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2 posts from December 2014

December 23, 2014

Making a List, Checking It Twice

Anne Breitenbach

 

By Anne Breitenbach

You know what I love? Assembly instructions.Recipes. Rules of engagement. Game plans. In essence, any tool that helps me clearly define what I need to have on hand to do a project properly and what steps I will need to take to complete it. So the first thing I do each morning when I arrive at my desk (well, after getting coffee) is jot down a checklist of what I hope to accomplish on this day. It gives me goals, focuses me, keeps tasks from getting lost, and—perhaps best of all—allows me to strike through each as it’s completed. (Microambition provides pretty constant self-congratulatory feedback.)   I’m not alone in my appreciation of checklists either.  Researchers, authors, and students ask us all the time if there is a roadmap to achieving a paper or a manuscript created correctly in APA Style.

So I’ve convinced you, right? You grab the Publication Manual and flip to the index looking for a handy “checklist” entry. I’m afraid it isn’t quite that clear cut. There are checklists of various kinds, but you have to know your manual or supporting APA resources well enough to know what and where they are and how to use them.  Let’s look at some examples. 

At the end of Chapter 8, “The Publication Process,” in section 8.07, you’ll find a précis of what a “good” manuscript looks like, with sections on format, title page and abstract, paragraphs and headings, abbreviations, mathematics and statistics, units of measurement, references, notes and footnotes, tables and figures, and copyright and quotations. This Checklist for Manuscript Submission is also available online in the Authors and Reviewers Resource Center on our website. Although designed for authors, it is just as handy as a cheat sheet for students. A bonus is that it provides you with the relevant section numbers in the Publication Manual

In fact, at the end of several sections you’ll also find a checklist. For example, section 5.19 summarizes the information about tables and reminds you, among other elements, to use tables only when necessary, review for consistency of presentation, keep your title brief, ensure all columns have a column head, define abbreviations, construct notes appropriately, and provide suggested statistics. It’s a very useful way to check that you’ve complied with all the recommendations. 

And the checklists don’t stop there. There’s one for figures in section 5.30 at the close of the figures section to gently remind you to use simple and clear figures that are clearly labeled. It reminds you to ensure the figures appear in order and are discussed in the text. It also reminded me of several other steps that I just had to go back to the checklist and check.

Of course, not all checklists may be so benign. You know who else loves checklists? That’s right. Santa’s making his list and checking it twice. Things might go better for you if he knows you're a checklist user too.

Bad santa

 

December 09, 2014

How to Present Definite Numbers and Estimations

David Becker



By David Becker

Let’s take a look back at a classic guest post for our blog based on an article by Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, & Frels (2010) that highlighted some of the most common APA Style errors. The number one mistake on that list is presenting numbers incorrectly. In this post, I'll be specifically focusing on how to properly present definite and estimated numbers.

Time

According to section 4.31e of the Publication Manual (p. 112), numerals are used to represent specific values that signify time, dates, ages, scores and points on a scale, exact sums of money, and numerals as numerals. For instance, one would write 5 days instead of five days. However, there is an exception to this rule: When referring to approximate units of time (e.g., weeks, days, months, and years), use words instead of numerals, as in about five days instead of about 5 days.

You may have noticed that this is a very specific exception. You may also be wondering whether this exception applies other approximate values. The short answer is no. This exception applies only to units of time—no such exceptions apply to any other approximate units of measure. However, keep in mind that precision and clarity are key to any form of writing, especially in the sciences, so always try to present definite numbers when possible.

For more information about writing numbers in APA Style, take a look at our series of posts on numbers and metrication and our FAQ page about when to express numbers as words.

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