4 posts categorized "Italics"

February 15, 2017

How to Format Scientific Names of Animals

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

When an animal name is part of a journal article title, it is conventional to provide the animal’s scientific name (genus and species). Genus is always capitalized and species is not. Notice that the scientific names are also italicized (see examples on p. 105 of the APA Publication Manual).

For example, see the following articles from APA Journals:

Journal of Comparative Psychology article: Dogs (Canis familiaris) Account for Body Orientation but Not Visual Barriers When Responding to Pointing Gestures Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition: Control of Working Memory in Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta)

This convention of including the scientific name in the paper’s title is not an APA Style guideline specified in the manual; however, it is an accepted norm of scientific research. (If you have any questions about whether to include the scientific name in your paper or manuscript, ask your teacher, advisor, or editor.)

So, if you cite an article that includes a genus and species in the title, how should the title appear in your reference list? Keep the italics and capitalization of the animal’s scientific name exactly as they appear in the original title:

MacLean, E. L., Krupenye, C., & Hare, B. (2014). Dogs (Canis familiaris) account for body orientation but not visual barriers when responding to pointing gestures. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 128, 285–297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0035742
Tu, H.-W., & Hampton, R. R. (2014). Control of working memory in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 40, 467–476. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xan0000030

September 21, 2016

How to Cite a YouTube Comment

David Becker

By David Becker

When researching a topic for your paper or manuscript, you may come across a few relevant YouTube videos—perhaps a TED Talk or two—that you would like to cite. Being the intrepid explorer of the Internet that you are, you may even brave those videos’ comment threads, desperately searching for some faint glint of rational discourse hidden within the dark, troll-infested depths. Or maybe you’re intentionally seeking out vile and offensive comments if you are writing about the psychology of Internet trolls. Whatever your reasons, you have found a YouTube comment that you would like to cite, but you don’t know how.

Some of the same principles for citing a blog comment also apply to citing a YouTube comment. For instance, list the commenter’s user name if their real name isn’t listed and add “Re:” followed by a space before the title of the video. Also, as with some blog comments, clicking on a YouTube comment’s time stamp will lead to a page with a unique URL that features that comment at the top of the comment thread. Include this unique URL in the “Retrieved from” portion of your reference.

YouTube Comments

There are, however, some important differences between citing blog comments and YouTube comments that are worth noting. Let’s first look at the publication date.

As with citing a blog comment, cite the date that the YouTube comment was posted, not the date that the video was uploaded. YouTube comments present a somewhat unique challenge in that they do not display precise publication dates. Rather, they indicate how long ago a comment was posted (e.g., “3 hours ago,” “2 weeks ago,” “10 months ago,” “4 years ago,” etc.). With such imprecision, there’s no sense in citing a day or a month, as you would do when citing a blog comment, so just cite the publication year.

The year that the comment was posted is easy to figure out using simple math. However, in the unlikely situation where there might be some ambiguity about what year a comment was posted, you can include “ca.” for circa after the publication date, much like when citing approximate dates for social media sources. This should be done as sparingly as possible.

Another difference between citing a YouTube comment and a blog comment is the formatting of the title. Whereas the title of a blog post is not italicized, the title of a video is italicized. However, the “Re:” is technically not part of the video title and therefore is not italicized.

Taking all this into consideration, here is a sample reference to a YouTube comment:

49metal. (2016). Re: Are you dating a psychopath? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP5HIjA9hh4&lc=z13bu5ghznaawh0ez23ajz0gnquidx1z004

And here is a sample text citation for that comment:

Some do not see the value in these sorts of informal, self-diagnosis measures: “This invitation for lay people to diagnose a rare psychological disorder… is profoundly irresponsible” (49metal, 2016).

Keep in mind the reliability of your source within the context your paper’s topic when deciding what to cite. A random comment from an unidentified YouTube user, such as the one above, is likely not appropriate in a research paper that coalesces expert opinions on a scholarly topic. However, this type of informal source could be more appropriate in a different kind of paper, such as one about how people interact with each other on social media.

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.


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."


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.

March 01, 2012

How to Capitalize and Format Reference Titles in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2 by Chelsea Lee

APA Style has special formatting rules for the titles of the sources you use in your paper, such as the titles of books, articles, book chapters, reports, and webpages. The different formats that might be applied are capitalization (see Publication Manual, section 4.15), italics (see section 4.21), and quotation marks (see section 4.07), and they are used in different combinations for different kinds of sources in different contexts.

The formatting of the titles of sources you use in your paper depends on two factors: (a) the independence of the source (stands alone vs. part of a greater whole) and (b) the location of the title (in the text of the paper vs. in the reference list entry). The table below provides formatting directions and examples:

Independence of source


Reference list





Stands alone

(e.g., book, e-book, report [technical, government, etc.], dissertation, thesis, film, video, television series, podcast, YouTube video, artwork, map, music album, unpublished manuscript)

Italic, title case

Gone With the Wind

Italic, sentence case

Gone with the wind

Part of a greater whole

(e.g., journal article, book chapter, e-book chapter, newspaper article, magazine article, blog post, television episode, webisode, webpage, tweet, Facebook update, encyclopedia entry, Wikipedia entry, dictionary entry, song)

Inside double quotation marks, title case

“Longitudinal Impact of Parental and Adolescent Personality on Parenting”

Not inside any quotation marks, sentence case

Longitudinal impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting

More on Italics Versus Nonitalics

As you can see in the table above, the titles of works that stand alone (such as a book or a report) are italicized in both the text and the reference list. In contrast, the titles of works that are part of a greater whole (such as an article, which is part of a journal, or a book chapter, which is part of a book) are not italicized in either place, and only in the text are they put inside quotation marks. If you are having difficulty determining whether something stands alone (such as a webpage that may or may not be part of a greater website), choose not to italicize.

More on Capitalization: Title Case Versus Sentence Case

APA Style uses two kinds of capitalization to format reference titles, which are also mentioned in the table above: title case and sentence case. APA’s title case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are capitalized, and sentence case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are lowercased. In both cases, proper nouns and certain other types of words are always capitalized. Here are more detailed directions for implementing title case and sentence case.

Text Examples

As shown in the table above, title case is used for the titles of references when they appear in the text of an APA Style paper. Here are some examples of titles written in title case (of an article and a book, respectively), as they might appear in a sentence in the text of a paper:

The article “Psychological Distress, Acculturation, and Mental Health-Seeking Attitudes Among People of African Descent in the United States: A Preliminary Investigation” (Obasi & Leong, 2009) makes an important contribution to the mental health and acculturation literature. 
Students read stories of visual agnosia in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (Sacks, 1985). 

Reference List Entry Examples

In contrast, sentence case is used for titles of references when they appear in reference list entries. See how the book and article titles look when capitalized in sentence case in these example reference list entries:

Obasi, E. M., & Leong, F. T. L. (2009). Psychological distress, acculturation, and mental health-seeking attitudes among people of African descent in the United States: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 227–238. doi:10.1037/a0014865
Sacks, O. (1985). The man who mistook his wife for a hat and other clinical tales. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

We hope this helps you understand how to capitalize and format reference titles in APA Style. 

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