APA Style & Format Editing Tips for
Dissertation & Thesis Students


     If you are in a social science or psychology program, you most certainly will be required to write and submit your dissertation or thesis in the format required by the American Psychological Association, or APA.

What is the APA Format and Style?

     APA format and style is the style of writing used by journals published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The style is documented in the APA Publication Manual, which can be found in almost any college bookstore in the reference section. The APA style and format manual is in its fifth edition, and the APA format described in it is a widely-recognized standard for scientific writing in psychology and education.

     The APA manual is voluminous and detailed, and many students and scholars have difficulty using it. To help those writing their dissertations and theses, we've compiled some of the most common APA style and format rules here. This compilation is no substitute, though, for the detailed line-by-line help you can receive from a dissertation consultant. A consultant will edit your entire work according to APA style and format and give you extra time for other dissertation-related tasks, like preparing for the defense.
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Use of Headings in Your Dissertation or Thesis

     APA format and style dictates that your font size should be at least 12 and your style should be Courier or Times New Roman. Most dissertations will use at least three heading levels. The APA format and style for headings can be confusing to use and is best left to a dissertation consultant.

Avoiding Bias in Your Dissertation or Thesis

     Using APA style and format in your dissertation or thesis requires that you avoid using biased language. This is not as easy as it seems. When writing, avoid using any kind of language that might cause offense to someone. As a general APA style and format rule, do not use ethnic labels, like "Hispanic", when you can use geographical labels, like "Mexican American". Do not use "gay men" and "lesbians" instead of "homosexuals". Unlike punctuation, this format and style can be trickier and more subjective. A consultant, though, will know what kind of bias to look for in your dissertation and can quickly correct your language usage.

Capitalization in Your Dissertation or Thesis

     When writing, many students are unsure how to capitalize according to APA style and format requirements. Use the following capitalization guidelines in your dissertation or thesis:
  1. Capitalize the names of tests (e.g. "The How to Complete a Dissertation Test").
  2. Capitalize major words of four letters or more in headings, titles, and subtitles.
  3. Capitalize the names of departments or courses, e.g. Students were recruited from "The How to Complete a Dissertation Course" at "Dissertation University".
  4. Do not capitalize the names of theories or hypotheses.
If you are unsure what to capitalize, just leave it for your dissertation consultant. Your dissertation consultant will take care of it.

Using Numbers in Your Dissertation

     The use of numbers in your dissertation or thesis should also follow APA style and format. APA style and format rules for numbers are generally as follows: 1.) Spell out common fractions and common expressions; 2) If you start a sentence with a number, spell it out; 3) Spell out numbers below ten (e.g. "eight participants" not "8 participants"); 4) If you refer to numbers above 10, simple write the number (e.g. "A total of 10" vs. "A total of ten"); and 5) Use the percentage sign in tables, but not in text (e.g. "seven percent" vs. "7%"). Request Dissertation & Thesis Editing Help

APA Style Tables, Charts & Figures in Your Dissertation

     If you used any statistics in your paper, you probably also used statistical tables. These tables also should follow APA style and format. Here are some APA style and format table tips:
  1. When numbering your tables, number them consecutively and do not use any letters (e.g. "1a", "1b").
  2. Label your tables with a table number followed by an accurate description of the table contents.
  3. Give each row and column of your table a heading so the reader knows to what it refers.
  4. Use a zero before the decimal point when numbers are less than one (e.g. "0.32" vs. ".32").
     Dissertation tables can be hard to design, but a consultant can easily make your tables for you according to APA style and format requirements.