Read APA-style papers in journals and edited collections
Gives you the “feel” of APA style articles (tone and format, terseness, levels of detail, etc.)
BUT, older articles may not be in modern APA format. Some journals aren’t in APA format at all (e.g., medical journals, bio journals...). And some articles just aren’t very good...
Goodwin, Appendix C (basic overview)
Publication Manual of the APA 5th Edition (do NOT use 4th Ed.)
Careful of websites, which might have outdated info
Ask prof or TA
Types of APA Documents
Empirical research report
This is the most common type of APA-style publication
Use this format (with slight modifications) for research proposal
Other types of APA-style articles
Review articles, including meta-analyses
Theses and Dissertations
Terminology: Justifications & Cases
This is left justified
This is right justified
This is fully justified text (you should never use this, it is ugly)
THIS IS ALL CAPS
This is sentence case
This Is Title Case
Never use bold text
Use the same plain font throughout (Times New Roman 12 point)
Include a right-justified header with page number and an abbreviated version of the running head for publication on every page
Margins must be 1” all around
If you were reporting research already done, you’d use past tense (“We tested 30 individuals and found...”)
For your proposal, speak in FUTURE tense (“We plan to test 30 individuals and we anticipate that we will find...”)
When discussing other people’s previous work, use past tense (“Rosen (1977) found that...”). However, the implications of past studies can be put in present tense (“Rosen’s findings imply that people are generally trustworthy.”)
Word Processing Tips
Learn to insert page breaks. In MS Word, it’s Insert --> Break --> Page Break. Use this to separate sections, rather than hitting enter repeatedly.
Learn to create proper indents by using those little doo-hickeys on the ruler at the top instead of jamming tabs in everywhere (it’ll save you hassles in the end)
Learn to create a header. In MS Word, it’s View --> Header and Footer. Then:
Type your header text, and add a couple of spaces
Add the page number by clicking #
Right-justify by hitting
Organization of APA Style Documents
Sections of an APA-Style Research Report
Introduction (may have subsections if needed for organization)
Design & Procedure
(no page breaks)
Sections of an APA-Style Review Paper
Main body: May have several sub-sections, but their specific names are not formalized.
Sections of an APA-Style Thesis or Dissertation
Abstract (300 words allowed)
Several chapters, each of which may have the format of a research paper or a review paper
Figures and captions are included in text instead of at the end
Header: Contains abbreviated running head and page number, right justified
Running head declaration: Left justified, a few lines down.
Starts with the words “Running head:” followed by the
full running head for publication in ALL CAPS.
Title: Centered, Title Case, near the top-middle of page.
Should be descriptive. Double-spaced.
Author Names: Centered. In order of contribution. First author is a coveted position. Decide on one format of your name and use it always.
Author Affiliations: Centered. For multiple affiliations, use asterisks as shown. If all authors have same affiliation, no asterisks are necessary
Running Head for Publication
It is the set of words that will appear on every page of the published version of your paper. It need not be the same as the running head you use on the manuscript, which will normally be shorter.
This appears, left justified, above the title
It should look like the following:
Running head: MY VERY COOL RUNNING HEAD
The words “Running head:” should be there, and the running head itself should be in ALL CAPS.
A Good Title
Full title appears in two places--title page and start of intro--centered and in plain text (no bold, underline or italics). Use same font as everything else.
First impressions are important, so think carefully about your title
Avoid redundant phrases like “A study of...” or “An experiment on...”
Title should be self-contained, understandable, complete, and (as much as possible) concise.
“A Study of the Effects of Marijuana” Effects on what? Why tell me it’s a study, I know it’s a study!
“The Effects of Marijuana, a Psychoactive Plant of the Genus Cannabis Sativa, on the Mental Disorder Known as Psychosis in a Sample of College-Aged Individuals of the Genus Homo Sapiens” Unnecessary detail!
Your Good Name(s)
Author names on a paper are very important, because publication (for better or worse...) is the currency of academic success.
Choose one form of your name (e.g., Charles A. Collin) and use it every time. If you keep changing between forms (e.g., C.A. Collin, Charles Collin, C. Collin...) you confuse people trying to look for your work.
Normally, the order of authors is very important. Order indicates degree of contribution. However, on your research proposals, it won’t make a difference, so use alphabetical order by last name.
The institution where most of the work was done. In your case, just put “University of Ottawa (PSY2174X)”
With multiple authors from different institutions, list all their affiliations and use asterisks to indicate who is from where.
Header: Contains running head and page number, right justified
Heading, just the word “Abstract” at top of page, centered.
Abstract appears on its own page.
Learn to insert page breaks. In Word: Insert --> Break --> Page Break
Body of abstract. Single paragraph, no indent. No more than 120 words. Accurate, self-contained, concise summary of the paper.
The most important single paragraph in the whole paper. It should be:
Accurate: Do not include any info not in the main body of the paper
Self-contained: Define all acronyms and any unique terms. Avoid citations and quotes
Concise: Make every word count. Avoid empty phrases and redundancies
Starts with the title (exact same one as on title page) centered at top of page.
Body of intro is a series of plain text paragraphs.
First few paragraphs:
Overview of the problem you’re addressing and its importance
Quick backgrounder on key concepts if necessary
Short description of your research strategy
Finally, tell me what you’re going to tell me
Bulk of intro:
Discuss the most relevant previous studies regarding your research question (and/or related questions)
Develop the background: What are the theories in this area, what methodologies have been used, what are the key concepts?
Note: Use some kind of logical order here (chronological, point/counterpoint, etc.)
Concluding few paragraphs:
Describe your rationale (what will this study add to our knowledge?)
Clearly define your hypotheses and why you have them.
Theoretical Rationale & Hypotheses
Rationale = “Reason for existence”. What is the point of your study? If you’re looking at gender differences in conformity, why are you doing so? What do you expect to find? Why do you expect to find that? What will your study tell us that’s new?
Make sure your hypotheses match the format of your study. If you’re proposing a factorial design, tell me about why you think there will be an interaction (or why not). If a correlational study, what kind of correlation are you expecting and why?
Has at least three subsections:
Participants [or Subjects]: People are “Participants”; Animals are “Subjects”
Apparatus [or Materials]: Use “Materials” when there aren’t any machines or devices involved (e.g., a survey study)
[Stimuli]: Optional. Use only if your study involves relatively complex stimuli (different kinds of pictures, sounds, etc.)
[Design]: Optional. Can be wrapped up with Procedure into “Design & Procedure” if desired. Use a separate “Design” section if your design is particularly complex (e.g., 3 x 4 x 2 mixed factorial design)
Procedure [or Design & Procedure]
Describe the people (or animals, or families...) you’re going to study
How are you going to recruit them?
How are you going to assign them to groups?
How are they going to be paid/rewarded?
For people, describe age range, sex ratio, and any other relevant characteristics
For animals, describe species, genus, method of obtaining, etc.
BE DETAILED: Err on the side of too much detail rather than too little (this goes for the whole paper).
Describe the materials you’re going to need: Special room set-ups, questionnaires, stimuli, measurement devices, etc. etc.
Do not mention basic clerical supplies (pencils, paper, etc.) or data analysis software. These are implicit.
Complex and novel materials should be described in detail, possibly including illustrations or diagrams in Figures (or an Appendix).
For questionnaires, if you are using a previously-designed one, give its full name and a citation. If you are designing your own, include the full questionnaire in an Appendix.
Again, err on the side of more detail rather than less.
First, describe the type of research: Survey study, correlational lab study, Experiment, etc. etc. and describe the variables being studied.
If correlational, give all variables being measured.
If experimental, give all IVs and their levels, as well as all DVs. Also mention if IVs are within or between. Be especially clear here.
Bulk of this subsection describes in detail what happens to each participant.
Give enough detail for me to go and do your study.
Procedure Opening Paragraph Examples
Our proposed study is a 3x3x2 factorial quasi-experiment, where the variables are induced anxiety level (high, medium, or low; within-subjects), trait anxiety (high, medium, or low; subject variable) and induced self-efficacy (high or low, between subjects). Induced anxiety will be manipulated by...
Our proposed research design is a survey study that will examine the variables of political orientation, socio-economic status, and altruism. These will respectively be measured using the Whetstone Political Attitudes Questionnaire, 3rd Ed. (WPAQ-3), the Kilborne Employment and Savings Index (KESI) and an altruism measure of our own design entitled the Smith-Baiyul Kindness Survey (SBKS). See Appendix for the complete SBKS.
Our proposed study is a correlational lab study examining the variables of aggression and stress. Aggression will be measured by the length (in seconds) of a punishment administered by the participant to a confederate. Stress will be operationally defined in terms of blood-pressure, measured by a standard blood pressure cuff.
Normally, this is where a study’s data and analyses are discussed.
For the proposal, discuss anticipated results. And tell me what kinds of analyses you plan to do (t-tests, ANOVA, Pearson’s r...)
If desired, a Table or Figure (i.e., graph) can be used to illustrate what you think the results will look like, however:
Be very careful to emphasize that these are not actual data.
Be qualitative rather than quantitative. Don’t put any numerical values on the Y axis of a graph, for instance. Put words like “higher” and “lower” in tables rather than specific values.
Graphs and tables do not get inserted into text, but get put at the end of the document (see below)
Example of Graph
NOTE: For proposal, give no specific numbers, just qualitative predictions.
Decrease in Reported Symptoms
Example of Table
NOTE: For proposal, give no specific numbers, just qualitative predictions.
Last part of the main body of the text, and in some ways, the most important.
What will this mean for the problem you’re addressing?
What would your results say about the theories proposed by others?
How would the results of previous studies have to be reinterpreted in light of your study? Re-discuss some of the studies from the intro.
Are there any practical implications to your anticipated findings?
What are the limitations of your study?
Are there any ethical concerns?
What should be done next?
Any of the sections of the main body of the text (Intro, method, results, discussion) can have subheadings if this helps to clarify things.
Example: If you are measuring two or more DVs, you might discuss each under its own separate subheading in the results section, such as Reaction Time Data and Response Accuracy Data
The introduction and discussion sections can sometimes be better organized if subheadings are used.
NOT a bibliography. Give a reference for every work you cite. Do not give a reference for any work you don’t cite.
References section starts on a new page (Insert --> Break --> Page Break)
APA format is very picky, mind your p’s and q’s (and commas, and ampersands...)
Some common mistakes: Don’t use abbreviated journal titles Italicize volume numbers, and don’t include “vol.” or “v.” Article titles must be in sentence case, like this. Journal Titles and Book Titles Must be in Title Case and Italicized, Like This.
In APA style, Footnotes go at the end of the paper1
Footnote indicators should appear in text as small uppercase numbers2
The footnotes section starts its own page.
Tables are one way to summarize data. More precise than a graph, but less “user friendly”.
Each table goes on its own page.
Follow formatting carefully, remembering that for proposals, data in tables should be entirely non-numerical.
Tables should be cited in text by their number: “Hypothesized results for the proposed experiment are shown in Table 1.” “We predict a greater effect of CBT therapy on depressive symptoms and a greater effect of EFT therapy on symptoms of anxiety (see Table 1).”
Figure Caption Page
Each figure (e.g., picture, graph) requires a caption to explain what it presents
These captions DO NOT appear with the figures themselves, but instead all the captions for the figures in a paper go on one page.
The Figure Captions section starts on a new page.
Each individual figure goes on its own page.
You cannot use other people’s tables or figures without their permission (i.e., you can’t “quote” a table)
Cite all figures in text. “Anticipated results are shown in Figure 1.”
Journal article (most frequent type) Mellers, B. A. (2000). Choice and the relative pleasure of consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 910-924. Klimoski, R., & Palmer, S. (1993). The ADA and the hiring process in organizations. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 45(2), 10-36. Wolchik, S. A., West, S. G., Sandler, I. N., Tein, J., Coatsworth, D., Lengua, L., et al. (2000). An experimental evaluation of theory-based mother and mother-child programs for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 843-856. Collin, C. A. (in press). Spatial frequency effects in face recognition. Science, 290, 1113-1120.
Issue number, include only if
paginated by issue. Do not italicize
“et al” means “and others”. Use only if 6+ authors
References - Books
Whole Book (rare) Mitchell, T. R., & Larson, J.R., Jr. (1987). People in organizations: An introduction to organizational behavior (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Whole Edited Book (very rare) Gibbs, J. T., & Huang, L. N. (Eds.). (1991). Children of color: Psychological interventions with minority youth. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Article or Chapter from Edited Book (fairly common) Bjork, R. A. (1989). Retrieval inhibition as an adaptive mechanism in human memory. In H. L. Roediger & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), Varieties of memory & consciousness (pp. 309-330). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
References- Non-scholarly periodicals
Magazine article (very rare) Kandel, E. R., & Squire, L. R. (2000, November 10). Neuroscience: Breaking down scientific barriers to the study of brain and mind. Scientific American Mind, 2, 56-65.
Newspaper article (also very rare) Schwartz, J. (1993, September 30). Obesity affects economic, social status. The Washington Post, pp. A1, A4.
Newspaper article, no author New drug appears to sharply cut risk of death from heart failure. (1993, July 15). The Washington Post, p. A12
Secondary source: A study cited in a study you’re reading.
Example: You’re reading an article by Smith (2000), she mentions Liu and colleagues (1996), which has a very relevant finding for your proposal.
Whenever possible, go find Liu et al. (1996), read it, and cite it directly.
In the rare case that this is not possible (e.g., Liu et al is in Chinese), do a “secondary citation” along the lines of “Liu and colleagues (1996, as cited in Smith, 2000) found that blah blah blah...”.
In the references, list only Smith’s article, since you did not read Liu et al’s article.
Why should secondary citation be avoided whenever possible?
References - Web Pages
Avoid these in general (wikipedia, much as I love it, is not a scholarly reference source)
Where possible, give author and date. If author is unknown, start with title of article. If date is unknown, use “n.d.”. GVU’s 8th WWW user survey (n.d.). Retrieved August 8th, 2007, from http:// www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/survey-1997-10/
Why should these be avoided wherever possible?
Use Mainly Scholarly References
Don’t cite or quote textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.
Avoid secondary citations whenever possible, seek out the original paper.
Minimize citations from web pages, newspapers, personal communications, and other informal (non-scholarly) sources
Cite mainly empirical journal articles. Articles from edited collections, theory articles, methodological articles, etc. are good too.
When citing an article/chapter from an edited book/collection, cite only the article/chapter, not the whole book
APA Style Citations
Citations ≠ References!
Citations appear in the main body text (and occasionally elsewhere). They briefly identify the studies you have used in your research and let the reader find the full reference in the references section.
Use citations liberally. They should be used whenever you quote someone’s writing or paraphrase their ideas.
Most citations appear in the intro, with quite a few in the discussion as well. A few may appear in other sections, as well.
If paraphrasing from an article by Kurt Vonnegut, published in 2001: Vonnegut (2001) suggests that the only fundamental moral rule is that we must be kind to one another. It has been suggested that the only fundamental moral rule is that one must be kind to others (Vonnegut, 2001).
If quoting from the same source It has been suggested that only fundamental moral rule is “Damn it, you have to be kind!” (Vonnegut, 2001, pg. 42).
Citation Format - Multiple Authors
If cited material has 1 to 2 authors, always give all author names: Hamilton and Fiske (2001) tested only males, as did Smith (1988). [. . .] When one considers that the previous literature examined only males (e.g., Hamilton & Fiske, 2001; Smith, 1998), it is clear that past work lacks generalizability...
If cited material has 3 to 5 authors, list all of them the first time, but use “et al” thereafter Garfield, Hamilton, Fiske, and Angelou (2001) showed that [. . .] As previously mentioned, a study by Garfield et al (2001) demonstrated that...
For 6+ authors (rare), use “et al” for all citations.
Citation Format - Unusual Authors
Group as author: Give full group name for first citation, and an abbreviation thereafter A report by the National Institute of Mental Health ([NIMH], 1999) showed... National statistics have shown the prevalence level to be 1:1000 (NIMH, 1999).
No author: Use part of title as citation Several newspaper articles noted that the event was traumatic (“Students Shaken...”, 1999; “University Mourns...”, 1999; “Campus Grieves...”, 1999).
Citation Format - Avoiding Confusion
Two authors with same last name: Give initials to differentiate J.M. Goldberg and Neff (1961) as well as M.E. Goldberg and Wurtz (1968) studied...
Two works by same author in same year: Use a, b, c... to distinguish Several recent studies by Johnson (2006a, 2006b, 2007) show that... Many classical studies have shown that learning suffers under these conditions (Skinner, 1955a, 1955b, 1958; Watson, 1922, 1923; Zeno & Parkes, 1944).
Citation Format - “and” vs. “&” (ampersand)
Use “and” outside of parentheses Collin and McMullen (2002) showed that...
Use “&” inside parentheses It has been shown that... (Collin & McMullen, 2002).
Citation Format - Quotations
For short quotations, use quotation marks. Give the page number! Collin’s famous Second Maxim of Human Behaviour states that “No matter how complicated you think it is, you’re oversimplifying” (Collin, 2002, p. 7).
For longer quotations, offset the quoted material (indent on both sides): The first paragraph of Melville’s (1851) Moby Dick provides an interesting example of the anomie that drives some towards difficult or solitary professions: Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation (pp. 21-22). Similar motivations have been noted by a number of researchers investigating...
Using “et al” in Citations
Give all names
Give all names
Give all names
APA Format - Numbers
Generally, use digits for numbers 10+ and spell out lower numbers. But there are many exceptions:
In the abstract, use digits for all numbers
If comparing several numbers, use digits (e.g., “We found significant results in 5 out 21 cases...”)
Always use digits for decimal numbers (e.g., “We found a mean of 3.5...”)
Always use digits for number preceding a unit of measurement (“Subjects were asked to study the material for 2 hours.”)
There are many other rules (see APA guide, pp. 122-130) but in general use your judgment, with a mind towards keeping things clear and easy to read: “We asked 37 participants with a mean age of 21.2 ± 2.34 (M ± SD) to fill out eight questionnaires, each of which involved twelve 7-point scales...”
Tips for Writing a Good Proposal (1/2)
Write in Proper Clear English: In my experience, about 75% of students cannot write at the level I expect for 2nd year university students. I see an unfortunate number of students who have pervasive problems with poor sentence structure, grammatical errors, misused words, etc. Pay attention to the quality and clarity of your writing. Your content may be brilliant, but this won’t mean much if I can’t understand what you’re trying to get across. Research ideas are hard enough to figure out without having to deal with poor writing.
Thoroughly Explain Your Rationale: The most important thing about any study is that it have a good theoretical rationale. Your readers must be convinced that what you’re doing is important and will address the problem you set out to study. Pretend that someone is looking over your shoulder and constantly asking “why are you doing that? What’s the point? Why that way?” about your research design. Remember that the rationale may often seem implicitly obvious to you, but you must spell it out for your reader. To reiterate: It might seem as if your research idea is just inherently interesting, and that the justification for your particular method of studying it is obvious, but that is not enough. You have to tell the reader why this research needs to be done, and why it is good to do it in this way.
Be Original: There’s no point going over the same ground someone else did. Your proposal must extend the previous research or take it in some new direction. Ultimately, it should add new and relevant information to our knowledge about the phenomenon you are studying. Having said that, it need not be radically new. An incremental addition to existing knowledge is what I’m looking for.
Tips for Writing a Good Proposal (2/2)
Be Detailed: A person should be able to take your proposal and go do your study. Little details that seem obvious to you may not be to your reader.
Be Clear: There are no marks in science (or in this class) for fancy vocabulary. Rather, clarity is of the utmost importance. The ideas you will be expressing will be complex, and you must try to be kind to your reader and make it as easy as possible for him or her to understand you.
Be Meticulous: You are describing complex ideas, so don’t let your reader be distracted by poor grammar or spelling. Make sure every sentence is solid. Follow APA formatting rules with great care. Use the same plain font throughout (Times New Roman is a good choice, Courier is not), double-space everything, don’t use any bold text anywhere, and go over your citations and references with a fine-toothed comb.
Remember this is Proposal: DO NOT describe your study as if it had already taken place. You are proposing a piece of research you plan to do in the future, so it should be discussed in future tense. Note that this means you should never describe results quantitatively (in numbers) but rather qualitatively (in words). Don’t say “We anticipate that group 1 will have a mean IQ of 102.3 while group 2 will have a mean IQ of 115.2” but rather something like “We anticipate that group 1 will have a lower mean IQ than group 2.”
Finding Older References
When researching your topic, many newer references will be available for download
Older ones will not, you will have to get the journals off the library shelves and photocopy them.
Many older journals have been moved to off-site archives. Ask at the circulation desk if you can’t find a journal volume
Always ask a librarian! They can get you almost anything, no matter how old or obscure, given enough time.