The APA 6th Edition Guideline That No One Is Talking About!


Page Numbers for Citations?

So the 6th edition of the APA Manual has been around for a few years now.  I like many things about it, and I’d like to change some things, just like with any other manual. However, APA makes one new recommendation that I love but that no one seems to be using.  Here is a quote from Section 6.04 of the 6th edition:

“When paraphrasing or referring to an idea contained in another work, you are encouraged to provide a page or paragraph number, especially when it would help an interested reader locate the relevant passage in a long or complex text.”

So, Should We Include Page Numbers for Paraphrased Material?

Most professors, writers, editors, and style reviewers will tell you that APA only asks us to include page numbers for direct quotes, not paraphrased material. And most of the examples in the APA Manual don’t show page numbers for material that is cited but not quoted. So it is no surprise that most students, professors, schools, and journals seem to be ignoring the soft but clear recommendation in 6.04. So for now, most people who review your document will probably tell you not to include them. For that reason, it might seem like you shouldn’t bother to record the page numbers.

However, I still think you should do it, and here is why. If you are writing a draft manuscript and include the page numbers, you can always easily delete them by searching for ” p. ” (note the space before and after to facilitate searching). Make sure you save a new copy before doing this so that you have the old copy with the page numbers. This will come in handy in your future research in case you want to quickly locate a relevant passage or section again. And if the guideline changes in APA 7 (from a soft recommendation to a standard guideline), you will already be in the right habit. Finally, some publishers will allow you to include all page numbers, so in those cases, your work will directly benefit the final manuscript and help your readers.

Seem Familiar?

You have probably seen papers that include page numbers at some point, especially if you do interdisciplinary research that involves disciplines that use other editorial styles. APA’s style recommendation in 6.04 is similar to the rule in Chicago style and MLA style (both require page numbers for all citations except when the author is referring to the entire work, which only happens on occasion).

I think including page numbers for all citations is a wonderful guideline. If you want to check an author’s citation, perhaps to see how he or she used the cited idea to build a theoretical model, analytic model, or argument, wouldn’t you prefer to know the page number of the source? Instead of having to sift through 10 or 30 pages of an article or essay (or perhaps hundreds of pages in a book), if you know the page number, you can go directly to the source. Then you can fan out to the surrounding text for more context to better understand the cited idea, but at least you know where to start.

Even though it takes extra time and effort for writers, including a page number for all citations is a more precise system. That preciseness helps readers a great deal when trying to evaluate the strength of the cited sources and whether those sources have been used appropriately in the author’s discussion.

Sure, authors will have to remember to write down the page number when taking notes, but this is a relatively small price to pay for advancing the quality of scholarly writing in the fields governed by APA style.

What Will Happen in APA 7th Edition?

I applaud APA’s recommendation in 6.04, and I hope to see a stronger statement in APA 7 to make this a rule, rather than a relatively soft suggestion.

The quicker that journals and schools begin to support this regulation, the more prepared we will be if a stricter regulation comes in the future. And if we keep accurate and detailed notes then it becomes a snap when adding our citations into the paper.

I almost wonder if APA included the soft recommendation in 6.04 as a gentle way to introduce the idea. In the 7th edition of the APA Manual, I would not be surprised if they make a bolder move to a hard requirement.

What Does This Mean for You Now?

The soft recommendation in APA 6.04 (6th edition) means that it is time to get in the habit. Start to collect page numbers for ideas from sources that you refer to often in your works. If nothing else, it will make you revisit those works, which is always a good idea over time because looking at a work after you have more clarity in the field can sometimes reveal information that you did not notice originally.


Published by

Rocky Citro

Hi, my name is Rocky, and I am a technical academic editor with over a decade experience editing for professors and graduate students in prestigious universities. I have also taught writing at the graduate and undergraduate level and have several years' TEFL teaching experience.