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4 posts from December 2010

December 30, 2010

I can't find the example reference I need in the Publication Manual. What should I do?

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

When you cannot find the example reference you need in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, choose the example that is most like your source and follow that format. Sometimes you will need to combine elements of more than one reference format.  

In general, a reference should contain four elements, which you can remember as the four W's: author name ("who"), date of publication ("when"), title of the work ("what"), and publication data ("where"). This is the basic principle behind all APA Style references.

The following series of posts culled from the APA Style archives will take you through the  process, and you will be solving your own reference conundrums in no time.

Finally, for an ongoing look at all reference-related posts on the Blog, check out our References category.

Note: This post reproduces some material from our APA Style FAQ

December 16, 2010

Journal Article Reporting Standards: How Do They Work?

HCooper 3-1-09

by Harris Cooper, PhD

Last week I discussed why APA’s Journal Article Reporting Standards (the JARS) are needed when you are writing your psychology research report. I compared a psychology research paper to assembly instructions, like those you would follow when constructing a shelf or putting a bike together. Without a list of materials and clear instructions, others will find it difficult to understand what you did and to repeat your experiment. In this post, I describe how the JARS works. (For more detail about why the JARS is needed and how it works, see my book, Reporting Research in Psychology: How to Meet Journal Article Reporting Standards, which was released by APA this week.)

The JARS first focuses on information recommended for inclusion in all reports. These recommendations are organized by the parts of a research report: title, abstract, introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion. For example, here are the characteristics of sampling procedures that the JARS recommends be described in the Method section of every report:

  • Sampling method, if a systematic sampling plan was implemented
  • Percentage of sample approached that participated
  • Self-selection (by either individuals or units, such as schools or clinics)
  • Settings and locations where data were collected
  • Agreements and payments made to participants
  • Institutional review board agreements, ethical standards met, and safety monitoring

If a study is conducted with a college or university subject pool, the description of the sampling procedure is pretty straightforward. But, if a study involves, say, a classroom intervention, you can see how the description can become more involved. In both cases, however, if we don’t know this information about the study, it would be hard to determine to whom the results of the study apply.
After the recommendations that pertain to all reports, the JARS asks that researchers pay careful attention to reporting the research design. Research designs come in a variety of forms depending on the type of question that motivates the research. Therefore, each design requires unique information.
The JARS currently provides standards for only one family of designs, those involving purposive or experimental manipulations or interventions. Among the information requested are these aspects of the manipulation:

  • Setting (where the manipulations or interventions occurred)
  • Exposure quantity and duration (how many sessions, episodes, or events were intended to be delivered and how long they were intended to last)
  • Time span (how long it took to deliver the intervention or manipulation to each unit)
  • Activities to increase compliance or adherence (e.g., incentives)

So, if a study evaluates the effect of providing tutoring for children having difficulty learning to read, the JARS recommends that the report tell readers where the tutoring took place (e.g., in the regular classroom or a resource room; before, during, or after school); how often tutors met with students and for how long; whether the intervention lasted a week, a month, a semester, or a year; and whether the students received some incentive to take part in the tutoring and to stay involved.

The JARS module on experimental manipulations also asks whether the researcher (a) randomly assigned participants to conditions or (b) assigned participants to conditions using another type of procedure; depending on the assignment procedures, the researcher asks additional questions about how the assignment was accomplished.

Of course, this is just a sampling of the information requested in the JARS. As you look at the full JARS, it might seem daunting to provide all the information. But really, everything asked for should be known about a study. The JARS helps researchers remember what’s important about their study and ensures their study remains a valuable contribution to the psychology literature.

December 10, 2010

Journal Article Reporting Standards: Why Are They Needed?

HCooper 3-1-09

by Harris Cooper, PhD


Harris Cooper, PhD, was chair of the APA Journal Article Reporting Standards Working Group. He also served on the committee that revised the APA Publication Manual.

 With the holidays around the corner, nothing frustrates us more than incomplete assembly instructions for that bicycle or bookshelf. We fume over the instructions that are unclear or the list of materials that don’t quite match up with the material provided. There seems to be a screw missing. What is this piece for? Does the shelf go in before or after tightening the screws?

88349067-sm

In many ways, a psychology research report is like assembly instructions. Without a complete list of the materials and a clear description of the assembly steps, it is impossible for others to understand what we did and what to do to repeat our experiment, if they so desire.

Recently, more people have become interested in what the psychological research says. But, with increased influence comes increased responsibility, and increased scrutiny. And, there has been a growing sense that the instructions in our research reports often do not serve us well.

A desire for “evidence-based” practice is widespread in public health, social services, and education. Before funding a program to, say, reduce drug abuse, improve academic achievement, or assist veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder, the people who control the purse strings want “solid evidence” the program works. Solid evidence means that the studies that purport to evaluate programs and interventions allow confident conclusions about program effectiveness. And, to make this judgment, the research write-ups need to include clear instructions and an accurate list of materials.  How else will they know whether studies’ results are to be believed?

In addition to this need for easy replication is a desire for uniformity in discussing results.  The amount of psychological research is growing rapidly. When researchers summarize studies, be they about basic topics—such as the influences on memory or the development of morality through the life span—or applied topics, they need to have good descriptions of what was done. Like assembly instructions, these descriptions are used to piece together past research into coherent pictures, to help resolve conflicts in research results, and to identify questions yet to be studied. If the research description is incomplete, it is like assembly instructions that result in a bicycle that we can’t ride or a bookshelf that will collapse.

Not surprising then, greater emphasis today is placed on the reporting of research. So, in preparation for the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, APA formed a working group to look into the issue. As a result, the Publication Manual now recommends that Journal Article Reporting Standards (or the JARS) be followed that summarize the information editors, reviewers, and readers will expect to see in research reports. APA has just released a book I authored to help writers understand and implement the new standards, titled Reporting Research in Psychology: How to Meet Journal Article Reporting Standards. So, how do the JARS work? Find out in next week’s post.

 

December 02, 2010

Citations Within Quotations

Timothy McAdoo by Timothy McAdoo

Sometimes when you are quoting from another source, the text you want to quote will include citations. You might wonder (a) whether you should keep these citations in the quote and (b) whether you should include references for the citations. The short answers are (a) yes and (b) no (see p. 173 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association).

For example, let’s say you want to quote from the highlighted section of this article, written by Flynn in 2010.
Flynn.quote
In your own paper, you might write

As Flynn (2010) noted, “two phobias, fear of snakes and fear of flying, are particularly difficult to test in combination (Jackson, 2006) because many participants quickly become agitated” (p. 3).

Because you are relying on Flynn’s (2010) study, your reference list should include Flynn (2010), but it need not include Jackson (2006). You should include a Jackson (2006) reference only if you cite that work as a primary source elsewhere in your paper.

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