APA Style Citation In A Master's Thesis: How To Organize Your Paper Properly

Writing a masters thesis can be an overwhelming enough process without the added stress of having to make it fit APA style formatting. But understanding what is required by APA from the start, and using the correct paper and citation formats from the beginning will save you a lot of time and headaches at the end.

There are two major formatting components to APA style. The first is the paper layout format, which includes things like a running header, page numbers, and section headings. Some of this, like the header, can be easily added at the end. But having to reformat each header in an 80 page document can be incredibly frustrating.

  • Header: The running header throughout your paper should include two different pieces—the page number and the title. The page number should be along the right margin of the page, and the paper title should be in all caps flush with the left margin of the page. If you have a long paper title it may be necessary to use an abbreviated title.

  • The section headings are different with different levels. It helps to think of section headings in terms of orders. For instance, you’d break your paper into several first order section, then break each first order section into several second order sections, and each second order section into third order sections and so on. Depending on the subject and topic of your thesis, the level to which you break down your paper into sections will vary. The section heading style for the different section orders are as follows:

    • 1st order: centered, boldface, uppercase and lowercase headings
    • 2nd order: left margin, boldface, uppercase and lowercase headings
    • 3rd order: indented from left margin, boldface, lowercase heading with period
    • 4th order: indented from left margin, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with period
    • 5th order: indented from left margin, italicized, lowercase heading with period

The other major component to APA formatting is the source citations. The basic in-text citation is (Author, Year). If there are two authors it is (Author 1 & Author 2, Year). And if there are three authors it is (Author 1 et al., Year). You should use an in text citation anytime you quote directly from a source, take an idea from a source, or use information from a source that isn’t common knowledge or that could be contested.

For a full list of bibliography citations, visit the Purdue OWL website.

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