13 posts categorized "Pub Manual help"

May 31, 2016

You Can Word Count on This

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

Dear Style Expert,

What words count toward the word count in an APA Style paper? Am I supposed to count the title page, abstract, citations, and reference list? Are there minimums or maximums for the word count of a sentence or paragraph? How many words should go in the whole paper? Help me!

—Wordy William

Vintage-typewriter-1200

Dear Wordy,

Counting the number of words in an APA Style paper is easy: Count all the words in the entire paper to get the total word count. That includes the title page, abstract, main text, quotations, headings, citations, footnotes, reference list, tables, figure captions, and appendices—everything. This gives an accurate representation of the overall length of your paper and saves you from having to perform elaborate calculations just to know whether your paper is too long, too short, or just right. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to count the words in your paper.

There is also no set minimum or maximum number of words allowed in a sentence or paragraph. Sentences and paragraphs of any length are technically allowed. However, there are still reasons to avoid very short or very long sentences and paragraphs that have nothing to do with arbitrary word counts. Very short sentences might be abrupt or choppy, and very long sentences might get confusing. Paragraphs shorter than two or three sentences might seem incomplete, and paragraphs longer than a page might contain too many ideas at once. Use very short or long sentences and paragraphs only when warranted by the information being presented.

The word count limit for an entire paper will be set by the journal to which you are submitting your work or by your professor for a university assignment. Limits vary widely and are dependent on the nature of the article you are writing—for example, a brief report will be short but a dissertation quite long.

The word count limit for the abstract is also set by the publisher or professor; abstract word limits vary from journal to journal and typically range from 150 to 250 words (for student assignments, the limit is typically 250 words as well).

If you’ve got other questions about word counts for your particular assignment, your professor or publisher will probably be the best resource for you. Leave any other questions or comments below.

May 02, 2016

Principles of Writing: Passive and Active Voice

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

Few topics in scholarly writing raise as many questions as passive voice. Many writers have gotten the impression that passive voice isn’t allowed in APA Style or that if it is allowed, it is to be avoided at all costs. However, that’s an oversimplification. The reality is that sometimes the passive voice is appropriate, but many writers overuse it.

This post will show you how to identify the passive and active voices, explain the advantages and disadvantages of each, and help you choose the appropriate voice for your writing. Both passive and active voices are likely to appear in the same paper; it is just a matter of choosing the right voice given what you want to express.

Identifying Voice

Here is the classic formula for identifying the passive voice:

A “to be” verb + a past participle + the word by.

  • Active voice: The lion ate the mouse.

Lion eats mouse 1

  • Passive voice: The mouse was eaten by the lion.

Lion eats mouse 2

In the active voice sentence, the actor (the lion) is presented first, followed by the action (eating) and then the object of that action (the mouse). In the passive voice sentence, the order is reversed.

There are two caveats to this formula:

  1. Sometimes the word by is left out of a passive voice sentence but is still implicit in the meaning, for example, in a sentence like “This topic was addressed in the paper.” If you can ask “by whom?” and come up with a coherent answer (such as “by the researchers” or “by Smith”), then the sentence is still in the passive voice even though the word by does not appear. 

  2. Not all instances of to be indicate the passive voice, as in a sentence like “The participants were hungry.” Asking “hungry by whom?” makes no sense, so this sentence is not in the passive voice even though it has a to be verb.

Advantages of the Active Voice

The Publication Manual says to “prefer the active voice” (p. 77), and there are two main reasons why. First, the active voice clearly lays out the chain of events: Lion eats mouse. With a passive voice sentence, the reader must wait until the end of the sentence to discover who was responsible for the action. When used in a long sentence, the passive voice may confuse readers. Second, the active voice usually creates shorter sentences. Although your paper should include a variety of sentence lengths, shorter sentences are usually easier to understand than longer ones.

Here are two common cases in which you should prefer the active voice rather than the passive voice:

  1. Use the active voice to describe your own actions. It is completely permissible, and in fact encouraged, to use the first person to describe your own actions in APA Style. Use I to refer to yourself if you worked alone and we if you worked as part of a group (see PM 3.09 for more).
    • Active voice: I conducted an experiment about body image.
    • Passive voice: An experiment about body image was conducted.

  2. Use the active voice to acknowledge the participation of people in research studies, which is an important part of reporting research (see Guideline 3 on p. 73 of the Publication Manual for more on this). For example, researchers often administer surveys to participants or observe them for certain behaviors. Show with your sentences how participants completed actions, rather than how researchers acted upon them, as in these examples:
    • Active voice: The students completed the surveys.
    • Passive voice: The surveys were completed by the students.

Advantages of the Passive Voice

The Publication Manual also states that “the passive voice is acceptable in expository writing [writing used to give information on a topic or to explain something] and when you want to focus on the object or recipient of the action rather than on the actor” (p. 77). Here is an example of appropriate passive voice:

  • First-year students have been underserved by the university administration.

In this sentence, the focus is on first-year students. Depending on the context, this may be exactly what you are going for. The active voice version (“The university administration has underserved first-year students”) puts the focus on the university administration, which is not necessarily what you want. Remember, APA Style doesn’t prohibit the passive voice; it just requires that you use it wisely.

Strategies for Choosing the Appropriate Voice

Both the active and passive voices have uses in scholarly writing, so employ them appropriately. However, newer writers especially tend to overuse the passive voice, which can lead to clumsy, long, and confusing sentences. With that in mind, we recommend the following:

  1. Prefer the active voice over the passive voice to create clear, concise sentences; however, remember that the passive voice can also be an appropriate choice under certain circumstances.

  2. Identify cases of the passive voice by looking for instances of the to be verb + a past participle + the word by.

  3. Try rewriting a passive voice sentence in the active voice to determine which voice more clearly communicates your ideas.

For more on this topic, see section 3.18 of the Publication Manual.

Leave a comment if you've got questions that you want to be answered by us.

January 13, 2016

Coming Soon: APA Style CENTRAL

Last weekend, we did something fun: At the American Library Association’s midwinter conference, in Boston, we gave librarians a sneak peek at APA Style CENTRAL!

To get a glimpse for yourself, check out the video below!

To receive additional updates about APA Style CENTRAL as they become available, just complete the form at http://apastyle.org/asc.

December 23, 2014

Making a List, Checking It Twice

Anne Breitenbach

 

By Anne Breitenbach

You know what I love? Assembly instructions.Recipes. Rules of engagement. Game plans. In essence, any tool that helps me clearly define what I need to have on hand to do a project properly and what steps I will need to take to complete it. So the first thing I do each morning when I arrive at my desk (well, after getting coffee) is jot down a checklist of what I hope to accomplish on this day. It gives me goals, focuses me, keeps tasks from getting lost, and—perhaps best of all—allows me to strike through each as it’s completed. (Microambition provides pretty constant self-congratulatory feedback.)   I’m not alone in my appreciation of checklists either.  Researchers, authors, and students ask us all the time if there is a roadmap to achieving a paper or a manuscript created correctly in APA Style.

So I’ve convinced you, right? You grab the Publication Manual and flip to the index looking for a handy “checklist” entry. I’m afraid it isn’t quite that clear cut. There are checklists of various kinds, but you have to know your manual or supporting APA resources well enough to know what and where they are and how to use them.  Let’s look at some examples. 

At the end of Chapter 8, “The Publication Process,” in section 8.07, you’ll find a précis of what a “good” manuscript looks like, with sections on format, title page and abstract, paragraphs and headings, abbreviations, mathematics and statistics, units of measurement, references, notes and footnotes, tables and figures, and copyright and quotations. This Checklist for Manuscript Submission is also available online in the Authors and Reviewers Resource Center on our website. Although designed for authors, it is just as handy as a cheat sheet for students. A bonus is that it provides you with the relevant section numbers in the Publication Manual

In fact, at the end of several sections you’ll also find a checklist. For example, section 5.19 summarizes the information about tables and reminds you, among other elements, to use tables only when necessary, review for consistency of presentation, keep your title brief, ensure all columns have a column head, define abbreviations, construct notes appropriately, and provide suggested statistics. It’s a very useful way to check that you’ve complied with all the recommendations. 

And the checklists don’t stop there. There’s one for figures in section 5.30 at the close of the figures section to gently remind you to use simple and clear figures that are clearly labeled. It reminds you to ensure the figures appear in order and are discussed in the text. It also reminded me of several other steps that I just had to go back to the checklist and check.

Of course, not all checklists may be so benign. You know who else loves checklists? That’s right. Santa’s making his list and checking it twice. Things might go better for you if he knows you're a checklist user too.

Bad santa

 

May 02, 2014

But I Already Learned MLA! Why Do I Need APA Style?

Anne breitenbach

 

 

by Anne Breitenbach

We know. It’s true: Most high schools teach MLA Style. You labored over it, you learned to tolerate if not love it—and now, bam, you get to college, and as soon as you begin to take psychology, or education, or business, or nursing, or whatever classes, you need to learn APA Style. Why? Why can’t all disciplines just convene a convention and hammer out one style that fits all needs?

It’s an attractive idea, but can you imagine representatives from all different studies gathering, United Nations like, to reach a consensus agreement? "Spell out the first name in the reference!," cries the MLA advocate. "No, use initials with a period after each initial," answers the ambassador from APA. "Initials are good, but no period, no space between!," counters the distinguished diplomat from AMA. The fight would rage into the night; heck, those fights would rage into the next 1,001 (spelled out?, comma?) nights on that and many another question. Use "and" or "&" and in what context? How shall we indicate pagination? What should the capitalization of a title in a reference be?

Yes, learning a style is a complicated and confusing process. Even within a given style, as times change, styles must adapt and its users must adapt with it. Needing different styles for different disciplines compounds that labor. All those picayune guideline differences aside, is there value to a specific style that makes it worth the pain?

One factor, of course, is that using a given style marks its user as a member of a specific culture. The corollary to that is how adept users are at using this "language" signals their expertise within that field (e.g., if you walk like a duck, quack like a duck, and swim like a duck, a fortiori, you’re a duck ). In addition, there are historical reasons at the heart of a style that can help you understand why it was created and that give shape and reason to its evolution. That’s certainly true of APA Style. Read the original 1929 Psychological Bulletin journal article (Bentley et al., 1929) in which it was introduced—it won’t take you long, it’s only seven pages—and you’ll see what I mean. Reading the suggested guidelines makes clear they were developed to address specific problems of exasperated journal editors: Too many authors were submitting wordy, messy, subjective, logically unpersuasive manuscripts and not adequately addressing the research that already existed on the issue they were writing about. Review and revision were expensive in editorial time, and overlong and wordy manuscripts wasted precious journal space.

Time passed, and what began as a guide specifically for authors seeking to publish their manuscripts in APA’s own journals became more widely used at the college level in the social sciences because it addressed equally important needs there. Using APA Style marks you as a member of a scientific community that uses and values concise expression, clarity of thought, and the value of attribution as an information ethic. In short, it marks you as a duck of the social sciences sort. Welcome to the pond!

 Reference

Bentley, M., Peerenboom, C. A., Hodge, F. W., Passano, E. B., Warren, H. C., & Washburn, M. F. (1929). Instructions in regard to preparation of manuscript. Psychological Bulletin, 26, 57–63. doi:10.1037/h0071487
Graduate duck

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.

May 15, 2013

APA Publication Manual Is Now Available on Kindle

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

 

You read that right: APA has just released the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual as an e-book from the Amazon Kindle Store! (Sometimes the news is so nice, you have to say it twice.)


Keep reading for more details, or just click on over to Amazon and buy it now (you know you want to).

Kindle - 6th ed

The manual is available from Amazon’s Kindle store as a Print Replica book. Each page in a Print Replica book looks just like the print version, with the same words and images in the same position, but it includes features such as annotation, highlighting, and zoom functions. Page numbers correspond to the print versions, so you can easily find the information you need. Reading progress is also synced across multiple Kindle apps, so you can “save the page” if you need to switch devices.

Kindle Print Replica books can be read on Kindle Fire tablets, Kindle for PC, Kindle for Android Tablets, Kindle for Mac, or Kindle for iPad reading apps (all available for free download from Amazon), but not on E Ink devices.

The manual’s companion volumes have also been released for the Kindle, so you can put an entire shelf-full of APA Style products on your tablet today!

 

Kindle - 6th ed

APA Publication Manual, Sixth Edition

Kindle - E-Ref Guide

APA Style Guide to Electronic References, Sixth Edition

 Kindle - Concise Rules

Concise Rules of APA Style, Sixth Edition

Kindle - Presenting findings

Presenting Your Findings, Sixth Edition

Kindle - Displaying findings

Displaying Your Findings, Sixth Edition

Kindle - Reporting research

Reporting Research in Psychology

 

And now, back to the party!


Conga-line1

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!

April 26, 2012

Reference Example Organization: How to Find the Example You Need in the Manual

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Consider the following questions that the APA Style team has received:

  • How do I cite a website?
  • How do I cite interlibrary loan?
  • How do I cite my Kindle?
  • How do I cite my iPhone?

What do they have in common? Well, in each case, the individual asking the question has been unable to find the appropriate reference example in the Publication Manual and has turned to the APA Style team for answers. However, don’t take the existence of these questions as evidence that the answers aren’t in the manual, because they usually are. But to find them, you have to understand how the manual is organized—that’s how you’ll get to the reference example you really need.

Document Type, Not Delivery Method or Format

Many readers may be surprised to realize that the reference examples in the Publication Manual are organized by document type (articles, books, reports, etc.), not by method of delivery (computers, interlibrary loan, e-readers, smartphones) or format (paper, HTML, DVD, etc.). So for every reader who writes to us to say, “I can’t believe out of 77 examples in the Publication Manual, not one is for a website,” we take this opportunity to point out that a full 47 examples—that’s 61%—refer to online resources you’d find on a website.

So, remember that for the purpose of citation (and of finding reference examples), it matters what's on the website, not that the document is on a website in and of itself. 

Using the Manual to Find What You Need

The Publication Manual provides a wonderful index of document types in Chapter 7 prior to the reference examples themselves (see pp. 193–198). In addition to variations on document type (96 of them!), subvariations on author, title, and publication information are also provided. This list is an essential reference for users of the Publication Manual, and we hope you’ll take advantage of it now if you haven’t before.

Clarifying the Distinctions Among Delivery Method, Format, and Type

Additionally, we give to you the table below, which lists examples of different document delivery methods, formats, and types. The third column, for document type, also links to other APA Style Blog posts on the topic and lists relevant reference examples in the Publication Manual.

So when you ask an APA Style question—say, “How do I cite ‘X’?”—first try to find your “X” in the table below or in the index of document types in the manual. If you find it listed only in one of the first two columns of the table below, then you haven’t figured out the document type yet (that’s the third column), and you’re not quite ready to write the reference. Note that there are as many possible document types out there as the day is long, so for brevity’s sake, this table includes only the most common. Many more are in the Chapter 7 index.  

Document delivery method

 Finding - computer

Document format

Finding - film

Document type


Finding - book

Computer

Paper

Journal article (ex: 1–6)

Internet browser

HTML (as on a website)

Magazine or newspaper article (ex: 7–11)

Mobile phone (e.g., iPhone, Android phone)

PDF (as on a website)

Special section in a journal (ex: 12)

Tablet computer (e.g., iPad)

Digital audio file (e.g., mp3, mp4)

Monograph (ex: 13)

E-reader (e.g., Kindle, Nook)

Digital video file (e.g., flash video, streaming video, wmv, mp4)

Editorial (ex: 14)

Interlibrary loan (e.g., ILLiad)

DVD or Blu-ray

Abstract (ex: 16, 17)

Visit to a library in person

Film

Book or book chapter (ex: 18–26)

Photocopy

CD, cassette, or record

Report (technical, government, etc.) (ex: 31–35)

Movie projector

Art materials (paint, clay, etc.)

Dictionary or encyclopedia, whole book or entry (ex: 27–30)

Stereo or other audio player

 

Wikipedia or wiki entry

Paper

 

Proceedings from a meeting or symposium (ex: 38, 39)

Museum

 

Dissertation or thesis (ex: 40–44)

Archival collection

 

Review (ex: 45–48)

Physical object (e.g., book)

 

Video (e.g., YouTube video, movie, TV show) (ex: 49, 51)

 

 

Podcast (ex: 50)

 

 

Music recording (ex: 52)

 

 

Software (ex: 56)

 

 

Unpublished, informally published, or self-published work (ex: 58–62)

 

 

Letter (ex: 63–65)

 

 

Interview (recorded or transcribed) (ex: 69, 70)

 

 

Pamphlet or brochure

 

 

Artwork or images

 

 

Photograph (ex: 73)

 

 

Blog post (ex: 76)

 

 

Press release

 

 

Tweet

 

 

Facebook update

 

 

Information on a webpage

 

 

Personal communication (e-mail, phone call, unrecorded interview, etc.) (see section 6.20)

Trouble Finding “X”

If you have trouble nailing down exactly what “X” is, other than perhaps you know it is on a website, then read our blog post on discerning different kinds of website material for more help. If you know what “X” is but you can’t find an exact example in the manual, read our blog post on what to do when you can’t find the exact document type in the Publication Manual

We hope this post will help you to find the APA Style reference example that you’re looking for. 

May 26, 2011

A Marginal Note

More Tales from the Style Expert Inbox

.rev2 by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Dear Style Expert,

I would like a clarification about the margins for an APA Style paper. The APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) says to “leave uniform margins of at least 1 in. (2.54 cm) at the top, bottom, left, and right of every page” (p. 229). I believe the correct thing to do is to space 1 in. at the top margin, then single space down and insert the running head. Some of my students are using a ½ in. margin for the top of the page, then single spacing down to type in the header, followed by a double space where the text of the paper begins. Who is right here? A lot of grades are riding on this.

—Inquiring Instructor

Dear Inquiring,

Typist Unless you’re teaching at Luddite State (where manual typewriters are a must), no one should be “spacing down” anything. The APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) does direct authors to use a 1-in. margin (p. 229), but it also directs them to “use the automatic functions of your word-processing program to generate headers” (p. 230). That means there’s no need to adjust the spacing around the header—it’s automatic!

Just set your margins at 1 in. (2.54 cm) and use the default setting for headers in your word-processing program. Voila! Your paper is correctly formatted in APA Style.


Dear Style Expert,

Now my whole study group is extremely confused, because your instructions seem to contradict the sample papers in the Publication Manual. It looks like there is more margin at the top of sample p. 4 than sample p. 3, and some of the pages are cut off at the bottom. What gives?
—Going Cross-Eyed in Cincinnati

Dear Cross-Eyed,

The sample papers are illustrations, not scale models. Just enough of each page is shown to illustrate the rules that are called out in the attached boxes. They’re not intended to show every point of APA Style, however, and you certainly can’t deduce margin guidelines from them. Fortunately, those guidelines are clearly stated on pp. 229–230 of the Publication Manual. If there ever appears to be a contradiction between an illustration and the text, follow the text.


Dear Style Expert,

Why, that’s crazy talk! A margin is empty space. If you have a 1-in. margin, then there should be 1 in. of empty space at the top of the page, with no headers in it.

—Marginal Maniac


Dear Marginal,

Think of it this way: The margin is, by definition, the part of a page outside the main body of text. The running head (again, by definition) is not part of the main body of text. Therefore, it is included in the margin, not below it.

Got a Question?

If you have a question (marginal or otherwise) about APA Style that hasn’t been answered yet, post it in the comments here. We’ll do our best to demystify it for you!

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