The foremost guide to writing and publishing in the social sciences, the APA Style Manual, has now brought its authority to the electronic age.
Not to worry: the manual--which researchers have pored over and coffee-stained since its first iteration in 1929--is still the vigorous champion for accepted grammar and style, good writing, clearly stated research and consistent presentation. What's new in this version is information that brings order to the world of electronic communications, as well as explanations of a new consensus on presenting statistical data.
"We don't make changes capriciously," says Susan Knapp, APA's deputy publisher, who with Leslie Dodson of APA's Education Directorate shepherded the manual through the revision process. "The impetus for the revisions was change in the world of scientific writing."
A tech-savvy guide
For instance, when the last version of the manual was published in 1994, the World Wide Web was just starting to take off and e-mail was not nearly as universal.
The section on electronic media has been revised to reflect the variety of new tools available, particularly on the Internet. The new edition sets standards for citations of Internet addresses and documents. It assumes for the first time that most papers will be prepared using word processing software and presents new guidelines for submitting papers electronically. It also calls for authors to use their word processing functions and "show it like it is," at least for words that need to be displayed in bold or italic type.
There is also now a Web page to help readers keep up with changes in the manual between editions.
In addition, the new edition modifies some standards for tables and figures to improve readers' understanding. While noting that the psychology field is not of one mind about reporting "null hypothesis significance testing," the fifth edition asserts that "it is almost always necessary to include some index of effect size or strength of relationship in your 'Results' section."
In other changes for this edition, the manual:
Offers new or revised guidelines for avoiding plagiarism and presenting case studies, as well as updates on copyright and permissions issues.
Expands guidelines on the retention of raw data, offers new advice on writing agreements for the use of shared data, and gives new information on the responsibilities of co-authors.
Resurrects the hanging indent as the preferred style for references in manuscripts: The manual calls for entries to begin flush left and for the second and subsequent lines to be indented.
Changes the standard length for an abstract from a maximum of 960 characters to 120 words.
And for the first time ever, there's a spiral bound version that will allowfrequent users to open the book flat on a desk and glance back at it repeatedly.
As it has historically, the new volume discusses not only editorial rules, but writing style, ways to reduce bias in language, the manuscript acceptance and production processes, and ethical standards for reporting and publishing scientific information.
The last word in scholarly style
The Publication Manual marches into the information age with 73 years of history and two decades of recognition as a national authority. First published as six pages of guidelines in The Psychological Bulletin in 1929, the manual was printed as a separate publication (considered the "First Edition") in 1953. According to Knapp, by the time the third edition came out in 1983, the book was widely accepted by other disciplines and sales skyrocketed.
The manual is now the publication guide for most social sciences and is also used in the human resources, business and nursing fields. The fourth edition sold 4.2 million copies over its life span.
"Other fields needed a consistent style, and they looked at the APA Manual and liked what they saw," says Knapp.
Indeed, the manual's adoption by other disciplines has been an unanticipated boon to APA programs. Fifteen percent of the funds from the manual's sales go to support research and development of publications. They also often support publishing projects and other APA efforts that are deemed important, but not necessarily profitable in any one year. One such project was APA's new Encyclopedia of Psychology, which required eight years of development.
The manual's popularity also makes it something of an envoy to other fields, says Knapp. Some students and researchers get their first impressions of psychology from the book's clear outlining of style and strong support of scientific validity.
Overseen by APA's Publication and Communication Board, with input from the Council of Editors and the Ad Hoc Statistics Task Force, the new edition is an attempt "to establish a consistent style for manuscripts which allows authors and readers to easily move from one journal to another," says Knapp.
To order the APA Style Manual, call (800) 374-2721 or see the APA Style Web site. Cloth edition is $34.95; spiral-bound, $29.95; paper, $23.95.