Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Dissertation & Doctoral Project Formatting & Clearance: Formatting - 6th Ed. APA Guidelines

After you successfully defend your dissertation or doctoral project, what happens? This is a guide to submitting your dissertation or doctoral project for the formatting check and final copy.

Finding It @ Your Library

General APA Style Guidelines


Verb tense. APA style papers should be written in past or present perfect tense:

Avoid: Mojit and Novian's (2013) experiment shows that...

Allowed: Mojit and Novian's (2013) experiment showed that...

Allowed: Mojit and Novian's (2013) experiment has shown that...

Be concise and clear

  • Avoid vague statements
  • Present information clearly
  • Eliminate unnecessary words

Style matters

  • Write objectively
  • Avoid poetic or flowery language


Be sensitive to labels

  • Avoid identifying groups by a disorder
    Avoid: schizophrenics
    Allowed: people diagnosed with schizophrenia
  • Avoid outdated or inappropriate labels
  • When you must label a group, try to use a term that group prefers

Gender pronouns

  • Gender refers to a social role
  • Sex refers to biological characteristics

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
To earn a higher salary: 50 votes (6.65%)
To gain as much knowledge in my field as possible: 149 votes (19.81%)
To increase my career opportunities: 229 votes (30.45%)
I want people to call me "Dr.": 66 votes (8.78%)
I like a challenge: 37 votes (4.92%)
To contribute to research that will benefit people: 152 votes (20.21%)
To help people: 51 votes (6.78%)
Because my family expected me to: 18 votes (2.39%)
Total Votes: 752

What is the APA 6th Edition Publication Manual?

The 6th edition of Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was created by the American Psychological Assocation (APA), and contains the complete guidelines on how to format material for publication and cite your research.  It is a set of style rules that codifies the components of scientific writing in order to deliver concise and bias free information to the reader. 

This guide provides some of the basics to keep in mind, but it doesn't replace owning or borrowing the actual Publication Manual itself. It should be on your desk by your side throughout your writing process.

Major Paper Sections

Research papers written in APA style include four major sections.  These sections include:

Title page

APA style title pages are centered horizontally and vertically.  It consists of the title of your paper, your name and institution.  For dissertations, it should also include the degree you are submitting the dissertation for, the month and the year.  The title page should be numbered the first page.  A running head should appear in the upper left-hand corner of your paper [Please note that title pages of Alliant dissertations should not include a running head. See the Formatting Manual for more information].  The running head should be typed in UPPERCASE letters and be no more than 50 characters long.  Some programs differ in their requirements for a page number and running head, so check your program's guidelines.


Running Head: HOW TO USE APA



An abstract is a brief (150 to 250 words) but thorough description of your problem, findings and summaries.  If you performed an experiment, your methodology and findings should be described.  Your abstract should be one paragraph with no indentation.


Main body

Running head and pages are still present in the main body of your dissertation.



The running head and page numbers also continue onto your reference section.  Center the word "References" and continue to use double spacing throughout this page.  References must have a hanging indent and follow the APA formatting described throughout this guide.


APA style, 6th edition requires specific heading formatting.

Level of heading



Centered, Boldface, Uppercase
and Lowercase Heading


Flush Left, Boldface, Uppercase and
Lowercase Heading


Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph

heading, ending with a period.


 Indented, boldface, italicized lowercase

paragraph heading, ending with a period.


Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph

heading, ending with a period.

Verb Tense

On pages 65-66 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.), APA (2010) states that you should use verb tenses consistently:

Past tense (e.g. "Smith showed") or present perfect tense (e.g., "researchers have shown") is appropriate for the literature review and the description of the procedure if the discussion is of past events. Stay within the chosen tense. Use past tense (e.g., "anxiety decreased significantly") to describe the results. Use the present tense (e.g., "the results of Experiment 2 indicate") to discuss implications of the results and to present the conclusions.

Confused? Watch this video for clarification.