94 posts categorized "Style rules"

January 13, 2012

APA Style Interactive Learning

AnneGasqueAnne Gasque

Have you ever had the urge to read the Publication Manual from beginning to end? We thought not. 

It takes a special kind of stamina and devotion to approach a manual of writing guidance and style rules with the excitement a person might bring to, say, John Grisham’s latest legal thriller. To help you find your way in the manual, we’ve created an interactive online course. This course, available for continuing education credit, provides a comprehensive tour of the guidance in the Publication Manual

Basics of APA Style: An Online Course follows the organization of the manual and offers an in-depth overview of the types of articles used in psychological and social research, manuscript elements, heading style, reducing bias in language, punctuation, capitalization, italics, numbers, tables, figures, citing references in text, creating a reference list, and reference templates and examples. Many of the sections in the course include relevant examples to provide context, and each section ends with two or three review questions to help you learn as you go along. The course ends with 20 assessment questions and offers 4 CE credits upon successful completion. We hope you find the course a helpful tool for learning APA Style!

If you would like a broader less detailed overview of APA Style, we offer a free tutorial, The Basics of APA Style, which shows you how to structure and format your work, recommends ways to reduce bias in language, identifies how to avoid charges of plagiarism, shows how to cite references in text, and provides selected reference examples.

January 05, 2012

Got Volume?

Daisiesby Stefanie

 

Just as no two snowflakes and no two people (and no two people who think they are special snowflakes) are alike, so too are no two references alike. Sometimes elements of standard reference formats are missing, and both the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, sixth edition, and we here at the blog try to anticipate those situations with advice on what to do. Today’s blog post covers just such a situation: the missing volume number on a periodical.

 

First, double-check to make sure the volume number is actually missing. Search the front, back, and spine (if there is a spine) of the journal, magazine, or newsletter, as well as the table of contents page. Also, sometimes the volume number is buried (deep!) in the publication information. For example, I just picked up from the corner of my desk a back issue of my children’s Disney Adventures magazine. On the cover is the issue month and year (September 2006) but no volume number. On page 88, in 6-point type (OK, probably 4-point type; boy, it’s small)—along with the ISSN number, publisher contact numbers, subscription information, and copyright and trademark notices—the volume and numerical issue numbers (Vol. 18, No. 7) are included. So now I can create a reference for the Miley Cyrus and Ashley Tisdale interview that completely follows Example 7 (magazine article) on page 200 of the Publication Manual!

 

Barnes, D. (2006, September). Miley and Ashley BFF. Disney Adventures, 
18
(7), 26–29.

 

(Note to self: I need to clean off my desk more often.)


Second, double-check whether a volume number is needed at all. Note that in the case of online newsletters, the volume number is not required (see Example 9 on p. 200 of the Publication Manual).

 

(Online version of newsletter)

Blum, E. S. (2010). Building healthier communities from the ground up. 
Banking and Community Perspectives. Retrieved from
http://www.dallasfed.org/ca/bcp/2010/bcp1002.pdf

 

Third, consider whether the year is pulling double duty. If I have an issue number but no volume number for a publication paginated by issue and I am working from the hard copy (i.e., not the online version, or maybe no online version is available), I have a problem, because the issue number will look funny standing alone in parentheses without the volume number to anchor it. Yet, an issue number indicates that the issue is part of a larger volume. What is number of that volume? In some cases, the volume number is the year.

 

If you look at the first page of a Banking and Community Perspectives newsletter, for example, you can see that the year appears with the issue number, much as a traditional volume number would. Also, if you look at the archive for these newsletters, you can see that the archive is organized by year, and the issue numbers refer to the order in which the issues came out during each year, starting over at 1 every new year. Thus, if you are using a hard copy of a newsletter or magazine (and therefore need a volume number in the reference) and if a separate volume number is absent, the year may be pulling double duty, as is the case for Banking and Community Perspectives. If this is the situation with your publication, use the year in both places in the reference (i.e., the year position and the volume position).

 

(Hard copy of newsletter)

Blum, E. S. (2010). Building healthier communities from the ground up. 
Banking and Community Perspectives, 2010(2), 3–10, 12.

 

Other questions about volume numbers? Let us know in the comments or at stylexpert@apa.org! Please include examples or links to the publications or articles in question. Thank you!
 

December 29, 2011

Citing a Streaming Video Database

AnneBy Anne Breitenbach

Some time ago, we had a post that explained how to find a DOI and provided a brief YouTube video of the process. We asked at the time for requests for tutorials about APA Style that could be useful. In response to that request, we were asked to create tutorials to explain how to cite content from two new databases APA launched in fall 2011.

We previously published a post on the first of these, PsycTESTS, a research database that provides descriptive and administrative information about tests, as well as access to some psychological tests, measures, scales, and other assessments. In this tutorial, we’re going to take a look at how you’d cite PsycTHERAPY, a research database of therapy sessions. In order to create the reference in APA Style, you must analyze what you are actually citing: audiovisual media (streaming video) available only through a subscription database (PsycTHERAPY).

Take a look:

 

December 08, 2011

Can't Find It in the Publication Manual!

Daisiesby Stefanie

The most common question—other than “How do I cite a website?”—that we get here is actually more of a panicked or frustrated declaration: “I can’t find this in the Publication Manual!” We understand: The manual is thick with information, and it takes time to familiarize yourself with it. Here are a few hints for finding what it is you might be looking for in the Publication Manual.
 
Formatting Specifics
 
Section 8.03, Preparing the Manuscript for Submission (pp. 228–230), covers all of the details you need to ensure that your manuscript formatting is consistent. This section includes information on font size and style (bottom of p. 228; 12-point Times New Roman), line spacing (top of p. 229; double-space everything from title to text to headings to references to figure captions), margins (middle of p. 229; uniform margins of at least 1 in. should appear at the top, bottom, left, and right of every page), and order of manuscript pages (pp. 229–230).
 
Many of these elements are also covered on the Checklist for Manuscript Submission (pp. 241–243).
 
Electronic References
 
Look closely at the sample references provided in Chapter 7: Many show examples of electronic versions of sources (e.g., journal articles, newspaper articles, books, book chapters, dissertations, reports).
 
If you retrieve a source from a database, see the third and fourth bullet points on page 192 for additional guidance on creating a reference for it.
 
Potpourri
 
The sample papers are full of formatting examples, along with handy tags showing where those formatting guidelines can be found in the Publication Manual proper. See pages 41–59 for examples of number style, hyphenation, punctuation, citation, statistics, references, headings, order of pages, tables, and figures.
 
What part of the Publication Manual has been most helpful to you?
 


 

December 01, 2011

The Long and the Short of It

Daisiesby Stefanie

The goal of writing, especially scholarly writing, is to convey information. Accomplishing that task certainly involves choosing the right words, but have you also considered the length of the sentences and paragraphs in which those words appear? Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, and Frels (2010) include too-short and too-long paragraphs on their list of common APA Style mistakes. Labeling these style choices mistakes may seem harsh, but if you lose readers because of the style of your presentation, the term is apt.


The troubles that come with lengthy sentences and paragraphs are more obvious than those that accompany short ones. I suspect anyone who reads has, at some point, drifted off in the middle of a long, run-on sentence. And woe be to the person who has his or her reading interrupted in the middle of a page-long paragraph! Good luck finding your place and the train of thought after that. (Whatever you do, please don’t try to write the longest sentence in English; the current record holders are legendary.)


Short sentences (insert obligatory Hemingway reference here) and paragraphs can be easily read and digested, but a bunch of either can be choppy, abrupt, even boring. Imagine a Results section that followed this pattern throughout:


    The mean was 8.8.

    The standard deviation was 9.9.

    The results were nonsignificant.


This would get old fast. (Incidentally, you may want to consider a table rather than short or long sentences for numerical results.)


A blend of long and short sentences in a paragraph is ideal. Paragraph length is a little trickier. Single-sentence paragraphs are discouraged. As for long paragraphs, as noted on page 68 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, sixth edition, “if a paragraph runs longer than one double-spaced manuscript page, you may lose your readers. Look for a logical place to break a long paragraph, or reorganize the material.”


Have further questions about sentence and paragraph length? Please comment below or write to styleexpert@apa.org.


 

November 17, 2011

The Grammar of Mathematics: Percentage or %?

Timothy.mcadooby Timothy McAdoo

As Chelsea so succinctly noted in her recent post about how statistical terms are introduced and used in APA Style manuscripts, “in the social sciences, the worlds of grammar and mathematics intersect.” Thus, when you first start to write about statistical results, you may encounter style questions that you’ve not considered before. In today’s post, I answer one such question:

Question: How do you decide whether to use the percentage symbol (%) or the word percentage?

Answer: Use the symbol only when it is preceded by a numeral; otherwise, spell out the word percentage.

For example,

What percentage of wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? In Experiment 1, we used a computer simulation to address this timeless question. The woodchucks (who would chuck) chucked 86.4% of the wood available during the test. This was a larger percentage than we hypothesized. Two woodchucks (33.3% of the virtual subjects) would not chuck wood (see Table 1).

You’ll find these guidelines on page 118 of the Publication Manual. On the same page, the Manual also notes just one exception: "In table headings and figure legends, use the symbol % to conserve space."

Table 1


November 14, 2011

Brevity Is the Soul of Lingerie (and Abstracts)

by Anne Breitenbach

AnneBreitenbachComing back at long last to my promised series on abstracts, let’s begin with the first clause of the Publication Manual description in section 2.04: “An abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of the article.” Our focus in this post is the “brief” part of that instruction. Your job as abstract writer is to give the prospective reader the essential information as succinctly as possible. Although you’re not quite reduced to haiku, you are restricted to what's crucial. 

In Chapter 2, which covers manuscript structure and content, section 2.04 gives us a number of specifics.  It notes that if you are preparing a paper for a specific journal, then that journal may well provide information on the abstract somewhere in the instructions to authors. Read that information. Abide by it. The most common instruction is likely to be about length. For APA journals, for instance, the instructions read, “All manuscripts must include an abstract containing a maximum of 250 words.”  If yours exceeds a limit, it may be cut arbitrarily wherever the limit falls, or it may be hacked apart by a copyeditor who has firm instructions on what to take out and what to leave in, which may well not agree with your opinion. Likewise, if you are creating an abstract for an instructor or in accordance with university guidelines, you should check and see whether they have guidelines you need to abide by.  

But back to section 2.04, here are some “don’ts”:

  • Do not include [oops. I’m afraid I just hit 250 words in these two paragraphs and so am out of space. Yes, that’s what 250 words look like. Not very long is it?] information that doesn’t appear in the manuscript. 
  • Do not evaluate in the abstract—instead, report [“I did” not “I believe”].
  • Do not get bogged down with nouns when there’s a sturdy verb available [“used” not “the utilization of”].
  • Do not use passive voice when active makes sense [“Bill ate five sandwiches” not “Five sandwiches were eaten by Bill”].
  • Do not repeat the title; in fact, don’t repeat—space is too precious.


The Manual also gives suggestions on other ways to save space. 

  • Instruction on abbreviations is a bit oblique. Section 4.22 states, “In all circumstances other than in the reference list and in the abstract [italic added], you must decide whether (a) to spell it out a given expression every time it is used in an article or (b) to spell it out initially and abbreviate it thereafter.”  So presumably abbreviations should be used in abstracts as a matter of course. 
  • Section 4.31(b) tells you to set numbers in the abstract as numerals.


Changes That Your Professor May Not Know About

Previous editions of the Publication Manual gave more extensive instructions on specifically how to keep the abstract brief.  This has led to a bit of a Catch-22, as in the sixth edition, in an effort to actually be brief, we removed some of those guidelines. We thus now have a gray area where the ghosts of old rules, still remembered by many a professor and editor, haunt the newer, less circumscribed instructions on keeping abstracts short and clear.

Here are some examples of ways in which guidelines about abstracts in the sixth edition differ from those given in the fifth edition:

  • In previous editions, writers were instructed to include initials with the surnames of authors cited in the abstract. That instruction is now gone.
  • Previously, the Manual included instructions stipulating use of the third person rather than first in the abstract (the opposite of the usual preference; see section 3.09). That specific instruction is gone, but the example given in the paragraph on being coherent and readable is written in the third person. Thus, presumably third person is still acceptable in the abstract but is not required.
  • The whole instruction-rich section on being “self-contained” is gone. That section had included advice on defining abbreviations and unique terms and spelling out names of tests. Although those suggestions are still useful ways of saving space in an abstract, they are no longer specified in the Manual.

So be brief, be clear, and be prepared. 

November 03, 2011

The Proper Use of Et Al. in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2 by Chelsea Lee

Academic writing is full of little conventions that may seem opaque to the uninitiated. One of these is the Latin phrase et al., an abbreviation meaning “and others.” It is used to shorten lists of author names in text citations to make repeated referencing shorter and simpler. Note that et al. is italicized in this post when I am using it as a linguistic example, but it should not be italicized when you are using it as part of a reference citation.

General Use of Et Al.

Below is a chart showing when to use et al., which is determined by the number of authors and whether it is the first time a reference has been cited in the paper. Specifically, articles with one or two authors include all names in every in-text citation; articles with three, four, or five authors include all names in the first in-text citation but are abbreviated to the first author name plus et al. upon subsequent citations; and articles with six or more authors are abbreviated to the first author name plus et al. for all in-text citations.

Number of authors

First text citation (either parenthetical or narrative)

Subsequent text citations (all)

One or two

Palmer & Roy, 2008

Palmer & Roy, 2008

Three, four, or five

Sharp, Aarons, Wittenberg, & Gittens, 2007

Sharp et al., 2007

Six or more

Mendelsohn et al., 2010

Mendelsohn et al., 2010

 

Avoiding Ambiguity

However, sometimes abbreviating to the first author name plus et al. can create ambiguity. Here are two example references, as also discussed in a previous post about reference twins.

Marewski, J. N., Gaissmaier, W., & Gigerenzer, G. (2010). Good judgments do not require complex cognition. Cognitive Processing, 11, 103–121. doi:10.1007/s10339-009-0337-0
Marewski, J. N., Gaissmaier, W., Schooler, L. J., Goldstein, D. G., & Gigerenzer, G. (2010). From recognition to decisions: Extending and testing recognition-based models for multi-alternative inference. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 287–309. doi:10.3758/PBR.17.3.287

The first in-text citations to each of these would be as follows:

  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, & Gigerenzer, 2010)
  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, Schooler, Goldstein, & Gigerenzer, 2010)

For the subsequent in-text citations we would usually abbreviate these studies to the first author name plus et al.; however, doing so here would produce two Marewski et al. (2010) citations, leaving the reader unable to tell which one you mean (if the citations were from different years we would not have this problem, because the years would tell them apart). The solution here is to spell out as many names as necessary (here, to the third name) upon subsequent citations to tell the two apart: 

  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, & Gigerenzer, 2010)
  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, Schooler, et al., 2010)

Notice that for the first reference, this means that all citations to this source include all three names. For the second reference, the two remaining names can be abbreviated to et al.

A Quirk of Et Al.

Finally, be careful of a quirk of et al., which is that it is plural—that is, it must replace at least two names (or, put another way, it cannot stand for only one name). So, if you have worked through a reference and only one name is left to abbreviate, you must spell out all the names every time to tell the two apart.  Here is an example with three authors, although the principle holds no matter how many total authors there are:

Berry, C. J., Henson, R. N. A., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). On the relationship between repetition priming and recognition memory: Insights from a computational model. Journal of Memory and Language, 55, 515–533. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2006.08.008
Berry, C. J., Shanks, D. R., & Henson, R. N. A. (2006). On the status of unconscious memory: Merikle and Reingold (1991) revisited. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 32, 925–934. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.32.4.925

The correct in-text citations would be written as follows for all citations of these two references:

  • (Berry, Henson, & Shanks, 2006)
  • (Berry, Shanks, & Henson, 2006)

Avoid the following common incorrect ways of citing these references in text:

  • (Berry, Henson, et al., 2006), (Berry et al., 2006a)
  • (Berry, Shanks, et al., 2006), (Berry et al., 2006b)

A Final Note

If it happens that all the author names are exactly the same and the studies were published in the same year as well, the method of citation described in the reference twins post applies. Namely, use et al. as usual but also include lowercase letters after the year (2010a, 2010b, etc.) to tell the references apart.

For more information and examples on citing references in text, see Chapter 6 of our sixth edition Publication Manual (pp. 174–179). You may also be interested in our primer on how in-text citations work and our piece on common et al.-related errors.

October 20, 2011

Reference Twins: Or, How to Cite Articles With the Same Authors and Same Year

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

Have you ever been friends with a pair of identical twins? Twins who looked so alike that, at first, telling them apart all hinged on finding that distinguishing freckle, or hoping someone else would call them by their names so you could memorize what clothes each was wearing that day? In the social sciences, there is a longstanding tradition of twin research, but this post refers to twins of another kind: reference twins. Specifically, this post addresses how to cite multiple articles by the same authors that were published in the same year so that everyone can easily tell them apart.


A Solution for Identical Twins

In essence, the solution to the reference twin problem is not much different from how twins are told apart at birth: Just as twins are referred to as “Baby A” and “Baby B,” “twin references” are also given letters to tell them apart. Specifically, lowercase letters are added after the year (2011a, 2011b, etc.), and the references are alphabetized by title to determine which is “a” and which is “b.” Here is an example:

Koriat, A. (2008a). Easy comes, easy goes? The link between learning and remembering and its exploitation in metacognition. Memory & Cognition, 36, 416–428. doi:10.3758/MC.36.2.416
Koriat, A. (2008b). Subjective confidence in one’s answers: The consensuality principle. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34, 945–959. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.34.4.945

In the text, citations would be styled as follows: (Koriat, 2008a) and (Koriat, 2008b).

For references that are in press or that have no date (signified by n.d., which stands for “no date”), use the following forms for the date: (in press-a), (in press-b), (n.d.-a), and (n.d.-b), and so forth.

A Solution for Not-Quite Twins

However, be careful that your references are true identical twins. That is, the method described above applies only when all author names are the same and appear in the same order. If any of the names or the order is different, then the references are distinguished in a different way: by spelling out as many author names as necessary to tell them apart.  Let’s use the following two references as an example:

Marewski, J. N., Gaissmaier, W., & Gigerenzer, G. (2010). Good judgments do not require complex cognition. Cognitive Processing, 11, 103–121. doi:10.1007/s10339-009-0337-0
Marewski, J. N., Gaissmaier, W., Schooler, L. J., Goldstein, D. G., & Gigerenzer, G. (2010). From recognition to decisions: Extending and testing recognition-based models for multi-alternative inference. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 287–309. doi:10.3758/PBR.17.3.287

The first in-text citations to each of these articles would be as follows:

  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, & Gigerenzer, 2010)
  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, Schooler, Goldstein, & Gigerenzer, 2010)

Now, what about subsequent in-text citations? Usually we would abbreviate studies with three or more authors to the first author name plus et al. (Latin for “and others”); however, doing so here would produce two Marewski et al. (2010) citations, leaving the reader unable to tell which one you mean. The solution is to spell out as many names as necessary (here, to the third name) upon subsequent citations to tell the two apart: 

  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, & Gigerenzer, 2010)
  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, Schooler, et al., 2010)

Notice that for the first reference, this means that all citations to this source will include all three names. For the second reference, the two remaining names can be abbreviated to et al. (Note, however, that if only one name remains to distinguish the references, that name must be spelled out with all the rest because et al. is plural—it cannot stand for only one name. This topic will be elaborated upon in an upcoming post.)

For more information and examples of citing references in text, see Chapter 6 of our sixth edition Publication Manual (pp. 174–179). You may also be interested in our primer on how in-text citations work.

September 22, 2011

Me, Myself, and I

More Tales From the Style Expert Inbox

by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Jeff Dear Style Expert,

My professor said that if I express my own opinion in a paper, I have to cite myself in text. Do I have to put myself in the reference list too, or is it more like a personal communication? It seems kind of odd to be citing a communication with yourself.
—Irene

Dear Irene,

Although it’s a basic principle of scientific writing that “researchers . . . give credit where credit is due” (APA Publication Manual, 6th ed., p. 15) when they use the words and ideas of others, it’s really not necessary to cite yourself as the source of your own opinion. After all, your name is on the title page.

Your professor may be trying to encourage you to distinguish your opinions from conclusions you have drawn on the basis of empirical evidence. Generally, however, authors indicate their opinions by introducing them with a phrase such as “In my opinion,” “I think,” or “I believe.” (And yes, it’s perfectly OK to use first-person pronouns for this purpose in APA Style.)

In short, citing yourself as an authority on your own opinion is just not done in APA Style—or any form of serious communication. (Just ask Bob Dole.)

Hope this helps,

Jeff

Got a nagging question about APA Style? Send it to us at StyleExpert@apastyle.org!

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