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4 posts from November 2013

November 27, 2013

The First Thanksgiving: A Tale of Common Knowledge

Vintage-thanksgiving-clip-art-turkey-in-top-hat-with-restaurant-menus by The APA Style Radio Theatre


(Crowd noises, conversation, chairs squeaking, gradually give way to the sound of a gavel)

CHAIR: Ladies and gentlemen. . . . Settle down, if you please. Thank you. I hereby call to order the Autumn Assembly of the North American Society of Professional Nitpickers. On behalf of the entire group, I’d like to offer our appreciation to the Catering Committee for the delightful holiday repast we’ve just enjoyed. The turkey was roasted to a turn, the pies were superb, and the wine pairings were expertly chosen (aside from the sauterne and sauerkraut, but I shall not quibble with this fine Baltimore tradition).

In our refreshed state, let us now turn to the business at hand: establishing the core content of common knowledge about Thanksgiving. Now, as we all know, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Massachusetts in 1621. . . .


CHAIR: Order! Order! (gavel) The chair recognizes the delegate from Virginia.

VIRGINIA: Without wishing to be disagreeable in any way, I must respectfully contradict that statement. It’s common knowledge in Virginia that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619—a full year before the arrival of the Pilgrims in the New World.

MASSACHUSETTS: Oh, not this again! Sure, a boat load of people landed in Virginia and declared a “yearly and perpetual day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” But everybody knows the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Plymouth Colony in 1621. It’s on TV every year—the Peanuts special, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You ever see anybody dressed up on a float as Captain John Woodleaf? No! It’s Miles Standish!

VIRGINIA: Apparently the honorable delegate from Massachusetts is unable to do the math—or the history, if he considers a cartoon to be a valid source of historical data on the Plymouth parvenus.

(Angry shouts of “Who you calling a parvenu?” etc., are interrupted by the sound of a pistol shot fired in the air.)

TEXAS: Glad I got your attention, ’cause I can settle this right now. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in El Paso, Texas, by feller named Juan de Oñate. April 30, 1598. Write that down, boys, it’s official. Common knowledge, you might say.

FLORIDA: If we’re going to count non-English settlers, what about my Huguenots? They celebrated a day of thanksgiving in June 1564 for their safe escape from France. It was right near Jacksonville.

MASSACHUSETTS: Yeah, OK, they could be contenders. But where are they now?

FLORIDA: They were all slaughtered by Admiral Menéndez in 1565.


ILLINOIS: Forget this colonial stuff. We celebrate Thanksgiving today because of the federal holiday, which was started in 1863 by Abe Lincoln.

VIRGINIA: George Washington did it first.

NEW YORK: And FDR did it last!


CANADA: Can I just point out that no one is addressing the real problem, which is that you’re all celebrating Thanksgiving in the wrong month. Now in Canada, we . . .

(Cries of “Sit down!”, “So?”, and “But you’re Canada!” drown out the rest of his speech.)

CHAIR: Ladies and gentlemen, there has been sufficient discussion. Let us proceed to the Showing of the References.

(Paper rustles as each delegate produces a list of references to substantiate his or her point.)

CHAIR: From the Showing of the References, it is clear that each of you has a well-supported claim to be representing common knowledge about the first Thanksgiving. Your information is factual, not mere opinion; it is well-established in the community in which it is used; and it is supported by evidence. These are the three criteria for common knowledge, and you have met them. I move that we adjourn to the bar for football. All in favor say “Aye.”


CHAIR: The motion carries. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Facts that are common knowledge in one setting may need to be backed up by citations in another. Common knowledge is not an opinion (“Tamales are better than turkey”) but a fact (“Thanksgiving is always on Thursday”).



The Showing of the References

Baker, J. W. (2009). Thanksgiving: The biography of an American holiday. Lebanon: University of New Hampshire Press.

Cromack, S. (2011, November 22). A seat at the table of the nation [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://histsociety.blogspot.com/2011/11/seat-at-table-of-nation.html

Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources. (n.d.). Fort Caroline and the first Thanksgiving. Retrieved from http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/viva/articles/2012/may/2208-fort-caroline-and-the-first-thanksgiving.html

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. (n.d.). The year we had two Thanksgivings. Retrieved from http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/THANKSG.HTML#doc

Kingman, M. (1990). The first Thanksgiving? Retrieved from http://www.texasalmanac.com/topics/history/timeline/first-thanksgiving

Plimoth Plantation. (n.d.). Thanksgiving history. Retrieved from  http://www.plimoth.org/learn/MRL/read/thanksgiving-history

Shenkman, R. (2001, November). Top 10 myths about Thanksgiving. Retrieved from http://hnn.us/article/406

November 21, 2013

Pluralize Numbers and Abbreviations Without Apostrophes


by David Becker

A common mistake people make is to include apostrophes when pluralizing a number or an abbreviation. Apostrophes are generally used in contractions and to indicate the possessive case, but they are not used to form plurals of numbers and abbreviations in APA Style.

For instance, writing “the 1960’s” when referring to that entire decade is incorrect; instead, one should write “the 1960s.” The same rule applies to the plural form of any other type of number, such as describing someone’s age (e.g. “clients in their 80s”), and is discussed further in section 4.38 on page 114 of the Publication Manual.

A similar rule in section 4.29 on page 110 applies to abbreviations. Just as with numbers, don’t include an apostrophe when pluralizing abbreviations. For example, when pluralizing an acronym, such as “CV” for “curriculum vitae,” all you need to do is add an s to the end, as in “CVs.” This rule also applies to standalone letters, as in “The students all received As.” For abbreviations that end with a period, such as “Ed.” to indicate an editor in a reference list entry, add an s before the period, as in “Eds.” When pluralizing an italicized abbreviation, remember not to italicize the s, as in “ps.” Just don’t add an apostrophe.

For more information, take a look at our other posts on punctuation in APA Style. Punctuation is also covered in more detail on pages 87–96 of the Publication Manual. And, of course, please feel free to comment on this post or contact us with any of your style questions.

November 14, 2013

How to Cite Part of a Work

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

This post will explain how to cite just part of a work—such as a footnote, table, figure, chapter in an authored book, paragraph, section, or page—in an APA Style paper. It’s actually quite simple: Just provide a citation for the whole work in the reference list, and in the text, include the regular author–date citation plus information about the specific part to which you want to bring the reader’s attention.

Puzzle pieces

The idea is to provide a path to the source. The in-text citation refers the reader to the reference list entry, which in turn provides enough information for the reader to find the source itself. The extra information in the in-text citation further specifies which part of the reference the reader should attend to.  If you need to cite a part within a part (such as a row within a table), just add that information into the text citation (e.g., Smith, 2013, Table 1, column 4).

Note that if you want to cite a chapter in an edited book, a separate format applies. Chapters in edited books, unlike those in authored books, receive their own reference list entries because different authors write different chapters in the book, and it is important to properly attribute the citation in the paper. Chapters in authored books, on the other hand, can be cited in the text, but the reference list entry should be to the whole book because that is what the reader would look up in a library catalog or database.

Example In-Text Citations to Parts of Sources

Here are a few examples showing how to cite part of a work in the text:

  • (Woo & Leon, 2013, Figure 3)
  • Caswell, Morgan, and Duka (2013, Table 1, row 3)
  • (Park, Van Bavel, Vasey, & Thayer, 2013, footnote 3)
  • Dweck (2006, Chapter 3)
  • (Ebrahim, Steen, & Paradise, 2012, Appendix)
  • (Breska, Ben-Shakhar, & Gronau, 2012, Method section)
  • Cook et al. (2012, General Discussion section, para. 2)
  • (Ferguson, 2012, pp. 64–67)

In each case, the reference list entry would reflect the larger work containing the piece, formatted according to the document type.

For example, the reference entry for the citation to Figure 3 in Woo and Leon’s (2013) article, shown in the illustration, would follow the format for a journal article.

Woo, C. C., & Leon, M. (2013). Environmental enrichment as an effective treatment for autism: A randomized controlled trial. Behavioral Neuroscience, 127, 487–497. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0033010

And the reference entry to Chapter 3 in the book by Dweck (2006) would follow the format for an authored book, and so on.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Formatting Requirements

In looking at the examples above, you may have noticed that the names of some parts were capitalized or abbreviated. Capitalization and formatting rules are described in section 4.17 of the Publication Manualand a condensed version of that advice is provided in the table below.



Abbreviated in parentheses



page (p.)



pages (pp.)



paragraph (para.)

Official section names or headings (e.g., Method section)

Descriptive section names (e.g., introduction, when introduction is not an actual heading in the document)



Keep in mind these rules will apply to any part of a source you can think of. If the particular part you have in mind is not listed above or addressed in section 4.17, feel free to ask about it in the comments.

November 07, 2013

Is It Sometimes Okay to Begin a Sentence With a Lowercase Letter?




by Tyler Krupa

A basic grammar rule is that the first word in a complete sentence should be capitalized. But do you know how to proceed when a name that begins with a lowercase letter begins a sentence? Or whether it is okay to begin a sentence with a lowercase statistical term (e.g., t test or p value)?

Although the two examples listed above seem to be exceptions to the rule that the first word in a sentence should be capitalized, this is not the case. Note that per APA Style, the first word in a complete sentence should always be capitalized.

So what should you do when you come across the above examples in your writing? Getting it right is simple as long as you remember the following two guidelines (see sections 4.14 and 4.30 in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual):

1. If a name that begins with a lowercase letter begins a sentence, then it should be capitalized.

2. Do not begin a sentence with a lowercase statistical term (e.g., t test or p value), a lowercase abbreviation (e.g., lb), or a symbol that stands alone (e.g., α).

To help illustrate the first guideline, let’s look at the following example:


Van Morrison and Smith (2012) interviewed 100 participants . . .


van Morrison and Smith (2012) interviewed 100 participants . . .

In the example above, even though the usual presentation of the surname van Morrison begins with a lowercase v, it is correct to capitalize the first letter of the surname when the name begins a sentence. However, note that if the surname van Morrison is used later in the sentence or in references/citations, then the lowercase v is retained (e.g., At the conclusion of the participant interviews, van Morrison and Smith . . .). For more information on how to correctly capitalize author names, see the following post to our blog.

Now let’s look at an example that illustrates the second guideline:


We used t tests to determine . . .


t tests were used to determine . . .


t Tests were used to determine . . .


T tests were used to determine . . .

Note that in the example above, it is not okay to capitalize the statistical term at the beginning of the sentence because doing so changes the meaning of the statistic. Therefore, in instances such as these, it is necessary to recast the sentence. However, note that it is okay to begin a sentence with a capitalized statistical term (e.g., F tests indicated that . . .). For more information on how to format statistics in your paper, see the following post to our blog.

We hope these examples clear up this point of possible uncertainty. Still have questions? Leave us a comment.

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