7 posts categorized "Tests and measures"

October 28, 2015

An Abbreviations FAQ

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

This post will address how to use FAQ-1200
abbreviations in APA Style—specifically, how to use acronyms, which are abbreviations made up of the first letters of each word in a phrase. Consider it a FAQ about abbreviations! You can find abbreviations discussed in the Publication Manual in section 4.22 (starting on p. 106).

Click a question below to jump straight to its answer. 

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When should I use an abbreviation?

Use abbreviations sparingly and only when they will help readers understand your work. Ask yourself these questions each time you consider using a particular abbreviation:

  • Is the reader familiar with the abbreviation?
    • Use an existing, accepted abbreviation if one exists, because familiarity helps understanding. If a standard abbreviation does not exist, then you can create your own.
  • Will you use the abbreviation at least three times in the paper?
    • Use an abbreviation at least three times in a paper if you are going to use it at all. If you won’t use it three times, then spell out the term every time. The reader might have a hard time remembering what the abbreviation means if you use it infrequently.
  • Would spelling out the term every time be overly repetitive and cumbersome?
    • Use abbreviations to avoid cumbersome repetition and enhance understanding, not just as a writing shortcut. For example, it is usually easier to read a two-word phrase than it is to remember the meaning of a two-letter abbreviation. Longer phrases make better candidates for abbreviation.
  • How many total abbreviations do you have in the paper?
    • There’s no hard line of how many abbreviations is too many, but writing is generally easier to understand when most words are spelled out than when it is overflowing with abbreviations. Only abbreviate when it helps the reader.

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How do I introduce an abbreviation in the text?

The first time you use an abbreviation in the text, present both the spelled-out version and the short form.

When the spelled-out version first appears in the narrative of the sentence, put the abbreviation in parentheses after it:

  • Example: We studied attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

When the spelled-out version first appears in parentheses, put the abbreviation in brackets after it:

  • Example: The diagnosis (i.e., attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]) was confirmed via behavioral observation.

After you define an abbreviation (regardless of whether it is in parentheses), use only the abbreviation. Do not alternate between spelling out the term and abbreviating it.

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How do I abbreviate group authors in in-text citations and reference list entries?

If your reference has a group author, the name of the group can sometimes be abbreviated—for example, American Psychological Association can be abbreviated to APA. You are not obligated to abbreviate the name of a group author, but you can if the abbreviation would help avoid cumbersome repetition and will appear more than three times in the paper.

As with other abbreviations, spell out the name of the group upon first mention in the text and then provide the abbreviation.

If the name of the group first appears in the narrative, put the abbreviation, a comma, and the year for the citation in parentheses after it.

  • Example: The American Psychological Association (APA, 2011) suggested that parents talk to their children about family finances in age-appropriate ways.

If the name of the group first appears in parentheses, put the abbreviation in brackets after it, followed by a comma and the year for the citation.

  • Example: Children should learn about family finances in age-appropriate ways (American Psychological Association [APA], 2011).

In the reference list entry, do not include the abbreviation for the group author. Instead, spell out the full name of the group.

Correct reference entry:

American Psychological Association. (2011). Dollars and sense: Talking to your children about the economy. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/learning/enhance-memory.aspx

Incorrect reference entry:

American Psychological Association (APA). (2011). Dollars and sense: Talking to your children about the economy. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/learning/enhance-memory.aspx

If you have several references by the same group author, you only need to abbreviate the name once (see here for how to handle references with the same author and date). Note that if two different groups would abbreviate to the same form (e.g., both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association abbreviate to APA), you cannot use the abbreviation in your paper—instead you must spell out the term every time to avoid ambiguity. 

An exception to abbreviations in the reference list is when works have been published using abbreviations as part of the author, title, or source. Retain these abbreviations because the reader will need them to retrieve the source (you also do not need to define them—just present them as-is). See more about this in our post on cite what you see.

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How do I present an abbreviation in conjunction with an in-text citation?

Sometimes an abbreviation is presented along with an in-text citation. For example, you might cite a test or measure that has an abbreviation and then provide its citation (for a common case, here is how to cite the DSM-5).

If the spelled-out version of the term appears in the narrative for the first time, put the abbreviation and the author–date citation in parentheses after it, separated by a semicolon. Do not use back-to-back parentheses.

  • Correct: We assessed depression using the Beck Depression Inventory–II (BDI-II; Beck, Brown, & Steer, 1996).
  • Incorrect: We used the Beck Depression Inventory—II (BDI-II) (Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996).

If the spelled-out version of the term appears in parentheses for the first time, put the abbreviation in brackets after it, followed by a semicolon and the author–date citation.  

  • Example: Our assessment of depression (as measured via scores on the Beck Depression Inventory–II [BDI-II]; Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996) showed significant incidence of this disorder in the population.

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Can I use abbreviations in the title of a paper?

Avoid using abbreviations in the title of a paper. Writing out the full term in the title will ensure potential readers know exactly what you mean, and if your article is formally published, it will ensure it is accurately indexed. 

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Can I use abbreviations in the running head?

There is no official guidance on whether to use abbreviations in the running head. We recommend that you avoid them, unless the abbreviation is well-known and there is no alternative running head that would be better. If you do use an abbreviation in a running head, you can use it straightaway without definition. Instead, define the abbreviation the first time you use it in the text. 

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Can I use abbreviations in the abstract?

In general, it is not necessary to use abbreviations in the abstract because the abstract is so short. However, if the abbreviation would help the reader recognize a term or find your article via search, then it is permissible to include an abbreviation in the abstract, even if it is not used three times. When you use an abbreviation in both the abstract and the text, define it in both places upon first use.  

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Can I use abbreviations in headings?

The Publication Manual does not offer official guidance on whether to use abbreviations in headings. We recommend that you avoid them—for example, the reader may skim the paper before reading it in full, and abbreviations in headings may be difficult to understand out of context. So, if a term you intend to abbreviate appears in a heading (e.g., the name of a test or measure), spell out the term in the heading and then when it first appears in the text, spell it out again and define it there. 

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Can I use abbreviations in tables and figures?

Yes, you can use abbreviations in tables and figures. All abbreviations used in tables and figures should be defined in the table note or figure caption, respectively, even though the abbreviations will be also be defined in the text if they are used there. The purpose of defining abbreviations in the table note or figure caption is that if other authors reuse your graphical display in a future paper, the definitions of the terms will be attached. Additionally, many readers will skim an article before reading it closely, and defining abbreviations in tables and figures will allow the readers to understand the abbreviations immediately.

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Do all abbreviations needs to be defined?

Not all abbreviations need to be defined. Consult Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary to determine what to do: If the abbreviation has the designation abbr. after it in the dictionary, that means it needs to be defined; if it does not have this designation, the abbreviation is considered a word on its own and can be used straight off the bat, without definition. You also do not need to define abbreviations for units of measurement (e.g., cm for centimeters, hr for hour).

  • Examples of abbreviations that are considered words: IQ, REM, HIV, AIDS, FAQ

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How do I use the words and an before abbreviations?

Use the article that matches the way the abbreviation is pronounced—an before a vowel sound and a before a consonant sound. Some abbreviations are pronounced as words (e.g., RAM), and some abbreviations are pronounced letter-by-letter, which is also called an initialism (e.g., HMO, IQ). If you are unsure of the pronunciation of an abbreviation, look it up in the dictionary or ask a colleague. If an abbreviation has multiple pronunciations, use the first one shown in the dictionary entry.

  • Examples: an FBI agent, a DSM-5 disorder, a U.S. citizen, an IQ score

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Are abbreviations written with periods?

Generally, do not use periods in abbreviations. Some exceptions are that you should use periods in the abbreviations for United States and United Kingdom when these terms are used as adjectives (don’t abbreviate them if they are used as nouns). And if you have created an identity-concealing label for a participant, use a period after each letter.

  • Examples: U.S. Census Bureau, U.K. population, participant R.E.C.

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How do I make an abbreviation plural?

To make an abbreviation plural, add an –s (or –es, for abbreviations ending in s already). Do not add an apostrophe. For more, see our dedicated post on plural abbreviations and numbers.

  • Examples: IQs, RTs, CSes.

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I don't see my question!

Got more questions about abbreviations? Ask us in a comment!

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!

October 21, 2014

Student Webinars for Psychology: Tests and Measures & Statistics

APA and Psi Chi (the international honor society for psychology) have teamed up to produce free webinars for students on topics related to research and writing in psychology.

The first webinar addressed how to find and use psychological tests and measures. Watch it below:


The second webinar was about statistics—specifically, how to choose statistical tests on the basis of your research question and design and how to present statistics in APA Style in text, tables, and figures. Watch the video below:  


We hope you enjoy watching the webinars. What other webinar topics would you like to see?

To receive information about future webinars, follow APA Style on Facebook or Twitter, or check for announcements from Psi Chi.  

May 29, 2014

How to Discuss the Results of an Inventory or Measure

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

In some psychology classes, students take an inventory or measure (such as a personality inventory) and then are asked to report their results and write about their reactions in a paper. This post addresses how to report and discuss these results and provide citations where appropriate.

Citation of the Inventory

First, let’s address citation of the inventory or measure. In APA Style, citations should be to recoverable materials, which include the inventory itself. Thus, when you first mention the name of an inventory or measure, provide an author–date citation in the text and a corresponding entry in the reference list. Here is an example:

In text:

I took the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R; Costa & McCrae, 1992). The NEO-PI-R is a 240-item measure of the Big Five personality traits of Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism.

Reference list:

Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI–R) and the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Reporting and Discussion of Results  Notepad

To report and discuss the results, simply make statements in the first person about what the results were and what you thought of them. Or you might use a table or figure to display the results and then discuss them in the text.

Do not cite the results themselves. An author–date citation would take the reader nowhere, because the results are unique to you and not recoverable material. A personal communication citation is also not appropriate. The results are in a sense the “data” of your study of yourself, and it’s circuitous logic to cite your own data in the paper in which they are first reported. (It's similarly true that you should also not provide a citation when reporting data from interviews with research participants for the first time—although provisos of confidentiality come into play when other people are involved, as discussed further in the link.)

Even if you made the results retrievable (e.g., by posting them on a website or including them in an appendix), you still would not cite them, although you can make the reader aware of where to find them (by saying, e.g., “For full results, see the Appendix”).

Here’s an example of how results can be reported and discussed in text:

My scores were categorized as high on the personality factors of Conscientiousness and Neuroticism. These results surprised me because although I think of myself as an orderly and self-disciplined person, I had not realized until seeing the results of this inventory how I become particularly exacting when under stressful conditions. These results have helped me understand my personality better.


When discussing the results of an inventory or measure you took, understand when to include citations (to recoverable materials) and when not to include citations (when discussing your data or giving personal responses, even if the data are about you). If you have further questions on this topic, please leave a comment. 

February 20, 2014

How to Cite a Psychological Test in APA Style

Timothy McAdoo
by Timothy McAdoo

A reference to a psychological test (also called a measure, scale, survey, quiz, or instrument) follows the usual who-when-what-where format.


Here’s an example of a test you might have retrieved directly from a website:

Purring, A. (2012). Charisma and Tenacity Survey [Measurement instrument].
     Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/tests/measures/instruments/surveys

A test's name is a proper noun, so be sure to capitalize it in the reference.

In other cases, you may actually be citing the database record rather than the test. If you found a record for the test in a database, you can cite it, whether or not the record contains a link to the test itself:

Barks, H., & Howls, I. (2013). Directions of Generosity [Database record].
     Retrieved from The McAdoo Database of Fictional Titles. http://dx.doi.org

how to cite psychological tests in APA Style: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2014/02/how-to-cite-a-psychological-test-in-apa-style.htmlOr, perhaps you’ve used a test that is not available online. Not to worry, the format varies only in the "where" element. Use the first example above as your template, but replace “Retrieved from http://...” with the location and publisher (e.g., Petland, MD: E & K Press).

Using Acronyms

Although some tests are better known by their acronyms than by their full titles, the acronym is not included in the reference.* Rather, introduce the acronym at the first use in the body of the paper, as shown in the examples below.

In-Text Citations

In the body of your paper, be careful to write the name exactly as it appears in your reference. And here again, capitalize the test name, because it is a proper noun. However, capitalize the word survey (or instrument, quiz, etc.) only if it’s part of the test’s name:

“In this study, we used Purring’s (2012) Charisma and Tenacity Survey (CATS) rather than Barks and Howls’s (2013) Directions of Generosity survey.”

The abbreviation need not be introduced if the test name is mentioned only once. However, if the test name appears frequently in the paper (i.e., generally three or more times), define it the first time, and use the abbreviation consistently thereafter. Note also that the test names are not italicized when used in the text. 

Finally, although you don’t need to include the author and date every time you mention the test by name, do include the author–date citation if you quote directly from the test or paraphrase it in any way.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve passed my test! Give yourself an A+.


*The exception is the rare case where the acronym is the only official name of the test (i.e., an official spelled-out title no longer exists, which is an uncommon occurrence; the most famous example is the SAT, which no longer has a spelled-out name).

December 05, 2013

How to Cite a Data Set in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Whether you’re a "numbers person" or not, if you’re a psychology student or an early-career psychologist, you may find yourself doing some data mining.  Psychologists are increasingly encouraged to provide their data online for other researchers to use and analyze.  And big-data psychologist is one of the hot new jobs in the industry.

Because big data is a big deal, you’ll want to know how to cite a data set.

Reference Example

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental
    Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (2013). Treatment
    episode data set -- discharges (TEDS-D) -- concatenated, 2006 to 2009
    set]. doi:10.3886/ICPSR30122.v2

Because this data set has a DOI, the reference includes that DOI. For data sets without a DOI, the URL should be included in the reference, like this: "Retrieved from http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/SDA/SAMHDA/30122-0001/CODEBOOK/conc.htm"

Also note that the name of the data set is italicized. And, a description of the material is included in brackets after the title, but before the ending period, for maximum clarity.

big dataIn-Text Citation Example

The in-text citation for this reference would be "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies (2013)" or "(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, 2013)."  Of course, if you cite that a number of times, you’ll probably want to abbreviate the author name.

Related Documents

Data sets sometimes have many other documents associated with them (e.g., reports, papers, and analyses about the data; tests and measures used to procure the data; user manuals; code books). When you are citing one of these related items, whether instead of or in addition to the data, be sure to describe the format in brackets after the title. For example, in this example from the APA Style Guide to Electronic References, Sixth Edition, "Data file and code book" is used to describe the format:

Pew Hispanic Center. (2004). Changing channels and crisscrossing cultures:
    A survey of Latinos on the news media
[Data file and code book]. Retrieved
    from http://pewhispanic.org/datasets/

The in-text citation would be "Pew Hispanic Center (2004)" or "(Pew Hispanic Center, 2004)."

For more about big data, you may be interested in these pages on the APA website:

Note: I modified this post on 12/23/2013 to include the DOI of the data set in the first reference example.

October 06, 2011

Citing a Test Database


 By 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 is launching in September. The first of these, PsycTESTS, is a research database that provides descriptive and administrative information about tests, as well as access to some psychological tests, measures, scales, and other assessments. PsycTESTS is interesting in that it’s an example of citing the record itself, available only from a unique database, and not the test or supporting literature.

Take a look:


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