APA style is a set of guidelines for writing in psychology. It is the genre of writing that psychologists use to communicate about their research with other researchers and practitioners.
APA style can be seen as having three levels. There is the organization of a research article, the high-level style that includes writing in a formal and straightforward way, and the low-level style that consists of many specific rules of grammar, spelling, formatting of references, and so on.
References and reference citations are an important part of APA style. There are specific rules for formatting references and for citing them in the text of an article.
An APA-style empirical research report consists of several standard sections. The main ones are the abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and references.
The introduction consists of an opening that presents the research question, a literature review that describes previous research on the topic, and a closing that restates the research question and comments on the method. The literature review constitutes an argument for why the current study is worth doing.
The method section describes the method in enough detail that another researcher could replicate the study. At a minimum, it consists of a participants subsection and a design and procedure subsection.
The results section describes the results in an organized fashion. Each primary result is presented in terms of statistical results but also explained in words.
The discussion typically summarizes the study, discusses theoretical and practical implications and limitations of the study, and offers suggestions for further research.
Research in psychology can be presented in several different formats. In addition to APA-style empirical research reports, there are theoretical and review articles; final manuscripts, including dissertations, theses, and student papers; and talks and posters at professional conferences.
Talks and posters at professional conferences follow some APA style guidelines but are considerably less detailed than APA-style research reports. Their function is to present new research to interested researchers and facilitate further interaction among researchers.
Practice: Find a description of a research study in a popular magazine, newspaper, blog, or website. Then identify five specific differences between how that description is written and how it would be written in APA style.
Practice: Find and correct the errors in the following fictional APA-style references and citations.
Walters, F. T., and DeLeon, M. (2010). Relationship Between Intrinsic Motivation and Accuracy of Academic Self-Evaluations Among High School Students. Educational Psychology Quarterly, 23, 234–256.
Moore, Lilia S. (2007). Ethics in survey research. In M. Williams & P. L. Lee (eds.), Ethical Issues in Psychology (pp. 120–156), Boston, Psychological Research Press.
Vang, C., Dumont, L. S., and Prescott, M. P. found that left-handed people have a stronger preference for abstract art than right-handed people (2006).
This result has been replicated several times (Williamson, 1998; Pentecost & Garcia, 2006; Armbruster, 2011)
Practice: Look through an issue of a general interest professional journal (e.g., Psychological Science). Read the opening of the first five articles and rate the effectiveness of each one from 1 (very ineffective) to 5 (very effective). Write a sentence or two explaining each rating.
Practice: Find a recent article in a professional journal and identify where the opening, literature review, and closing of the introduction begin and end.
Practice: Find a recent article in a professional journal and highlight in a different color each of the following elements in the discussion: summary, theoretical implications, practical implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research.
Discussion: Do an Internet search using search terms such as psychology and poster to find three examples of posters that have been presented at conferences. Based on information in this chapter, what are the main strengths and main weaknesses of each poster?