This site provides a summary of the current edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, the style manual for students and professionals in psychology and related disciplines. The site designer is Dr. Mark Plonsky, Professor of Psychology at University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. The guide is a useful resource, providing many relevant examples to assist users in properly applying APA syle guidelines to written works. It includes three kinds of content (General Topics, Research Reports, and Research Reviews) as well as several appendices of example sections.
Type of Material:
The site consists primarily of reference material.
This material could be used to illustrate APA format to students in class (if an Internet connection is available) or as a reference/checklist for students to use outside of class while writing an APA-style paper. Students can also use the checklist format after an initial draft of a scientific paper and instructors can use the checklist to grade initial drafts or final papers.
The site recommends Netscape 4.x or Internet Explorer 4.x.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The goal of this resource is to help students write scientific research reports or reviews in APA style.
Target Student Population:
The author states that his site is designed for undergraduate students, but some graduate students also could profit from the summary of and checklist for APA style found here. Research methods courses (both graduate and undergraduate) would find this material useful. Obviously, the site is predominantly for psychology students, although it could be used by students in any discipline who are asked to utilize APA style for an assigned paper (e.g., sociology).
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
This resource assumes that the user possesses a basic understanding of scientific writing.
The author does a great job of summing up and providing examples of APA fomatting style. He adds helpful hints that he has found to be useful in over 20 years of teaching. He first posted this page in 1996 and has updated it whenever a new edition of the APA style manual has been published. It is one of the better sites in terms of succinct coverage of the material and provision of a checklist for students to use after writing a paper. The tone is helpful, and the language makes APA style easy to understand. The material provides many useful examples to help students avoid common pitfalls.
Because it is designed to serve as a guide, this resource is not comprehensive. The section on APA-style references is somewhat incomplete, as the complicated citation system outlined in the APA Style Manual is oversimplified in this guide. The site also lacks information on how to report "Materials" or "Measures" in the Method section. Because many undergraduate student projects involve the use of standardized measures (such as personality scales), such a section would improve the usefulness of the site.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The APA style manual is intimidating to students; it is lengthy and there are complicated rules to follow in writing a paper using this format. The author makes it easier for students to write an APA-style paper by providing a condensed version of the APA formatting rules as well as some example pages and a APA-style checklist. If teaching is mostly about skillfully summing up a mass of material to deliver to students in the most understandable way, then the author has created an excellent teaching tool. The material suggests solutions to common problems or issues. For example, the guide tells students what they can assume a reader will understand; this may save students from going into extraneous detail. The major topics covered by the guide are those that instructors in research methods courses are most likely to want their students to understand. The site can also be useful for courses that are not research methods but that require students to write a research paper or proposal.
The resource appears to have been targeted towards students in a specific class. In some areas, students may need to be reminded that the author is expressing his preference for assignments in his class rather than making general statements about scientific writing. Students do need to be familiar with the fact that there is a lengthy APA publication manual covering more information and giving more examples than a web guide could ever do. As long as instructors alert them to this and/or they have a copy of the APA publication manual, students can use this abbreviated version of the APA formatting rules. The site would be more useful if it had learning exercises associated with the material. Brief quizzes on APA rules and/or opportunities for students to engage in self-assessment would be beneficial.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The guide is well-written and easy to understand. The checklist feature and numerous examples help clarify specific problem areas for students. The organization of the resource in outline format makes it easy to navigate for both students and instructors. The material is essentially one web page (the checklist is on one additional page) with internal links to help navigate around the page. There are also some external links.
The document does not have a "search" feature, but users can use search functions that are built into the web-browser or operating system (e.g. Ctrl + F). It would also be nice if the guide had an "index" or "contents" link that stays on the pages as one navigates the guide. The checklist version of the guide would be easier for students and instructors to use if they could print it off and place check marks next to each item.
Other Issues and Comments:
As long as students remember that this is a writing guide, not an exhaustive manual, this resource could be a very useful tool. Students might wish to consult the APA Style Manual for more comprehensive guidelines with regard to references. There is not much to set this guide apart from the myriad of other writing guides available on the Internet, but the concise format and insight offered by the author do help this site to be above average.
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