Publishing in an APA journal might seem like an unattainable goal for someone who is still an undergraduate or master student. However, if you have good research, and supervisors who support you, there is a great chance you will achieve your goal. I was lucky enough to perform my final year dissertation with two fantastic supervisors, and it was this research that later went on to become the journal article being published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance. However, it was a very long road to travel down which I will re – travel with you in the following paragraphs of this post sharing the experiences I had.
Throughout the course of our studies, we have all read a lot of literature reviews or scientific papers, those whose methodological standard we could have learned from and improved and others that make us wonder how they ever made it through the peer- review process of the journal. Nevertheless, we have to admit that we all still make mistakes and sometimes submit manuscripts that do not match APA guidelines. In order to improve our general knowledge about how to format papers in our beloved APA style or to refresh our previous knowledge related to it, this post intends to give a brief overview over the structure of a scientific paper and some other crucial APA features your paper should contain.
Writing the title takes just a fraction of the time you need to put down your work on paper. Nonetheless, this starting point is very important one, because it may influence the impact of your work and the number of readers that it will attract. With the increasing digitalization of research, more and more people are using abstract databases to find articles relevant to their work. That’s why, if you want your article to come up in the search results, you should make sure that its title is a good summary of your work and that it addresses the right audience. How can you do this? Here is a step-by-step guide with some useful tips.
Today, much of the world of scientific writing and publishing revolves around making sure the standards of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (or more commonly known as “APA style”) are being met. Every undergraduate has gone through one or more courses about it, and every student pursuing a career in research sure as to know it from back to back. It can even be remarkably challenging to imagine the scientific enterprise without the existence of the Publication Manual.
APA style has come to refer to this well-developed system of writing conventions that includes guidelines on how to organize empirical reports, how to reference other published works, and how to solve a dozen other problems that arise in the preparation of a manuscript. But the reach of APA style doesn’t end in the settings in which manuscripts are prepared. Indeed, APA style has become common even in disciplines outside psychology, such as nursing, education and anthropology. Contemporary English textbooks present APA style as an established standard on a par with the revered “MLA style” (Achtert & Gibaldi, 1985).
But when something is so pervasive in a certain context we have to stop and ponder: what are the consequences of having such a fixed set of standards regulating most of scientific publishing in the social sciences?
A recent article summarizing previous data from 110 manuscripts submitted to the Research in the Schools journal (Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, & Frels, 2010) shows that APA style deviations related to the use of abbreviations and acronyms were found in 41.82% of the manuscripts. Perhaps because using abbreviations in writing comes so intuitively to us, a lot of people don’t give much thought to the fact that the publication manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2009) has some specific requirements when it comes to abbreviations. And while the rules governing the use of abbreviations may seem like just another bunch of the innumerable guidelines in the manual, it doesn’t take long to realize that they are actually logical and easy to follow.
A recent JEPS bulletin post revealed that the largest percent (37%) of APA style mistakes in the manuscripts submitted for the 4th issue of the Journal of European Psychology Students (JEPS) are related to reference formatting. This is consistent with the analysis of APA style mistakes from 2010 where the largest proportion of APA style mistakes in the past JEPS submissions were related to references as well, although in a significantly larger percent (51%).
As described in a previous post, writing proper references may involve several issues–correctly listing references cited in text, as well as having all references in the list cited in text. Problems also occur in correct spelling of the references, formatting in-text citations according to APA guidelines, formatting the reference list according to the specific APA rules applying to each type of publication and ordering the references alphabetically by the authors’ surnames.
Even though the APA manual is the guide no.1 in resolving these issues–doing it manually by the book requires a lot of time and attention. The good news is that there is a number of electronic tools that can also help to avoid these mistakes. This post offers you a brief introduction to two solutions–Zotero and Mendeley Desktop.
Referencing causes a great number of mistakes in APA formatting (see also our recent analysis of manuscripts submitted to JEPS). This is perhaps not surprising, given the amount of details a writer has to observe when enlisting a single item in the references list. Should the titles be capitalised throughout or not? What is in italics what is not? Where do commas and full stops go? Why is there a standardised way of reporting references in the first place?
Students encounter problems with formatting headings according to the APA Style surprisingly often. 9% of manuscripts of submitted to the Journal of European Psychology Students manifested a problem in that area (Vainre, 2011). Even though compared to the previous version of the manual, the APA has simplified its standards considerably, much confusion still seems to be there. Hopefully this post will clarify a thing or two.
What’s the most difficult part of the APA style for students? Continuing the practice from 2010, I’ll demonstrate the typical mistakes found in the manuscripts submitted for the 4th issue of the Journal of European Psychology Students (JEPS). Given that JEPS requires submitted manuscripts to follow APA style, this post may be useful for anyone writing papers according to these regulations.
This post will also refer to any material that would provide more information on how to avoid the incompatibility with the APA style.
How to format tables in APA Style?
Before formatting tables you have created to support the existing data in your article, you should consider checking the following questions to ensure whether embedding tables is necessary or whether it the data could be presented otherwise:
- Is the table necessary?
- Is the entire table single or double-spaced (including the title, headings, and notes)?
- Are all comparable tables presented consistently?
- Is the title brief but explanatory?
- Does every column have a column heading?
- Are all abbreviations; special use of italics, parentheses, and dashes; and special symbols explained?
- Are the notes organized according to the convention of general, specific, probability?
- Are all vertical rules eliminated?
- If the table or its data are from another source, is the source properly cited?
- Is the table referred to in the text?