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4 posts from October 2010

October 28, 2010

What Belongs in the Reference List?

.rev3By Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Dear APA Style Experts,

I’m doing a paper for a psychology class that requires our opinion on “the most powerful influences on your view of the world.” I want to cite a conversation I had with my grandmother, but I don't know how to put this information on the reference page. Please advise.

All in the Family

We devote a lot of time on the APA Style blog to different ways of formatting references, both in text and in the reference list, but have you ever thought about what qualifies as a reference?

The purpose of the reference list is to “acknowledge the work of previous scholars and provide a reliable way to locate it” (APA Publication Manual, 6th ed., p. 37). Let’s break this statement down and apply it to the question at hand.

Acknowledge the Work of Others
If someone else’s ideas, theories, or research have directly influenced your work, you need to credit the source in text and in the reference list. This applies whether you are directly quoting or paraphrasing the work in question. If you are building on work that you yourself have previously published, you need to cite that as well. This enables your readers to follow the idea back to its source.

Placing a source in your reference list also implies that you have personally read it. If you read Smith & Hawkshaw’s (2008) opinion of The Hound of the Baskervilles, but not Conan Doyle’s work itself, don’t put the latter in the list. What you have there is a secondary source (p. 178). 

In addition, you should consider the context in which you are writing. In most cases, your source should have some scholarly relevance. For a personal reflection paper, it is appropriate to quote one’s grandmother; for a dissertation on child development, not so much (unless one’s grandmother happens to be Anna Freud).

Provide a Reliable Path to the Source
Part of the purpose of a reference is to lead your reader back to the sources you used. For a book or journal article, this path is pretty straightforward, but for some sources we need to dig deeper. Ask yourself, “How would someone else get here?”

In some cases—like a private conversation—the answer is, “They can’t.” No one else is privy to that conversation with your grandmother. The wisdom she passed on to you is not recoverable by other researchers, so it does not go in the reference list.

This kind of source (private letters and e-mail, personal conversations, phone calls, etc.) is called a personal communication (p. 179). Cite it in text only, give initials as well as the surname of the person involved, and give as precise a date as possible:

My grandmother’s advice was, “Never pass up a chance to eat, sit down, or use a clean restroom” (S. Dean, personal communication, May 14, 1980).

The same approach would apply to notes you took during a lecture, or class handouts that are not posted elsewhere (e.g., the instructor’s website), or a spontaneous piece of street theater.

What About Research Interviews?
One exception to this guideline applies to participants that you interview in your own research. These interviews are qualitative data; they’re part of the research on which you are reporting and do not constitute the work of others. They should never be individually cited or treated as personal communications in APA Style, because this could compromise confidentiality. Researchers are prohibited by the APA Ethics Code from disclosing personally identifying information about research participants (pp. 17—18). Depending on the circumstances, such information could include the date of the interview as well as surname and initials.

How then should you handle the need to quote from participant interviews? Some authors quote participants without distinguishing them at all, like this: “Indeed, a comment by one of our participants illustrates some of these complex issues: [quote follows without other attribution].”

Others identify participants by demographic or other data: “At my age I think we know who we are and what we are. (Female participant, 69 years of age).” You can also identify participants with letters (Participant A, Participant B), nicknames (Sonny, Tracey), or by role (Doctor, Patient).

Final Thoughts
As you write your paper, remember to cite previously published work that influenced you, that you have actually read, and that other researchers can recover. That will make your reference list both useful and complete.

October 22, 2010

Citing the Recurring Author With Crystal Clarity

Daisiesby Stefanie

When doing research, it is easy and natural to find yourself using a number of sources written by the same author or authors: Many experts in specialized fields are quite prolific writers. But confusion can set in once you try to cite those sources, especially when names and dates repeat:

Jones, I., Jones, H., & Brody, M. (1957). This is our name, and this is 
our quest: I. Searching for the Holy Grail. Journal of Archeology, 55,

Jones, I., Jones, H., & Brody, M. (1957). This is our name, and this is
our quest: II. Losing the Holy Grail. Journal of Archeology, 55, 445–

Jones, I., Ravenwood, M., & Williams, M. (1957). Crystal skulls are a
girl’s best friend: Evidence for (space) aliens in North and South
America? Parapsychological Reports, 51, 40–42.

Jones, I., Scott, W., Round, S., & Brody, M. (1957). Properties of the
Sankara Stones. Archeology Today, 22, 226–229.

Jones, I., Williams, M., & Ravenwood, M. (1957). Swinging with the
monkeys: Uncommon approaches to artifact retrieval. Archeological
Methods, 88,

The references above are presented in the correct order. Wait a moment: Alphabetically, the first two references are out of order (“Searching” should come after “Losing”—or, if you are being extremely picky, the second I of II)! However, as noted on page 182 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, sixth edition, “If the references with the same authors published in the same year are identified as articles in a series (e.g., Part 1 and Part 2), order the references in the series order, not alphabetically by title.” So the order is correct, but how can these two 1957 references of Jones, Jones, and Brody be differentiated when cited in text? Continue reading on page 182 of the Publication Manual: “Place lowercase letters— a, b, c, and so forth—immediately after the year, within the parentheses.” So our references become

Jones, I., Jones, H., & Brody, M. (1957a). This is our name, and this is
our quest: I. Searching for the Holy Grail. Journal of Archeology, 55,
Jones, I., Jones, H., & Brody, M. (1957b). This is our name, and this is
our quest: II. Losing the Holy Grail. Journal of Archeology, 55, 445–

Note that letters are only used in citations when the years are the same and when all of the authors in the references are the same and in the same order. The remaining references in the initial group above do not take letters after their years, nifty as that trick is, because they can be differentiated by their authors and/or author order.

After the first in-text citation, the three-author sources with nonlettered years cannot be shortened to Jones et al., 1957, because too many references could be meant by that citation. That means the three-author references with nonlettered years are cited in full every time, and the four-author reference needs to include the first two authors in its citation to differentiate it:

Although Jones and colleagues have not always been successful at returning artifacts to museums, they have managed to track down—through hard work, determination, foolhardy risk taking, and luck—some of the greatest treasures of the world (Jones et al., 1957a, 1957b; Jones, Ravenwood, & Williams, 1957; Jones, Scott, et al., 1957; Jones, Williams, & Ravenwood, 1957).

 Following these rules will help your documentation skills exceed those of Dr. Jones.

October 15, 2010

Translations of the Publication Manual


Anne Woodworth Gasque

This month the latest edition of the Publication Manual will be released in Spanish! Que bueno!  This event marks a long partnership with Manual Moderno, the distinguished Mexico City publisher whose first translation of the Publication Manual began with the fourth edition.  In addition to the Publication Manual, Spanish-speaking readers will find translated versions of the Concise Rules of APA Style and of Mastering APA Style.

If Spanish is not your native language, don’t despair.  We’re currently working with international publishing partners who are translating the manual into Arabic, Simple Chinese, Italian, Nepalese, Polish, Romanian, and Portugese, for starters.  We’ll let you know when those translations are available.  It’s hard to believe that what started as a six-page article in an APA journal (Psychological Bulletin) in 1929 that outlined simple style rules (including instructions for submitting drawings wrapped flat against stiff cardboard or rolled on tubes) has evolved into the current 272-page Publication Manual that offers guidance on bias-free language, writing style, and electronic references and is used around the world. 

How would you cite a translation of the Publication Manual? The sixth edition of the Publication Manual includes an example of a non-English reference book translated into English on page 205 (Example 28). Here is what the Spanish translation of the sixth edition would look like:

American Psychological Association. (2010). Manual de publicaciones de la American 
   Psychological Association [Publication manual of the American Psychological
   Association] (3rd ed.). Mexico City, Mexico: Manual Moderno.

The translation of the title appears in brackets immediately after the non-English title.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to contact us with questions about other types of translated sources.




October 07, 2010

Order in the Reference List! Or the Case of the Maddening Initials

   Typepad avatar

by Anne Breitenbach

It’s true confessions time: I copyedited APA journals for years and even taught APA Style to APA copy editors, and yet I’ve tripped over some really basic issues more times than I like to admit. One issue that has tied me in knots several times is how to order a reference list when there are authors with the same surname and almost the same initials. 

Let me show you an example of what I mean. Suppose you had the following citations arranged in this order in a reference list (they really don’t have DOIs and they were read from hard copy, so they don’t need to have the journal homepage URLs, though see these previous posts on when to use a DOI and when to use a URL):

  1.  Foorman, B. (2007). Primary prevention in classroom reading instruction. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39(5), 24–30.
  2. Foorman, B. R. (1995). Research on the great debate: Code-oriented versus whole language approaches to reading. School Psychology Review, 24, 376–393.

 Is it in the right order? Maybe yes, maybe no. The correct order depends on whether B. Foorman and B. R. Foorman are actually the same person. Here’s what you need to consider:

• Rule 6.25 of the Publication Manual directs us to “arrange entries in alphabetical order by the surname of the first author followed by initials of the author’s given name.”


• We are also instructed to order several works by the same first author by year of publication, the earliest first.
• And works by different first authors with the same surname are ordered alphabetically by the first initial—in addition, citations in text should include initials with the surname of the first author to differentiate between the sources.

So our order depends on the identity of the mysterious Foorman(s). Are there two authors or one? If you don’t know, then you’ll have to research the issue (and keeping notes during the research process that include full names is an excellent idea, as that makes your job now much simpler). The logical first step is to go look at the research and see whether the reference is correct as given. However, if the initials have all been provided correctly, what other evidence is there that allows you to make an educated assessment of whether this is the same person? Are there complete first names provided in the byline or the author note? Is there an institutional affiliation or a history of publishing with the same people and on the same topic? Is there an email address that would allow you to ask directly? Can you find an article about the person or curriculum vitae that lists publications?
If on the basis of your research you are comfortably sure that these are the same person, reverse the order. The earlier reference should come first even though the initials aren’t exactly the same.
If your research directs you to the conclusion that you have two different authors, the order is correct as is, but you’ll need to remember to add the initials for each author when the reference is cited in text.
Should you have a publishing career yourself, please try to publish your manuscripts with the same format of your name throughout your career. Researchers and copy editors the world over will bless you.



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