139 posts categorized "General APA Style"

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.


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.

November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

by Mary Lynn Skutley

The APA Style blog quietly passed its 5-year anniversary in June. I was new to blogging when we began, and slightly apprehensive about reaching out. Could we talk about highly structured, scholarly communication in this informal medium? And did anyone really want to listen? The answers: Yes, and yes. I am grateful on this Thanksgiving to the “founding” APA Style bloggers for knowing the challenges of APA Style and looking for creative ways to make it easier. And I am grateful to you, dear readers, for letting us know what you need and driving us to make the rules more accessible. At core is a shared love of writing and respect for the power of clear communication. Thank you for letting us serve you as you navigate the rules. Writing to form is a struggle, but the theories and findings you share will contribute, ultimately, to the well-being of all.

November 20, 2014

How to Cite Multiple Pages From the Same Website

Timothy McAdoo

by Timothy McAdoo

Sometimes one's research relies on a very narrow thread of the World Wide Web.

What do I mean? We are sometimes asked how to cite multiple web pages from the same website. “Can’t I just cite the entire website?” our efficiency-minded readers ask. If you merely mention a website, yes.

But, if you quote or paraphrase information from individual pages on a website, create a unique reference for each one. This allows your reader to find your exact source. This may mean your reference list contains a number of references with similar, but distinct, URLs. That’s okay!

Laptop-filesLet’s look at an example:

Say you are writing a paper about Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology) of the American Psychological Association (APA). In your paper, you begin by providing some background information about APA and about APA’s divisions, and then you provide more detailed information about Division 47 itself. In the process, you might quote or paraphrase from a number of pages on the APA website, and your reference list would include a unique reference for each.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.-a). Divisions. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-b). Exercise and Sport Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/div47.aspx
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-c). For division leaders. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/officers/index.aspx
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-d). For division members. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/activities/index.aspx
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-e). Sample articles. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/spy/sample.aspx

It may seems a little unusual to have so many similar references, but in the context of this research topic, it makes perfect sense.

In-Text Citations

When you quote directly from a web page, be sure to include the paragraph number, in lieu of a page number, with the in-text citation. You may also include a paragraph number when paraphrasing. This will help readers locate the part of the page you are relying on.

Related Readings

November 04, 2014

Lost in Translation: Citing Your Own Translations in APA Style

Dear Style Experts,

I am writing a paper in English for an English-speaking audience. However, I also speak French, and I read an article in French that I want to cite in my paper. I translated a quotation from the article from French into English. How do I format my translation of the quotation? Do I use quotation marks around it? Do I have to use the words “my translation” in there somewhere? Please help.


Translated Terry


Dear Translated Terry,

Your conundrum is a common one in this multilingual world. Luckily, the solution is quite simple: If you translated a passage from one language into another it is considered a paraphrase, not a direct quotation. Thus, to cite your translated material, all you need to do is include the author and date of the material in the in-text citation. We recommend (but do not require) that you also include the page number in the citation, because this will help any readers who do speak French to find the translated passage in the original. You should not use quotation marks around the material you translated, and you do not need to use the words “my translation” or anything like that. Here is an example:

Original French passage:
“Les femmes dans des activités masculines adoptaient des stéréotypes masculins” (Doutre, 2014, p. 332).
Translated quotation that appeared in the paper:
Women working in masculine fields adopted masculine stereotypes (Doutre, 2014, p. 332).

In the reference list, provide the citation for the work in its original language. Also provide an English translation of the title of the work in square brackets after the foreign-language title, without italics.

Reference list entry:

Doutre, É. (2014). Mixité de genre et de métiers: Conséquences identitaires et relations de travail [Mixture of gender and trades: Consequences for identity and working relationships].  Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 46, 327–336. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0036218

Why Is the Translation Considered a Paraphrase?

You may wonder why your translation is considered a paraphrase rather than a direct quotation. That’s because translation is both an art and a science—languages do not have perfect correspondences where every word and phrase matches up with a foreign equivalent, though of course some cases come closer than others. Even in the example passage above I considered how to translate “Les femmes dans des activités masculines”—taken word for word I might have written “Women in masculine activities,” but I thought “Women working in masculine fields” better conveyed the actual meaning, which relates to women working in male-dominated occupations.

Nevertheless, because we can't codify how exact any given translation is, it would be inappropriate to put quotation marks around the translated words. In fact, in undertaking the translation yourself you have literally put the author’s words into your own words, which is the definition of a paraphrase.

Citing a Published Translation

Finally, note that citing a translation you made is different than citing a published translation someone else made. If you read a work in translation and you used a direct quotation from it in your paper, you would put quotation marks around the quoted passage just as for any other direct quotation citation. Although the work has been translated, it exists in a distinct, retrievable form. Likewise, in the reference list you would write an entry for the translated version of the work.

I hope this helps you cite your own translations in APA Style. 

—Chelsea Lee

October 21, 2014

Student Webinars for Psychology: Tests and Measures & Statistics

APA and Psi Chi (the international honor society for psychology) have teamed up to produce free webinars for students on topics related to research and writing in psychology.

The first webinar addressed how to find and use psychological tests and measures. Watch it below:


The second webinar was about statistics—specifically, how to choose statistical tests on the basis of your research question and design and how to present statistics in APA Style in text, tables, and figures. Watch the video below:  


We hope you enjoy watching the webinars. What other webinar topics would you like to see?

To receive information about future webinars, follow APA Style on Facebook or Twitter, or check for announcements from Psi Chi.  

August 21, 2014

When to Include Retrieval Dates for Online Sources

David Becker

By David Becker

We’ve all had that experience when a dog or a child walks up to you holding something dangerous, disgusting, or some other d-word that you absolutely do not want in the house. What’s the one question we’ve all asked in that situation? “Where did you get that?” If it’s something particularly strange, we might also ask, “What in the world is that?” But rarely do we ask, “When did you get that?” We don’t care. We know it’s in the room now. We just want it to go back where it came from.

Dog Doing Research

APA Style generally asks the same thing: “What are you citing, and where did you get it?” We also ask, “Who created it, and when?” But we usually don’t ask, “When did you consult that source?” One exception to this rule would be for material that is subject to frequent change, such as Wikipedia entries. Because this information is designed to be constantly updated, it’s important to let readers know when you retrieved it.

So the next time you ask your dog to fetch sources for your research paper, make sure he tells you what they are, where he got them, who created them, and when they were created. You probably won’t need to ask when he got them, unless he’s a lazy dog who does all his research in Wikipedia. And if he comes back with a stick, don’t cite that.

July 10, 2014

Does APA Style Use Ibid.?

David Becker

By David Becker

Dear APA Style Experts,

Ibid Question

When should I use ibid. in my research paper? I want to cite the same source multiple times in a row, but I’m not sure how. Please help!

—Brann D.

Dear Brann,

Ibid. is one of several topics not covered in the Publication Manual because it isn’t used in APA Style. Other styles that document sources with footnotes or endnotes use ibid. to point to a source that was cited in a preceding note. APA Style, however, consistently uses the author–date format to identify an idea’s origin.

When repeatedly referring to the same source, it’s not always necessary to include a parenthetical citation at the end of every paraphrased sentence, as long as the narrative plainly indicates where the information is coming from. Even a direct quotation may not require a full parenthetical citation in this case—you can vary your citation style. If you’re not sure whether your paper clearly shows that you’re drawing multiple thoughts from one source, just ask your instructor, a classmate, or someone at your school’s writing center to give it a quick read. One of the most valuable resources in any form of writing is a second pair of eyes!

I hope this post answered your question, Brann! You can also turn to pages 174–175 of the Publication Manual for examples that show how to integrate citations into the narrative and when to include the publication date. Also be sure to check out one of our earlier posts that briefly reviews how to create in-text citations. And, as always, feel free to comment on this post, leave us a note on Twitter or Facebook, or contact us directly about any questions you may have.

June 26, 2014

Comparing MLA and APA: Numbers

David Becker

By David Becker

So far we have covered the general differences between MLA and APA styles and reviewed how their rules differ when creating in-text citations and reference list entries. However, a reader asked that we cover another difference between the two styles: how they present numbers, particularly ranges of numbers. I’m happy to oblige!

The two styles have very different rules for when to write numbers as words or numerals. MLA Style spells out numbers that can be written in one or two words (three, fifteen, seventy-six, one thousand, twelve billion) and to use numerals for other numbers (; 584; 1,001; 25,000,000). APA Style, on the other hand, generally uses words for numbers below 10 and numerals for numbers 10 and above.


However, the MLA Handbook further notes that science writers frequently use numerals for various kinds of data, such as units of measurement and statistical expressions, regardless of size. This is similar to APA Style’s rules for presenting numerical data (see pages 111–114 in the Publication Manual for more detail).

In ranges of numbers, MLA Style includes the entire second number for numbers up to 99 (1-12; 25-29; 75-99) but uses only the last two digits of the second number for larger numbers, unless more are needed (95-105; 105-19; 2,104-08; 5,362-451). Ranges of years beginning in 1000 AD have their own rules: If the first two digits of both years are the same, include only the last two digits of the second year (1955-85; 2004-09). Otherwise, both numbers should be fully written out (1887-1913; 1998-2008).

APA Style does not have explicit rules for ranges of numbers, except for when referring to a page range or a range of dates in a reference list entry. Numerous examples in Chapter 7 of the Publication Manual show both numbers in a page range being written out in full, regardless of size, and example 23 on page 204 demonstrates the same concept applied to a range of years. These rules relate to APA Style’s emphasis on the importance of specificity and clarity in scientific writing. Thus, a range of numbers (10–40; 101–109; 5,000–5,025; 90,013–90,157) or dates (1999–2003; 2009–2012) should never be abbreviated.

I hope that this post will help those of you transitioning from MLA Style to APA Style the next time you need to include numbers in your research papers. Be sure to also check out our series of posts on numbers and metrication and our FAQ page on when to express numbers as words. If there’s still some residual confusion about numbers or any other difference between the two styles, please comment on this post, drop us a note on Twitter or Facebook, or contact us directly. Your question may be the subject of a future post!

May 22, 2014

“Me, Me, Me”: How to Talk About Yourself in an APA Style Paper

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

Any sleep-deprived student knows those papers don’t write themselves. A living, breathing, person must produce the words on the page, and in certain contexts, you have to acknowledge that fact in the text itself. Let’s go through several cases of how to write about yourself in an APA Style paper.

General Use of I or We

It is totally acceptable to write in the first person in an APA Style paper. If you did something, say, “I did it”—there’s no reason to hide your own agency by saying “the author [meaning you] did X” or to convolute things by using the passive “X was done [meaning done by you].”  If you’re writing a paper alone, use I as your pronoun. If you have coauthors, use we.

However, avoid using we to refer to broader sets of people—researchers, students, psychologists, Americans, people in general, or even all of humanity—without specifying who you mean (a practice called using the editorial “we”). This can introduce ambiguity into your writing.

For example, if you are writing about the history of attachment theory, write “Researchers have studied attachment since the 1970s” rather than “We have studied attachment since the 1970s.” The latter may allow the reader to erroneously believe that you have personally studied attachment for the last 40 years (which may be difficult for those dear readers under 40).

If you want to refer to yourself as well as a broader group, specify to whom we refers. Write “As young adults in college, we are tasked with learning to live independent lives” not “We are tasked with learning to live independent lives.” By stating that we refers here to young adults in college, readers understand the context (which could otherwise be any number of groups tasked with the same, such as individuals with developmental disabilities or infants).

Colorful people

Use of I or We in Personal Response or Reaction Papers

A common assignment in psychology classes is the personal response or reaction paper. The specifications of these assignments vary, but what they all have in common is that you are supposed to critique and/or give your personal thoughts about something you have read. This necessitates using the first person. In the professional psychology world, a similar type of paper exists, and it is called a Comment or a Reply.

The excerpt below illustrates how the first person should be used to express personal opinions. Here, South and DeYoung (2013), the authors, respond to papers by Hopwood (2013) and Skodol and Krueger (2013).

Research seems to be converging on a trait-dimensional system that can capture the majority of personality pathology, and this phenotypic work is supported by extant behavior genetic findings. We must ask, though, whether the ability to capture all multivariate personality pathology space with one structural model is sufficient for capturing disordered personality. Hopwood (2013) rightly pointed out that there is something unique about a personality disorder (PD) above and beyond traits, but in the DSM–5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2011) proposal the only difference between describing someone with a constellation of pathological traits and a PD “type” is the Criterion A requirement of impairment in self and interpersonal functioning. Skodol and Krueger (2013), partly in jest, suggested that PDs could conceivably be diagnosed on Axis I. We get the joke but worry that in an attempt to ameliorate the problems with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; DSM–IV–TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) PDs a new system risks losing the forest (PD) for the trees (traits).

Notice how the authors state their opinions and reactions: They use plain, straightforward language. If you are tasked with writing a personal response paper, you can do the same. The authors have also used the pronoun we because there are two of them; if a single author had written this passage, she or he would have used the pronoun I.


It’s less hard than you might think to write about yourself in APA Style. Own your opinions by using the appropriate pronouns. If you have further questions about this topic, please leave a comment.


South, S. C., & DeYoung, N. J. (2013). The remaining road to classifying personality pathology in the DSM–5: What behavior genetics can add. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4, 291–292. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/per0000005

May 09, 2014

Comparing MLA and APA: Citing Resources


By David Becker

Last week, we touched on the general differences between MLA and APA styles. Today, I talk about what is probably the biggest difference between the two styles: how to cite resources. These divergent rules can make transitioning from one style to the other a frustrating process, particularly for students. A few style errors can mean the difference between an A and a B on a paper. As an English major who only used MLA Style in school, learned APA Style for my job, and then relearned MLA Style for a few online courses, I can personally attest to the difficulty of mentally juggling two sets of style rules.

Style Frustration

Despite their differences, the APA and MLA citation systems have the same overall function in a research paper—sources are acknowledged via in-text citations, each of which corresponds to an entry in an alphabetical list of works at the end of the paper, referred to as “Works Cited” in MLA Style and “References” in APA Style. However, the MLA Handbook also mentions some variations, such as a “Works Consulted” list, which contains sources not cited within the body of the paper, and an annotated bibliography, which includes a brief description or evaluation of each source. APA Style does not use these alternate methods (see our posts about reference lists vs. bibliographies and some topics the Publication Manual doesn’t cover).

The differences between the two styles become even more apparent when one is creating text citations. MLA Style includes the author’s last name and the page number, whether citing a direct quotation or not. However, APA Style text citations also include the publication date, because the timeliness of research is important in science writing, and the page number is required only for direct quotations. Below are some hypothetical examples of parenthetical citations in both styles:


(Adams 42)
(Lennon and McCartney 999)
(Hexum, Martinez, and Sexton 123)


(Adams, 1979) or (Adams, 1979, p. 42)
(Lennon & McCartney, 1968) or (Lennon & McCartney, 1968, p. 999)
(Hexum, Martinez, & Sexton, 1994) or (Hexum, Martinez, & Sexton, 1994, p. 123)

These citations lead readers to the reference list, which is where the differences between the two styles are most apparent, a topic I cover in my next post. In the meantime, I hope this overview has been helpful to those of you transitioning from MLA Style to APA Style. If you’re new to APA Style, the Publication Manual and this blog are your go-to resources. I also recommend that you try our free tutorial on the basics of APA Style and visit our FAQ page, as well as our pages that provide quick answers for citing sources and formatting your research paper. If you can’t find what you’re looking for after checking those resources, feel free to contact APA Style directly via e-mail or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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