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5 posts from June 2010

June 24, 2010

Announcing New Features on the APA Style Blog

We are very proud to announce the debut of several new features to the APA Style Blog. We hope that they will improve the usefulness and user friendliness of the site as well as your enjoyment of it. If you read our posts through a feed aggregator like Google Reader, we hope that you will pay our main site a visit at http://blog.apastyle.org to check it out. The new features include

  • a search box to search blog posts,
  • buttons to subscribe to our RSS feed, Twitter feed, or Facebook page,
  • lists of recent posts and comments,
  • our recent Twitter updates,
  • a “ShareThis” button on each post, and
  • an updated and more thorough “About Us” page.

These features are intended to make it easier for you to search the blog, automatically get new content, see what’s new and what’s been talked about recently, and share content you like with your friends and colleagues. All of this information will also be available on our “About Us” page. 

Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoy the new features of the site.

Headings and the Use of Boldface Type

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

APA has gotten a lot of questions and feedback from users who are confused about when to use boldface type and when not to, particularly in headings. Here are the short and sweet answers about font formatting style:

Regular Formatting

Use regular font formatting (no boldface, no italics) for all section titles, such as

  • Abstract,
  • Author Note,
  • Title of Your Paper (on the title page and on the page where the text begins),
  • References,
  • Appendix/Appendices, and
  • Footnotes.

Section titles should also be centered, on their own line, and in title case (that means capitalize all major words—for more information what words are considered major, see the first bullet in Section 4.15 on p. 101 of the Publication Manual). A section also generally begins on a new page. (The only exception is for the author note section, which goes on the title page.)

Boldface Formatting

Use boldface only for headings within the body of your paper, that is, within the text itself—these headings we refer to by levels (Levels 1–3 use boldface; Level 4 uses boldface and italic; Level 5 uses italics only). This blog on headings describes the levels in more detail (see also Section 3.03 on pp. 62–63). Common headings within the body of the paper are Method, Results, and Discussion, but your headings will differ depending on what you are writing about. Additionally, if you have an appendix with lots of text, you can use the levels of heading within that body of text as well (but the section title "Appendix" would still use regular nonboldface formatting).

Take a look at the sample papers for examples of how section titles use regular formatting and headings within the body of the paper use boldface.  

June 17, 2010

Formatting Statistics: Using Brackets

Timothy McAdoo by Timothy McAdoo

In the previous post, we discussed how to use parentheses and commas with statistics.

Today, we highlight an exception to this guideline. There are two cases when brackets are the preferred choice in APA Style.

First, when parenthetical text also includes a statistic, brackets should be used.

(See Figure 3 for the results from the control group [n = 8]; compare with results from the Pink Floyd listening group [n = 23] and the Beatles listening group [n = 41].)

Second, for clarity, APA Style recommends that confidence intervals be reported with brackets around the upper and lower limits (as outlined on page 117):

95% CI [5.62, 8.31]

In the context of a sentence this might look like the following:

Participants who heard one Dresden Dolls song on repeat for 180 min reported no less anxiety than those who heard one Mozart movement on repeat for 180 min, R2 = .22, F(1, 32) = 7.33, p = .003, 95% CI [0.11, 1.23]. Our hypothesis that the genre difference would influence anxiety levels was rejected.

Also, as noted in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) on page 117, every report of a confidence interval must clearly state the level of confidence. Multiple confidence intervals would appear as follows. Notice the plural version of the CI abbreviation:

... 95% CIs [5.62, 8.31], [-2.43, 4.31], and [-4.29, -3.11], respectively.

I hope these examples are helpful.  What other questions about formatting statistics do you have? Let us know in the comments.

June 11, 2010

Formatting Statistics: Using Parentheses

Timothy McAdoo by Timothy McAdoo

The Publication Manual (6th ed.) presents guidelines for formatting statistical and mathematical copy. As noted on page 116 of the Manual, these guidelines reflect "standards of content and form agreed on in the field" and are designed to enhance clear communication.

The most basic guidelines are that statistics should be italicized and shown in parentheses:

In Experiment 1, participants listening to The Smiths were no more likely to dance energetically than were those listening to The Cure (p = .24).


However, when a statistic includes its own parenthetical value (e.g., degrees of freedom that appear with t or F values), you’ll need to separate the statistics from the text with commas. Nested parentheses should be avoided in APA Style.

Consider the next two examples:

In Experiment 2, participants listening to Lady Gaga were more likely to “just dance” than were students listening to The Smiths, t(177) = 3.51, p < .001.

In Experiment 3, participants’ biofeedback indicated a significant impact of listening to up-tempo La Roux melodies, F(1, 144), p < .001, and also a significant impact of listening to melancholy selections from The Decemberists, F(1, 144), p < .001.


Notice how the commas separate the string of statistics from the text, just as they would separate other types of independent clauses.

When you have multiple groups of statistics in a series, use semicolons to separate:

In Experiment 4, an impact was demonstrated for genre, R2 = .31, F(2, 13) = 3.13, p < .001; recording date, R2 = .11, F(2, 13) = 1.53, p < .001; and tempo, R2 = .17, F(2, 13) = 2.33, p < .001.


As a side note, notice that there should be no space between a statistic's symbol and its parenthetical information (in this case the degrees of freedom): that is, F(1, 144) not F (1, 144).

Of course, this just scratches the surface of the potential for reporting statistics. Pages 116–124 of the Manual provide much more detail. What questions do you have? Let us know in the comments.

June 03, 2010

How to Cite the U.S. Constitution in APA Style

Chelsea blogby Chelsea Lee

 “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union....” —U.S. Constitution, pmbl.
 U.S. Constitution (image in the public domain, obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Constitution_Pg1of4_AC.jpg) 



Those immortal words open the U.S. Constitution. But how to cite it in an APA Style paper? The answer is in the Bluebook—no, not that cheery blue-covered 6th edition Publication Manual, but The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (18th ed., 2005; www.legalbluebook.com). The Bluebook sets the standard for all legal citations, and the style for legal citations that you see in the Publication Manual (see Appendix 7.1: References to Legal Materials, pp. 216–224) comes directly from the Bluebook. Although the Publication Manual includes a variety of legal citation examples (cases, statutes, bills, and more), citing constitutions is not among them. So before we continue please note that if you need further guidance on legal citations you should consult the Bluebook directly or your friendly local law librarian.

First, if you simply want to make passing reference to the U.S. Constitution in an APA Style paper, you can mention it in text without a reference list entry.

Law students described a great affinity for the U.S. Constitution in their 
response papers.

However, if you are using some part of the U.S. Constitution as evidence to support a point you are making in your paper, you should construct the citation using Bluebook Rule 11, which covers federal and state constitutions.

All citations of the U.S. Constitution begin with U.S. Const., followed by the article, amendment, section, and/or clause numbers as relevant. The terms article, amendment, section, and clause are always abbreviated art., amend., §, and cl., respectively. Preamble is abbreviated pmbl. (as in my opening quotation). Article and amendment numbers are given in Roman numerals (I, II, III); section and clause numbers are given in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3). The Bluebook states that for parts of the Constitution currently in force, do not include a date. If you are referring to a part of the Constitution that has been repealed or amended, include the year that the part in question was repealed or amended in parentheses.

Using Rule 11, here are example in-text citation and reference list entries. Note how similar they are:

In text: The founding fathers addressed the process by which new states
may join the union (U.S. Const. art. I, § 3).

Reference list: U.S. Const. art. I, § 3.

In text: Women gained the right to vote in 1920 (U.S. Const. amend. XIX).

Reference list: U.S. Const. amend. XIX.

In text: During prohibition, the sale of liquor was made illegal (U.S. 
Const. amend. XVIII, repealed 1933).

Reference list: U.S. Const. amend. XVIII (repealed 1933).

Thanks for citing the Constitution with us!

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