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The Educator’s Guide to APA Referencing: Understanding the 7th Edition Updates

As education professionals, staying current with the latest changes in academic citation styles is essential. This article delves into the updates in the 7th edition of the American Psychological Association (APA) referencing style, released in October 2019. This guide provides an overview of the changes. It highlights vital aspects that educators must be aware of for accurate citations and to help students comply with the latest style guidelines.

Background of the APA 7th Edition

The 7th edition of the American Psychological Association Publication Manual is the latest revision of the widely used referencing system. It reflects the changes in technology, research practices, and ethical standards that have emerged since the release of the 6th edition in 2009. The updates were made to simplify the referencing process, promote inclusivity, and provide more straightforward guidance for citing a more comprehensive range of digital sources.

Overview of Key Updates

The APA 7th edition contains several changes and improvements to streamline the referencing process. These updates can be categorized into the following areas:

  1. Changes to paper formatting guidelines;
  2. Citation format changes;
  3. Inclusive and unbiased language rules;
  4. New guidelines for digital sources;
  5. Additional updates for specific citation types.

Changes to Paper Formatting Guidelines

The 7th edition introduced a few changes to the general format of research papers, including:

  • A clearer distinction between student papers and professional papers;
  • The running head is now only required for professional papers;
  • The font choices for papers have expanded, now including Calibri 11, Arial 11, Lucida Sans Unicode 10, Times New Roman 12, or Georgia 11;
  • The recommended format for headings and subheadings has been simplified;
  • The use of boldface type for all section labels, e.g., “Method,” “Results,” “Discussion.”

Citation Format Changes

The 7th edition aimed to simplify citations, and some examples of these changes include:

  • Up to 20 authors should be included in the reference list for sources that have more than 21 authors;
  • The use of “et al.” is now recommended for student papers after the first citation of a source with three or more authors. However, professional papers should list up to 20 authors for each in-text citation;
  • The removal of the “retrieved from” phrase for online sources that are not continuously updated, such as online articles or archived web pages;
  • The DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is included in all cited materials when available, employing a consistent format: https://doi.org/10.xxxxx.

Inclusive and Unbiased Language Rules

The APA 7th edition stresses the importance of using inclusive and unbiased language. Rules include:

  • Avoiding the use of gendered pronouns and instead opting for gender-neutral alternatives;
  • Using “they” as a singular pronoun to represent a person of unspecified gender;
  • Avoiding racial and ethnic stereotypes and respecting individuals’ preferred terminology for their racial or ethnic identity;
  • Using clear and precise descriptions of individuals and avoiding potentially stigmatizing language and labels.

New Guidelines for Digital Sources

The APA 7th edition acknowledges the increasing reliance on digital sources in research and provides new guidelines for citing them:

  • e-books no longer require the format type or platform information;
  • The inclusion of up to two URLs, the primary landing page and the specific content URL, for online articles and resources accessed via a learning management system (LMS);
  • The requirement to include the site name for social media posts and online forum citations;
  • Clear guidance for citing podcasts, webinars, and various online multimedia content.

Additional Updates for Specific Citation Types

The APA 7th edition has also made several refinements to the citation formats for specific types of sources, such as:

  • Journal articles: The format for journal article citations has changed, especially regarding the volume and issue numbers. Now, it is required to include the DOI for online journal articles;
  • Conference presentation references now include the following elements: the source type (e.g., “Paper presentation,” “Poster presentation”), the conference location (city and state or country), and the conference host;
  • Data sets now require the inclusion of the archive or repository where they are found.


The changes introduced in the 7th edition of the APA referencing system aim to adapt to the evolving world of research and information dissemination. As educators, it is critical to remain up-to-date with these revisions and guide students in implementing them effectively. The 7th edition updates make citations more straightforward, promote inclusivity and unbiased language, and provide better guidance for the citation of digital sources. By understanding and adopting these updates, educators can contribute to the integrity of scholarly communication and foster ethical research practices among students.

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Mark Anthony Llego

Mark Anthony Llego, from the Philippines, has significantly influenced the teaching profession by enabling thousands of teachers nationwide to access essential information and exchange ideas. His contributions have enhanced their instructional and supervisory abilities. Moreover, his articles on teaching have reached international audiences and have been featured on highly regarded educational websites in the United States.

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