128 posts categorized "General APA Style"

January 10, 2013

Alligators and Academia: The Importance of Primary and Secondary Sources

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Have you heard about how alligators infest the New York City sewer system? The ones brought north by Florida snowbirds for the summer as pets, who were then jettisoned after they outgrew the family bathtub? Indeed, your cousin’s best friend once saw one with her own eyes. Or, at least, that’s what your cousin told you. But you wonder, is it really true, or is it just an urban legend?

Alligator_in_Shower_Cap

Reliable Sources in Academic Research Are Usually Primary Sources

Likewise, when it comes to academic research, it’s extremely important to make sure that the claims you make are backed up by sound evidence, or else your paper won’t stand up to scrutiny from your professors or colleagues (just like that alligator story didn’t hold up once you started looking into it).

As we saw with the alligator story, one of the best ways to help ensure a source’s reliability is to make sure you’re reading a firsthand account, or a primary source, from someone who saw the events for him- or herself (like the best friend), rather than a secondhand account, or a secondary source, from someone who only heard about the events but didn’t witness them personally (like your cousin). Most of the sources you use in a research paper or thesis should be primary sources, not secondary sources.

How to Spot a Primary Source in the Wild

Primary sources can come in many different forms. For example, a journal or magazine article might report the results of an original experiment, or a book or website might describe a theory or technique the author has developed or has expertise in. Note, however, that not every article, book, website, and so forth contains primary research. To determine whether a document is a primary source, ask, did the authors discover this finding themselves (primary source), or are they reporting what someone else found (secondary source)? 

You’ll have to evaluate each source on a case-by-case basis, but some document types tend to make promising primary sources:

  • journal articles;
  • books and book chapters;
  • some magazine and newspaper articles;
  • reports, such as from government agencies or institutions;
  • dissertations and theses;
  • interview and speech transcripts and recordings;
  • video and audio recordings;
  • personal communications; and
  • webpages.

Secondary Sources: Second Best?

In our alligator story example, the word of the secondary source, your cousin, ended up not being too trustworthy, and that’s why we shied away from citing it. But that’s not always the case with secondary sources—in fact, many secondary sources can be not only reliable but also extremely helpful during the research process. For example, a textbook or an encyclopedia (including Wikipedia) can help you get acquainted with a research area by summarizing others’ research. Or you might read a summary of one scientist’s interesting study in someone else’s journal article. 

In these cases, however, the chief advantage of the secondary source is not the quotes that you find but that it points you to the primary source through a citation. It’s important to read (and then cite) the primary source if you can, because that will enable you to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information.

It would not look good for you to cite a secondary source (like your cousin with the alligator tale) only for someone else (like your professor—or animal control) to inform you later that the truth was in fact something quite the opposite. Even when secondary sources are highly accurate, being thorough and reading the primary sources helps demonstrate your merit as a scientist and researcher and helps others find that helpful information.

Citations to secondary sources are permissible under certain circumstances. For example, if you are discussing Wikipedia in your paper, you should cite it (here are some more of our thoughts on citing Wikipedia). Likewise, some primary sources are unobtainable (such as if they are out of print or impossible to find) or written in a language you don’t understand, so the secondary source is what you should cite. Or the secondary source might offer an analysis of the primary source that you want to refer the reader to. See our post on how and when to cite secondary sources (a.k.a. a source you found in another source) and refer to Publication Manual section 6.17 (p. 178) for directions and examples of citations to secondary sources.

We hope this discussion of primary and secondary sources has helped you understand what types of sources are most effective and helpful to use in a research paper. Also we hope that you will contact us if you ever do find that alligator, because the family bathtub just isn’t the same without him. 

January 03, 2013

Alphabetizing “In Press” and “No Date” References

Tyler

 

 

by Tyler Krupa

You may already know that references with the same authors in the same order are arranged by year of publication, the earliest first (see the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, p. 182):

Meints, K., Plunkett, K., & Harris, P. L. (2002).

Meints, K., Plunkett, K., & Harris, P. L. (2008).

But do you know what to do when a group of references with the same author(s) in the same author order contain “in press” and “no date” publication dates? Alphabetizing these references is easy as long as you remember the following two points:

1. An “in press” work has yet to be published, so if you have one or more references that contain a publication year, these references will always come before an “in press” reference because they’ve already been published.

2. When dealing with “no date” references, simply follow the same “nothing precedes something” guidance that the Publication Manual gives regarding alphabetizing author surnames in the reference list (see p. 181). Using this guideline, “no date” references should always precede references with “some date.” Also remember that “no date” is abbreviated as “n.d.” in both the reference list and the in-text citations (see p. 185).

Here are some examples that show the correct ways to alphabetize these types of references in the reference list:

Johnson, K., & Jones, B. B. (2012).

Johnson, K., & Jones, B. B. (in press).

Taylor, H., Carter, N., & Beckett, S. (n.d.).

Taylor, H., Carter, N., & Beckett, S. (2010).

Taylor, H., Carter, N., & Beckett, S. (in press).

University of Florida. (n.d.).

University of Florida. (2012).

Also remember that if you have two or more “in press” or “no date” references with the same authors in the same order, you should use lowercase letters—a, b, c, and so forth—after the publication date and alphabetize the references by their titles (excluding A, An, and The; see p. 182 in the Publication Manual). The only difference between these types of references and references with publication years is that “in press” and “no date” references contain a hyphen before the a, b, and so forth:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.-a). The knowledge . . .

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.-b). A strategy to . . .

Schafer, G., & Plunkett, K. (2011a). The power . . .

Schafer, G., & Plunkett, K. (2011b). Task complexity . . .

Schafer, G., & Plunkett, K. (in press-a). The rapid learning . . .

Schafer, G., & Plunkett, K. (in press-b). Sometimes a child . . .

We hope that these examples clear up this point of possible confusion.

December 13, 2012

How to Cite Different Groups of Authors With the Same Lead Author and Publication Date

Tyler

 

 

by Tyler Krupa

What’s in a name? Properly citing different groups of authors with the same lead author and publication date can make a big difference. When you have two or more references of more than three surnames with the same year and they shorten to the same form (e.g., both Smith, Jones, Young, Brown, & Stanley, 2001, and Smith, Jones, Ward, Lee, & Stanley, 2001, shorten to Smith et al., 2001), clarify which one you are citing each time. On the second and all subsequent citations, cite the surnames of the first two authors and of as many of the next authors as necessary to distinguish the two references, followed by a comma and et al. (see the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, p. 175).

Smith, Jones, Young, et al., 2001

Smith, Jones, Ward, et al., 2001

Are you tempted to use an a or b to designate which is which? This is a common error—placing lowercase letters (a, b, c, etc.) after the publication date instead of citing the necessary surnames. Lowercase letters are used after the publication date only for references with the same author (or with the same two or more authors in the same order) with the same publication date (in which case the references are arranged alphabetically by title; see p. 182 in the Publication Manual). So, using a or b is not appropriate when you have different groups of authors with the same lead author and publication date. Here are some examples that show the correct and incorrect ways to format these types of references in your reference list and in your text citations:

Correct:

McGregor, I., Nash, K., Mann, N., & Phills, C. E. (2010). Anxious uncertainty and reactive approach motivation (RAM). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 133–147. doi:10.1037/a0019701

McGregor, I., Nash, K., & Prentice, M. (2010). Reactive approach motivation (RAM) for religion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 148–161. doi:10.1037/a0019702

Incorrect:

McGregor, I., Nash, K., Mann, N., & Phills, C. E. (2010a). Anxious uncertainty and reactive approach motivation (RAM). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 133–147. doi:10.1037/a0019701

McGregor, I., Nash, K., & Prentice, M. (2010b). Reactive approach motivation (RAM) for religion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 148–161. doi:10.1037/a0019702

In the examples above, the authors are not the same, and therefore a and b should not be used after the publication date.

When citing these references in the text, cite the necessary number of surnames to distinguish between the references. In these two references, this distinction is not reached until the third author. Here’s how these reference should be cited in text:

Correct:

First citations:

(McGregor, Nash, Mann, & Phills, 2010)

(McGregor, Nash, & Prentice, 2010)

Second and subsequent citations:

(McGregor, Nash, Mann, & Phills, 2010)

(McGregor, Nash, & Prentice, 2010)

Incorrect:

First citations:

(McGregor, Nash, Mann, & Phills, 2010a)

(McGregor, Nash, & Prentice, 2010b)

Second and subsequent citations:

(McGregor et al., 2010a)

(McGregor et al., 2010b)

Note that in the first reference example above, you should use the four surnames “McGregor, Nash, Mann, and Phills” instead of “McGregor, Nash, Mann, et al.” in the second and subsequent citations. The reason for this is that et al. means “and others,” so if there is just one more surname remaining after distinguishing between the two references, just list the final name instead of using et al. (For more examples on how to correctly use et al., see a recent post to our blog.)

Now you know how to properly cite different groups of authors with the same lead author and publication date. Questions? Leave us a comment.

November 29, 2012

The Finer Points of APA Style: When Authors Have the Same Surname



Anneby Anne Breitenbach

There really is a certain satisfaction one gets from knowing how to use a tool correctly and well. That’s as true of an editorial style as it is of a lathe or a chisel. Like a well-made tool, APA Style has been crafted and honed for a specific purpose, in this case, “to advance scholarship by setting sound and rigorous standards for scientific communication” (p. xiii). Part of that communication for authors is to be sure to be as clear as possible about who their sources are. Thus, we’ve developed rules for distinguishing between sources if there is any risk that they might be confused. And using those rules correctly pleases me.

The reason behind them is clear, but the need to apply them is rare enough that using them is a skill. Let’s make sure you know how to use them too.

The Publication Manual says this: “If the reference list includes different authors with the same surname and the first initial, the authors’ full first names may be given in brackets” (p. 184).

Thus, if you cited Danny Thomas’s biography Make Room for Danny and Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, your reference list entries would look like this:

Thomas, D. [Danny], & Davidson, B. (1991). Make room for Danny. New York, NY: Putnam. 
Thomas, D. [Dylan]. (1954). A child’s Christmas in Wales. Norfolk, CT: New Directions.

You would also want to distinguish between the two references in your in-text citation by using both first and last names. Your format would be (Danny Thomas, 1991) and (Dylan Thomas, 1954).

For further information on how to order references by authors with the same last name in the reference list, see our posts on Citing the Recurring Author With Crystal Clarity and Order in the Reference List!

Wood shaving

November 15, 2012

How to Cite a Class in APA Style

Timothy.mcadooby Timothy McAdoo

Have you ever learned so much in a class that you wanted to cite the whole thing? If so, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, because a class is not a retrievable source, when you try to put together a reference, you won’t have a "where" there. There, there: Don’t worry, you do have other options!

Citing a Course Pack or Custom Textbookback to school

Sometimes people who ask about citing a course are really trying to cite the textbook, course pack, custom textbook, or other published materials used in the class. Our recent post on that topic provides a number of options.

Citing the Teacher’s PowerPoint File or Other Materials

In some cases, you might want to cite materials presented by the instructor that were not included in a course pack or a custom textbook (e.g., the instructor’s lecture itself or a PowerPoint presentation designed by the instructor). 

If the instructor has posted the materials somewhere online, you can cite them directly. But, it’s more likely that he or she is the only source for the materials. In that case, cite as a personal communication (see the Provide a Reliable Path to the Source section of our post on what belongs in a reference list).

Citing Your Own Class Notes 

In other cases, you might want to cite your own notes from the class. Again, because these notes will not be a retrievable source for most readers, cite them as a personal communication (see the Provide a Reliable Path to the Source section of our post on what belongs in a reference list).

Citing the Course Itself 

Your experience of attending the class simply cannot be replicated or retrieved. But, although the course itself is not retrievable, you may be able to find a description of the course on your school’s website. If you can find it online, you can cite it!

October 25, 2012

How to Cite a Podcast

Timothy.mcadooby Timothy McAdoo

Podcasts are new—okay podcasts were new about 10 years ago—but the reference format will look familiar. As with other retrievable documents, just follow the basic guidelines for creating a reference: Tell the reader who, when, what, and where. When in doubt, this post on citing something you found on a website always helps me!

For a podcast, the “who” might be a producer, a writer, or a speaker. You can use parentheses to identify the contribution of the person in the "who" position—when you know it.

For example, here’s a reference for an audio podcast:

Rissian, L. C. (Producer). (2012, May 4). Twelve parsecs [Audio podcast].
    Retrieved from http://itunes.apple.com

Notice that the “Retrieved from” line includes the homepage URL, not the full URL, of where you found the podcast. (In this example, it was an iTunes page, but it could be an organization's webpage or even a website devoted solely to the podcast.) A full URL might feel more direct, but the homepage URL is more likely to be correct as the days, months, and years pass between when you create your reference and when a reader sees your work and wants to find the podcast.

Video podcasts are also new—okay video podcasts were also new about 5 years ago—but you can cite them in the same fashion. In an earlier post, you’ll find an excellent sample reference to a video podcast.


October 11, 2012

British Spellings

Timothy.mcadooby Timothy McAdooUnion Jack

This week, I look at another frequently asked APA Style question! Though the answer is true for other languages, too, the question is most often framed around British spellings.

Question

When an article or book title includes British spellings, should I “fix” them in my reference list? Also, what if I include a direct quote? Should I change spellings or use [sic]? I read somewhere that APA Style requires spellings to match those in the APA Dictionary of Psychology or Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

Answer

The Publication Manual’s spelling guidelines apply only to the original writing in your paper.

For references, keep the spelling in titles and other elements exactly as they appeared in the original. That is, cite what you see.

For instance, if you cite this scholarly tome, keep that u in colour!

Trooping, T. C. (2012). Who rotated my colour wheel? London, England:
    Neal’s Yard Publishing.


Likewise, if you quote from the text, keep the original spellings. There’s no need to use [sic], as these are not errors.

    Trooping (2012) said, “only when you allow your colour wheel to turn will you recognise the aesthetic ‘complements’ you’ve received” (p. 10).

October 04, 2012

Cite What You See, Cite What You Use

DB

by David Becker

Cite What You See is the motto I used in my previous post about citing pseudonyms to explain that you should cite whatever author name you noted in the source you used, whether it’s a pseudonym or a real name. This motto can be applied to all the essential elements of a reference list entry. The information you need to properly cite a source should be found within the source itself.

Extend the Cite What You See motto to Cite What You Use, and you’ll find answers to some other common questions about creating reference list entries. Use only the information provided by the source you are citing—don’t include information from other sources or variants of your source.

Here are two common APA Style questions about citing sources and ways that the Cite What You See, Cite What You Use motto can address them.

"The book I’m citing has multiple editions. Which one do I cite?"

Cite whichever edition you used. For instance, even though there’s a more recent edition, if you consulted the fifth edition of the Publication Manual, then refer to the fifth edition in your reference list entry:

American Psychological Association. (2005). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

"I’m citing a video that’s located at multiple places on the Internet. Which source should I cite?"

Cite whichever source you used. If you’re citing a video podcast that you downloaded from iTunes, format your reference entry as in Example 50 from page 210, section 7.07, of the Publication Manual. But if you found the video on YouTube, cite it as you would any other YouTube video (see our post on how to create a reference for a YouTube video). Here’s an example of how to cite one video from two different sources:

Dunning, B. (Producer). (2011, January 12). inFact: Conspiracy theories [Video podcast]. Retrieved from http://itunes.apple.com/

Dunning, B. [volleybrian]. (2011, January 12). inFact: Conspiracy theories [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEijdTeBMRM&list=UUG9DGRmeyQZAlcCD4JGMilQ&index=5&feature= plcp

The bottom line is don’t be concerned that other versions of your source exist or that your source can be found in places other than where you found it. Just remember to Cite What You See, Cite What You Use!

August 02, 2012

How to Cite Materials From Meetings and Symposia

Jeff

 

by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

If you’re attending the APA Convention this week in Orlando, Florida, you’ll probably come away with some great new research to use. But how to cite it? Let’s dive right in with a few examples.


Papers and Poster Sessions

Adams-Labonte, S. K. (2012, August). Daytime impairment due to  
college students’ technology use during sleep: Similarities to
sleep apnea. Poster session presented at the meeting of the
American Psychological Association, Orlando, FL.
Nguyen, C. A. (2012, August). Humor and deception in advertising: When 
laughter may not be the best medicine. Paper presented at the
meeting of the American Psychological Association, Orlando, FL.


Notice that the date field contains not only the year but also the month of the conference.


Symposia
A symposium is a bit like a live-action edited book: Several authors come together under the leadership of the chair to pool their knowledge about a topic.

Krinsky-McHale, S. J., Zigman, W. B., & Silverman, W. (2012, August). 
Are neuropsychiatric symptoms markers of prodromal Alzheimer’s
disease in adults with Down syndrome? In W. B. Zigman (Chair),
Predictors of mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and mortality in
adults with Down syndrome.
Symposium conducted at the meeting
of the American Psychological Association, Orlando, FL.

Convention Blogging
Leading up to the convention, APA staff have been blogging about featured speakers and presentations. Here’s how you would cite one of those blog posts.

Mills, K. I. (2012, July 25). Why do people hurt themselves? [Blog post]. 
Retrieved from http://apaconvention.com/2012/07/20/why-do-people-
hurt-themselves


Published Proceedings
APA generally does not publish proceedings of the annual convention (although selected abstracts are available in the online program). However, APA often publishes proceedings of more specialized meetings. Here’s an example:

Parsons, O. A., Pryzwansky, W. B., Weinstein, D. J., & Wiens, A. N. 
(1995). Taxonomy for psychology. In J. N. Reich, H. Sands, & A. N.
Wiens (Eds.), Education and training beyond the doctoral degree:
Proceedings of the American Psychological Association National
Conference on Postdoctoral Education and Training in Psychology

(pp. 45–50). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


Increasingly, proceedings are being made available on CD to reduce publishing costs. If that’s the case with your source, just add [CD] after the title. If the proceedings are published online, substitute “Retrieved from URL” for the publisher and location.


If you’re attending the APA convention in Orlando this week, do stop by one of our publishing seminars (to find them, go to http://forms.apa.org/convention/index.cfm?convention=Division and search on “P&C - APA Publications and Communications Board”). See you next year at the APA convention in Hawaii!

 

July 26, 2012

Data Is, or Data Are?

Tyler

 

 

by Tyler Krupa

This week, we address another item on the list of APA Style points that writers find most challenging (on the basis of the article by Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, & Frels, 2010; also see their guest post to our blog): the misuse of the word data.

As noted in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual (p. 79), the plural form of some nouns of foreign origin—particularly those that end in the letter a—may appear to be singular and can cause authors to select a verb that does not agree in number with the noun. This is certainly the case with the word data. As shown in the Publication Manual (p. 96), the word datum is singular, and the word data is plural. Plural nouns take plural verbs, so data should be followed by a plural verb. To help clear up any confusion regarding the proper use of these terms, I list examples of datum and data being used correctly below:

Each datum matches the location of an object to a coordinate on the map.

Although we have compiled the results, these data are the focus of another report and are not described here.

Keep in mind that most of the time the plural form data should be used. Scientific results are built upon testing things multiple times across multiple people, and we draw conclusions from the aggregate, not the individual, data points. Therefore, when referring to the collective results, be sure to use the plural form:

The data regarding age show that older participants performed just as well as younger participants.

The data challenge the notion that more directive questions are necessary when interviewing children who have mild intellectual disabilities.

Another helpful hint to remember is that the term data set is two words, but database is one word:

We generated 20 complete data sets.

It remains unlikely that the current empirical database could support such analyses.

We hope these examples help to clear up any confusion regarding the proper use of data. However, if you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment.

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