American Psychological Association (APA) style is an academic format specified in The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, a style guide that offers academic authors guidance on various subjects for the submission of papers to the publications of APA. The APA states that the guidelines were developed to assist reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences, for clarity of communication, and for "word choice that best reduces bias in language". The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contains guidelines on many aspects of academic writing as it is regarded as appropriate by the APA. Among the topics covered are information on the structure of research papers of various kinds, spelling rules, an author-date reference style, construction of tables and graphs, plagiarism, formatting of papers, and much more.
APA style is widely used, either entirely or with modifications, by hundreds of other scientific journals (including medical and other public health journals), in many textbooks, and in academia (for papers written in classes). Along with AMA style and CSE style, it is one of the major style regimes for such work. Many publications have small local style guides that cascade over AMA, APA, or CSE style in a way analogous to how inline styles in HTML cascade over CSS styles (for example, "follow APA style unless otherwise specified herein" or "for issues not addressed herein, follow APA style").
The Publication Manual was established in 1929 as a seven-page document with a set of procedures to increase the ease of reading comprehension (APA, 2009a, p. xiii). Created under the sponsorship of the United States National Research Council, its originators included psychologists, anthropologists, and publishing professionals.
In 1952, the booklet was expanded and published as a 55-page supplement in Psychological Bulletin with revisions made in 1957 and 1967 (APA, 1952, 1957, 1967). The first edition covered word choice, grammar, punctuation, formatting, journal publication policies, and "wrapping and shipping" (APA, Council of Editors, 1952, p. 442).
In response to the growing complexities of scientific reporting, subsequent editions were released in 1974, 1983, 1994, and 2001. Primarily known for the simplicity of its reference citation style, the Publication Manual also established standards for language use that had far-reaching effects. Particularly influential were the "Guidelines for Nonsexist Language in APA Journals," first published as a modification to the 1974 edition, which provided practical alternatives to sexist language then in common usage. The guidelines for reducing bias in language have been updated over the years and presently provide practical guidance for writing about race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability status (APA, 2009, pp. 70–77; see also APA, 2009b).
Sixth edition of the Publication Manual
The sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was released in July 2009 after four years of development. The Publication Manual Revision Task Force of the American Psychological Association established parameters for the revision based on published criticism, user comments, commissioned reviews, and input from psychologists, nurses, librarians, business leaders, publishing professionals, and APA governance groups (APA, 2007a, 2007b). To accomplish these revisions, the Task Force appointed working groups of four to nine members in seven areas: Bias-Free Language, Ethics, Graphics, Journal Article Reporting Standards, References, Statistics, and Writing Style (APA, 2009, pp. xvii–xviii).
The APA explained the issuing of a new edition only eight years after the fifth edition by pointing to the increased use of online source or online access to academic journals (6th edition, p. xv). The sixth edition is accompanied by a web presence.
Errors in the first printing
Sample papers in the first printing of the sixth edition contained multiple errors. APA staff posted all of the corrections online in a single document on October 1, 2009, and shortly thereafter alerted users to the existence of the corrections in an APA blog entry. These errors attracted significant attention from the scholarly community and nearly two weeks later, on October 13, 2009, the article "Correcting a Style Guide" was published in the online newspaper Inside Higher Ed that included interviews with several individuals who described the errors as "egregious" (Epstein, 2009).
- "APA Journals Manuscript Submission Instructions for All Authors". Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition American Psychological Association". Retrieved February 14, 2013.
- "APA Style". Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). 2009. Washington, DC
- American Psychological Association, Council of Editors. (1952). In 1967 the Publication Manual made also the shift from footnotes to parenthetical referencing. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Psychological Bulletin, 49(Suppl., Pt. 2), 389-449.
- American Psychological Association. (1957). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Rev. ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
- American Psychological Association. (1967). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Rev. ed.). Washington, DC: Author
- APA Task Force on Issues of Sexual Bias in Graduate Education (June 1975). "Guidelines for nonsexist use of language". American Psychologist (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 30 (6): 682–684. doi:10.1037/h0076869. ISSN 0003-066X. OCLC 696450842. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- APA Publication Manual Task Force (June 1977). "Guidelines for nonsexist language in APA journals [Change Sheet 2]". American Psychologist (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 30 (6): 682–684. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.32.6.487. ISSN 0003-066X. OCLC 696450842. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- "Supplemental materials: Chapter 3: Writing Clearly and Concisely". Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- American Psychological Association. (2007a, April 13–14). Meeting of the Council of Editors [Agenda book]. APA Archives, Washington, D.C.
- American Psychological Association. (2007b, May 18–20). "Meeting of the Publications and Communications Board [Agenda book]. APA Archives, Washington, D.C.
- Mary Lynn Skutley. Note to APA Style Community: Sixth Edition Corrections. APA blog, October 08, 2009
- Epstein, Jennifer (October 13, 2009). Jaschik, Scott; Lederman, Doug, eds. "Correcting a Style Guide". Inside Higher Ed (Washington, DC: Inside Higher Ed). Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- American Psychological Association. (2010). The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. ISBN 978-1-4338-0562-2
- American Psychological Association. (2001). The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. ISBN 978-1-55798-791-4
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