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*Homeland Security | Program Guide: Writing/Citing

A guide to online homeland security research for APUS faculty and students.

Writing & Citing FAQs

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APUS APA Style Guide

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Thesis Structure vs Thesis Format


Written recipe and decorated cake

How a thesis is structured is not the same thing as how it is formatted.



STRUCTURE refers to the intellectual arrangement of the thesis. A useful analogy is a cookbook cake recipe.  Typically, a cake recipe is structured in the same way.

Cake Recipe Model

  • Oven Temperature
  • List of Ingredients
  • Assembly/Cooking Instructions
  • [Chef's Notes - Optional]

A thesis follows a standardized academic structure.

Thesis Model

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methods
  • Findings/Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References

The End of Program Assessment Manual for Graduate Studies outlines the structure requirements for the thesis/capstone paper.



FORMAT refers to the visual presentation/layout of the thesis, such as margins, line spacing, etc.

Using the cake analogy again. You can use a single recipe to make the same cake, but you can decorate it differently. That is, you can use different styles of decoration.

birthday cakebirthday cakebirthday cakebirthday cake


Academic papers have a required format, or editorial style. The "decoration" or format instructions are found in style guides.

academic style guide icons


The purpose of a style guide is to provide uniformity in writing and documentation/ citation styles and in formatting a document. Following a standard guide ensures that your paper is professional-looking and readable. Journal publishers typically require authors to follow a specific style guide, so it is a useful skill to know how to use one!

Links to all of the different style guides used in APUS courses on the library's Writing Help Guide:  http://apus.libguides.com/writing/citation

For additional information on using style guides successfully, see the Using Style Guides page on this guide.

Distinguishing between Scholarly & Popular Periodicals

Learn to distinguish between scholarly and popular articles in this video by Vanderbilt's Peabody Library.

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