3 posts categorized "Journal Article Reporting Standards (JARS)"

May 14, 2018

The Updated APA Style JARS: Advancing Psychological Research

Sm-David Kofalt2 by David Kofalt

A (Very) Brief History of Journal Article Reporting Standards and APA Style

In one form or another, reporting standards have been a part of the APA Publication Manual. Although reporting standards have continued to develop with each edition of the Publication Manual, APA’s contribution to reporting standards were systematized and clarified in the December 2008 American Psychologist article "Reporting Standards for Research in Psychology: Why Do We Need Them? What Might They Be?" that was adapted as an appendix in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual.

Journal Article Reporting Standards Today: APA Style JARS

"Journal Article Reporting Standards for Quantitative Research in Psychology:
The APA Publications and Communications
Board Task Force Report"
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"Journal Article Reporting Standards for Qualitative Primary, Qualitative Meta-Analytic, and Mixed Methods Research in Psychology:
The APA Publications and Communications
Board Task Force Report"
Full-Text HTML | PDF

 

In January 2018, APA published an update to the reporting standards in two open-access articles in American Psychologist. Collectively referred to as APA Style Journal Article Reporting Standards, or APA Style JARS, the articles provide standards for quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research in psychology.

Whereas APA’s previous reporting standards focused solely on quantitative research, in response to the growth of qualitative research, the January 2018 update introduced standards for reporting qualitative and mixed methods research in psychology.

The update also involved a broad revision of the quantitative standards, which now include standards for clinical trials, replication studies, longitudinal studies, N-of-1 studies, and studies that use Bayesian statistics or structural equation modeling. In addition, the quantitative standards now separate hypotheses, analyses, and conclusions into primary, secondary, and exploratory groups.

APA Style JARS Tools

JARS icon
Last week APA launched a brand-new companion website for APA Style JARS that provides tools for students, authors, reviewers, and editors. Through this site, users can download the two open-access APA Style JARS articles as well as an editorial introducing the updated standards written by Anne E. Kazak, editor-in-chief of American Psychologist. Users can also find an APA Style JARS informational video, information on the history of reporting standards at the APA, frequently asked questions, and user-friendly printable checklists corresponding to each of the 15 APA Style JARS tables, adapted from the American Psychologist articles.

The APA Style JARS articles and companion site serve as tools to help students, researchers, and educators throughout the research process, enabling authors to more thoroughly and accurately communicate their research, and in turn, providing readers with information that is more accessible and easily understood.

 

December 16, 2010

Journal Article Reporting Standards: How Do They Work?

HCooper 3-1-09

by Harris Cooper, PhD

Last week I discussed why APA’s Journal Article Reporting Standards (the JARS) are needed when you are writing your psychology research report. I compared a psychology research paper to assembly instructions, like those you would follow when constructing a shelf or putting a bike together. Without a list of materials and clear instructions, others will find it difficult to understand what you did and to repeat your experiment. In this post, I describe how the JARS works. (For more detail about why the JARS is needed and how it works, see my book, Reporting Research in Psychology: How to Meet Journal Article Reporting Standards, which was released by APA this week.)

The JARS first focuses on information recommended for inclusion in all reports. These recommendations are organized by the parts of a research report: title, abstract, introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion. For example, here are the characteristics of sampling procedures that the JARS recommends be described in the Method section of every report:

  • Sampling method, if a systematic sampling plan was implemented
  • Percentage of sample approached that participated
  • Self-selection (by either individuals or units, such as schools or clinics)
  • Settings and locations where data were collected
  • Agreements and payments made to participants
  • Institutional review board agreements, ethical standards met, and safety monitoring

If a study is conducted with a college or university subject pool, the description of the sampling procedure is pretty straightforward. But, if a study involves, say, a classroom intervention, you can see how the description can become more involved. In both cases, however, if we don’t know this information about the study, it would be hard to determine to whom the results of the study apply.
After the recommendations that pertain to all reports, the JARS asks that researchers pay careful attention to reporting the research design. Research designs come in a variety of forms depending on the type of question that motivates the research. Therefore, each design requires unique information.
The JARS currently provides standards for only one family of designs, those involving purposive or experimental manipulations or interventions. Among the information requested are these aspects of the manipulation:

  • Setting (where the manipulations or interventions occurred)
  • Exposure quantity and duration (how many sessions, episodes, or events were intended to be delivered and how long they were intended to last)
  • Time span (how long it took to deliver the intervention or manipulation to each unit)
  • Activities to increase compliance or adherence (e.g., incentives)

So, if a study evaluates the effect of providing tutoring for children having difficulty learning to read, the JARS recommends that the report tell readers where the tutoring took place (e.g., in the regular classroom or a resource room; before, during, or after school); how often tutors met with students and for how long; whether the intervention lasted a week, a month, a semester, or a year; and whether the students received some incentive to take part in the tutoring and to stay involved.

The JARS module on experimental manipulations also asks whether the researcher (a) randomly assigned participants to conditions or (b) assigned participants to conditions using another type of procedure; depending on the assignment procedures, the researcher asks additional questions about how the assignment was accomplished.

Of course, this is just a sampling of the information requested in the JARS. As you look at the full JARS, it might seem daunting to provide all the information. But really, everything asked for should be known about a study. The JARS helps researchers remember what’s important about their study and ensures their study remains a valuable contribution to the psychology literature.

December 10, 2010

Journal Article Reporting Standards: Why Are They Needed?

HCooper 3-1-09

by Harris Cooper, PhD


Harris Cooper, PhD, was chair of the APA Journal Article Reporting Standards Working Group. He also served on the committee that revised the APA Publication Manual.

 With the holidays around the corner, nothing frustrates us more than incomplete assembly instructions for that bicycle or bookshelf. We fume over the instructions that are unclear or the list of materials that don’t quite match up with the material provided. There seems to be a screw missing. What is this piece for? Does the shelf go in before or after tightening the screws?

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In many ways, a psychology research report is like assembly instructions. Without a complete list of the materials and a clear description of the assembly steps, it is impossible for others to understand what we did and what to do to repeat our experiment, if they so desire.

Recently, more people have become interested in what the psychological research says. But, with increased influence comes increased responsibility, and increased scrutiny. And, there has been a growing sense that the instructions in our research reports often do not serve us well.

A desire for “evidence-based” practice is widespread in public health, social services, and education. Before funding a program to, say, reduce drug abuse, improve academic achievement, or assist veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder, the people who control the purse strings want “solid evidence” the program works. Solid evidence means that the studies that purport to evaluate programs and interventions allow confident conclusions about program effectiveness. And, to make this judgment, the research write-ups need to include clear instructions and an accurate list of materials.  How else will they know whether studies’ results are to be believed?

In addition to this need for easy replication is a desire for uniformity in discussing results.  The amount of psychological research is growing rapidly. When researchers summarize studies, be they about basic topics—such as the influences on memory or the development of morality through the life span—or applied topics, they need to have good descriptions of what was done. Like assembly instructions, these descriptions are used to piece together past research into coherent pictures, to help resolve conflicts in research results, and to identify questions yet to be studied. If the research description is incomplete, it is like assembly instructions that result in a bicycle that we can’t ride or a bookshelf that will collapse.

Not surprising then, greater emphasis today is placed on the reporting of research. So, in preparation for the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, APA formed a working group to look into the issue. As a result, the Publication Manual now recommends that Journal Article Reporting Standards (or the JARS) be followed that summarize the information editors, reviewers, and readers will expect to see in research reports. APA has just released a book I authored to help writers understand and implement the new standards, titled Reporting Research in Psychology: How to Meet Journal Article Reporting Standards. So, how do the JARS work? Find out in next week’s post.

 

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