To communicate research results in a compelling and accessible manner, many students will need to include APA style tables in their theses and Dissertations. (Note that a table is different from a figure. A table presents text and data in cells arranged as rows and columns, while a figure is a less rigidly designed visual aide, such as a photo, flow chart, or other graphic.) APA style guidelines require sleek, minimalist table aesthetics. This resource will guide students in making the most professional APA tables.

Rules for APA Tables

  • Tables must be in simple black and white
  • Font size in table headings must match that of the main thesis or dissertation text, but font size within tables can be different Tables must only use horizontal lines, and must rely on horizontal spaces to demarcate columns.
  • Use the Borders tool in the Word menu ribbon to hide or reveal specific lines in a table:


In APA, table headings must appear above the table. (This is different from figure captions, which appear below the figure.) The word “Table” and the table number should appear on one line, and then a line should be skipped. Below that the actual short title of the table should be provided, in italics. Table titles should be concise and informative, and should be presented in title case, with all words containing more than three letters capitalized. (Regardless of quantity of letters, the first word of the Table title must be capitalized.)

Aesthetic Tips

  • Ensure consistent font size, font type, and table style for all tables in the dissertation
  • Avoid double-spacing inside of tables, especially in column and row titles
  • Use Word’s Layout menu option when working on text inside your tables to ensure that text is positioned in the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing way.
Figure 2. Use these tools in Word to produce balanced row and column dimensions, or to position text within cells in the most aesthetically pleasing manner.

Table Placement in Theses and Dissertations

  • If you are numbering your chapters, the table number should reflect both the chapter number and the in-chapter table number.
  • Tables should appear as close to their first mention in text as possible.
  • Tables should be flush left (not centered), and should comply with the same margin settings as the main thesis or dissertation text.
  • Typically, if a table takes up more than half a page of space, it should be presented in an appendix instead of in the main text. However, different programs and chairs have unique guidelines and preferences, and should be consulted as the ultimate authorities.
  • For tables that are especially wide and that take up an entire page, horizontal page orientation may be more appropriate than vertical:

Use strategic page breaks to ensure that tables are not broken across two pages:

Automatically Updating Lists of Tables

If you have tables or figures in your thesis/dissertation, you will need to include sections in the beginning with separate lists of tables/figures with page numbers. As you add tables and figures to your thesis/dissertation, make sure to right click on them and add an automatic table title or figure caption. You can then insert automatically updating lists of tables and figures in the appropriate place in your thesis/dissertation (see your program handbook) using Word’s References menu. This is similar to the process for inserting a Table of Contents, except you click on the Insert Table of Figures option instead. Updating the lists after you’ve added all your tables/figures works just like updating the Table of Contents.

Note that if you have figures within different chapters, you will want to ensure that their numbering reflects that. The first figure in Chapter Two should be numbered as Figure 2.1, while the third figure in Chapter Four should be Figure 4.3. You don’t have to do this manually, however. If you play around with your Headings Styles and the formatting options available when you add a figure caption, you can instruct word to designate caption numbers by chapters. This can be a bit tricky at first, so you may wish to Google “add chapter numbers to captions in Word” for instructions relevant to your specific version of Word.


Formatting rules for appendices are not rigid in APA, since appendices are typically outside supplementary documents. Students will want to consult their program handbooks to determine if a separate title or cover sheet is required for each appendix. When participant consent forms or other research documents are included, they should be presented in the exact form in which they were presented to research participants, even if they contain typos or grammatical errors. This is one of many ethical components of presenting research.

Some students wish to include complex images or tables in appendices. If doing this using Microsoft Word proves cumbersome, PowerPoint can be used as an alternative. One simply needs to set slide dimensions to 8.5” x 11”, arrange the images on the slide, manually add text if page numbers are required, and then save the slide as a PDF. The PDF can then be merged with the final dissertation PDF using Adobe Pro or free online services like

Here are the necessary tools in PowerPoint:

Written by: Loretta Rafay, MS