117 posts categorized "How-to"

March 14, 2013

Finding Federal Statutes





by Melissa

Legal research is a different type of beast. The skilled hunter of psychology data may need a guide when tracking down information for an APA Style reference to a federal statute. This blog post is your guide to tracking down the text of a federal statute and the statute’s name, title number, section number, and year. Happy hunting!

The sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual states that the United States Code is the official source for federal statutes. Where can I find a copy of it?
If you can’t get your hands on a printed copy of the United States Code, there’s an exact copy of the code on the Government Printing Office’s (GPO’s) website (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html).

According to the 19th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, the PDF version of the code on the GPO website can be cited as if it were the printed copy. However, for some information, it is helpful to consult a printed copy of the code.

Printed copies of the United States Code may be found in any law library. Some law schools and some state and local government offices have law libraries that are open to the public. Try an Internet search to find one near you.

You also may find a printed copy of the code in one of the Government Printing Office’s (GPO’s) federal depository libraries. Check the Federal Depository Library public page on the GPO website to find a federal depository library near you (http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp).


How do I find the official name of a statute?
The official name can be found in the text of the statute. Search the first few subsections of the statute to find the name. The words Short Title usually appear before the official name of the statute. Remember, not all statutes have names.

In the screenshot below, the name of the statute, National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, is under the heading Short Title, in section 4321.



If I know the name of a statute, but not the title or section numbers, how can I find them?
Use the Popular Name Tool on the U.S. House of Representatives website at http://uscode.house.gov/popularnames/popularnames.htm to find the title number, section numbers, and section in which the name of the statute can be found.

A search for the National Environmental Policy Act yields the following results:

The results show that the statute can be found in Title 42 of the United States Code, beginning at section 4321; the short title (name) of the statute can be found in Title 42, section 4321 note. Confirm this information by consulting your copy of the United States Code.


How do I find the right year to use in the reference?
The edition year should come from, in order of preference, the spine of the volume of the United States Code that you are using, the year on the title page of the volume, or the latest copyright year.


List of Research Resources
Federal depository libraries: http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp
PDF copy of the United States Code: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html
Popular Name Tool: http://uscode.house.gov/popularnames/popularnames.htm


March 01, 2013

How to Cite a Mobile App

Chelsea blog 2

by Chelsea Lee APA Concise Dictionary

Mobile applications, or apps, are a type of software 
that runs on devices such as smartphones and tablet computers (such as iPhones, iPads, and Androids) as well as web browsers (such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox). Apps serve a multitude of purposes, from entertaining you while you wait in line to providing you a way to look up medical information without having to lug around a stack of books. 

When you use information from an app in a paper, cite the app in APA Style. The general citation format is as follows:

Rightsholder, A. A. (year). Title of Software or Program (Version number) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from http://xxxxx

Note that the rightsholder may be an individual but is often a group or company, as shown below, and that the date reflects the year the version you used was released, even though previous versions may have been released in different years.

Here is an example citation for a whole app:

Skyscape. (2013). Skyscape Medical Resources (Version 1.17.42) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from http://itunes.apple.com

If the app is a reference work (like a dictionary, encyclopedia, or medical reference), it’s also possible to cite an entry in the app, just like you can cite an entry in a print or electronic reference work. The title of the entry goes at the beginning of the reference, followed by the year that version of the app was released and then information about the app itself.

Here is an example citation for an entry in a reference work app:

Diabetes. (2013). In Epocrates Essentials for Apple iOS (Version 5.1) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from http://www.epocrates.com/mobile/iphone/essentials

For further information and more examples of not only apps but all sorts of electronic references, check out the APA Style Guide to Electronic References (pp. 28–30). 


February 21, 2013

Writing References for Federal Statutes





by Melissa

It’s 2 a.m. You are hunched over a laptop computer, and you have 20 ounces of hastily drunk coffee sloshing around in your stomach, or maybe you have a sheaf of heavily edited, stained papers spread across half your desk, while you gnaw on half an inch of wood or whatever it is that lead pencils are made of these days. Is this stressful scenario what your process for creating challenging references looks like?

Researching and writing may be stressful, but with the right resources, creating references can be relatively easy. Relax, put down the oversized coffee cup (or chewed up pencil), and take a look at this simple template for creating APA Style references for federal statutes:

Name of the Statute, Title number Source § Section number(s) (Year).


Parts of the Reference
There are just five pieces of information that you need when creating an APA Style reference for a basic federal statute: the name of the statute, the title number, the name of the source in which you found the statute, the section number(s) of the statute, and the year of the source in which you found the statute.

This blog post defines each of these elements and shows you how to put them together to create a reference and an in-text citation. A subsequent blog post will provide more information on how to find this information in official and authoritative sources.


1. Name of the Statute. If a statute has a common name, this is the first element of the APA Style reference. The name of the statute is followed by a comma. If a statute doesn’t have a name, omit this element, and start with the title number.

Note that the terms statute and act refer to the same thing; you will see them used interchangeably if you regularly work with legal materials.

The name of one statute is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.


2. Title Number. The title number is the second element that appears in APA Style references for a named statute. If a statute does not have a name, the title number is the first element. Note that in the Publication Manual, the title number is referred to as the volume number.

 Title numbers identify the subject matter group to which a statute belongs. For instance, in the collection of statutes known as the United States Code, education statutes are grouped in Title 20, public health and welfare statutes are grouped in Title 42, and labor statutes

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is in Title 29 of the United States 


3. Source. The official source for federal statutes is the United States Code. In the reference, use an abbreviated version of this title: U.S.C.

Although statutes can be found in other places, use the official code unless it is not available (e.g., a recently passed statute usually cannot be found in the United States Code; therefore, it would be appropriate to cite another source).


4. Section number(s). A statute is usually divided into several numbered sections and subsections. In a reference for a statute, a section symbol (§) should be listed before the section number. If your reference includes more than one section, provide the first and last section numbers, preceded by a double section symbol (§§), and separate

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 runs from section 2601 to 
section 2654, formatted as §§ 2601–2654.


5. Year. Finish the reference with the edition year of the United States Code (not the year that the statute was enacted). Set the year in parentheses, and end the reference with a period.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 can be found in the last 
printing of the full United States Code, which has an edition year of 2006.


Reference Example
A reference list entry for a federal statute looks like this:

Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601–2654 (2006).


In-Text Citation Example
The in-text citation format for a federal statute is similar to that for other APA Style references. Cite the name of the statute and the year:

Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (2006)
(Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 2006)


If your work includes statutes that differ from the basic format shown above, requiring you to go beyond the scope of Appendix 7.1, be sure to consult The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.

February 07, 2013

Introduction to APA Style Legal References



by Melissa

Writers sometimes try to squeeze a reference for a statute or a court decision into the same format as a journal article, essentially trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. It won’t fit, it won’t look quite right, and it won’t be as useful to your readers as it could be.

There’s a better way. Instead of contorting legal references like pretzels, consult one or more of the following style resources: Appendix 7.1 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, this blog, and the specialized style resources discussed below.


1. Appendix 7.1 in the Publication Manual

When creating APA Style legal references, your first and best resource is the Publication Manual’s Appendix 7.1: References to Legal Materials (pp. 216–224). There, you’ll find sample references for the legal documents that are most commonly used in psychology research, including court decisions, statutes, administrative regulations, and executive orders.

The reference examples in Appendix 7.1 are drawn from The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, which is an authoritative source for legal citations and the primary style guide used by legal scholars and other professionals in that field. The reference and citation formats that you’ll find in Appendix 7.1 are a hybrid of APA Style and Bluebook style, adapted to both fit well in an APA Style article and provide the unique information that will allow your readers to find the referenced legal document.


2. The APA Style Blog

The APA Style Blog already provides some resources for legal references. Citation of the U.S. Constitution is discussed in How to Cite the U.S. Constitution in APA Style. Capitalization of the names of legal documents is discussed in Do I Capitalize This Word?

New blog posts to help you find, reference, and cite other legal materials in APA Style are on the way. These posts will cover the following topics:

As each topic is added to the blog, we’ll include a link to the relevant post in the above list.


3. Additional Resources

The Bluebook. If you’re working with more complex legal references that require you to go beyond the scope of Appendix 7.1, be sure to consult The Bluebook, which provides citation formats for constitutions, international treaties, domestic and foreign statutes, legislative bills and resolutions, administrative regulations and proceedings, executive orders, legal briefs and other court filings, reported and unreported court decisions, and many other legal documents.

Because Bluebook citation style relies heavily on footnotes and doesn’t include the reference list and name–date citations that are the hallmarks of APA Style, when you use a legal reference format from The Bluebook, consult Appendix 7.1 in the Publication Manual and, using the create-a-reference skills that you learned from our Frankenreference blog post, adapt the reference to closely follow the examples in Appendix 7.1.

Law Librarian. The law mutates. New laws that alter or overrule existing laws are passed all the time. You may wish to consult a law librarian to ensure that your references are complete and correct and that the law you are citing has not been superseded or overturned.

Additional Information Online. Finally, one other resource that I find helpful in my own research is the online guide Introduction to Basic Legal Citation by Peter W. Martin (an emeritus law professor at Cornell University). This is not an official source, so if you consult it, be sure to seek additional verification in The Bluebook.

February 01, 2013

Quotation Mark Uses Other Than Quotes

Daisiesby Stefanie

Most people know how to use quotation marks to identify material directly quoted from a source (“That’s terrific!” the editor cried; Hendrik Willem van Loon once said, “Somewhere in the world there is an epigram for every dilemma”; the first item on the questionnaire was, “How often do you engage in this type of behavior?”). In APA Style, when else is it OK to use quotation marks? I’m so glad you asked! Here are two key quotes from page 91 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, sixth edition, to explain. (Before you awesome APA Style diehards point this out, I’m exercising some artistic license and taking advantage of the differing standards of an informal blog post and setting the two quotes as block quotes, even though they consist of fewer than 40 words each.)

To introduce a word or phrase used as an ironic comment, as slang, or as an invented or coined expression. Use quotation marks the first time the word or phrase is used; thereafter, do not use quotation marks. (p. 91)

Let’s take these cases one by one. An ironic comment is one that means something other than (often the opposite of) what it says. In the example provided in the Publication Manual, “considered ‘normal’ behavior,” the quotes around normal should indicate that the behavior under discussion deviates from what might immediately come to mind when thinking of the norm (whatever that might be). For example, what qualifies as normal behavior for an 8-year-old that has been awake for 24 hours straight with a stomach virus will not be the normal behavior of an 8-year-old child who has had a decent night’s sleep and no illness (not that I would know from experience. Actually, yes, I would). “Normal” is not precisely normal in the case of the sick, sleepless child.

Slang is an informal word or phrase that may not appear in a standard dictionary but is used colloquially; slang terms appear in scholarly writing most often when writers quote participants (yet another reason to use quotation marks!). For example, if a participant described a confederate’s relationship as “lolalam” (a slang word based on an acronym for the phrase love only lasts as long as the money) or said she was “LOLing” (laughing out loud) over the questions asked in the interview, those slang terms are loaded with meaning; using the slang term the participant used preserves and conveys that meaning to the reader.

An invented or coined expression is a new word or phrase often specific to the work it is used in (although sometimes a term will catch on and start being used elsewhere, which is part of the beauty of our ever-evolving language). The example provided in the Publication Manual is the “good-outcome variable.” This term is not likely to be used or understood outside of the study it was coined for, but within the context of the study, it makes perfect sense.

Then there is our second quote from the Publication Manual:

To set off the title of an article or chapter in a periodical or book when the title is mentioned in text. (p. 91)

Quotation marks are used for full or abbreviated titles of articles, book chapters, or web pages without authors that are mentioned or cited in text (see p. 176 of the Publication Manual; note that this is how they are presented in the text, not the reference list). Examples:

In Han Solo’s (2003) article, “With a Wookiee Beside Me: How I Became the Best Rebel Pilot in Any Galaxy,” Solo recounts how he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a game of Sabacc during the Cloud City Sabacc Tournament. The newspaper account of the tournament (“Sabacc Shenanigans,” 2000) corroborates Solo’s version of events.

More quotation mark questions? Let us know at styleexpert@apastyle.org or in the comments below!


January 24, 2013

Asking the Right Question: How Can the Reader Find the Source?

Daisiesby Stefanie

Not surprisingly, we receive a lot of questions about how to create references for all sorts of different sources. As has been discussed in past blog posts, a reference can be put together by asking a number of (very good and pertinent) questions: Who? When? What? Where?
But (and you knew that was coming!) the most important question, the one you need to ask yourself before you even embark on the reference-generating journey (but especially when that journey is starting to look like Siri generated the directions), is embodied in one word: How.
More fully articulated, the “how” question you should ask when a reference is looking confusing is, How is my reader going to retrieve this source? The answer will often clarify how the reference should be formatted.
In fact, the retrieval question is the guiding beacon at the heart of many seemingly impossible reference questions we receive, such as How do I create a reference for a PowerPoint presentation? How do I create a reference for a piece of art at the museum? How do I create a reference for an e-book?
The PowerPoint question is a classic one here at Style Expert headquarters. But it’s not so tricky: A PowerPoint presentation posted online is no different than any other file posted online. Just get your reader there. If the presentation was seen during a lecture or meeting and cannot be retrieved by the audience of your paper, it’s a personal communication, which means that no reference is needed, but it should be cited accordingly.
Consider your paper’s audience when creating a reference for a piece of art—you could create a reference guiding readers to the museum in which it is housed (if, say, it is located close to your class, if you are writing a paper for a course) or a picture of the art elsewhere (if you have a broader audience that might not have access to the particular museum).
And that e-book? E-books are available from many different sources and in all different file formats. Show your readers how to retrieve the particular e-book file you read.
Do you have additional questions about how to get readers to your sources? E-mail us at styleexpert@apastyle.org or leave 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.


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.


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).

Search the APA Style Blog


My Photo

About Us

Blog Guidelines

APA Style FAQs


rss Follow us on Twitter

American Psychological Association APA Style Blog

Twitter Updates