114 posts categorized "How-to"

April 14, 2015

Using Italics for Technical (or Key) Terms

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

(Note: Key terms are not the same as keywords, which appear under an abstract. For more about keywords, see my previous post.)

In creative writing, italics are commonly used to emphasize a particular word, simulating the emphasis you would give a word if you read the sentence aloud. You see that all the time, right? But the APA Publication Manual recommends using careful syntax, rather than italics, for emphasis.

However, the Manual (on p. 105) does recommend using italics for the “introduction of a new, technical, or key term or label," adding "(after a term has been used once, do not italicize it).” I give examples of each below.

New or Technical Terms

To determine whether you have a new or technical term, consider your audience. A term might be new or technical for one audience and not for another. As an illustration, let’s look at two different uses of the phrase conditioned taste aversion.

This phrase might be considered commonplace in behavioral neuroscience or biological psychology research and thus likely not italicized at the first use in journal articles within that field.

Example sentence: “Of course, conditioned taste aversion may be a factor when studying children with these benign illnesses.”

But, let’s say you are instead writing for a journal about childhood development. Because this audience has a different expertise, you may think they are less familiar with the concept of conditioned taste aversion. In that context, you might consider the phrase technical and italicize the first case in your paper.

Example sentence: “Of course even much later in life these children may avoid avocados simply because of conditioned taste aversion, associating them, consciously or unconsciously, with feelings of illness.”

Key termsKey Terms

(Note: Key terms are not the same as keywords, which appear under an abstract. For more about keywords, see my previous post.)

A key term italicized in an APA Style paper signals to readers that they should pay close attention. This might be because you are defining a word or phrase in a unique manner or simply because the term is key to the understanding of your paper. For example, I might italicize a term that will be used throughout the remainder of a paper about conditioning:

Example sentence: “Conditioned taste aversion is a concept not to be overlooked.”

That statement would very likely be followed by a definition and examples of the concept, but subsequent uses of the term would not be italicized.

APA does not maintain a list of technical or key terms—this is intentional. Only you, the author, can know, or reasonably surmise, whether a term is technical to your audience or key to your paper. Let’s look at one more example:

Let’s say you’re writing a paper about the psychological benefits of owning a cat. You might naturally use the term feline many times. Nonetheless, you probably won’t italicize its first use because, for most audiences, it’s a familiar word. Still, as a careful author, if you’ve used the word many times, it’s worth considering why. Let’s say you’ve discussed in great detail how you believe feline traits differ from similar traits of other household pets. In that case, you might consider the understanding of the word feline key to your paper, and you could italicize the first use and perhaps include a definition.

As you can tell, deciding whether you have key, new, or technical terms is subjective. Your paper may have none. Or, if you need to delineate multiple important concepts within a paper, you may have several.

Labels

I’ve saved the easiest category for last! Use italics for labels. The Manual gives this example: “box labeled empty.”

For these, you should italicize each time the word is used as a label.

Example sentence: "The box labeled empty was full. Boxes labeled empty should remain empty."

tl;dr

Use italics for the first case of a new or technical term, a key term, or a label. Don’t italicize the subsequent appearances of new or technical terms or key terms.

April 02, 2015

Keywords in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

What are keywords?

If you’ve searched PsycINFO, Google Scholar, or other databases, you’ve probably run across keywords. In APA Style articles, they appear just under the abstract. They are usually supplied by an article’s author(s), and they help databases create accurate search results.

Key lightbulbsHow do I pick my keywords?

Keywords are words or phrases that you feel capture the most important aspects of your paper. To create yours, just think about the topics in your paper: What words would you enter into a search box to find your paper? Use those!

We call these natural-language words, because they reflect the way people really talk about, and search for, a topic. In fact, in some databases, to provide comprehensive results, the “keywords” search option actually searches the article titles and abstracts along with these designated keywords.

In short, when later researchers are searching PsycINFO or other research databases, the keywords help them find your work.

For example, if you’ve written a paper about the benefits of social media for people with anxiety, your keywords line might be as follows:

Keywords: anxiety, social media, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat

Note how I’ve included the social media platform names. Keywords don’t have to be formal; they just have to be useful! These keywords will help the later researcher who searches for one of those terms or a combinations of them (e.g., “anxiety and social media,” “anxiety, Facebook, and Twitter”).

Also, because these are natural-language words, keywords can include acronyms. Keywords for a paper on using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test with patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder might look like this:

Keywords: Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, WCST, OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder

The Publication Manual does not place a limit on how many keywords you may use. However, to be most effective, keywords should be a concise summary of your paper’s content. We recommend three to five keywords.

Where do they go?

The keywords line should be centered just under your abstract. Keywords: should be italicized, followed by a space. The words themselves should not be italicized. You can see an example under the abstract in this APA Style sample paper.

March 17, 2015

How to Cite an Illustrated Book

David Becker



By David Becker

Dear APA Style Experts,

I want to cite an illustrated book and give proper credit to the illustrator, but I can’t find an example of how to do that in the Publication Manual. Can you give me some guidance?

Edward G.

Dear Edward,

Unfortunately, the Publication Manual doesn’t have the space to accommodate examples for every type of citation situation (cite-uation?). But, even though the manual doesn't specifically mention how to cite an illustrator, the basic book reference format described on pages 202–203 still applies to your cite-uation.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the goal of a reference is not necessarily to provide proper credit—it’s more about directing your readers to the right source. These two objectives generally go hand-in-hand, but not always. For instance, if you’re citing a book that includes illustrations that aren’t essential elements of the book, crediting the illustrator is probably not necessary—this information will likely not assist readers in finding the original source.

Take Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for example. The illustrations by Sir John Tenniel are very well-known, but the book can function perfectly fine without them, and your readers won’t need to know his name to find the source. With that in mind, here’s what the reference would look like:

Carroll, L. (2006). Alice’s adventures in Wonderland & through the looking-glass. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. (Original work published 1865)

Even if you were writing specifically about these illustrations, you would still use the same reference information, as well as the standard author–date format for parenthetical citations. You could simply refer to the illustrator and his work in your narrative: “Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations are excellent examples of surreal art from the 1800s (Carroll, 1865/2006).”

Alice in Wonderland

However, when citing a book where the illustrations are essential to understanding the content—a children’s picture book or a graphic novel, for example—it would be appropriate to cite both the author and the illustrator, especially if they are both given cover credit. But, you don't need to worry about their roles. Keep it simple and cite the book as you would cite a non-illustrated book with more than one author. Take Goodnight Moon for example:

Brown, M. W., & Hurd, C. (2007). Goodnight moon. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (Original work published 1947)

Although Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd are clearly identified on the book's front cover as the author and the illustrator, respectively, there's no need to indicate this in your reference entry.

One benefit of sticking with this basic citation format is that you can easily apply it to books where the author and illustrator roles are not clearly designated on the cover, which is the case with the graphic novel Watchmen:

Moore, A., & Gibbons, D. (1986). Watchmen. New York, NY: DC Comics.

Note that although John Higgins is credited as the colorist inside the book, he's not named on the front cover. Therefore, it's not necessary to cite him for retrievability purposes—just cite what you see on the front cover.

This simple citation format also works for wordless picture books where there is no author, only an illustrator:

Becker, A. (2013). Journey. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

If you’re trying to cite an illustrated book, I hope this information will help you resolve your cite-uation. If not, please leave a comment below or contact us.

February 04, 2015

How to Cite a Hashtag in #APAStyle

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Note: To learn how to cite individual tweets or posts that include hashtags, see our post on citing social media. This post is about how to talk about the hashtags themselves.

The hashtag as an organizational tool wasn’t born on Twitter, but that's where I, and many others, first saw it used that way. And, as Chris Messina, who introduced the idea to Twitter, has said, "it's left nerd-dom and now it's out there in the world." Indeed, the hashtag is a common sight on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Google+, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Kickstarter, and other platforms. And its ubiquity makes the hashtag an incredibly useful search tool.

#APAStyle on Facebook
#APAStyle on Twitter
#APAStyle on Pinterest
#APAStyle on Google+

So how do you cite a hashtag? This may surprise you: You don’t!

That’s because, just like a search of a research database, finding and searching with the right hashtag is part of your research methodology. And just as with other aspects of your methodology, you can simply describe it the text of your paper.

That is, just as you might say “I searched the Public Affairs Information Service International database for Hong Kong, electoral system, and Umbrella Revolution,” you might also say “I searched Twitter, Vine, and Instragram for the hashtags #UmbrellaRevolution, #OccupyHK, and #HongKong that appeared between September 22, 2014 through October 22, 2014.” Interested readers and fellow researchers can then attempt to replicate the search if they are so inclined. If the reasoning behind the wording of the hashtag is not obvious, you might want to elaborate. In this example, you might want or need to explain the origin of the terms Umbrella Revolution and the Occupy movement, which led to the #UmbrellaRevolution and #OccupyHK hashtags.

Of course, in your paper you might also refer to individual tweets, Facebook posts, pictures, or other online items that include hashtags. For instance, you might want to quote the most popular Tweet that used the hashtag or just show some representative cases. You can (and should) create references and cite tweets or other online posts that you’ve quoted, paraphrased, or otherwise relied on in a paper.

January 13, 2015

How to Cite Software in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Can you cite computer software in APA Style? Yes! Here’s everything you need to know.

Q: Do I have to cite the computer software I mention in my paper?
A: The Publication Manual specifies that a reference is not necessary for “standard software.” What is “standard”? Examples are Microsoft Word, Java, and Adobe Photoshop. Even less ubiquitous software, like SPSS or SAS, does not need to be referenced.

Note: We don’t keep a comprehensive list of what programs are “standard.” You make the call.

In your text, if you mention a program, do include the version number of the software. For example, “We asked participants to type their responses in a Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010, Version 14.0.7128.5000) file.”

However, you should provide a reference for specialized software. For example, let's say you used an open source software package to display items to the participants in your study. You should cite it. The reference format follows our usual who-when-what-where format.

  • Use an individual’s name in the reference if he or she has proprietary rights to the program. In all other cases, create a reference as you would for unauthored works.
  • After the title, in brackets, provide a descriptor for the item. This helps the reader immensely.
  • If the software is available online, provide the URL rather than the publisher name and location.

Example References

Esolang, A. N. (2014). Obscure Reference Generator [Computer software]. Washington, DC: E & K Press.
Customized Synergy [Computer software]. (2014). Retrieved from http://customizedsynergy.com

Example Text Citations

“We used the Obscure Reference Generator (Version 2.1; Esolang, 2014) and Version 1.0 of Customized Synergy (2014) to complete our work."

Q: Is the name of the program italicized?
A: No: not in the text and not in the reference.

Q: Is the name of the program capitalized?
A: Yes, the name of the software is a proper noun and should be capitalized, both in the text and in the reference list.

Q: What about programming languages?
A: You don’t need to include references for programming languages. But, feel free to discuss them in the text of your paper, if relevant.

Q: What about mobile apps?
A: Yes, you can cite those, too. If you need to cite an app, this blog post has everything you need to know.

Q: What about video games?
A: Yes, video games are software. Follow the templates above for the reference and in-text citation.

Q: What if I used an online application to have my participants complete a survey?
A: Like Survey Monkey? If you mention the use of a site, simply provide the URL in your text (e.g., “Participants were given a link to an online survey, which the authors created using Survey Monkey (http://www.surveymonkey.com).” However, if you’re citing a particular page from the cite (e.g., a help document or the “About” page), you should reference that page just as you would any other. See this eggcellent post for more details about citing websites.

Q: What if I wrote the software myself?

A: If the reader can retrieve it, you can include a reference, following the template above. If you’ve created and published/posted software, that certainly falls into the “specialized” area noted above.

But, if you’ve written software that is not retrievable, a reference is not possible.  If, for example, you’ve included the full code as an appendix, you will want to mention that appendix in the text, but a reference is not needed. You might also find these post about how to write about yourself and whether and how to cite one’s own experiences helpful.

I've tried to cover everything, but please let me know what I missed. I look forward to questions and comments!

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

 

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.

Yours,

Translated Terry

Languages-800
 

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

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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Reference:

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

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