How to Put Dissertations in APA Format

American Psychological Association format is commonly used in the social and behavioral sciences. The sixth edition, second printing of the APA handbook outlines how to structure your dissertation, format your text and organize your references. It also outlines what information to include in your abstract. APA style advises you to structure your paper so there are individual pages or sections for the title, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion and references.

General Guidelines

According to the sixth edition, second printing of the APA handbook, you should double-space the text and place a 1-inch margin on all sides for each page of your dissertation. The APA recommends using Times New Roman, but you can use any highly readable 12-point font. Include a running head on the top of every page that is a shortened version of your dissertation’s title; it should be written in all caps but not exceed 50 characters. Format your running head so your title is on the flush left side of the header and the page numbers are on the flush right side. Write page numbers in Arabic numerals. When formatting your dissertation, start a new page for your title, abstract, main body and references. The sections within your main body, such as the introduction, method, results and discussion, do not need to start on new pages.

Title Page

Your title page features the running head, but in a slightly different format than the rest of your dissertation. On this page only, include the words "Running head" and a colon before your title. The body of your title page lists your dissertation’s title, your name and your university’s name. To correctly format your dissertation in APA format, type your dissertation’s name in title case. Center this in the upper half of your page. APA format recommends that your title be kept to 12 words in length or fewer, with no abbreviations or extraneous words. Below your title, type your name, including your middle initial. There is no need to include titles or degrees. Beneath your name, type your university’s name.


Your abstract is a critical element of your dissertation. This page includes your research topic, along with a brief summary of your research questions, methods, results and conclusions. To properly format this page, center the word “Abstract” on the first line. Beginning on the next line, type your abstract. The abstract should be a single paragraph, between 150 to 250 words long. Do not indent this paragraph. After this paragraph, list keywords relating to your dissertation to help researchers find your work in databases. To do this in APA format, indent and type the word "Keywords" in italics, followed by a colon, then list your keywords in plain font.

Citations and References

Throughout your dissertation, any time you use someone else’s ideas, text, data or images, you must give them credit. In APA style, you use in-text citations next to the referenced text with the author-date method. The general format for APA in-text citations is author’s last name and the year of publication within parenthesis next to the quoted text. If you are referencing a specific page or paraphrasing an idea, include the page number after the year of publication. Proceeded the page number by "p.".

At the end of your dissertation, you need a list of works cited. Title this page “References” and list all the texts used in your dissertation in alphabetical order, generally by author's last name. All citations that are longer than a single line should use a hanging indentation on all subsequent lines. This means that the lines are indented five spaces.

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