Dr Abel Scribe PhD

APA Basic for Research Papers

The American Psychological Association has created a writing style followed by over a thousand research journals in psychology, education, and other fields. The style is documented in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.; 2009).

APA Basic is a concise guide to preparing research papers in the style of the American Psychological Association. It highlights features essential to using the style correctly, with emphasis on those things most likely to catch the eye of a reader familiar with the style, just the basics. © Copyright 2009-2017 by Dr Abel Scribe PhD.

APA Manual at Amazon.com The APA Publication Manual is focused on just that, preparing papers for publication. If you are writing a research paper for a class or a conference the rules change a bit. The previous fifth edition (2001) gave special instructions for these papers (see chapter 6). The APA subsequently figured this had nothing to do with publication, the essential focus of their manual, so they dropped the chapter in the next edition. Nonetheless, Doc Scribe has kept this lost knowledge alive while following the latest fashions in APA style.

pointer  Doc's guides follow APA advice for preparing final manuscripts--college and conference papers. These differ slightly from the copy manuscripts described in the APA Publication Manual (see below).

pointer  APA BASIC.PDF is an abridged version of these pages. See the APA Basic page for what's left out.

APA Basic Table of Contents
1.0 Mechanics of Style
  • 1.1 Abbreviations
  • 1.2 Capitalization
  • 1.3 Emphasis (Italics)
  • 1.4 Common Numbers
  • 1.5 Precise Numbers
2.0 Page Layout
  • 2.1 Title & Text Pages
  • 2.2 Headings & Lists
  • 2.3 Quotations
  • 2.4 Tables
  • 2.5 Figures
3.0 Crediting Sources
  • 3.1 Text Citations
  • 3.2 Reference Lists
4.0 Reference Examples
  • 4.1 Article in Periodicals
  • 4.2 Books & Compilations
  • 4.3 Reference Works
  • 4.4 Monographs & Websites

Final Manuscripts

The APA calls papers written for publication copy manuscripts. They are formatted to aid the publication process, not the reader. When not writing for publication "the manuscript must be as readable as possible" (APA, 2001, p. 323). The APA calls these papers final manuscripts. There are minor differences:

  • Organization. "In a manuscript submitted for publication, figures, tables, and footnotes are placed at the end of the manuscript; in theses and dissertations, such material is frequently incorporated at the appropriate point in text as a convenience to readers" (APA, 2001, p. 325).
  • Line spacing. "Double-spacing is required throughout most of the manuscript. When single-spacing would improve readability, however, it is usually encouraged. Single-spacing can be used for table titles and headings, figure captions, references (but double-spacing is required between references), footnotes, and long quotations [this is sometimes referred to as block spacing]" (p. 326).
  • Title page. The title and abstract pages of a copy manuscript are organized for anonymous review and typesetting. Elements that require separate pages are usefully combined on a single page: the title, author, abstract, and author note. The running head becomes the page header, as it does in published articles.
APA Basic has made these adjustments to guide the preparation of college and conference papers.

APA Fair Use (TOP)

square Copyright Law makes provision for others than the owner of a copyright to use material covered by the copyright without violating the law. This is referred to as fair use in copyright law. What constitutes fair use is ambiguous in the law. The American Psychological Association (APA) has this definition of 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, 173)

The following section goes over copyright law as it applies to these pages.

Copyright Law & Fair Use (TOP)

square You Cannot Copyright a Style. 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" (The Copyright Handbook, 3rd. ed., by Stephen Fishman, 1998, Berkeley, CA: Nolo Press). You cannot copyright a research (or any) style, nor can you copyright a language, even a programming language. They belong to everyone.

The rationale for this is not hard to understand. If, for example, 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 format and style. How about copyrighting all the works in the style of William Shakespeare, the style of painting of Rembrandt, or even that of Rock'n Roll? If you could secure a copyright on a style, then you would own the copyright on everything published in that style. More recently the courts have denied copyright protection to programming languages, even those invented by Microsoft and IBM!

square Fair Use. 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.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use:

quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.

Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself; it does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work.

The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.

When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of fair use would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered "fair" nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.

Revised July 2006, U.S. Copyright Office, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20559-6000, http://www.copyright.gov.