APA 5th vs. 6th edition
In late 2009, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a revised style guide: the 6th edition of the publication manual. This edition contains a few minor changes to APA referencing style.
At a glance
- Retrieval date: Online sources do not usually need a retrieval date
- Cities: All cities must be followed by either a two-letter state code (if American) or a country (if not American)
- Many authors: A source with many authors uses “. . .” instead of “et al.” in the reference list
- Database names: These are not included in reference list entries
- DOI: The Digital Object Identifier is the preferred method of identifying online sources
- Minor changes: There are also minor changes and expanded information on the format of theses and dissertations, DVDs, miscellaneous sources, and archival documents.
This short video lecture describes the most important changes to APA referencing style introduced in the new 6th edition.
Which edition should I use?
Because the 6th edition of APA was published very recently, most referencing guides (how-to books and other resources) and course materials (study guides and course notes) still use APA 5th edition.
For the time being, you should only use APA 6th edition in your assignment if your lecturer or course controller has specifically requested it.
APA 5th ed. requires a date of retrieval before a URL:
Ministry for Primary Industries. (2012). Rural communities. Retrieved 26 July, 2012, from http://www.mpi.govt.nz/agriculture/rural-communities
APA 6th ed. does not include the retrieval date unless the source is likely to change often (for example, a Wiki). Instead, “Retrieved from” is used:
Ministry for Primary Industries. (2012). Rural communities. Retrieved from http://www.mpi.govt.nz/agriculture/rural-communities
APA 5th ed. does not require a state or country if the city is famous for publishing (see city for details):
Neftci, S. N. (2009). Principles of financial engineering (2nd ed.). London: Academic.
Lawford, C. K. (2009). Moments of clarity: Voices from the front lines of addiction and recovery. New York: William Morrow.
APA 6th ed. always includes a country (if the city is not American) or a two-letter state code (if the city is American):
Neftci, S. N. (2009). Principles of financial engineering (2nd ed.). London, England: Academic.
Lawford, C. K. (2009). Moments of clarity: Voices from the front lines of addiction and recovery. New York, NY: William Morrow.
In the reference list, APA 5th ed. puts “et al.” after the sixth author when there are 7+ authors (see 2+ authors for details):
Smith, J. D., Khan, V., Zhang, H., Williams, T., Garcia, J., Sato, Y., et al.
APA 6th ed. uses “. . .” instead, replacing all authors between the sixth author and the last author:
Smith, J. D., Khan, V., Zhang, H., Williams, T., Garcia, J., Sato, Y., . . . Laurence, D.
If there are 6 or 7 authors, all of their names are spelled out in the reference list.
The format of in-text citations for multiple authors is unchanged.
APA 5th ed. can include database names when citing journals (see online journal articles for details):
Hsing, Y., Baraya, A., & Budden, M. (2005). Macroeconomic policies and economic growth: The case of Costa Rica. Journal of Applied Business Research, 21(2), 105-112. Retrieved December 3, 2007, from Business Source Premier database.
APA 6th ed. does not include database information; instead, the home page URL of the journal is used:
Hsing, Y., Baraya, A., & Budden, M. (2005). Macroeconomic policies and economic growth: The case of Costa Rica. Journal of Applied Business Research, 21(2), 105-112. Retrieved from http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/JABR/
Note that if a DOI is available it should be used instead of the URL (see below).
If both the journal's URL and the DOI are unavailable, the best course is to treat the source as you would an offline journal.
APA 6th ed. puts increased emphasis on the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) as the best way to identify an online source.
Many online journal entries include a DOI, either with the copyright information or in the online citation. If a DOI is present, it should be used instead of other retrieval information:
Gelkopf, M., Ryan, P., Cotton, S., & Berger, R. (2008). The impact of “training the trainers” for helping tsunami-survivor children on Sri Lankan disaster volunteer workers. International Journal of Stress Management, 15(2), 117-135. doi: 10.1037/1072-5245.15.2.117
The DOI can be looked up via http://www.crossref.org/
APA 5th ed. puts “Unpublished doctoral dissertation” or “Unpublished masters thesis” after the title (see theses and dissertations for details):
Bowker, N. I. (2003). What it means to be online for people with disabilities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
APA 6th ed. puts this text in brackets:
Bowker, N. I. (2003). What it means to be online for people with disabilities (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
The 6th edition manual also gives information on citing theses and dissertations from online, institutional, or commercial databases.
APA 5th ed. describes ways to reference motion pictures, television broadcasts, and other audiovisual material: video and audio material. The type of source is identified in square brackets after the title: “[Motion picture]”, “[Television broadcast]”, etc.
APA 6th ed. includes “[DVD]” as an option, when a video source does not fit into categories such as “[Motion picture]”.
APA 5th ed. identifies certain non-standard source types in square brackets after the title. This is often used for grey literature such as annual reports and brochures.
APA 6th ed. includes many new source types, many relating to online materials:
- [Audio podcast]
- [Video webcast]
- [Lecture notes]
- [Supplemental material]
Archival documents are historical documents such as correspondence, oral histories, unpublished papers, and other primary sources. They are often held by universities or research institutions.
For example, Massey University hosts the Massey University Archive, the Dairy Records Archive, and the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women (North Shore Branch) Archive: Massey University archives.
APA 6th ed. gives detailed advice on referencing archival documents. For details, consult the APA 6th ed. manual.
References and further reading
American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. [Massey Library link]
American Psychological Association. (2005). Concise rules of APA style. Washington, DC: Author. [Massey Library link]
American Psychological Association. (2007). APA style guide to electronic references. Washington, DC: Author. [Massey Library link]
American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. [Massey Library link]
These pages are provided as a guide to proper referencing. Your course, department, school, or institute may prescribe specific conventions, and their recommendations supersede these instructions. If you have questions not covered here, check in the style guide listed above, ask your course coordinator, or ask at Academic Q+A.