How to Put Dissertations in APA Format

A dissertation is the doctorate student's written justification for their research. It includes a research question, an hypothesis, a methodology, a study and the outcome of the research. The dissertation is written as partial qualification for the doctorate degree. It is the most intensive document a scholar may ever write. The format and structure of the document is equally as important as the contents. Writing styles are determined by the institution awarding the degree and may be American Psychological Association, MLA, Chicago Style Manual or a few others. There may be subtle differences in APA style at each institution.

Set up the layout of the document in APA format in an application such as Microsoft Word. Margins should be 1 inch to 1 ½ inches for top and bottom margins, while side margins are 1 1/2 inches because the dissertation needs to be bound. Most institutions prefer there is no running header, which is the same as no title every page.

Center the page numbers at the bottom or on the right at the top or bottom of each page. Begin page numbers on the second page, with no number appearing on the title page. Acceptable fonts are 11 to 14 points, but 12 points is the standard. The preferable font is probably Times New Roman, but Arial, Bookman, Helvetica, New Century Schoolbook and Palatino are also acceptable. Any special characters should be printed from the Symbols selections found in word processors.

Double-space the dissertation throughout except for block quotes of more than 40 words, which are single-spaced. Indentations should be a half-inch, as are block quotations. Single-space references with hanging indentation and double-space them between each reference. Print only on one side of the finished paper. Any naming conventions should be used consistently throughout the paper. For example, if using "25 B.C." do not later use "25 BCE" in writing dates.

Secure copyrights for graphic images that are not your creation; this includes maps. Black-and-white images are preferred to color images by many institutions. Number each table, follow with a title on the same line, and position above the table. Number each figure and follow with a title on the same line. Type the purpose for the figure on the line underneath the title and position below the figure.

Cite all authors whom you quote. Do not use quotation marks on block quotes that have 40 words or more. Blocked quotes are single-spaced as noted earlier, but double-spaced between the text before and after. Insert ellipses to show where words would have been in the quote which were not used. Use single quotes for a third-hand quotation (Author 2). For example, when Author 1 is quoting Author 2, place double quotes around Author 1's quotation and single quotes around Author 2's quotation, which is within Author 1's quotation. Quote websites by using the URL of the page where the quoted text lives, not the home page.

Alphabetize references, and create just one list of references. Format references in hanging indentation with a double space between references. List every single source in the reference list that was directly quoted in the dissertation, but omit those not directly quoted. Refer to the APA Style Manual, 6th Edition, for the specific details on order of alphabetization.

  • Create a template in Microsoft Word using a set of instructions (see Resources).
  • When at cross purposes due to contradictions, always first follow the instruction of your committee chair.
Items you will need
APA Style Manual, 6th Edition
An approved research topic
A completed study
About the Author

Francine Adams has written for the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals and Data Management International since 2006. She earned her Master of Science in Internet technology leadership at La Salle University and is earning her Doctor of Education in instructional technology and distance education at Nova Southeastern University.

Photo Credits
  • graduation day for an international student at an asian universi image by Gina Smith from