Dr Abel Scribe PhD

Doc Scribe?

Long ago, even before there was Windows 95, a small group of grad students pooled their efforts to create a bibliographic program called AScribe. This program cataloged and formated references in a number of different styles. From the program name "AScribe," the name "Abel Scribe" emerged. It seemed fitting that he share in our academic achievements, so we gave him a PhD, too. The program was written in a DOS based programming language, now obsolete, though the program still works well.

After a few years we sought to share the program with others via the newly emerging World Wide Web. Our first website went online in 1997. Along with the program, we published style sheets of references for all the styles the program formatted. These proved more popular than the program. Also, about the same time, we became aware of how poorly students were formatting their research papers. Published style guides were expensive, so we beagn to develop our own and make them available on the Web. A new website was established in 2000, this one, and has been online ever since.

Professor Russ Dewey, the original author of the APA Crib Sheet, added to our collaboration in 2003 when Doc Scribe brought the Crib Sheet up to date with the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual (2001). It was merged with our own Student's Guide to APA Style. Since then, the Crib Sheet has received over a million hits on this site alone, and has been renamed APA Style Lite. The APA Publication Manual is geared toward publication. In an earlier edition of the manual suggestions were offered for adapting the style to college and conference papers. Although no longer in the current APA Manual, those suggestions are followed here, with a similar focus on the other styles covered.

Contact:  doc@docstyles.com

The website is revisited as time allows and circumstances dictate. Unfortunately, we're rarely able to answer email on a timely basis. Many messages concern APA style and how we've departed from the Publication Manual as if this were an error. Please check the APA Style Precis which explains our strategy.

Copyright Issues

Though the issue has never been raised, there is a question of the legitimacy of drawing on copyrighted material to prepare the style guides on this site. By law (17 U.S.C. 102(b)) "the original and creative word sequences in [a text] are protected by copyright, but a writing style itself is in the public domain, no matter how original it is" (Stephen Fishman, The Copyright Handbook. 3rd. ed. Berkeley, CA: Nolo Press, 1998). You cannot copyright a research (or any) style, nor can you copyright a language, even a programming language. They belong to everyone. This is true of all styles, including the styles featured in our guides.

The rationale for this is not difficult to understand. For example, if you wrote a book and stored it on your PC in Microsoft Word, would it then belong to Microsoft?  After all, it's in their word processor coding language. Then again, wouldn't it be great to get a copyright on all the works in the style of the plays of William Shakespeare, the paintings of Rembrandt, or even the musical style Rock'n Roll?  If you could secure such a copyright, then you would own everything published in that style—all the works of Shakespeare, Rembrandt, and all the music called Rock'n Roll. More recently the courts have denied copyright protection to programming languages, even those invented by Microsoft and IBM!

The copyright laws provide for the "Fair Use" of copyrighted material for educational purposes, reviews, and scholarship. The following is reproduced from the U.S. Copyright Office website:

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of "fair use." Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered "fair," such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The distinction between "fair use" and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

However, the current APA Publication Manual defines what it considers to be "Fair Use."

APA policy permits authors to use . . . a maximum of three figures or tables from a journal article or book chapter, single text extracts of fewer than 400 words, or a series of text extracts that total fewer than 800 words without requesting formal permission from APA (APA, 2009, p. 173)

This appears to be a reasonable, even generous, standard, and one that is followed by our guides.

Chorus Line

Official Websites:   AMA Style (Oxford UP)   APA Style Site   Chicago Manual of Style   MLA Handbook