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4 posts from April 2012

April 26, 2012

Reference Example Organization: How to Find the Example You Need in the Manual

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Consider the following questions that the APA Style team has received:

  • How do I cite a website?
  • How do I cite interlibrary loan?
  • How do I cite my Kindle?
  • How do I cite my iPhone?

What do they have in common? Well, in each case, the individual asking the question has been unable to find the appropriate reference example in the Publication Manual and has turned to the APA Style team for answers. However, don’t take the existence of these questions as evidence that the answers aren’t in the manual, because they usually are. But to find them, you have to understand how the manual is organized—that’s how you’ll get to the reference example you really need.

Document Type, Not Delivery Method or Format

Many readers may be surprised to realize that the reference examples in the Publication Manual are organized by document type (articles, books, reports, etc.), not by method of delivery (computers, interlibrary loan, e-readers, smartphones) or format (paper, HTML, DVD, etc.). So for every reader who writes to us to say, “I can’t believe out of 77 examples in the Publication Manual, not one is for a website,” we take this opportunity to point out that a full 47 examples—that’s 61%—refer to online resources you’d find on a website.

So, remember that for the purpose of citation (and of finding reference examples), it matters what's on the website, not that the document is on a website in and of itself. 

Using the Manual to Find What You Need

The Publication Manual provides a wonderful index of document types in Chapter 7 prior to the reference examples themselves (see pp. 193–198). In addition to variations on document type (96 of them!), subvariations on author, title, and publication information are also provided. This list is an essential reference for users of the Publication Manual, and we hope you’ll take advantage of it now if you haven’t before.

Clarifying the Distinctions Among Delivery Method, Format, and Type

Additionally, we give to you the table below, which lists examples of different document delivery methods, formats, and types. The third column, for document type, also links to other APA Style Blog posts on the topic and lists relevant reference examples in the Publication Manual.

So when you ask an APA Style question—say, “How do I cite ‘X’?”—first try to find your “X” in the table below or in the index of document types in the manual. If you find it listed only in one of the first two columns of the table below, then you haven’t figured out the document type yet (that’s the third column), and you’re not quite ready to write the reference. Note that there are as many possible document types out there as the day is long, so for brevity’s sake, this table includes only the most common. Many more are in the Chapter 7 index.  

Document delivery method

 Finding - computer

Document format

Finding - film

Document type

Finding - book



Journal article (ex: 1–6)

Internet browser

HTML (as on a website)

Magazine or newspaper article (ex: 7–11)

Mobile phone (e.g., iPhone, Android phone)

PDF (as on a website)

Special section in a journal (ex: 12)

Tablet computer (e.g., iPad)

Digital audio file (e.g., mp3, mp4)

Monograph (ex: 13)

E-reader (e.g., Kindle, Nook)

Digital video file (e.g., flash video, streaming video, wmv, mp4)

Editorial (ex: 14)

Interlibrary loan (e.g., ILLiad)

DVD or Blu-ray

Abstract (ex: 16, 17)

Visit to a library in person


Book or book chapter (ex: 18–26)


CD, cassette, or record

Report (technical, government, etc.) (ex: 31–35)

Movie projector

Art materials (paint, clay, etc.)

Dictionary or encyclopedia, whole book or entry (ex: 27–30)

Stereo or other audio player


Wikipedia or wiki entry



Proceedings from a meeting or symposium (ex: 38, 39)



Dissertation or thesis (ex: 40–44)

Archival collection


Review (ex: 45–48)

Physical object (e.g., book)


Video (e.g., YouTube video, movie, TV show) (ex: 49, 51)



Podcast (ex: 50)



Music recording (ex: 52)



Software (ex: 56)



Unpublished, informally published, or self-published work (ex: 58–62)



Letter (ex: 63–65)



Interview (recorded or transcribed) (ex: 69, 70)



Pamphlet or brochure



Artwork or images



Photograph (ex: 73)



Blog post (ex: 76)



Press release






Facebook update



Information on a webpage



Personal communication (e-mail, phone call, unrecorded interview, etc.) (see section 6.20)

Trouble Finding “X”

If you have trouble nailing down exactly what “X” is, other than perhaps you know it is on a website, then read our blog post on discerning different kinds of website material for more help. If you know what “X” is but you can’t find an exact example in the manual, read our blog post on what to do when you can’t find the exact document type in the Publication Manual

We hope this post will help you to find the APA Style reference example that you’re looking for. 

April 20, 2012

Add APA Style to Your Circles on Google+

As you might imagine, within the APA Style team, we have a mix of educational backgrounds and interests, with a significant overlap in writing, editing, psychology, and other social sciences. So when it comes to social media, we’re interested in all types of writing and social science resources.

We’ve found a plethora of said resources on Google+! We currently have hundreds of universities and university libraries in our circles, plus everyone from Grammar Girl and Merriam-Webster to Psychology World to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Health.

Follow us to get official updates on all things related to APA Style, including announcements about new blog posts, tips and tricks on writing and style, new features on apastyle.org, and more!

April 12, 2012

Using "a" or "an" With Acronyms and Abbreviations

Nyarinby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Dear Style Experts,

How do you tell whether to use a or an with abbreviations? I assume that an abbreviation is treated just as if it were a word , but I'm having trouble with some examples: Should it be an HIV patient or a HIV patient? For some reason, neither one looks right to me.

--An Anxious Author in Axminster

Dear Anxious,

The general rule for indefinite articles is to use a before consonants and an before vowels. The trick here is to use your ears (how the acronym is pronounced), not your eyes (how it's spelled).

HIV (pronounced "aitch eye vee") begins with a vowel sound, so an HIV patient is correct. HIPAA (pronounced "hippa") begins with a consonant sound, so a HIPAA form is correct.

H is only one of a handful of consonants in English whose names start with vowel sounds. Here are some more examples of acronyms that might trip you up, depending on whether they are pronounced as words or as a series of letters.

  • a FASB rule; an FOB airfield
  • a LAN schematic; an LAPD memo
  • a MOMA exhibit; an MRI test
  • a NICU nurse; an NPO order
  • a SAM base; an SAT exam

There are also two vowels in English whose names start with consonant sounds. Can you spot them?

April 05, 2012

Lifetime Experience in a Pocket: How I Subdued the Information Explosion

Jan Head shot_square



by Janet Sonne, PhD

Would it surprise you to learn that the phrases “information explosion” and “information overload” first appeared in popular press in the early 1960s?  Many of you were not even born; I was only in elementary school.  Since then, an ever-increasing abundance of information and its rapid spread on the Internet has given the term “information overload” new meaning. 

We all struggle to find ways to manage the constant flow of information, gleaning what we need to do our jobs competently.  We attempt to structure, organize, and master the vast array of details we collect. We commit some to memory.  We carefully file the notes we take (or simply throw them in a familiar pile on our desks or office floors).  We dog-ear pages and bookmark websites. But herein lies a basic problem.  As a psychologist, I am often confronted with questions to which I know I have the information that will lead to an answer…somewhere.  But I have to spend precious time jogging my memory to find the exact piece of paper, book, file folder, or website.  IF I can remember the details or where the material is, I typically need more time to figure out whether the information is current enough to provide a valid and reliable answer. 

My students and supervisees have the same basic problem, and when they hit that wall, they ask me.  Although I am no organizational guru, I began to compile my scraps of material several years ago in the hope that I could make our working lives easier.  Last month, this dream was realized with the publication of PsycEssentials: A Pocket Resource for Mental Health Practitioners, which is available in print, e-book, and mobile app formats for Apple and Android devices. 

Physicians began to address this problem years ago by creating pocket-sized reference books for students and practitioners on how to assess, diagnose, and treat their patients.  PsycEssentials  provides a similar resource for mental health students and professionals.  My objective was to gather a broad range of information that clinicians commonly need and use in their practices and present it in a simple, clear format for quick reference.  The resource contains many links to web-based information sites—directly accessible in the Kindle and mobile app versions—that effectively multiply its utility.  I’ve been pleased to see them in action!

PsycEssentials is divided into 18 chapters.  The order of the first 14 chapters is intended to reflect a “typical” chronological process with a client—from the initial session through assessment and diagnosis to treatment and termination.  Specific topics include published assessment instruments for an array of presenting problems, risk assessment of self- and other-injury, mandated reporting of child and elder abuse and of client threat of harm to another, evidence-based interventions, and psychopharmacotherapies. The final four chapters include information on records and record-keeping, professional standards and self-care for clinicians, and resources for clients and their significant others. 

My hope is that practitioners will carry PsycEssentials to work (whether in their purses or coat pockets, or on their electronic devices) to refer to during the course of their workdays.  It represents nearly 30 years of clinical experience and of tracking, testing, and compiling reliable resources.  I hope this first attempt to organize the information overload that we experience as mental health practitioners will be of help, and I look forward to your comments for its continued refinement.

About the author: Janet L. Sonne received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Stanford University, her master’s degree in social and personality psychology research from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her doctorate in clinical psychology from UCLA.  She has been licensed as a psychologist in California since 1983 and has conducted both a clinical and a forensic private practice for nearly 30 years.  Over the course of her career, she has taught and supervised clinical psychology doctoral students, medical students, psychiatry residents, and graduate students in departments of nursing, social work, and marriage and family therapy.  

 Dr. Sonne is a fellow of American Psychological Association (APA) Division 42 (Independent Practice) and a member of the California Psychological Association (CPA).  She is the former chair and member of the CPA Ethics Committee, and she served twice as a member of the APA Ethics Committee.  Dr. Sonne has also served as an expert consultant to the California Boards of Psychology, Behavioral Sciences, and Nursing, as well as to attorneys, religious organizations, and practitioners regarding professional standards of care, competency issues, and perpetration and sequelae of childhood sexual abuse.  She has authored and coauthored several articles, book chapters, and books on various topics relating to professional standards for mental health practitioners and clinical practice.

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