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4 posts from February 2014

February 27, 2014

Being (APA) Stylish

Daisiesby Stefanie

APA Style—is there anything it can’t do?

Let’s get back to that. First, let’s talk about what it is. The first version of the publication manual, titled “Instructions in Regard to Preparation of Manuscript,”* was seven pages long (!) and published in 1929 as an article in Psychological Bulletin. Flash forward to today: We’re up to the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, but the main purpose is still to give people guidance on writing scholarly journal articles. There’s information on everything from font type and size to heading structure, language choices, statistics, tables, figures, and (everyone’s favorite!) citation and reference style, along with much, much more, within those hallowed pages. The manual has come a long way from its early days, but so has scientific inquiry and thought about health and mental health. The ways of talking and writing about these fields have evolved and changed, and the Publication Manual has changed with them. Further, APA Style has been adopted by a number of fields as an anchor for their writing, too. As someone who works with APA Style every day, it’s humbling to observe its reach, and it’s a pleasure to help clarify some of APA Style’s finer points here and by responding to the astute questions that come via styleexpert@apa.org.

Now, APA Style covers a lot of things. It gives plenty of general advice on good writing, especially of the scholarly kind, and is one of the only sources of guidance on bias-free language. It provides specific formatting advice for those writing for scholarly journals. But our guidelines and formatting might not directly apply to, say, your company’s annual report or your class assignment.

Here are a few other things not specifically covered by the Publication Manual or APA Style:

  • Bibliographies
  • Annotated bibliographies
  • Dissertations
  • Tables of contents
  • Books
  • Newsletters
  • Mediation between students and professors on APA Style disagreements

That being said, we encourage you to borrow and adapt APA Style for your purposes. If you want to apply APA Style to your dissertation, terrific! But I’m afraid I won’t have an official answer for you when you call or write to ask how your chapter titles should appear. I wouldn’t treat those as Level 1 headings (rather, I’d format the chapter title as if it were an article title), but you and your dissertation advisor are the better judges of how your dissertation should look. If there is a secret or at least a key to APA Style, it is this: Figure out the best way to most clearly express your thoughts. Be consistent in structure, formatting, and heading style. You can and will create your own style, based on APA Style, that will fit your particular situation.

When in doubt, you will not be amiss in letting the underlying spirit of APA Style—focusing on clarity, accuracy, and kindness in expression—lead the way in your writing, even if we don’t have specific guidelines for your document type.

 

*That is not a typo: The original title omits the a before Manuscript or an s after it.

February 20, 2014

How to Cite a Psychological Test in APA Style

Timothy McAdoo
by Timothy McAdoo

A reference to a psychological test (also called a measure, scale, survey, quiz, or instrument) follows the usual who-when-what-where format.

References

Here’s an example of a test you might have retrieved directly from a website:

Purring, A. (2012). Charisma and Tenacity Survey [Measurement instrument].
     Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/tests/measures/instruments/surveys
     /charisma.html

A test's name is a proper noun, so be sure to capitalize it in the reference.

In other cases, you may actually be citing the database record rather than the test. If you found a record for the test in a database, you can cite it, whether or not the record contains a link to the test itself:

Barks, H., & Howls, I. (2013). Directions of Generosity [Database record].
     Retrieved from The McAdoo Database of Fictional Titles. http://dx.doi.org
     /62.2366/34-28.466

how to cite psychological tests in APA Style: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2014/02/how-to-cite-a-psychological-test-in-apa-style.htmlOr, perhaps you’ve used a test that is not available online. Not to worry, the format varies only in the "where" element. Use the first example above as your template, but replace “Retrieved from http://...” with the location and publisher (e.g., Petland, MD: E & K Press).

Using Acronyms

Although some tests are better known by their acronyms than by their full titles, the acronym is not included in the reference.* Rather, introduce the acronym at the first use in the body of the paper, as shown in the examples below.

In-Text Citations

In the body of your paper, be careful to write the name exactly as it appears in your reference. And here again, capitalize the test name, because it is a proper noun. However, capitalize the word survey (or instrument, quiz, etc.) only if it’s part of the test’s name:

“In this study, we used Purring’s (2012) Charisma and Tenacity Survey (CATS) rather than Barks and Howls’s (2013) Directions of Generosity survey.”

The abbreviation need not be introduced if the test name is mentioned only once. However, if the test name appears frequently in the paper (i.e., generally three or more times), define it the first time, and use the abbreviation consistently thereafter. Note also that the test names are not italicized when used in the text. 

Finally, although you don’t need to include the author and date every time you mention the test by name, do include the author–date citation if you quote directly from the test or paraphrase it in any way.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve passed my test! Give yourself an A+.

____

*The exception is the rare case where the acronym is the only official name of the test (i.e., an official spelled-out title no longer exists, which is an uncommon occurrence; the most famous example is the SAT, which no longer has a spelled-out name).

February 13, 2014

Footnotes for Source Citations in APA Style?

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Dear Style Experts,

I am writing a paper in APA Style. I have the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, but I’ve been unable to find instructions for how to format my citations in footnote form. All I see in the manual is examples of references. Can you help me? 
                                                                               —J. D. Scotus, Paris, TX

Dear J. D.,

There are a number of very good style manuals that use the footnote–bibliography method of citation, but the APA Publication Manual is not among them. APA Style uses text citations, not footnotes or endnotes, to direct the reader to a source in the reference list. This differs from other source documentation styles that use a combination of footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography for that purpose.

The only use for footnotes in APA Style is to provide additional content that supplements the text (e.g., to briefly acknowledge a tangential idea that is nevertheless important to the discussion or to note copyright permission for reprinting a lengthy quote). Endnotes are never used in APA Style, but you’ll find more about content footnotes in section 2.12 of the APA Publication Manual.

Dear Style Experts,

Author–date citations don’t give the reader enough information—I really prefer to give the source up front. What if I formatted the footnotes exactly like APA Style references, but put them at the bottom of the page? That would still be in APA Style, right? 
                                                                                         —J. D.

Dear J. D.,

The use of author–date text citations, rather than footnotes, is part of the essence of APA Style. It’s not optional.

Blueberry_heart_pancakesSuppose you asked me to make your favorite blueberry pancakes for Valentine’s Day. The store was out of blueberries, due to the latest snowpocalypse, so I used bananas; and the cat had gotten into the skillet, so I had to bake the batter in a muffin tin. The result might be delicious, but it wouldn’t be blueberry pancakes, would it? (Not even if we put maple syrup on them.)

Don’t put syrup on your muffins, and don’t use footnote citations in APA Style.

February 07, 2014

How to Cite an Annual Report in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Annual reports are usually easy to find on a company's website. The APA Style Guide to Electronic References says to "format references to technical and research reports and other gray literature as you would a book retrieved online." Thus, a reference to an annual report follows the usual who-when-what-where format.

For example,

American Psychological Association. (2013). 2012 annual report of the American
    Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs
    /info/reports/2012-report.pdf


If you used a print version of the report, replace the URL with the location and name of the publisher, like a reference to a book. And, note that when the author is the publisher, the word Author is used.

For example,

National Association of Social Workers. (2012). 2011–2012 annual report.
    Washington, DC: Author.


In both cases, the in-text citation follows the author–date format (e.g., American Psychological Association, 2013; National Association of Social Workers, 2012).

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