Basic difference between APA style 5th and 6th editions

Referencing is one of the most crucial aspects of research paper writing. It is the process of acknowledging the original source of ideas and works that are not the author’s own. References are used to direct readers to the original documents cited in a work. Readers could decide to look for such materials for further studies or even to ascertain independently whether the attributed sources support the author’s argument as written. Referencing is one feature of every academic writing that researchers and scholars need to understand pretty well.

There are generally two key elements in referencing and they are; (1). An in-text reference that shows the reader that a particular concept, phrase or idea used within a work is from someone else’s work, and; (2). A complete reference list which provides the full citation details for all sources cited in a research paper or academic writing. The reference style refers to the format or manner in which you are required to present the in-text citation and the reference list.

There are several referencing styles which are used in writing research papers among which are Modern Language Style (MLA), Chicago style, Oxford style, and Harvard style. One of the most popular of these referencing styles is the APA style. This is the referencing style provided by American Psychological Association (APA). It is widely accepted in the social sciences and other fields, such as education, business, and nursing. The APA citation format requires parenthetical citations within the text rather than endnotes or footnotes. In the APA referencing format, citations within the text provide brief information, usually the name of the author and the date of publication, to refer readers to a specific place at the end of the paper where they can find a list of sources of the works quoted or mentioned in the paper.

The APA style has seven editions but the 5th and 6th editions, which are the focus of this article, are still very popular in various institutions of learning and research groups across the world. The 5th edition of APA referencing style appeared in 2001, and the 6th edition in 2009. Though most APA-style publications rely on the 6th edition even as some are moving over to the 7th edition, the 5th edition still has its adherents, particularly with respect to documentation style. Let’s take a quick look at the major differences between the 5th and 6th editions of APA style. We may occasionally mention the departure between the 7th edition (which was released in 2019) and these two editions but our main focus is to point out the difference between the 5th and 6th editions of APA referencing style.

 

READ ALSO: Difference between URL and DOI in research paper writing

 

The basic difference between APA 5th and 6th editions 

There are several important differences between these two editions of APA referencing style but the most basic ones are observed in the area of citations and reference lists, especially regarding presentation of retrieval date, place of publication, multiple authors, database names and DOI.

Retrieval Date

In APA 5th edition, a date of retrieval is required before a URL in a reference. In APA 6th edition, the date of retrieval is no longer required unless the source is likely to change often, especially if you use DOI instead of URL (click her to read more about DOI and URL). APA 6th edition places emphasis on the use of DOIs rather than URLs as the best way to identify an online source.

However, the 7th edition has changed this format. The DOI is formatted the same as URL. The label “DOI” is no longer required. Here’s how it’s done now according to the 7th edition;

WRONG (former editions):

doi:10.1080/08824096.2018.1525347

doi: 10.1556/2006.6.2017.060

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

https://doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2018.1525347

https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.6.2017.060

 

Place of publication

In the APA 5th edition, state or country of where a book was published is not required in the reference list especially if the city is famous for publishing (e.g., New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco). But in the APA 6th edition, if the city is outside of the United States, a country is always required in the reference; if the city is in the United States, then a two-letter state code is always required. For locations in the United States, the APA 6th edition requires that you give city and state, using standard postal abbreviations for states, except when the publisher is a university or university press whose name includes the name of the state or province (e.g., Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Where the university press name does not include the name of the state, the standard postal abbreviation is used together with country of publication like this: “New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press”.

However, in the 7th edition, the location or place of publication is no longer required. Here’s what the new style in the 7th edition looks like:

WRONG (former editions):

Owuamalam, E. O. (2012). Data analysis research project writing: A practical approach. Owerri: Top Class Agencies Ltd.

Wimmer, R. D. & Dominick J. R. (2003). Mass media research: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

Owuamalam, E. O. (2012). Data analysis research project writing: A practical approach. Top Class Agencies Ltd.

Wimmer, R. D. & Dominick, J. R. (2003). Mass media research: An introduction. Wadsworth.

 

Multiple authors

In the APA 5th edition, “et al.” is used after the sixth author’s name when there are seven or more authors involved in a work; whereas in the APA 6th edition, what is inserted is a modified ellipsis “. . .” between the sixth author and the last author, removing all names in between.

However, in the 7th edition which is the newest edition, up to 20 authors’ names can be provided in the reference list at the end of the work. You don’t use “et al.” or ellipses after six or seven names. You list up to 20 names of authors. Also, in the in-text referencing with three or more authors, you can now shorten the names with “et al.” right from the first citation, unlike in the other editions where you list out all the authors at the first instance before shortening them in subsequent citations. In the 7th edition if the names are  three or more you only include the first author’s name and “et al.”. Here’s how it’s done in the 7th edition;

WRONG (former editions):

(Vaughn, Jacquez, & Baker, 2009)

(Flayelle, Canale, Vögele, Karila, Maurage, & Billieux, 2019)

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

(Vaughn, 2009)

(Flayelle et al. 2019)

 

Citing Online Sources/Use of database name

In the APA 5th edition database names are included when citing journals from online source, that is, where the database name is available. APA 5th edition, like previous editions, requires a retrieval date and a URL in any reference to a source accessed online. For references to online journals, the name of the database where you accessed the journal (e.g., PsycInfo, JSTOR, Project MUSE) is required. But in the APA 6th edition there are several changes to how online sources are cited in the References. In the APA 6th edition, database names are not included; the homepage URL of the journal is used instead. If a DOI is available, it is used instead of the URL.

Among the changes introduced in the 6th edition are as follows:

1. Wherever possible, a DOI link rather than a URL should be provided, as a DOI link provides continuity of access even if the URL changes;

2. A retrieval date is not required unless you are citing a source that is likely to be changed or updated frequently. The DOI link locates an article that is unlikely to change that is why it is preferred in the 6th edition of APA reference style.

3. In the 6th edition of APA referencing style, the database name is no longer required when citing an online journal. If no DOI is available for the article you are citing, provide the journal’s home URL instead.

 

Meanwhile the 7th edition has changed this pattern. The DOI is formatted the same as URL. The label “DOI” is no longer required. Here’s how it’s done now according to the 7th edition;

WRONG (former editions):

doi:10.1080/08824096.2018.1525347

doi: 10.1556/2006.6.2017.060

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

https://doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2018.1525347

https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.6.2017.060

 

NB: A database is an organized collection of data, generally stored and accessed electronically from a computer system. The database name is the name of the database. Some examples are SQL Server, Oracle Database, Sybase, Informix, and MySQL. They are basically containers for data, just as a public library which stores books could also be referred to as a database of books. They are primarily computer structures that save, organize, protect, and deliver data.

 

Use of DOI

Full meaning of DOI is Digital Object Identifier. APA 6th edition puts more emphasis on the inclusion of DOIs in references as the best way to identify an online source. The 7th edition also requires DOI but it is formatted differently. In fact, it is now formatted same as URL as is shown in the examples above. For emphasis sake, let’s repeat the examples here;

WRONG (former editions):

doi:10.1080/08824096.2018.1525347

doi: 10.1556/2006.6.2017.060

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

https://doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2018.1525347

https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.6.2017.060

 

Other changes in APA 7th edition

 

Use of “Retrieved from”

When citing online sources, “Retrieved from” is no longer required before URLs. except a retrieval date is needed. The website name is included (unless it’s the same as the author), and web page titles are italicized. Here are examples;

WRONG (former editions):

Pittman, M., & Sheehan, K. (2015, October). Sprinting a media marathon: Uses and gratifications of binge-watching television through Netflix. Retrieved from https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/6138.

Walker, A. (2019, November 14). Germany avoids recession but growth remains weak. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-50419127

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

Pittman, M., & Sheehan, K. (2015, October). Sprinting a media marathon: Uses and gratifications of binge-watching television through Netflix. First Monday. https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/6138.

Walker, A. (2019, November 14). Germany avoids recession but growth remains weak. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-50419127

 

E-books

For ebooks, the format, platform, or device (e.g. Kindle) is no longer included in the reference, and the publisher is included. Here are examples;

WRONG (former editions):

Brück, M. (2009). Women in early British and Irish astronomy: Stars and satellites [Kindle version]. https:/doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2473-2

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

Brück, M. (2009). Women in early British and Irish astronomy: Stars and satellites. Springer Nature. https:/doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2473-2

Use of gender neutral pronoun

The APA has endorsed the use of singular “they” or “their” as a gender-neutral pronoun. This endorsement is now contained in the 7th edition which is the newest edition of the APA referencing style. Instead of using “he or she” while referring to an author you now use “they”. Here are examples;

WRONG (former editions):

A researcher’s career depends on how often he or she is cited.

Or

A journalist should know how he or she should remain safe while investigating stories.

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

A researcher’s career depends on how often they are cited.

A journalist should know how they should remain safe while investigating stories.

 

Use of descriptive phrases

The APA 7th edition introduced changes in use of adjectives. Instead of using adjectives as nouns to label groups of people, descriptive phrases are now recommended. Here are examples;

WRONG (former editions):

The poor

The governed

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

People living in poverty

People who are governed

 

Use of age range

Instead of broad categories, you should use exact age ranges that are more relevant and specific. Here is an example;

WRONG (former editions):

People over 65 years old

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

People in the age range of 65 to 75 years old

Use of first person personal pronoun

The APA 7th edition recommends using first person pronoun (“I”) when referring to your own actions and reflections. The primary reason for this is that writing in the third person can create ambiguity in your writing.

WRONG (former editions):

The author decided to study students in rural areas.

or

After considering the enormity of the field work, the research employed assistants to help in distribution of questionnaire copies.

 

RIGHT (7th edition):

I decided to study students in rural areas.

After considering the enormity of the field work, I employed assistants to help in distribution of questionnaire copies.

 

Finally!

The APA style is one of the most popular and widely accepted referencing styles across so many disciplines. It now has seven editions. The latest edition (7th) has interesting changes. We have only provided the most basic of these changes regarding the area of referencing. However, you still need to find out the edition being used by your institution, department, or the journal you are submitting an article to and stick to that edition. Not all institutions have switched to the most current edition. Some still prefer even the 4th edition and are still using it. Some others are not even using APA style at all. So the advice is that you should stick to the edition whoever you are submitting the academic writing or research paper to requires as a yardstick for submission of the papers.

 

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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