5 posts categorized "Publication process"

March 03, 2011

Making a Concrete Abstract

Anne   by Anne Breitenbach

  The Publication Manual (2.04) states that “A well-prepared abstract can be the most important single paragraph in an article.”  Indeed, it would be hard to overstate the abstract’s importance if you want to publish and actually have your work read and cited. Your article (or dissertation or conference presentation) uses a ploy similar to that of an anglerfish.  The abstract is the lure that beguiles the elusive researcher to the article, much as the fleshy growth suspended from an anglerfish’s head entices its prey.  (There are differenceHumpback_anglerfishs, of course. The anglerfish lurks in underwater caves and lures its prey by a long filament, whereas your article lurks in a journal and seductively waves its abstract from a bibliographic database such as Dissertation Abstracts or APA’s own PsycINFO. Other differences include that most research doesn’t try to engulf its reader whole.)  

The abstract’s special functions determine the specifics of its form. Rule 2.04 tells us that it should do three things well:


First, it needs to find its audience. Practically, that means you need to embed keywords that “enhance the user’s ability to find it.”  This is an excellent example of a place where Mark Twain’s dictum applies. “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” You need to use current, intuitive, and accurate terminology. We’ll talk more about keywords in an upcoming post.


Second, it’s got to be a good abstract. That is, it needs to encapsulate the essence of the article in a way that gives all essential information but sifts out the inessential. The core of that information is consistent across articles, but specific kinds of articles—for example, a literature review or meta-analysis, a theory-oriented paper, or a case study—also have specific requirements.  We’ll talk more about what elements all articles require and what particular elements specific kinds of articles require in an upcoming post.


Third, yep, it needs to be in APA Style.  And because there are special rules that apply to abstracts in terms of length (word limits vary from journal to journal and typically range from 150 to 250 words), required elements, and need to make sense in isolation from the article, there are a number of rules that are unique to the abstract. For example, there are specific rules that apply to numbers, to abbreviations, to citations. Those too we’ll explore in an upcoming post. 

December 16, 2010

Journal Article Reporting Standards: How Do They Work?

HCooper 3-1-09

by Harris Cooper, PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 11, 2010

Running Head Format for APA Style Papers

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

If you've ever been confused by what a running head is or wondered how to format one for an APA Style paper, read on.

A running head is a short title (50 characters or fewer, including spaces) that appears at the top of every page of your paper. The running head identifies the pages for the reader in case they get separated, and if you submit your paper for publication, it does this while preserving your anonymity during the review process. In published articles it also identifies the article for the reader at a glance.

Formatting Instructions

The running head (along with the page numbers) appears in the header of every page (the header by nature is situated within the top margin of your paper; all the margins themselves should be set to 1 inch). Type it in all capital letters, make sure it is no longer than 50 characters (including spaces), and left justify it. Then add your page numbers, right justified.

On the first page only, the running head is also preceded by the words Running head and a colon. On all other pages, just the running head itself and the page number appear, without the words Running head:. Our APA Style FAQ addresses how to set up a different header on the first page, and there are also instructions available on Microsoft’s webpage for Word 2003 and Word 2007 and 2010. If you use other word-processing software, please feel free to share links or instructions in the comments. Finally, you can see examples of the running head format in our APA Style sample papers.

If you've ever been confused by what a running head is or wondered how to format one for an APA Style paper, read on.

April 08, 2010

Beneficial Supplements

Daisiesby Stefanie

You have written your manuscript for an APA journal (or another scholarly publication), and now you are looking at all of your fantastic supporting materials and deciding what to include. There’s a color figure that rivals the rainbow in beauty and precision, perfectly illustrating your points but beyond your shoestring budget to include in the print publication. There’s a huge table, filled with insightful calculations that you did not quite get a chance to cover in the text but that is valuable nonetheless. You would love to share the digitized video and music clips used in the study. Not to mention that the raw data your experiment generated is truly a gold mine. Can you include all of these materials with your article?

In the past, the answer might have been no, given technological limits and concerns about space and the cost of printing color figures. But now all of these resources and more can be posted online as supplemental material for your article! Once published, the print version of your article will include a URL on the first page and the online version of your article will have a live link, both taking readers to a landing page that presents the cache of data treasure you have provided (see a sample landing page here).

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, sixth edition, notes that “web-based, online supplemental archives tend to be more appropriate for material that is more useful when available as a direct download as well materials that are not easily presented in standard print format” (p. 39). Examples of such materials, in addition to the ones mentioned above, are lengthy computer code, mathematical or computational models, detailed intervention protocols, and expanded methodology sections.

Supplemental materials are usually subject to peer review and should be included with journal submissions. Each document should have a title and a context statement specifying what is in it, and the electronic files should follow a consistent naming convention (e.g., ABN.Smith20100001.doc, ABN.Smith20100001.wav, ABN.Smith20100001.jpeg). APA journals practice is to post accepted supplemental materials without further editing or polishing; the procedures of other publishers may vary.

The Publication Manual notes that supplemental materials should be included “only if they help readers to understand, evaluate, or replicate the study or theoretical argument being made” (p. 40). Also keep in mind that supplemental materials are subject to all relevant ethical standards; be especially aware of permissions issues when reprinting images of human participants or any formerly published materials.

Information on acceptable file formats for APA journals supplemental materials may be found here. For more information on this topic, please see the Publication Manual, pp. 39–40 and 230.

July 02, 2009

The Sixth Edition: Effective Now?

 Paige-for-web-site 75x75

by Paige Jackson

 

When will I need to start using the sixth edition of the APA Style Manual?

 

It will take a while to figure out what’s different about the revised manual and for the new style rules to become second nature. That may take a year or so. At APA, 2010 journal issues will be the first ones to adhere to the revised manual.

 

Do I need to update manuscripts that are in peer review so they conform to the revised manual?

 

We do not expect authors who have manuscripts near the final stages of peer review to revise their papers to conform to the sixth edition. APA staff will make the necessary changes during copyediting.

 

What if I’m thinking about submitting a new manuscript to an APA journal?

 

APA journal editors expect that new manuscripts submitted after January 1, 2010, will conform to the sixth edition. Before then, new submissions will probably be a mixture of fifth and sixth edition styles. Authors, in their later revisions, and/or APA staff will make sure all accepted articles follow sixth edition style. APA’s Instructions to All Authors contain the latest updates about submitting manuscripts to APA journals.

 

What about requirements for courses or for submitting to non-APA journals?

 

Professors or editors of other journals that use APA style may have different expectations—so be sure to check individual course requirements and journal instructions to authors to figure out what timetable for the transition will apply. Some will start in the fall of 2009, and some in the winter of 2010. Ask in your class.

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