February 27, 2014

Being (APA) Stylish

Daisiesby Stefanie

APA Style—is there anything it can’t do?

Let’s get back to that. First, let’s talk about what it is. The first version of the publication manual, titled “Instructions in Regard to Preparation of Manuscript,”* was seven pages long (!) and published in 1929 as an article in Psychological Bulletin. Flash forward to today: We’re up to the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, but the main purpose is still to give people guidance on writing scholarly journal articles. There’s information on everything from font type and size to heading structure, language choices, statistics, tables, figures, and (everyone’s favorite!) citation and reference style, along with much, much more, within those hallowed pages. The manual has come a long way from its early days, but so has scientific inquiry and thought about health and mental health. The ways of talking and writing about these fields have evolved and changed, and the Publication Manual has changed with them. Further, APA Style has been adopted by a number of fields as an anchor for their writing, too. As someone who works with APA Style every day, it’s humbling to observe its reach, and it’s a pleasure to help clarify some of APA Style’s finer points here and by responding to the astute questions that come via styleexpert@apa.org.

Now, APA Style covers a lot of things. It gives plenty of general advice on good writing, especially of the scholarly kind, and is one of the only sources of guidance on bias-free language. It provides specific formatting advice for those writing for scholarly journals. But our guidelines and formatting might not directly apply to, say, your company’s annual report or your class assignment.

Here are a few other things not specifically covered by the Publication Manual or APA Style:

  • Bibliographies
  • Annotated bibliographies
  • Dissertations
  • Tables of contents
  • Books
  • Newsletters
  • Mediation between students and professors on APA Style disagreements

That being said, we encourage you to borrow and adapt APA Style for your purposes. If you want to apply APA Style to your dissertation, terrific! But I’m afraid I won’t have an official answer for you when you call or write to ask how your chapter titles should appear. I wouldn’t treat those as Level 1 headings (rather, I’d format the chapter title as if it were an article title), but you and your dissertation advisor are the better judges of how your dissertation should look. If there is a secret or at least a key to APA Style, it is this: Figure out the best way to most clearly express your thoughts. Be consistent in structure, formatting, and heading style. You can and will create your own style, based on APA Style, that will fit your particular situation.

When in doubt, you will not be amiss in letting the underlying spirit of APA Style—focusing on clarity, accuracy, and kindness in expression—lead the way in your writing, even if we don’t have specific guidelines for your document type.


*That is not a typo: The original title omits the a before Manuscript or an s after it.

February 20, 2014

How to Cite a Psychological Test in APA Style

Timothy McAdoo
by Timothy McAdoo

A reference to a psychological test (also called a measure, scale, survey, quiz, or instrument) follows the usual who-when-what-where format.


Here’s an example of a test you might have retrieved directly from a website:

Purring, A. (2012). Charisma and Tenacity Survey [Measurement instrument].
     Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/tests/measures/instruments/surveys

A test's name is a proper noun, so be sure to capitalize it in the reference.

In other cases, you may actually be citing the database record rather than the test. If you found a record for the test in a database, you can cite it, whether or not the record contains a link to the test itself:

Barks, H., & Howls, I. (2013). Directions of Generosity [Database record].
     Retrieved from The McAdoo Database of Fictional Titles. http://dx.doi.org

how to cite psychological tests in APA Style: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2014/02/how-to-cite-a-psychological-test-in-apa-style.htmlOr, perhaps you’ve used a test that is not available online. Not to worry, the format varies only in the "where" element. Use the first example above as your template, but replace “Retrieved from http://...” with the location and publisher (e.g., Petland, MD: E & K Press).

Using Acronyms

Although some tests are better known by their acronyms than by their full titles, the acronym is not included in the reference.* Rather, introduce the acronym at the first use in the body of the paper, as shown in the examples below.

In-Text Citations

In the body of your paper, be careful to write the name exactly as it appears in your reference. And here again, capitalize the test name, because it is a proper noun. However, capitalize the word survey (or instrument, quiz, etc.) only if it’s part of the test’s name:

“In this study, we used Purring’s (2012) Charisma and Tenacity Survey (CATS) rather than Barks and Howls’s (2013) Directions of Generosity survey.”

The abbreviation need not be introduced if the test name is mentioned only once. However, if the test name appears frequently in the paper (i.e., generally three or more times), define it the first time, and use the abbreviation consistently thereafter. Note also that the test names are not italicized when used in the text. 

Finally, although you don’t need to include the author and date every time you mention the test by name, do include the author–date citation if you quote directly from the test or paraphrase it in any way.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve passed my test! Give yourself an A+.


*The exception is the rare case where the acronym is the only official name of the test (i.e., an official spelled-out title no longer exists, which is an uncommon occurrence; the most famous example is the SAT, which no longer has a spelled-out name).

February 13, 2014

Footnotes for Source Citations in APA Style?

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Dear Style Experts,

I am writing a paper in APA Style. I have the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, but I’ve been unable to find instructions for how to format my citations in footnote form. All I see in the manual is examples of references. Can you help me? 
                                                                               —J. D. Scotus, Paris, TX

Dear J. D.,

There are a number of very good style manuals that use the footnote–bibliography method of citation, but the APA Publication Manual is not among them. APA Style uses text citations, not footnotes or endnotes, to direct the reader to a source in the reference list. This differs from other source documentation styles that use a combination of footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography for that purpose.

The only use for footnotes in APA Style is to provide additional content that supplements the text (e.g., to briefly acknowledge a tangential idea that is nevertheless important to the discussion or to note copyright permission for reprinting a lengthy quote). Endnotes are never used in APA Style, but you’ll find more about content footnotes in section 2.12 of the APA Publication Manual.

Dear Style Experts,

Author–date citations don’t give the reader enough information—I really prefer to give the source up front. What if I formatted the footnotes exactly like APA Style references, but put them at the bottom of the page? That would still be in APA Style, right? 
                                                                                         —J. D.

Dear J. D.,

The use of author–date text citations, rather than footnotes, is part of the essence of APA Style. It’s not optional.

Blueberry_heart_pancakesSuppose you asked me to make your favorite blueberry pancakes for Valentine’s Day. The store was out of blueberries, due to the latest snowpocalypse, so I used bananas; and the cat had gotten into the skillet, so I had to bake the batter in a muffin tin. The result might be delicious, but it wouldn’t be blueberry pancakes, would it? (Not even if we put maple syrup on them.)

Don’t put syrup on your muffins, and don’t use footnote citations in APA Style.

February 07, 2014

How to Cite an Annual Report in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Annual reports are usually easy to find on a company's website. The APA Style Guide to Electronic References says to "format references to technical and research reports and other gray literature as you would a book retrieved online." Thus, a reference to an annual report follows the usual who-when-what-where format.

For example,

American Psychological Association. (2013). 2012 annual report of the American
    Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs

If you used a print version of the report, replace the URL with the location and name of the publisher, like a reference to a book. And, note that when the author is the publisher, the word Author is used.

For example,

National Association of Social Workers. (2012). 2011–2012 annual report.
    Washington, DC: Author.

In both cases, the in-text citation follows the author–date format (e.g., American Psychological Association, 2013; National Association of Social Workers, 2012).

January 30, 2014

How to Cite References Containing Lead Authors With the Same Surname and Publication Date




by Tyler Krupa

In a previous post, I provided guidelines on how to properly cite different groups of authors with the same lead author and publication date. As shown in that post, when you have two or more references of more than three surnames with the same year and they shorten to the same form (e.g., both Smith, Jones, Young, Brown, & Stanley, 2001, and Smith, Jones, Ward, Lee, & Stanley, 2001, shorten to Smith et al., 2001), you need to clarify which one you are citing each time. To do this, on the second and all subsequent citations, you should cite the surnames of the first two authors and of as many of the next authors as necessary to distinguish the two references, followed by a comma and et al. (see the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, p. 175).

Smith, Jones, Young, et al., 2001

Smith, Jones, Ward, et al., 2001

Now let’s add a twist and use references that contain different lead authors with the same surname and year of publication. Do you know what you should do differently? Let’s find out by looking at the following references:

Jones, B. T., Corbin, W., & Fromme, K. (2001). A review of expectancy theory and alcohol consumption. Addiction, 96, 57–72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1360-0443.2001.961575.x

Jones, S. E., Oeltmann, J., Wilson, T. W., Brener, N. D., & Hill, C. V. (2001). Binge drinking among undergraduate college students in the United States: Implications for other substance use. Journal of American College Health, 50, 33–38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07448480109595709

On the second and all subsequent citations, are you tempted to add the names of the additional authors to distinguish the two references? Although this seems like a logical way to proceed, because the lead authors are not the same person, you should instead include the lead author’s initials in all the text citations (for more information about when to use author initials for text citations, see my recent post). Therefore, the text cites for these two references would be as follows:


First citation: Previous studies (e.g., B. T. Jones, Corbin, & Fromme, 2001; S. E. Jones, Oeltmann, Wilson, Brener, & Hill, 2001) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: Both B. T. Jones et al. (2001) and S. E. Jones et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .


First citation: Previous studies (e.g., Jones, Corbin, & Fromme, 2001; Jones, Oeltmann, Wilson, Brener, & Hill, 2001) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: Both Jones, Corbin, and Fromme (2001) and Jones, Oeltmann, et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .


Subsequent citations: Both B. T. Jones, Corbin, and Fromme (2001) and S. E. Jones, Oeltmann, et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .

In these citations, because the lead authors are different, the lead author’s initials should be included in all text citations, regardless of how often they appear. In addition, there is no need to add the names of the additional authors to distinguish the two references on the second and subsequent citations because the initials before the surnames of the lead authors already accomplish that.

Questions? Leave us a comment.

January 23, 2014

When to Use Author Initials for Text Citations




by Tyler Krupa

You probably already know that references in APA Style are cited in text with an author–date system (e.g., Adams, 2012). But do you know how to proceed when a reference list includes publications by two or more different primary authors with the same surname? When this occurs, include the lead author’s initials in all text citations, even if the year of publication differs (see the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, p. 176). Including the initials helps the reader avoid confusion within the text and locate the entry in the reference list. For example, let’s look at the following two references and their corresponding text citations.


Campbell, A., Muncer, M., & Gorman, B. (1993). Sex and social representations of aggression: A communal-agentic analysis. Aggressive Behavior, 19, 125–135. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1098-2337(1993)19:2<125::AID-AB2480190205>3.0.CO;2-1

Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., & Brunell, A. B. (2005). Understanding the social costs of narcissism: The case of the tragedy of the commons. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1358–1368. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167205274855

Text Citations

First citation: Many studies (A. Campbell, Muncer, & Gorman, 1993; W. K. Campbell, Bush, & Brunell, 2005) have shown . . . .

Subsequent citations: Both A. Campbell et al. (1993) and W. K. Campbell et al. (2005) provided participants with . . . .

As you can see from the examples above, even though the year of publication differs in the two Campbell references, the lead author’s initials should be included in all text citations, regardless of how often they appear.

Although this rule seems straightforward, one thing that trips up some writers is how to proceed when different lead authors with the same surname are also listed in other references in which they are not the lead author. To help illustrate what should you do, let’s look at the earlier Campbell examples again, but now let’s add some additional references.


Brown, Y., & Campbell, W. K. (2004).

Campbell, A., Muncer, M., & Gorman, B. (1993).

Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., & Brunell, A. B. (2005).

Smith, L. N., Campbell, A., & Adams, K. (1992).

Although you may be tempted to include the initials every time the surname Campbell appears in the text citations, note that per APA Style, the initials should be included only when Campbell is the lead author. Therefore, initials should be used for only two of the above four references in the text citations.

Text Citations

First citation: Many studies (Brown & Campbell, 2004; A. Campbell, Muncer, & Gorman, 1993; W. K. Campbell, Bush, & Brunell, 2005; Smith, Campbell, & Adams, 1992) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: . . . as was done in previous studies (Brown & Campbell, 2004; A. Campbell et al., 1993; W. K. Campbell et al., 2005; Smith et al., 1992).

Another related item to note is that if the reference list includes different lead authors who share the same surname and first initial, you should provide the authors’ full first names in brackets (see the Publication Manual, p. 184).


Janet, P. [Paul]. (1876).

Janet, P. [Pierre]. (1906).

Text Citations

(Paul Janet, 1876; Pierre Janet, 1906)

We hope these examples clear up any points of possible uncertainty. Still have questions? Leave us a comment.

January 17, 2014

Timestamps for Audiovisual Materials in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Audiovisual materials like videos, podcasts, movies, and television shows can make excellent sources for academic papers. To point the reader of a paper to a specific spot in an audiovisual source—such as when you cite a direct quotation—include a timestamp in the APA Style in-text citation, just as you would include a page number under analogous circumstances for a print source like a book or journal article. This post will show you how.


Use a Timestamp to Cite a Direct Quotation

To cite a direct quotation from an audiovisual source, include a timestamp in the in-text citation alongside the author and date indicating the point at which the quotation begins.

Here are two examples from a YouTube video about cognitive behavioral therapy that features interviews with both practitioners and clients. The first citation is for a block quotation, and the second is for a shorter quotation (<40 words).



The treatments of cognitive behavioral therapy may seem extreme to a person who does not experience the difficulties associated with a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Professor Paul Salkovskis addresses this concern:

That’s rather like saying, if someone’s got a broken leg . . . “Why should you have a plaster cast on? That’s extremely unnatural. No one else has a plaster cast.” And the idea is you often have to do things in a very different way in order to put them right. (OCD-UK, 2009, 4:03)

One patient who experienced the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy stated that it was so remarkable for her that “I began to think impossible things, like I could even invite people home” (OCD-UK, 2009, 4:50).

 The timestamp reflects the format shown on the source—here, the video is counted in minutes and seconds. To cite a quotation appearing before the 1-minute mark, or from a video less than 1 minute long, include a zero in the minutes column (e.g., 0:32).

 This example also demonstrates how to incorporate details into the narrative to provide context. Neither of the individuals quoted above are the author of the video (which for retrieval in the reference is the name of the user who posted the video to YouTube, OCD-UK). Thus the quoted individuals’ names or descriptions appear in the narrative, and the citation appears parenthetically.

 Reference list entry: 

OCD-UK. (2009, February 26). A guide to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds3wHkwiuCo


Use a Timestamp to Help the Reader Locate Paraphrased Information

 You can also include a timestamp for a citation of paraphrased information if you decide the timestamp would help the reader find the information—for example, if you’ve used information from only a part of a long video. Again, this same principle governs when you should include page numbers (or section names, or any other part of a source [link to post]) in paraphrased citations to print materials.

 Here is an example from a video interview with Aaron Beck, a pioneer of cognitive behavioral therapy. The video is more than 2 hours long, so the timestamp will help the reader find the part we’ve referenced, even though the information is only paraphrased.



Beck has stated that the future of cognitive behavioral therapy should be founded in evidence-based treatment (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 2012, 1:30:40). He hypothesized that scientists may even be able to learn which therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy, or even gene therapy or psychogenomics) will be most effective for a given individual, allowing therapists to personalize treatment for best results.


Reference list entry: 

Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. (2012, March 30). Aaron T. Beck, M.D. interviewed by Judith S. Beck, Ph.D. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BZp7ZiAE3c


 Timestamp Ranges

 Although it’s sufficient as far as APA Style is concerned to provide the timestamp at which the cited information begins, you can also include a timestamp range if you think it would help the reader. To refer to a range of time in an audiovisual source, use an en dash between the two timestamps, just as you would use an en dash in a page range. Present both timestamps in full, just as you would present two page numbers in a range in full (e.g., pp. 219–227, not pp. 219–27). 

 Here is an example:

Beck provided several examples of how evidence-based treatments should form the foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 2012, 1:30:40–1:33:35).



 We hope this post has helped you understand how to use timestamps when citing audiovisual materials in an APA Style paper. You may also be interested in our posts on citing YouTube videos, videos from the PsycTHERAPY streaming video database, podcasts, and speeches. See Publication Manual§ 7.07 and the APA Style Guide to Electronic References for more example reference formats.  

January 09, 2014

Intranet Intrigue

Daisiesby Stefanie

Dear Style Expert,

I’m writing a paper for class, and I’m using some obscure sources my professor posted on the class website (but aren’t available elsewhere—I checked!). But this website is on my school’s intranet, so only students and faculty at my university can access these sources. How do I include them in my reference list?

—Serious Student


Dear Serious,

That’s an excellent question! You’ve noted that the reference list is provided to help readers find the sources you used in preparing your paper, and thus it doesn’t make sense to include sources that your readers cannot retrieve. My question for you is, Who is your intended audience? If this paper is for class only, then provide a complete reference for your electronic source. But if class is only the first step for this paper—for example, you may plan on submitting it for publication, or it may be posted on your school’s Internet website, where anyone could read it—then you can treat the source as an irretrievable personal communication (see the Provide a Reliable Path to the Source section of the What Belongs in the Reference List? blog post).


Thank you for your question, and good luck with your paper!


December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year - 2014

December 13, 2013

Accentuate the Appositive

Daisiesby Stefanie

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. —Gertrude Stein, “Sacred Emily”

One of the delights of life is that there is usually more than one way to describe something, and often those details matter. I may walk into a room and see a rose, a dog, and a book (I admit, my house is very messy). But that rose is of the Claude Monet variety, grown in my neighbor’s tucked-away garden. That dog is a tricolor beagle that never barks. That book with the oddly literal title is the fifth and final novel of a supernatural mystery series. The details of these items are what differentiate them from the other roses, dogs, and books that might be in the same vicinity (like I said, my house is messy).
An appositive is a restatement of what a thing is, in different terms, that adds to the understanding of that thing’s identity. The appositive can be short or long, restrictive or nonrestrictive; an appositive appears next to the noun it is renaming.
Appositives are usually set off by commas. That is, they are usually of the nonrestrictive variety, in that they provide extra information but the sentence is clear and complete even without them. By “set off,” I mean that when a nonrestrictive clause appears in the middle of a sentence, commas go both before and after the appositive (see also section 3.22 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed., p. 83, for additional examples).

The flower, a carefully cultivated and locally grown Claude Monet rose, drew the eye of my visitor.

My faithful dog, a tricolor beagle whose main claim to fame is his complete failure as a watchdog, didn’t even stir when the stranger entered the room.

The visitor touched the cover of the book on the end table, Blood Debt by Tanya Huff.

Restrictive appositives are essential for meaning and do not take commas (see section 4.03 of the Publication Manual, p. 89). Note in the examples below that because the narrator has more than one brother and because there is more than one blockbuster movie, the specific names offered in the appositives are necessary and thus should not be cordoned off with commas.

My brother John is much more reasonable than my brothers Paul and George.

The blockbuster movie Independence Day was blaring at a ridiculous volume from the other room.

Using appositives well can add detail and life to your writing. If you have comments or questions about appositives, please write to styleexpert@apa.org or leave a comment below!


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