89 posts categorized "Style rules"

October 19, 2009

How to Cite a Speech in APA Style

Timothy mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. made this famous declaration on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It may be the most famous American speech ever given, and it’s certainly oft-quoted. 

But how do you properly cite a speech in APA Style?  The answer may surprise you. You don’t reference the speech itself!

Even for a speech you may know by heart, you should find an authoritative source for the text. Then you simply reference the book, video documentary, website, or other source for the quotation. The reference format you need will depend on the type of document you’ve used. 

For example, if you’ve found Dr. King’s speech in a book of great speeches, your reference might be as follows. 

Smith, J. (Ed.). (2009). Well said! Great speeches in American history. 
  Washington, DC: E & K Publishing.

The in-text citation would include the surname of the author or editor of the source document and the year of publication.  For example, your sentence might look like this: 

Dr. King declared, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” (Smith, 2009).

Of course, you can find speeches in a wide variety of sources. Consider two ends of the spectrum: You might find an embedded video in a blog post and use Example 76 (“Blog post,” p.  215 of the Publication Manual), or you might find a lone, dusty copy of an audiotape in an archive and use Example 69 (“Interview recorded and available in an archive,” p. 214). 

What’s your favorite source for great speeches?

October 16, 2009

APA Style for Citing Interviews

Timothy.mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

“I’m quoting Johnny Depp from an interview I read in a magazine. But the Publication Manual has no reference format for interviews. What do I do?”

I’ve always said there are two types of interviews in this world: those you conducted and those you didn’t! Let’s look at both. 

The guidance on p. 179 of the Publication Manual about citing personal communications mentions “personal interviews” as one example. Let’s say you interview a professor about her lifetime of work in the field of industrial and organizational psychology. Because a reader would not be able to find your interview in print or online, no recoverable data are available. You’ll need to use the “personal communication” in-text citation style shown on p. 179.

Of course, these days it can be easy to make your data recoverable. If you have a blog or another publishing outlet online, you could post the text of your interview. Then you’d want to follow the appropriate reference format.  If you’ve posted to your blog, for example, use the Example 76 (“Blog post”) on p. 215 of the Publication Manual

Finally, if you’ve simply read an interview conducted by someone else, you should pick the reference format appropriate for the source. If you read the interview in a magazine, for example, you’d want to follow Example 7 (“Magazine article”) on p. 200.

I hope this post clears up that small point of confusion about citing interviews. Some of my favorite interviews are from Studs Terkel’s oral histories. What are yours?

October 14, 2009

How to Cite Wikipedia in APA Style


by Timothy McAdoo

First things first. Is it a good idea to cite Wikipedia in your research paper? Generally speaking, no. In fact, if you’re writing a paper as a class assignment, your teacher may specifically prohibit citing Wikipedia. Scholarly papers should generally rely on peer-reviewed and other scholarly work vetted by experts in the field.

Does this mean Wikipedia contains bad information? Not at all. It is a great way to get an overview of a topic that might be new to you. And, because many Wikipedia entries contain thorough citations, they can be good starting points to find the original source materials you do want to use. Don’t quote or paraphrase from the Wikipedia entry in your paper, but check the entry’s Reference section to find links to more authoritative sources. And be sure to find and read these sources to verify the facts, figures, and points of view they present.

But, of course, there are times when citing a Wikipedia entry itself is appropriate. For example, let’s say you are writing a paper on how social media and crowdsourcing influence definitions of common psychology terms. Wikipedia would be one excellent source for this topic!

Example 30 (“Entry in an online reference work, no author or editor”) from p. 205 of the Publication Manual can be used for Wikipedia or other wikis. The following example is for the Wikipedia entry on “psychology.” Note that the retrieval date is needed in this case because, as true for any wiki entry, the source material may change over time.

Psychology. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from

October 01, 2009

Sayonara to the “Well-Known City” Rule in APA Style

Anne Breitenbach

by Anne Breitenbach

For those of you familiar with the previous editions of the APA Publication Manual, be aware that the “well-known city” exception for reference citations is no more. Briefly, the old rule was to provide the state, province (if applicable), or country as well as the city for book and other nonperiodical publishers except in the case of certain cities that were described as “major cities that are well known for publishing” (p. 217, 5th edition). Thus, for example, a reference list entry for a publisher from Baltimore need and should not list MD as part of the location element. The author was to assume that the reader would be familiar with Baltimore and know that it is in the state of Maryland.

That rule has disappeared in the new edition, and the examples specifically show cities that once were on the exception list now being followed with the state abbreviation (e.g., New York, NY, p. 187). Though no specific reason is given for the change, it is noted in the Foreword that the manual is now available “in Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, and many other languages.” Perhaps it was felt that a student in Korea might not understand why Baltimore and not Seoul made the exceptions list. Baltimore and six other American cities were on the list, but indisputably well-known cities outside of the United States were not well represented. A quick review of the world’s most populous cities is instructive: Only three of the “well-known” cities are even among the top 20 in population (http://www.worldatlas.com/geoquiz/thelist.htm), leaving the citizens of Shanghai (No. 1), Mumbai (No. 2), and Buenos Aires (No. 3), among others, to wonder why their cities need more definite placement than Philadelphia (No. 53), San Francisco (No. 60), or Baltimore, which doesn’t make the list of even the top 100 in population size.

The choice was simple. Either create and try to maintain a list that more accurately reflects cities well-known for publishing to a wider scholarly global community or make no assumptions about which cities are well-known to whom. The second option was seen as the better choice.

September 15, 2009

How Do I Cite a Kindle?

Chelsea blogby Chelsea Lee

E-book readers, like the popular Kindle from Amazon.com, are revolutionizing the way we interact with the printed page. Although most e-book content has leaned toward the nonscholarly, major textbook manufacturers are now partnering with Amazon to produce e-textbooks, with a pilot program to be run at six universities in Fall 2009. They have recently debuted the Kindle DX ($489 retail), which in comparison to the original Kindle boasts a bigger screen (9.7” vs. 6” diagonally) and native support for PDFs, both key to good textbook reproduction.

For the students and scholars who use Kindles (or other e-book readers) when writing papers, the next question becomes, how do I cite material I read on a Kindle?

For the reference list entry, you’ll need to include the type of e-book version you read (two examples are the Kindle DX version and the Adobe Digital Editions version). In lieu of publisher information, include the book’s DOI or where you downloaded the e-book from (if there is no DOI). For example:

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success [Kindle DX version]. 
 Retrieved from Amazon.com

Brill, P. (2004). The winner’s way [Adobe Digital Editions version]. 

Consult Chapter 7 of the 6th ed. of the Publication Manual (examples 19, 20, and 21) for some more help. If the full URL is very long (the one for Gladwell's book was), you may give instead the homepage URL with a description of where to go from there, or the store name—your preference (e.g., Amazon Kindle store or http://www.amazon.com).

In the text, however, citation can get confusing because e-books often lack page numbers (though PDF versions may have them). Kindle books have “location numbers,” which are static, but those are useless to anyone who doesn’t have a Kindle too. To cite in text, either (a) paraphrase, thus avoiding the problem (e.g., "Gladwell, 2008"), or (b) utilize APA’s guidelines for direct quotations of online material without pagination (see Section 6.05 of the manual). Name the major sections (chapter, section, and paragraph number; abbreviate if titles are long), like you would do if you were citing the Bible or Shakespeare.

Gladwell’s book has numbered chapters, and he’s numbered the sections in the chapters. An example direct quotation might be this: 

One of the author’s main points is that “people don’t rise from nothing” 
(Gladwell, 2008, Chapter 1, Section 2, para. 5).

And that’s how you cite material from a Kindle or e-book reader. Have you tried this out yet?

August 27, 2009

Referencing Gray Literature in APA Style

Anne-80 by Anne Breitenbach

What do the Zapruder video footage of the Kennedy assassination, the Watergate recordings, and simulations of the Stanford Prison Experiment have in common? One thing, of course, is that in different media, each documents an event that has had a profound impact on American society. Another is that though it’s not hard to envision legitimate reasons to cite each in scholarly writing, each also is an example of a source from outside of traditional peer-reviewed literature.

These sources are broadly referred to as gray literature, and they include a treasure trove of source material. However, valuable as these sources can be, they indisputably present some special challenges to the student or researcher wishing to rely on them. First, the sources can be difficult to find. Second, they can be of dubious reliability (heads up, students wishing to cite Wikipedia in your papers). Third, they can disappear without warning from an archive or website. Because of that last point, some have defined gray literature as “ephemeral,” from the Greek root ephemera meaning, literally, “passing in a day.” It’s a lovely word, but it is not a lovely result if chunks of your references have disappeared by the time your reader tries to access them.

In recognition of both their value and problems, we have expanded the examples of non-peer-reviewed sources in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual. In addition to sections on technical and research reports, meetings and symposia, audiovisual media, and unpublished and informally published works, there is an expanded section on citing online sources and a new section on citing archival documents and collections. Many common reference examples are provided in chapter 7 or here on our website.

Two issues are important to highlight for these types of references. The first is that our examples can’t be exhaustive of all possible sources you might cite, so it is important to be flexible. In such cases, find an example that is similar to your source, and adapt it to your requirements. The second is to keep in mind that these sources by their nature may be more difficult to find, thus we suggest that you provide as much information as is necessary to enable your reader to retrieve and use your sources. Most entries will need the author, year of publication, title, and publishing or retrieval date. In addition, they may require additional information necessary for unique identification. Keeping these facts in mind will help ensure a useful citation and reference list when your reader wants to access your sources.

August 20, 2009

Formatting APA References With More Than Seven Authors

Chelsea blogby Chelsea Lee

Imagine you’re sitting in a movie theater. As the film begins, actors’ names flash across the screen. The order of the names is determined by a combination of the actors' contributions to the film and the actors' celebrity status (or contributions to the field of movie-making). When a celebrity stars in a movie, he or she usually gets top billing. But what about when an unknown actor gets the lead role? Or when a celebrity plays a small role? In these situations, the actor may lose out on top billing but be given another place of honor: last billing.
For example, in the original Superman, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman got top billing for playing Superman’s father and Lex Luthor (respectively) and the then-unknown actor Christopher Reeve received last billing “introducing” him as Superman.
What does this have to do with APA reference style?

The world of scholarly publication is not so different from the movies, at least as far as authorship is concerned. Authors are generally listed in order of contribution to the research, but the last author can also be a contributor of distinction, often the principal investigator. The 6th edition of the Publication Manual recognizes this with the new rule regarding citing sources with more than seven authors in the reference list (section 6.27). The first six authors are listed; all subsequent authors except the last are omitted and replaced with an ellipsis; and then the name of the last author is listed.
Here’s an example of the new reference list style, for a study with 87 authors (yes, 87!):

Terracciano, A., Abdel-Khalek, A. M., Adam, N., Adamovova, L., Ahn, C., 
 Ahn, H., . . . McCrae, R. R. (2005, October 7). National character 
 does not reflect mean personality trait levels in 49 cultures. 
 Science, 310, 96–100. doi:10.1126/science.1117199 

In this particular study, after the first author, the authors’ names seem to proceed in alphabetical order . . . until you get to the final author, Robert R. McCrae. Those familiar with the field of personality psychology know that McCrae is one of the leading thinkers in the field (together with Paul T. Costa, Jr., he is responsible for the five-factor personality model).
It won’t always be the case that the last author is someone of distinction, but when it does happen, his or her contributions will be preserved for posterity.

July 30, 2009

On Two Spaces Following a Period

Sw4 by Sarah Wiederkehr

Do you remember dot matrix printers? These early generation printers were affordable for home use, but widely spaced pixels made their output tough to read. When run on the draft setting, dot matrix printers were intoxicatingly zippy. To print a document with a more humane, higher density output, however, the term-paper writer was forced to watch the ink head take three passes at each line of type—a steep (and excruciating) investment in time.

As I progressed through my college career, more and more professors declared that they would no longer accept work produced on dot matrix printers. In my heart of hearts, I could not blame them. I can only imagine what a weekend of slogging through hundreds of pages of weakly printed copy would have done to the eyes of those professors.

The new edition of the Publication Manual recommends that authors include two spaces after each period in draft manuscripts. For many readers, especially those tasked with reading stacks of term papers or reviewing manuscripts submitted for publication, this new recommendation will help ease their reading by breaking up the text into manageable, more easily recognizable chunks.

Although the usual convention for published works remains one space after each period, and indeed the decision regarding whether to include one space or two rests, in the end, with the publication designer, APA thinks the added space makes sense for draft manuscripts in light of those manuscript readers who might benefit from a brief but refreshing pause.

As I learned in college, it is never a bad idea to consider the eyes of the person reviewing your work.

July 09, 2009

Five Essential Tips for APA Style Headings

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

The 6th edition of the Publication Manual brings an important and exciting change: a new way of doing headings. The updated headings style should make headings easier to understand, implement, and see in your finished paper. Here are five essential things you need to know:

  1. APA has designed a five-level heading structure (we numbered them to talk about them, but you won’t actually number your headings in your paper). Click the image below to get a close-up view of the new heading style.APA Style Headings 6th ed

  2. Proceed through the levels numerically, starting with Level 1, without skipping over levels (this is in contrast to the 5th edition heading style, which involved skipping levels depending on the total number of levels you had—how complicated!).

  3. That first heading won’t be called “Introduction” or be the title of your paper; these are common mistakes. Actually, the first heading will likely be somewhere in the body of your paper. In an experimental study, for example, often the first real heading is the Method section, and it would thus go at Level 1.

  4. Use as many levels as necessary to convey your meaning. Many student papers and published articles utilize two or three levels. Longer works like dissertations may demand four or five.

  5. Need more guidance? Consult the Publication Manual (Chapter 3, Section 3.03) for more examples and explanation. Also look at published APA articles to see how it’s done—APA plans to fully implement the new heading style in its journals by January 2010. 

How do you like the new heading style? Do you have any questions or comments about it? Please share!

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