Language and Linguistics

APA standards for referencing with organization of headings

The APA standards are a standardized format that is used as a reference for the preparation and formal presentation of written works . Responsible for creating this guide is the  American Psychological Association and from there comes the source of acronyms with which recognized these rules dating from 1929. Formally, these standards are published under the name Publication Manual of the APA ‘s which has undergone several changes. It is worth saying that your updates are published with the name of the year in which they are offered to readers; as is the example of the year 2012 and its nickname APA Style Guide to Electronic References. 

The APA standards can be consulted physically or digitally. In the latter case, from the official website of the association in the English version, although it can also be found in Spanish. On other academic-themed websites, you can also find the digital version of the manual available in different languages. In this article, we will talk about the usefulness of these standards, their importance, characteristics as well as what have been the reforms that were carried out in the APA Standards of the year 2019

What are the APA standards for? 

The usefulness of the APA standards is that they allow greater order, and therefore uniformity in aspects related to the presentation and writing of a written work. These standards are especially applied in social science work both in schools and in university institutes. This guide organizes and standardizes various formal aspects, such as the correct way to make citations , which helps to avoid problems related to content plagiarism, and thus determine the real authorship, especially in the case of bibliographic references consulted during the investigation.

Since its inception almost 90 years ago , these regulations were intended to help people have a better understanding of reading written works related to the social sciences. In this way, it is possible to express and order ideas with more precision.

Over the decades, this guide began to be used more frequently around the world , becoming a reference for both educational institutions and authors. They serve not only to make texts such as articles, books or academic works; but its use has also been extended to the publication of documents for the Internet, as is the case with most of the educational content web portals such as Wikipedia. 

In the case of the physical version and in Spanish, the APA regulation directed by the El Manual Moderno publishing house , although for each language into which it has been translated there are different publishing houses in charge. In general, it happens that these norms are directed to help a wide audience from students and teachers, but also writers, editors and professionals related to pedagogy, linguistics, psychology, history, sociology, philosophy and other branches of the social sciences. In the academic framework, it cannot be denied that such standards apply both to papers such as monographs and scientific articles, research papers, graduate thesis or doctoral thesis.

What are the news and updates of the APA 2019 standards? 

As explained previously, the APA standards undergo a series of changes; with which an update of these standards is published from time to time. The latest version of this year 2019 is number six and is already available in most of the languages ​​in which it is usually used, including Spanish. It is available on the official page of the APA standards on the web, but also in physical format.

This new version brings with it some new features, but also some changes in some rules that until now had been applied normally. Usually, it serves as a guide to be able to cite information consulted in books, articles, documents and even the Internet in a wide bibliographic record and of publications of different kinds. Next, in the paragraphs of this post it is mentioned what are the differences that the APA regulations of 2019 bring with respect to the previous versions. 

Although it is possible that each educational institution or each publisher has a less flexible position in relation to the use of these standards, in general they are widely accepted and are used in compliance with the specifications described there. In some cases, it is also possible that some of these standards may not be excluded solely on the basis of the guidelines for making citations or references. 

Writing with clarity and precision

It is important to clarify that the APA standards do not strictly regulate how the content of a written work should be written. That is, this guide helps to try to establish communication where the order and presentation of ideas, as well as concepts.

The intention is that the use of fonts is as efficient as possible . For this reason, it can be read in the currently published standards that authors, as far as possible, should try to avoid falling into the use of ambiguous expressions, redundancies and other types of generalities that are usually used in writing; since incurring in this error finally entails difficulty to understand the information described there.

Regarding the length of a text, it is always recommended that it be brief as much as possible. But if you need to extend a little more than usual or text, it must have reasons for it, since it is necessary to include information or ideas that are relevant . The most appropriate thing is to try to summarize as much as possible, since in general very long texts do not manage to capture the reader’s attention but cause the opposite effect. That is, there is an assessment of the synthesis, so as not to exhaust the reader and invite him to read.

Format for the presentation of works

In this new version, the use of letter-size sheets , or also known as A4-format sheets, whose measurements are 21cm x 27cm, is still maintained as a point of reference for the presentation of written works . From this reference, it happens that the margins both top, bottom and both sides are now all the same with 2.54 cm , compared to the norm established previously. For example, the left margin was doubled as space had to be left for binding. That is to say, the presentation format is requested taking into account that most of the documents are for the Internet, not to be presented in bound form.

As for the size of the letter, it is still number 12 and the recommended type is Times New Roman . In addition, the line spacing is double, except where there are the verbatim citations that have a total of more than 40 words. The indentation of 5 spaces and applies to most paragraphs, except for references located at the end. The alignment of the text is done to the left.

As for the cover of a work , it must include the title; as well as identifying who is the author or authors of the same. Also, the date, name of the institution, subject and career are included. That is, the data of the research or text, as well as the educational venue where it is presented.

Organization in headings 

The organization of the headings does not necessarily have to include numbers, as well as the use of capital letters is not used.

  • The first of the headings must be centered, and also in bold.
  • The second heading must be aligned to the left and the use of bold is also used, in both cases the use of both lowercase and uppercase letters is combined.
  • The third heading must be indented, bold letters with the placement of a final period.
  •  For its part, the fourth heading maintains the same characteristics.
  • In the fifth heading, the only difference it has is the use of italic letters.

We thus see how the hierarchy between the headings is important, and must be expressed in the visual communication of the format.


In relation to serialization, this differs between sequential or chronological , for which in each case two specific orders are used, be it sequential and chronological. Although the use is indistinct, it happens that it is recommended that they maintain the same syntactic order in each sentence, as well as an alignment that is parallel.

Tables and Figures

The rules that apply to tables and figures refer to the fact that titles should be brief but at the same time be as clear as possible. In order to differentiate each one of the categories, lines must be used and they are listed with the use of Arabic numbers .

The letter for the titles, depending on the content, must be of an average size between 9 to 10 points , the description is also included. The use of bold is used in some cases to describe the graphics. That is, each graphic must be correctly identified for the reader to fully understand it.


A quote is basically an idea or expression which is taken from a consulted source . This is used in the work that is being done in order to provide a foundation or to reinforce the idea that you are trying to create in the new document. According to the APA standards, there are a series of rules that are applied to be able to cite correctly according to the category to which the type of appointment we are trying to include belongs.

In the case of verbatim citations , these are recognized as those that take the original idea practically in its entirety without making any changes. To be included, it must begin and end with quotation marks and in italics; as long as it does not exceed 40 words . But if, on the other hand, if it exceeds this amount, then it is allowed not to use the quotation marks but it departs from the rest of the text.

The quotes are paraphrased are recognized because they do not take literally what the original text said, but an interpretation of the same with other words. The idea is taken in its own words and to make these appointments the last name and the year must be entered, these data are placed in parentheses.

As for the references , these must be done respecting an alphabetical order, taking as a reference the surnames . The line spacing used is 1.5, French indentation (F4 or F7) from the second line. If you are creating a list of references of several publications that belong to the same author, then they are ordered chronologically, placing the oldest first and placing the most recent last.

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