A Complete Guide To Writing An APA Dissertation

For a truly complete guide to writing an APA dissertation, buy a book recommended by your school or department head. For a condensed version, read on.

APA dissertations contain four main parts:

Title page: centered in the middle of the page, horizontally and vertically, are the title, your name, and the name of the institution. In some circumstances you will also list your degree and the submission date.

Abstract: the abstract should be about 200 words in length and briefly but thoroughly summarize your research, your findings, your conclusion, and your methodology. Abstracts should be no longer than one paragraph and should be on a single page, by itself

Main body: the main paper, with correct in text citations and formatting, double spaced with 1” margins and clear 12-point font

References: title “References” is centered on the page, double spacing continues, all citations completed in the APA citation style with hanging indents


Bos, Carole "Deepwater Horizon: Disaster in the Gulf" ABCStories.com. May 01, 2010. Aug 27, 2016.

Additional Considerations for APA dissertation


APA style formatting has changed, as evidenced by the fact that the current guide book is a 6th edition, but these guidelines have been consistent through all variations:

Double space

1” margins

12-point Times New Roman font

Running title header with title and page number (all caps); numbers flush right, title flush left

Other guidelines

  • Be clear: present information in clear statements; avoid ambiguous and vague phrasing.
  • Be concise: Remove unnecessary words and phrases.
  • Be objective: Avoid flowery, poetic language.

Verb Tense

It is imperative that you maintain consistent verb tense throughout your essay. Use past tense (Walter showed) or present perfect (Walter has shown) for most of your paper: all research findings, literature reviews, and results. Whichever you choose, past or perfect present, stick with it. You can use present tense for conclusions and research implications.


APA dissertations are objective: you did the research and now you are presenting your findings. You should present the information using language or labels that avoid enforcing stereotypes. Identify groups of people by their preferred designation; identify individuals by name or use adjective descriptors rather than identifying them by a condition.

Also, avoid using “he,” “she,” or “he/she” or any other gender identifying pronoun. Use the noun or make all pronouns plural and use “they.”

Local preferences

Many schools, departments, or professors have preferred variations on APA style. Before you begin your final draft of your dissertation, meet with your academic advisor and department advisors. Be sure that you know the expectations and criteria for your specific field.

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