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 APA writing guidelines

 

 

Overview and main resource

Practical tips on format and structure

Hints on spelling and punctuation

 

 

 

 

Overview and main resource

 

Just like journal articles and books, research papers and seminar papers also have to follow certain formal requirements. In the social sciences it is the stylesheet of the American Psychological Association (APA) that we use. It is these rules that apply to linguistics, applied linguistics and  methodology papers.  The APA guidelines give directions on formatting and presenting academic writing, as well as on citing and referencing the sources used. Following the APA style meticulously is important in showing that the author respects the formal requirements and aims to produce high quality academic texts. It therefore also adds to the author's credibility.

 

The current 7th edition of the APA Style Manual was launched in October, 2019.

 

Perhaps the best online resource on using the APA style is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL):  

https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_style_introduction.html

 

A good summary of the differences between the 6th and 7th edition is provided at: https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/apa-seventh-edition-changes/

 

The Purdue OWL also provides very useful help on details about general writing, including the writing process, academic writing,  grammar, the mechanics of writing, punctuation, etc. at: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html

 

They also suggest additional resources, namely the  APA Style Website at http://www.apastyle.org and  APA Style Blog at https://apastyle.apa.org/blog?_ga=2.212397847.2041767502.1580317661-521692406.1578346131

 

 

For further details on referencing see:

American Psychological Association (2019). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. (7th ed.) Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

 

 

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Practical tips on format and structure:

 

While the APA requirements on citing and referencing are to be followed to the letter, the guidelines on formatting papers may be flexible depending on the instructions of the course tutor, or indeed the publisher a paper is to be submitted to.    

 

Requirements that sometimes differ from the APA guidelines typically affect the following features:

 

Spacing: While the standard spacing in APA is double spacing,  with more and more papers to be submitted electronically, tutors may ask for single spaced pages as this allows to see more text on the screen.         

 

Alignment: The APA standard is left flushed pages (i.e., the right margin is uneven), many tutors prefer to read justified pages (both the left and right margins are even)          

Notes:  Notes serve to provide additional information or may identify sources. In APA, footnotes are used rather than end notes. Footnotes supplement information in the text, and therefore should not contain irrelevant or nonessential information. They should only be used if they strengthen the discussion. Whenever possible, integrate the information in the text rather than add a footnote.

 

Submitting hard copies:  Check whether single- or double-sided printing is recommended. If possible, choose the environmentally more friendly double-sided option.

 

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Structure of a paper

 

Order of the Sections of a Paper:  Title Page, Abstract, Table of Contents, List of Tables, List of Figures, List of Abbreviations, Body, References, Appendices, Tables, Figures. Please note, however, that not all of these sections may be necessary in all papers.

 

Title Page

Pagination: The Title Page is not numbered.         

Key Elements: Paper title, author, course code and title, tutor’s name

              

Abstract: 

The abstract is a one-paragraph, self-contained summary of the most important elements of the paper. N.B. This is not a preview but a summary.The abstract normally does not exceed 120 words. All numbers in the abstract (except those beginning a sentence) should be typed as digits rather than words. 

        

Table of contents / Overview of sections:  The table of contents is a mandatory element in a thesis or dissertation. An overview of sections is optional in a long seminar paper.

 

List of tables: This is a list of the tables - relevant in theses or dissertations.

 

List of figures: This is a list of the figures - relevant in theses or dissertations.

 

List of acronyms: If you use a large number of acronyms in your paper, it is a good idea to list them together with their meaning.

 

Body: 

Pagination: The body of the paper begins on a new page as do all main chapters or main sections. Subsections of the body of the paper do not begin on new pages.         

Headings and sections: Headings are used to organize the document. The decimal system is used for numbering. This reflects the relative importance of sections. The main sections are indicated by one digit numbers while the subheadings by two or three digits. The digits are divided by a period but there is no period after the last digit.

 

The typical sections in the body of an empirical research paper, with the possible numbering, are:

1 Introduction  Introduces and defines the topic/problem, states its relevance, gives a   preview of the study and states the research questions

 

2 Theoretical background / Review of the literature - Demonstrates the setting of the topic, reviews the relevant literature, establishes a research niche  

 

3 Research design and methods  Describes in detail how the study was conducted so that the reader can establish the reliability and validity or credibility of the study. Following a brief overview of the project, the possible subsections are:

   3.1 Participants and setting

   3.2 Methods of data collection

      3.2.1 Instruments

      3.2.2 Procedures

   3.3 Methods of data analysis

   3.4 Ethical considerations

4 Results        This section summarizes the data collected.

5 Discussion   This is the interpretation of the results. Answers are offered to the research question(s).   

It is also possible to combine these two sections under a so called "Results and discussion" section.

 

6 Conclusion   Summarizes the results and answers the research questions, outlines the broader implications , points to the limitations of the study and future directions.

 

References       Lists the details of the sources used in the text.

 

Appendices     Contains materials to which reference is made in the text but

which would be distracting to present in the body of the text. These may be

document extracts, sample questionnaires, interview protocols, the translation

of these where relevant, sample transcripts of interviews, samples of filled in

questionnaires, etc.

 

            The following sections may appear in the Appendices or separately afterwards:

Tables        If tables are important but cannot be put in the body of the text,

they appear here. These are usually tables of numerical results.           

Figures      If figures are important but cannot be put in the body of the text,

they appear here. These are usually graphs or illustrations.

 

 

 

 

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Hints on spelling and punctuation:

 

The layout of punctuation marks:

Punctuation marks follow the word they are used after without a space. The word after the punctuation mark starts after a space.

 

Quotation marks - which in English are always printed at the top of the line - come before and after the word or phrase they refer to without a space. E.g., "a phrase in quotation marks"

 

Hyphens connect words with no spaces. E.g., role-play

 

A dash is used to alert the reader that additional or explanatory information follows. They are used without spaces, but spaces are also allowed, in fact, some readers find a space before and after a dash more pleasant. If a keyboard has no key for a dash, two hyphens can be used.

E.g., The two other items--a boardgame and a puzzle--were not very popular.

 

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Comma:

Use a comma before a conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet) linking two independent clauses:

            Canadians watch America closely, but most Americans know little about Canada.

 

Use a comma after an introductory clause, phrase or word:

To prepare for the exam, Jan attended an evening school after work.

 

Use a comma after a conjunctive adverb at the beginning of a sentence or clause:

Labor unions no longer denounce the use of robots in manufacturing. Nevertheless,

some of the problems caused by automation remain unsolved.

Various factors had to be considered. However, a fast decision was vital.

      Except After a short introductory phrase or adverb:    Today students protest

       individually rather than in concert.

 

Use a comma or a set of commas to set off non-restrictive elements: words, phrases, and clauses that are not essential to the meaning of the sentences in which they appear:

Dorothy Straight of Washington D.C., who published her first book at the age of

six, was a remarkable child.

The surgeon, her hands moving deftly, probed the wound.

 

Use commas to separate three or more coordinate items in a series:

The cat awokestretched(,) and leaped from the chair.

Research needs to be carefully planned, meticulously carried out, and the writing

up is also important.

 

Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives modifying the same noun:

bigolddilapidated house stood on the corner.

 

Use a comma when you need one to prevent a misreading of your sentence:

On the left, walls of sheer ice rose over five thousand feet into the clouds.

 

Do not use a comma before a conjunction that links a pair of words or phrases:

            He was genial but shrewd.

            I phoned the store and asked to speak to the manager.

 

Do not use commas to separate adjectives when they are not coordinate (i.e. when they do not modify the same noun.)

            His deep blue eyes stared at me.

 

Do not use a comma before and in a compound phrase with just two items.

            The man carried a blue suitcase and a red umbrella.

 

 

Semi-colon:

Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses that are closely related in meaning:

During the summer the resort crowded with tourists; during the winter only sea

gulls perch on the benches or walk the beach.

 

Use a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb (a word or phrase that shows the relationship btw. the clauses it joins) when it joins two clauses.

The Iron Duke had complete confidence in his soldiers' training and valor; f

furthermore, he considered his battle plan a work of genius.

 

Use semicolons to emphasize the division between items in a series when one or more of the items include commas:

There were three new delegates at the meeting: Ms. Barbara Smith from Red Bank,

New Jersey; Ms. Beth Waters from Pocmutuck, Massachusetts; and Mr. James

Papson from Freeport, Maine.

 

 

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Colon

Use a colon to introduce a list coming at the end of a sentence:

Passengers may have four beverages: coffee, tea, milk(,) or soda.

 

Use a colon to introduce an example or an explanation related to something just mentioned:

The animals have a good many of our practical skills: some insects make pretty fair

architects, and beavers know quite a lot about engineering.

 

Use a colon to introduce a quotation (usually more than one line) in an essay:

            In the opening sentence of his novel, Sabatini says of his hero: 'He was born

              with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad.'

 

The use of quotation marks:

Use double quotation marks for

          - introducing a word or phrase that is not used in its original meaning the first

             time you use it in the paper                 

         - setting off the title of an article, chapter or book when the title is mentioned in

             the text.

         - reproducing in-text quotations

 

Use single quotation marks for quotations within quotations.

 

Do not use quotation marks

- to introduce technical terms, instead italicize the term

- to cite a term as a linguistic example, instead italicize the term

- to hedge, i.e., to attenuate the meaning of the word.

 

Hyphenation:

Dictionaries should be used for checking the spelling of compound words and phrases.

As a general rule, hyphens should be used with:

    - a compound with a participle when it precedes the term it modifies. (e.g., role-

      playing technique, anxiety-arousing condition)

    - a phrase used as an adjective when it precedes the term it modifies. (e.g., trial-by-

      trial analysis, to-be-recalled items)

    - an adjective-and-noun compound when it precedes the term it modifies. (e.g.,

      middle-class families, low-frequency words)

    - a compound with a number as the first element when it precedes the term it

       modifies. (e.g., 1st-grade students, six-trial problem)

 

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Text in brackets:

Avoid inserting text in brackets to clarify or illustrate meaning. Incorporate the information in the text itself.

 

 

Abbreviations and acronyms:

The overuse of acronyms makes a text difficult to read. Make sure that abbreviations -even common acronyms - are spelt out when they are first used in a text. In this case the full form appears first, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. If you have a large number of acronyms that are used throughout the text, you might want to consider including an explanation of acronyms at the beginning of the paper.

 

Use of periods with abbreviations:

   Use periods with:     

             - initials of names (J.R. Smith)

             - abbreviation for United States when used as an adjective (U.S. navy)

             - identity concealing labels for study participants (F.I.M.)

             - Latin abbreviations (a.m., cf., i.e., vs.)

             - reference abbreviations (Vol. 1, 2nd ed., p.6.)

  

  Do not use periods with

             - abbreviations of state names (NY, Washington DC) in reference lists

             - capital letter abbreviations (APA, IQ)

             - measurement abbreviations (kg, lb, min, ft)

               

Common Abbreviations

 

In the "References":

chap.

ed.

Ed. / Eds.

Rev. ed.

2nd ed.

Trans.

p. (pp.)

Vol./vols.

Pt.

 

chapter

edition

editor/editors

revised edition

second edition

Translator(s)

page (pages)

Volume(s)

Part

 

In the text:

 

         cf.

         e.g.,

         etc.,

         i.e.,

         viz.,

         vs.

 

 

compare

for example

and so forth

that is

namely

versus, against

 

 

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Numbers:

 

The general rule is to use figures to express numbers 10 and above and words to express numbers below 10. However, exceptions exist:

 

Use figures to express numbers below 10 if

- they are grouped for comparison with other numbers in the same paragraph (e.g., 25

   words...8 verbs, 12 nouns and 5 adjectives)

- they are interpretations of numbers appearing in a table or figure (e.g., line 5 in Figure

    4...)

- they precede a unit of measurement (e.g., a 5-mg dose,  2 litres of milk )

- they represent statistical or mathematical functions, quantities, ratios, percentages,

   etc.(e.g., multiplied by 5,  3% of the population...)

- they represent time (e.g., March 3, 2005 , 12:30 a.m., 2 weeks ago)

- they represent participants in an experiment, scores and points on a scale, exact sums

   of money (e.g., 9 rats, $8, the highest score was 4)

- they represent  a specific place in  a book  article, etc. (e.g., Table 3, Chapter 7)

 

Use words to express numbers if

- they stand at the beginning of a sentence (e.g., Forty-eight percent of the sample

   showed an increase, while 2 % showed no change.)

- they are common fractions (e.g., one fifth of the class)

- they are set phrases (e.g., The Fourth of July, the Ten Commandments, )

 

Figures and words are combined in the case of

- rounded large numbers starting with millions (e.g., 3 million people, a budget of 2.5

   billion)

- back-to-back modifiers (e.g., 2 two-way interactions,  twenty 6-year-olds, the first 10 

   items, )

 

Roman numerals: Only use roman numerals if they are part of an established terminology, otherwise use Arabic numerals. (e.g., Type II errors)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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