8 posts categorized "Publication process"

April 02, 2015

Keywords in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

What are keywords?

If you’ve searched PsycINFO, Google Scholar, or other databases, you’ve probably run across keywords. In APA Style articles, they appear just under the abstract. They are usually supplied by an article’s author(s), and they help databases create accurate search results.

Key lightbulbsHow do I pick my keywords?

Keywords are words or phrases that you feel capture the most important aspects of your paper. To create yours, just think about the topics in your paper: What words would you enter into a search box to find your paper? Use those!

We call these natural-language words, because they reflect the way people really talk about, and search for, a topic. In fact, in some databases, to provide comprehensive results, the “keywords” search option actually searches the article titles and abstracts along with these designated keywords.

In short, when later researchers are searching PsycINFO or other research databases, the keywords help them find your work.

For example, if you’ve written a paper about the benefits of social media for people with anxiety, your keywords line might be as follows:

Keywords: anxiety, social media, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat

Note how I’ve included the social media platform names. Keywords don’t have to be formal; they just have to be useful! These keywords will help the later researcher who searches for one of those terms or a combinations of them (e.g., “anxiety and social media,” “anxiety, Facebook, and Twitter”).

Also, because these are natural-language words, keywords can include acronyms. Keywords for a paper on using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test with patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder might look like this:

Keywords: Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, WCST, OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder

The Publication Manual does not place a limit on how many keywords you may use. However, to be most effective, keywords should be a concise summary of your paper’s content. We recommend three to five keywords.

Where do they go?

The keywords line should be centered just under your abstract. Keywords: should be italicized, followed by a space. The words themselves should not be italicized. You can see an example under the abstract in this APA Style sample paper.

February 18, 2015

And In Other Research News: Student Research Webinars From APA and Psi Chi

Anne breitenbachBy Anne Breitenbach

You know, APA Style Experts don’t spend their whole lives in a glamorous ivory tower, as you no doubt imagine of people who spend their days with a pointy green pencil, a heap of style manuals, and a set of bookmarks to some of the Internet’s most enticing grammar sites. No, sometimes we step out from our secret blog and Twitter identities to talk to people directly. Well, almost. We come a step closer and talk anyway—via webinar.  It may also surprise you to know that we have other professional research interests in addition to APA Style.  Today, the Style blog has graciously yielded the floor to me to talk about one of those other initiatives that we thought some of you might find useful.

In 2014 APA introduced a new student training feature. We hosted a series of webinars jointly with Psi Chi. We conducted four session last year led by Psi Chi graduate students and staff from various departments of APA. Each of the webinars was also recorded and is now available on YouTube.

Here is information about each of those sessions and a YouTube link and direct access for each:

Psi Chi-APA Training: Tests and Measures, April 2, 2014

Psi Chi’s Lesther Papa, a Utah State University doctoral student, discussed his process for evaluating, adapting, and creating tests. APA PsycINFO trainer Anne Breitenbach explored how the PsycINFO and PsycTESTS databases can help researchers with those tasks.


Psi Chi-APA Training: Statistics for Student Publication, June 5, 2014

Psi Chi’s Lesther Papa shared tips on determining what test to use and covered a number of statistical concepts.  APA Books Product Development Supervisor Chelsea Lee continued the discussion with APA Style guidelines on statistical presentation in text, tables, and figures.


Psi Chi APA Training: Theory to Practice, September 29, 2014

Psi Chi’s Spencer Richards, a doctoral candidate in Clinical/Counseling/School psychology at Utah State University, discussed how important his relevant work experience was to his commitment to the discipline--and to getting into graduate school! PsycINFO’s Anne Breitenbach demonstrated how the PsycTHERAPY database can help bring realism into the classroom.


Psi Chi APA:  How to Publish While a Student, December 11, 2014

Psi Chi members—and published authors—Rachel Cook of Arizona State University and Liz Brown of Duquesne University discussed the steps to publication and its advantages. APA Journals Editorial Coordinator Sharon Ramos provided pointers from the publisher’s side.


Please feel free to share these with others via your own websites and blogs or Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or old-fashioned email!

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


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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