartoon in which a building is smiling and dancing around. The cartoonist has given the building the ability to show emotions and take actions that are characteristic of humans. Of course, a building cannot do these things. As writers, you are encouraged to use active voice and action verbs whenever possible, but always examine your verbs after you finish your first draft and ask yourself if the subjects of your sentences can really do the things you've said they can or whether you have created a dancing building.

Q: When should I use that, and when should I use which?

A: According to the APA manual (section 2.10, p. 55), use that to introduce essential clauses. These are clauses that are needed to identify the noun that precedes them. Use which to introduce nonessential clauses, which are clauses that are not needed to identify the noun that precedes them.

Q: What is the correct verb tense to use?

A: Your English teachers through the years probably taught you to use present tense when discussing a written work; so now as you compose your literature review, you are using present tense to discuss all those studies. Right? Wrong. According to APA, you should use past tense (their results showed) or present perfect tense (studies have demonstrated) in the literature review. This rule may seem hard to apply when you are discussing what researchers believe. After all, isn't it entirely possible that a researcher still holds a belief that was expressed in a paper written only a year ago? Yes, but consider this grim thought: maybe that researcher is no longer around. For instance, you wouldn't say "Dewey believes" because you know that Dewey is dead. It is better, actually, to avoid words such as believe and use action verbs that can safely and reasonably be written in past tense: stated, wrote, argued, confirmed, etc.

Another common error that people make regarding verb tense occurs when converting the proposal to the first three chapters of the dissertation. When writing the proposal, you use future tense to describe your study because it has not yet occurred. When you complete your study, you need to change all those verbs to past tense. Your results section is also written in past tense. The only time you use present tense in describing your study is in your presentation of your conclusions. APA provides this rationale: "By reporting conclusions in the present tense, you allow readers to join you in deliberating the matter at hand" (p. 33).

Q: I just got my review comments back and there is something about a dropped quote. What's that? My quotation is cited correctly according to APA.

A: The rule about dropped quotes is not in APA but is generally recognized as appropriate to scholarly writing. It is not sufficient to merely drop a quote into a paragraph, even when it is properly cited at the end. All quotations should have some sort of information in the form of a subject and verb that comes before or after the quote to integrate the quote into the paragraph.

That said, a well-integrated quotation will have the following:

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Internet Sites for APA

APA Research Style Crib Sheet

If you want to mark just one site as a favorite, this is it. It has help on APA editorial style, page formats, citations, abbreviations, and references. There is even a link to an online APA course (no registration required), which has seven lessons, including one on tables and figures and one on numbers and statistics.

The Citation Machine

This site provides an interactive tool to assist you in creating references. Enter the information, and it creates the reference for you. Just be aware that although it is very good, it is not perfect.

The OWL at Purdue

This site provides comprehensive help with writing, including such areas as general academic writing; professional, technical, and scientific writing; research and citation; and grammar and mechanics.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison provides this excellent site, with links to APA guidance regarding citations, references, headings, usage, and style.

APA Style Tips
This is the site maintained by the American Psychological Association. It contains a variety of helpful information, including tips for removing bias and formatting electronic references. Be sure to click on the link for "specific questions" at the end of the top paragraph. It links to a page with a wide variety of information on APA style.

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