14 posts categorized "Pub Manual help"

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!

December 30, 2010

I can't find the example reference I need in the Publication Manual. What should I do?

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

When you cannot find the example reference you need in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, choose the example that is most like your source and follow that format. Sometimes you will need to combine elements of more than one reference format.  

In general, a reference should contain four elements, which you can remember as the four W's: author name ("who"), date of publication ("when"), title of the work ("what"), and publication data ("where"). This is the basic principle behind all APA Style references.

The following series of posts culled from the APA Style archives will take you through the  process, and you will be solving your own reference conundrums in no time.

Finally, for an ongoing look at all reference-related posts on the Blog, check out our References category.

Note: This post reproduces some material from our APA Style FAQ

September 10, 2009

Use of First Person in APA Style

Timothy.mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

I am often asked why APA Style prohibits the use of I or we. I love this question, because the answer is always a pleasant surprise: I or we is perfectly acceptable in APA Style! In fact, the Publication Manual actually recommends using first person, when appropriate, to avoid ambiguity.

 

What types of ambiguity result when an author goes to great lengths to avoid using I or we? On pages 69–70, the Manual gives three possibilities:

  1. Authors sometimes use the third person simply because it sounds more objective. Authors will often use the authors as a stand-in for I or we, but using this phrase can lead to confusion. Consider this sentence:

    As Smith and Jones (1999) and Drew (2007) noted, there is no correlation between television viewing time and calorie intake. The authors replicated this finding with three experiments.

    Does “the authors” refer to both Smith and Jones (1999) and Drew (2007)? Or does it refer to the authors of the current paper? You would likely guess it’s the latter, but the meaning would be more clear with we:

    As Smith and Jones (1999) and Drew (2007) noted, there is no correlation between television viewing time and calorie intake. We replicated this finding with three experiments.
  2. Attempts to avoid first person can also lead to anthropomorphism. As the Manual notes (p. 69), an experiment cannot “attempt to demonstrate,” but I or we can.

  3. Finally, the use of the editorial we can sometimes be confusing. For example, “we categorize anxiety disorders …” may leave the reader wondering whether we refers to the authors of the current paper, to the research community, or to some other group. But this doesn't mean we must be completely avoided. As the Manual states (p. 70), “we is an appropriate and useful referent.” You could simply rewrite this sentence, “As psychologists, we categorize anxiety disorders …”

It’s not always right, or always wrong, to use the first person. We all have different writing styles, and the use of first person may come more naturally to some than to others. The most important thing to consider, whether using APA Style or another style, is the clarity and accuracy of each sentence in your text. To quote the Manual one more time, “Make certain that every word means exactly what you intend it to mean” (p. 68).

Just one caveat: As always, if you are writing a paper, thesis, or dissertation, your institution may have its own guidelines for the use of first person. The acceptability of first person is sometimes a hot topic, and guidelines vary from one institution to another. Dissertation committees sometimes advise students to follow APA Style with a list of school-specific exceptions, and the acceptability of first person may be one of these. Likewise, if you are submitting a manuscript for publication, you should always check the publisher’s guidelines.

August 13, 2009

The Flexibility of APA Style

 

Timothy McAdoo by Timothy McAdoo

Sometimes it’s okay to color outside the lines. Although the stylistic guidelines in the Publication Manual are meant to ensure consistency within scientific writing, we also recognize the importance of a writer’s good judgment. The trick is knowing when it’s okay to do your own thing. It’s even trickier when you know someone may be reading your paper with a red pen in hand!

As an example, let’s consider APA’s guidance on introducing acronyms (from section 4.22): 

Abbreviations introduced on first mention of a term and used fewer than three times thereafter, particularly in a long paper, may be difficult for a reader to remember, and you probably serve the reader best if you write them out each time.

So in your paper on the psychological effects of duckpin versus tenpin bowling, when you mention the American Bowling Congress just twice, spell it out both times (and don’t introduce the abbreviation ABC). 

 

Clear enough, but note that the Manual says “you probably serve the reader best” by doing this. How, then, should you recognize an exception? Let’s say you are writing a paper on metabolism disorders, and you need to mention very long-chain acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase deficiency just two times. Because of the unwieldy nature of this term, wouldn’t it make more sense to introduce the abbreviation (which is VLCADD) in this case? Yep, go ahead: Your readers will thank you!

Still worried about that red pen? If you’ve mastered the fine points of APA Style throughout a manuscript, your choices will be recognized as careful decisions, not oversights. So be sure to display your in-depth knowledge of APA Style in all other areas of your paper: The Publication Manual provides a handy checklist on pp. 241–243.

If you’re still concerned, you might discuss your paper and the APA Style guidelines with your teacher or advisor. You might both still be learning the 6th edition style!

Are there other examples from the Publication Manual where you think flexibility is important? We’d love to hear from you!

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