Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. —Gertrude Stein, “Sacred Emily”
One of the delights of life is that there is usually more than one way to describe something, and often those details matter. I may walk into a room and see a rose, a dog, and a book (I admit, my house is very messy). But that rose is of the Claude Monet variety, grown in my neighbor’s tucked-away garden. That dog is a tricolor beagle that never barks. That book with the oddly literal title is the fifth and final novel of a supernatural mystery series. The details of these items are what differentiate them from the other roses, dogs, and books that might be in the same vicinity (like I said, my house is messy).
An appositive is a restatement of what a thing is, in different terms, that adds to the understanding of that thing’s identity. The appositive can be short or long, restrictive or nonrestrictive; an appositive appears next to the noun it is renaming.
Appositives are usually set off by commas. That is, they are usually of the nonrestrictive variety, in that they provide extra information but the sentence is clear and complete even without them. By “set off,” I mean that when a nonrestrictive clause appears in the middle of a sentence, commas go both before and after the appositive (see also section 3.22 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed., p. 83, for additional examples).
The flower, a carefully cultivated and locally grown Claude Monet rose, drew the eye of my visitor.
My faithful dog, a tricolor beagle whose main claim to fame is his complete failure as a watchdog, didn’t even stir when the stranger entered the room.
The visitor touched the cover of the book on the end table, Blood Debt by Tanya Huff.
Restrictive appositives are essential for meaning and do not take commas (see section 4.03 of the Publication Manual, p. 89). Note in the examples below that because the narrator has more than one brother and because there is more than one blockbuster movie, the specific names offered in the appositives are necessary and thus should not be cordoned off with commas.
My brother John is much more reasonable than my brothers Paul and George.
The blockbuster movie Independence Day was blaring at a ridiculous volume from the other room.
Using appositives well can add detail and life to your writing. If you have comments or questions about appositives, please write to email@example.com or leave a comment below!
Whether you’re a "numbers person" or not, if you’re a psychology student or an early-career psychologist, you may find yourself doing some data mining. Psychologists are increasingly encouraged to provide their data online for other researchers to use and analyze. And big-data psychologist is one of the hot new jobs in the industry.
Because big data is a big deal, you’ll want to know how to cite a data set.
|U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (2013). Treatment
episode data set -- discharges (TEDS-D) -- concatenated, 2006 to 2009 [Data
Because this data set has a DOI, the reference includes that DOI. For data sets without a DOI, the URL should be included in the reference, like this: "Retrieved from http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/SDA/SAMHDA/30122-0001/CODEBOOK/conc.htm"
Also note that the name of the data set is italicized. And, a description of the material is included in brackets after the title, but before the ending period, for maximum clarity.
In-Text Citation Example
The in-text citation for this reference would be "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies (2013)" or "(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, 2013)." Of course, if you cite that a number of times, you’ll probably want to abbreviate the author name.
Data sets sometimes have many other documents associated with them (e.g., reports, papers, and analyses about the data; tests and measures used to procure the data; user manuals; code books). When you are citing one of these related items, whether instead of or in addition to the data, be sure to describe the format in brackets after the title. For example, in this example from the APA Style Guide to Electronic References, Sixth Edition, "Data file and code book" is used to describe the format:
|Pew Hispanic Center. (2004). Changing channels and crisscrossing cultures:
A survey of Latinos on the news media [Data file and code book]. Retrieved
The in-text citation would be "Pew Hispanic Center (2004)" or "(Pew Hispanic Center, 2004)."
For more about big data, you may be interested in these pages on the APA website:
Note: I modified this post on 12/23/2013 to include the DOI of the data set in the first reference example.
(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!
Moral: 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
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.
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.
by David Becker
Time for a brief review of Grammar 101! As you know, a sentence has two major components—the subject and the predicate. The subject is the person, place, or thing that the sentence is about. The predicate says something about the subject. Here is a basic example with the subject in blue and the predicate in red:
Ritija scratched the cat’s head.
A compound predicate says two or more things about the subject. A common mistake people make is to insert a comma between two elements of a compound predicate. This comma adds a pause that creates distance between the subject and the predicate, so you should not include a comma in this case, just as you would not use a comma to separate a verb from its subject or object. Here is an example that demonstrates the correct and incorrect ways to write a sentence with a compound predicate:
Correct: Ritija scratched the cat’s head and rubbed his belly.
Incorrect: Ritija scratched the cat’s head, and rubbed his belly.
However, a compound predicate with three or more elements constitutes a list, so it would be correct to separate them with commas. Commas are essential in this case to distinguish one element of the compound predicate from the rest. (Don’t forget the serial comma!)
The cat closed his eyes, purred, and twitched his ears.
Also note that a sentence with a compound predicate is different from a sentence with two independent clauses joined by a conjunction. The latter requires a comma to create a pause between two distinct thoughts that could be separate sentences. Here’s an example:
Correct: Ritija scratched the cat’s head, and the cat purred.
Incorrect: Ritija scratched the cat’s head and the cat purred.
I hope this will help you avoid incorrect comma usage in the future. For more information on when and when not to use commas, see section 4.03, pages 88–89 of the Publication Manual. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us or comment on this post.
Each fall the APA Style Blog Team puts together a “best of” feature, and this year we continue the tradition with an updated set of posts from the APA Style Blog and our parent site, apastyle.org. We hope it will be helpful as new batches of students set upon the task of learning and implementing APA Style.
You can get the full story in our sixth edition Publication Manual (also available as an e-book for Kindle) and our APA Style Guide to Electronic References, plus more information via the links below.
Learn How to Make APA Style References
How in-text citations work
How references work (and how to deal with missing information)
How to find the example you need in the Publication Manual
The principle of “cite what you see, cite what you use”
How to Cite...
Legal references (including constitutions and federal statutes)
Secondary sources (sources found in another source) and why to avoid them
Social media (Twitter, Facebook)
Paper Formatting Guidelines
Keep in Touch!
We hope that these resources will be helpful to you as you write using APA Style. If you are interested in receiving tips about APA Style as well as general writing advice, we encourage you to follow us on social media. You can find us (and tell your friends) on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
In this post you will learn how to present data gathered during surveys or interviews with research participants that you conducted as part of your research. You may be surprised to learn that although you can discuss your interview and survey data in a paper, you should not cite them. Here’s why.
Retrievability Versus Confidentiality
In APA Style, all sources must provide retrievable data. Because one purpose of references is to lead the reader to the source, both the reference entry and the in-text citation begin with the name of the author. But rules for the ethical reporting of human research data prohibit researchers from revealing “confidential, personally identifiable information concerning their patients, . . . research participants, or other recipients of their services” (APA Publication Manual [PM]; 6th ed., § 1.11, p. 16; APA Ethics Code, Standard 4.07). In other words, you must prevent the reader from identifying the source of information.
In this clash of principles, which one should triumph? The value of protecting participants’ confidentiality must always win out. “Subject privacy . . . should never be sacrificed for clinical or scientific accuracy” (PM § 1.11)—not even for APA Style.
Strategies for the Discussion of Research Participant Data
Although you don’t cite data you gathered from research participants, you can discuss them, provided that you preserve the confidentiality you guaranteed the participants when they consented to participate in your study (see PM § 1.11). In practical terms, this means that “neither the subject nor third parties (e.g., family members, employers) are identifiable” (PM, p. 17) from the information presented.
Strategies for the ethical use of data from research participants include the following:
Choose the strategy that makes sense given the degree of confidentiality of information you must maintain and what details are important to relate to the reader. Keep in mind that in employing these strategies it is essential that you not “change variables that would lead the reader to draw false conclusions related to the phenomena being described” (PM, p. 17).
Examples of How to Discuss Research Participant Data
Here are a few examples of how participant data might be presented in the text. The most appropriate presentation will depend on context.
Data can also be presented in a table or figure provided these same standards are abided by.
Going on the Record
If the research participant is willing to go "on the record," or include his or her name in the paper, use a personal communication citation (see PM § 6.20). In that case, you should write up the material you intend to use, present it to the participant, and get his or her written permission before including it (see PM § 1.11). In your paper, the information might be presented as follows:
The issues surrounding participant privacy in research reporting are complex and exceed what can be presented in this post. For further reading, consult the APA Publication Manual (6th ed., § 1.11) as well as the APA Ethics Code.
by Tyler Krupa
I don’t think that I’m revealing a big grammar secret by letting you know that the possessive of a singular name is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s (e.g., Smith’s, 2012, study). But although this rule seems straightforward, one thing that trips up many writers is how to form possessives when the name being used ends with an s. For example, should you use “Adams’ (2013) work” or “Adams’s (2013) work”?
Per APA Style, the answer is that the possessive of a singular name is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s, even when the name ends in s (see p. 96 in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual). Therefore, in the example above, the correct usage would be “Adams’s (2013) work.” Although this presentation may look awkward to some writers, the rule for forming the possessive does not change just because the name ends in s.
However, it is important to note the following exception to this rule: You should use an apostrophe only with the singular form of names ending in unpronounced s (see p. 97 in the Publication Manual). Therefore, if you were writing a paper about the philosopher Descartes, to form the possessive with his name, you would need to just add an apostrophe (e.g., Descartes’ theory).
To help illustrate these guidelines, let’s look at a few more examples of properly formatted possessives:
Sigmund Freud’s method
Charles Dickens’s novels
François Rabelais’ writings (note that Rabelais ends with an unpronounced s)
We hope these examples clear up this point of possible uncertainty. Still have questions? Leave us a comment.