October 05, 2015

The Myth of the Off-Limits Source

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Proper citation is an important component of any APA Style paper. However, many readers believe certain sources aren’t allowed in APA Style, and they write to us looking for a definitive list of what is off limits. Two of the most common questions are about whether it’s okay to cite websites and whether sources have to have been published within a certain time frame to be cited, such as the last 5 or 10 years.

Do not write sign

Let’s set the record straight: Anything that a reader can retrieve, you can cite as a source in an APA Style reference list. Things the reader can’t retrieve (like a conversation, an unrecorded webinar, or a personal e-mail) can be cited as personal communications (see PM § 6.20). And there are no limits on the age of sources.

But just because you can cite anything as a source doesn’t mean you should. Rather, APA recommends that sources be reliable, primary accounts that represent the most up-to-date information wherever possible. Let’s look at each of these aspects in more detail.

Reliable Sources

A reliable source is one you can trust. Two indicators of reliability are the expertise of the author and the vetting standards of the place of publication. For example, an article written by a researcher and published in a peer-reviewed journal is likely to contain reliable information and thus would make a good source. On the other hand, a random website written by an unknown person, for example, is less likely to be reliable, and thus we would not recommend you cite this source unless you have a good reason (e.g., to talk about the source’s unreliability) or you verify the information yourself using other reliable sources.

However, the mere fact that information is published online is not reason to dismiss it as unreliable. Many scientific, medical, and governmental organizations—such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health, U.S. Census Bureau, and even the APA—publish reliable information on their websites and social media sites. Scientists and research organizations might publish blogs or YouTube videos that are worth citing. Evaluate each source on its own merits for reliability when determining whether to cite it in a paper.

Primary Sources

A primary source presents information gathered firsthand, such as the results of an experiment or data from a survey. Secondary sources present information secondhand—an example would be a textbook summary of a topic or a Wikipedia article. APA recommends citing primary sources whenever possible, because this allows you to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information yourself rather than rely on someone else to do this for you. Secondary sources can be reliable, but it is a best practice of scholarly writing to investigate for yourself if you can. See here and here for more information on primary and secondary sources.

Up-to-Date Sources

APA recommends that you use the most up-to-date research you can find on your topic. However, the meaning of up-to-date will vary depending on the field. Some fields develop faster than others, and even within a field, some information will remain relevant for a long time, whereas other information will become outdated. For example, foundational works may be quite old but still worth citing when you are establishing the context for your own work. There is no year-related cutoff where sources must be published within the past x number of years to be used in a paper. Each source must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the information in it is timely and relevant.

If you have further questions about choosing sources for an APA Style paper, leave a comment below. 

September 17, 2015

Principles of Writing: How to Avoid Wordiness

Chelsea blog 2
By Chelsea Lee Information filter

 A series on the principles of good scholarly writing.

Scholarly writing requires clear communication. 

To achieve this, writers must be concise—meaning they say only what needs to be said. When writers load sentences with extra verbiage or include asides that aren’t relevant to the argument, it’s called wordiness. Wordiness hurts communication because it forces readers to disentangle the useful parts of the writing from the unnecessary parts, which can slow down or even impede readers’ understanding. Your message will be lost if your writing is too wordy.

In this post I will discuss some practical strategies for reducing wordiness by highlighting several common wordy phrases and their alternatives.

  1. Phrases involving “the facts.” Examples: based on the fact that, due to the fact that, in spite of the fact that, because of the fact that, and so forth: 

    Any phrase that involves “the facts” is potentially wordy; instead, when possible, use because or although. Here are some examples: 
    • Wordy: Due to the fact that the measure was unavailable, I selected another.
    • Concise: Because the measure was unavailable, I selected another.

    • Wordy: In spite of the fact that half the participants dropped out the study, we still conducted Phase 2.
    • Concise: Although half the participants dropped out of the study, we still conducted Phase 2.
  1. Phrases involving “purpose” and “order.” Examples: for the purpose of, in order to, in order that, and so forth.

    Wordiness can creep in when you’re describing why something happened. Often phrases like for the purpose of can be eliminated, and others, like in order to, can be streamlined (in this case, to just to). Here are some examples:
    • Wordy: We administered surveys for the purpose of assessing motivation. 
    • Concise: We administered surveys to assess motivation.

    • Wordy: We designed the study in order to investigate different aspects of personality.
    • Concise: We designed the study to investigate different aspects of personality.
  1. Phrases involving “importance” and “interestingness.” Examples: it is important to note that, importantly, interestingly, it is interesting to note that, it is essential that, and so forth. 

    Leave things that aren’t important or interesting out of your paper. Write your sentences to highlight what is actually important or interesting—for example, begin by noting the result or the implication, not the fact that you are noting it. Also place an important concept at the beginning of a section or paragraph to draw more attention to it, rather than burying it. Here are some examples: 
    • Wordy: It is important to note that our study has implications for counseling practice.
    • Concise: Our study has important implications for counseling practice. 

    • Wordy: It is interesting to note that results diverged from the hypothesis.
    • Concise: Results diverged from the hypothesis. We found it interesting that…

These are just three examples of how writers can avoid wordiness in their scholarly writing. For more on this topic, see Publication Manual § 3.08 on Economy of Expression. If you have further questions about this topic, leave a comment below. 

September 01, 2015

Best of the APA Style Blog: 2015 Edition

Each fall the APA Style Blog Team puts together a “best of” feature, and this year we continue the tradition with an updated set of posts from the APA Style Blog and our parent site, apastyle.org. We hope it will be helpful as new batches of students set upon the task of learning and implementing APA Style. You can get the full story in our sixth edition Publication Manual (also available as an e-book for Kindle) and our APA Style Guide to Electronic References, plus more information via the links below.

Getting Started

What is APA Style?
Why is APA Style needed?
Basics of APA Style Tutorial (free)
FAQs about APA Style

Sample Papers

Sample Paper 1
Sample Paper 2
Sample meta-analysis paper
Sample published APA article

70869049-edit-smAPA Style Basics Principles

How in-text citations work
How reference list entries work
How to handle missing information
How to find the best example you need
   in the Publication Manual
"Cite what you see, cite what you use"

Grammar and spelling

Punctuation Junction (what happens when punctuation marks collide)
Use of first person
Spelling tips
Grammar tips

Student Resources

Citing a class or lecture
School intranet or Canvas/Blackboard class website materials
Classroom course packs and custom textbooks
Research participant interview data
Reference lists versus bibliographies
MLA versus APA Style (in-text citations and the reference list)
Student Research Webinars From APA and Psi Chi

References to Electronic Resources

E-books
Mobile apps
Website material (and multiple pages from the same website)
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) pages and posts
Hashtags
Online-only journal articles
YouTube videos
Software

Other “How-To” Citation Help

Translated Sources (vs. your own translation)
Secondary sources (sources you found in another source) and why to avoid them
illustrators and illustrated Books
Interviews
Legal references
Paraphrased work

Paper Formatting

Direct quotes and Block quotations
Paraphrasing
Capitalization
Fonts
Headings
Lists (lettered, numbered, or bulleted)
Margins
Running heads
Spelling
Numbers

Statistics
Keywords (vs. key terms)
Hyperlink formatting

Keep in Touch!

We hope that these resources will be helpful to you as you write using APA Style. If you are interested in receiving tips about APA Style as well as general writing advice, we encourage you to follow us on social media. You can find us (and tell your friends) on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

August 04, 2015

How to Cite Online Maps in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

I was recently asked how to cite the directions created with Google Maps. Because Google Maps is not addressed specifically in the reference examples in the Publication Manual, it’s time to stitch together a Frankenreference.  

For this example, let’s say you want to travel from Ingolstadt, Germany, to Geneva, Switzerland (as Frankenstein’s monster did in part of his journeys). And, let's assume you're driving, not walking or bicycling. Your reference for the directions would look like this:

Google. (n.d.). [Google Maps directions for driving from Ingolstadt, Germany, to Geneva, Switzerland]. Retrieved August 4, 2015, from https://goo.gl/maps/ILt8O

I assembled this Frankenreference from the four following pieces:

Who: The author is Google. (Google Maps is a service provided by Google, Inc.  We recommend dropping “Inc.” and “Co.” from names in references. See also our post on Group Authors.)

Sm.edit.iStock_000066763803_FullWhen: Because Google Maps pages are created on the fly, they have no published date. Use “n.d.”
 
What: When a page has no title, we recommend creating a description, in brackets.  Because the page has no title, the exact wording to use is up to you.  In this example, I'll use "[Google Maps directions for driving from Ingolstadt, Germany, to Geneva, Switzerland]." Note that I included “driving” in my description. I recommend including the mode of transportation (walking, driving, biking, etc.) in the description because it does affect the URL that Google provides.
 
Where:  Note that I’ve included the retrieval date. Although retrieval dates are not necessary for most APA Style references, we recommend them for pages that might change or be updated over time. Directions are certainly subject to change, so we recommend including the retrieval date in this case.

Google Maps Reference

I’ve used Google Maps in this example, but the reference format would be similar for other online mapping sites. I hope you’ve found this helpful. Happy travels!

July 01, 2015

Punctuation Junction: Punctuation Before Quotation Marks

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

Punctuation Junction: A series about what happens when punctuation marks collide.

We have previously addressed how to use single and double quotation marks to enclose a quotation, and today we expand upon that topic to address how to use punctuation before a quotation. A few principles are at work here:

  1. To identify the speaker of a quotation before the quotation appears, put a comma after the speaking-related verb (said, replied, stated, wrote, etc.).
    • Correct: Koval, vanDellen, Fitzsimons, and Ranby (2015) stated, “Although many factors likely predict who is asked to do what (e.g., collegiality; cooking skills), the current research suggests that one robust predictor of being relied on is being high in self-control” (p. 763).
    • Incorrect: Koval, vanDellen, Fitzsimons, and Ranby (2015) stated “Although many factors likely predict who is asked to do what (e.g., collegiality; cooking skills), the current research suggests that one robust predictor of being relied on is being high in self-control” (p. 763).
  1. To present a quotation after a complete sentence (e.g., those ending in thus or as follows), put a colon after the introductory sentence and before the quotation marks. Start the quotation that follows with a capital letter if the quotation itself is a full sentence; start the quotation with a lowercase letter if it is a sentence fragment.
    • Correct: Although some people believe tasks are easier for individuals with high self-control, the research has indicated as follows: “Participants actually working on the task found it equally difficult and draining, regardless of their own self-control” (Koval et al., 2015, p. 763).
    • Incorrect: Although some people believe tasks are easier for individuals with high self-control, the research has indicated as follows, “Participants actually working on the task found it equally difficult and draining, regardless of their own self-control” (Koval et al., 2015, p. 763).
  1. For other scenarios, punctuate according to the grammar of the sentence, as though the quotation marks were not there. This means sometimes no punctuation is required before quotation marks. 
    • Correct: Koval et al. (2015) found that “individuals with high self-control may feel tired, annoyed, and perhaps even resentful of the fact that others ask and expect more of them” (p. 763).
    • Incorrect: Koval et al. (2015) found that, “individuals with high self-control may feel tired, annoyed, and perhaps even resentful of the fact that others ask and expect more of them” (p. 763).

Do you have other questions related to using punctuation before quotation marks? Leave a comment below.

Balloon and net

Source:

Koval, C. Z., vanDellen, M. R., Fitzsimons, G. M., & Ranby, K. W. (2015). The burden of responsibility: Interpersonal costs of high self-control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 750–766. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000015

May 27, 2015

Punctuation Junction: Quotation Marks and Ellipses

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

A series about what happens when punctuation marks collide.

In APA Style, double quotation marks are used to enclose

quoted material, and an ellipsis is a set of three spaced periods used to show that material has been omitted from a quotation. Here are three ways to use them in combination:

An Ellipsis at the Beginning or End of a Quotation  Quote ellipsis bubble

In general, it is not necessary to use an ellipsis at the beginning or end of a quotation, even if you are quoting from the middle of a sentence. An exception is that you should include an ellipsis if, to prevent misinterpretation, you need to emphasize that the quotation begins or ends in midsentence. However, it is not usually necessary to do this. Here’s an example from an article about high-performing or “star” employees:

Original sentence: “Stars have disproportionately high and prolonged performance, visibility, and relevant social capital, and there are minimum thresholds for each that must be attained to be a star.”

Correct use: One theory of exceptional employee behavior posits that star employees “have disproportionately high and prolonged performance, visibility, and relevant social capital” (Call, Nyberg, & Thatcher, 2015, p. 630).

Incorrect use: One theory of exceptional employee behavior posits that star employees “. . . have disproportionately high and prolonged performance, visibility, and relevant social capital. . .” (Call, Nyberg, & Thatcher, 2015, p. 630).

An Ellipsis in the Middle of a Quotation

Use an ellipsis in the middle of a quotation to indicate that you have omitted material from the original sentence, which you might do when it includes a digression not germane to your point. However, take care when omitting material to preserve the original meaning of the sentence.

When quoting, you can also change the first letter of the quotation to be capitalized or lowercase depending on what is needed for the grammar of the sentence in your paper. Here is an example showing both proper use of an ellipsis and a change in capitalization of the first letter:

Original sentence: “Some industries have formal rankings that broadcast the best and brightest workers (e.g., analyst rankings in Institutional Investor), and some organizations provide companywide performance results and publicly recognize top performers.”

Correct use: To make a high-performing employee visible to the community, “some industries have formal rankings that broadcast the best and brightest workers . . ., and some organizations provide companywide performance results and publicly recognize top performers” (Call et al., 2015, p. 629).

Incorrect use: To make a high-performing employee visible to the community, “Some industries have formal rankings that broadcast the best and brightest workers, and some organizations provide companywide performance results and publicly recognize top performers” (Call et al., 2015, p. 629).

An Ellipsis for a Quotation Spanning Multiple Sentences

A longer quotation might span multiple sentences. Use four ellipsis points (rather than three) to indicate any omission between two sentences. The first point indicates the period at the end of the first sentence quoted, and the three spaced ellipsis points follow.

Original sentences: “Beyond competitive pay and deep networks, stars—more than others—may be motivated to remain with organizations that provide opportunities to influence others or be involved in strategic decision-making. For example, a star union leader who is trusted to negotiate on behalf of membership may be motivated by nonfinancial opportunities, such as the chance to be seen as a leader, and hence, appealing to self-enhancement and self-expansion motives as described earlier. Thus, providing such influence opportunities may help organizations retain stars more than they help retain other employees.”

Correct use: Call et al. (2015) theorized that star employees “may be motivated to remain with organizations that provide opportunities to influence others or be involved in strategic decision-making. . . . providing such influence opportunities may help organizations retain stars more than they help retain other employees” (p. 633).

Incorrect use: Call et al. (2015) theorized that star employees “may be motivated to remain with organizations that provide opportunities to influence others or be involved in strategic decision-making . . . providing such influence opportunities may help organizations retain stars more than they help retain other employees” (p. 633).

For more information, see Publication Manual § 6.08. Do you have any other questions regarding the use of ellipses and quotation marks? Leave a comment below.

Source: Call, M. L., Nyberg, A. J., & Thatcher, S. M. B. (2015). Stargazing: An integrative conceptual review, theoretical reconciliation, and extension for star employee research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 623–640. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039100

 

May 13, 2015

Kudos to the APA Style Award Winners!

A few weeks ago, Emelie Milnikel and Hunter Zuk achieved landmark status. They were the first recipients of Superior Awards for APA Style, established by Grand Valley State University’s Advertising and Public Relations program to recognize outstanding student work. The Superior Award for APA Style honors exemplary skill in the knowledge and execution of APA Style in student writing.

Contest%20winners

Emelie’s paper was titled "Effects of a Company’s Professional Sports Sponsorship on Brand Image," and Hunter’s was titled "The Impact of Televised Alcohol Advertisements on Youth's Drinking Behaviors." We found both papers to be engaging and insightful. Congratulations, Emelie and Hunter, on your outstanding work! We are thrilled to learn about this award and to have the opportunity to welcome two new APA Style mavens to the fold.

If your school has a similar APA Style award, we would love to hear from you!

 

May 05, 2015

How to Cite an Article With an Article Number Instead of a Page Range

Several online-only journals publish articles that have article numbers rather than unique page ranges. That is, instead of the first article in the issue starting on page 1, the second on page 20, the third on page 47, and so on, every article starts on page 1. Why choose this approach? Because the online-only publisher does not have to worry about creating a print issue (where a continuous page range would assist the reader in locating a piece), this numbering system simplifies the publication process. So to still demarcate the order in which the articles in a volume or issue were published, the publisher assigns these works article numbers.

Many of our readers wonder what to do when citing these references in APA Style. No special treatment is required—simply include the page range as it is reported for the article in your APA Style reference. The page range may be listed on the DOI landing page for the article and/or on the PDF version of the article. Here is an example of an article with a page range, from the journal PLoS ONE:

Simon, S. L., Field, J., Miller, L. E., DiFrancesco, M., & Beebe, D. W. (2015). Sweet/dessert foods are more appealing to adolescents after sleep restriction. PLoS ONE, 10, 1–8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0115434

If the article is published in a format without page numbers entirely, just leave off this part of the reference (i.e., end the reference with the volume/issue information for the article). Here is an example article without any page numbers, from the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Cheryan, S., Master, A., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2015). Cultural stereotypes as gatekeepers: Increasing girls’ interest in computer science and engineering by diversifying stereotypes. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00049

In-Text Citations of Direct Quotations

In the text, citations of direct quotations should refer to the page number as shown on the article, if it has been assigned. If the article has not been assigned page numbers, you have three options to provide the reader with an alternate method of locating the quotation:

  • a paragraph number, if provided; alternatively, you can count paragraphs down from the beginning of the document;
  • an overarching heading plus a paragraph number within that section; or
  • an abbreviated heading (or the first few words of the heading) in quotation marks, in cases in which the heading is too unwieldy to cite in full, plus a paragraph number within that section.

Here is an example direct quotation from an article without page numbers that uses the abbreviated heading plus paragraph number method:

To increase the number of women in science and engineering, those in positions of power should strive to create "inclusive cultures so that those who are considering these fields do not necessarily have to embody the stereotypes to believe that they fit there" (Cheryan, Master, & Meltzoff, 2015, "Conclusion," para. 2).

You can read more about including page numbers in in-text citations here. Also see section 6.05 of the Publication Manual.

Do you have additional questions about citing articles with article numbers? Please leave us a comment. 

April 21, 2015

Should Links Be Live in APA Style?

Dear Style Experts,

My reference list includes many URLs and I am wondering whether they should be live and how they should be formatted (e.g., with underlining or blue font). In the Publication Manual it looks like links aren’t live, but it would be helpful for them to be in my paper because I am submitting it online. What do I do?

Cheers,

—Harry H.

Circle-links

Dear Harry,

The Publication Manual does not explicitly address whether hyperlinks should be live in APA Style (as previously discussed here), but we have some additional thoughts on the matter (naturally).

First, it is fine for links to be live in a paper, though not specifically required. Live hyperlinks are particularly helpful when a paper is being read in an online environment. In fact, the online versions of articles published in APA journals include live links in both the PDF and HTML versions.

However, aesthetics are also a concern. The default formatting for links in many word-processing programs, including Microsoft Word, is to make them blue and underlined. Although this makes the links stand out, it can also make them look distracting or hard to read, especially if the paper has been printed out. Thus, we remove the underlining from the link and set the font color to black. You can easily adjust the formatting after you have finished writing the paper or you can change the Word style for hyperlinks.

Finally, note that our recommendations apply for people writing papers, which conceivably might be viewed either online or in print. If you are using APA Style in another context, such as on a website, you might apply different formatting standards (e.g., color) to best suit the viewing needs of your audience. Thus, keep context and audience in mind when formatting your links in a paper.

Hope that helps!

—Chelsea Lee

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.

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