What is APA Style?

For students in the School of Communication, the standard writing and citation style  guidelines are found in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association–generally referred to as APA style. The manual is currently in its sixth edition, and it provides generally accepted rules for writing, publication conventions, and best practices for research, methodology, and ethics of authorship for writers, educators, and editors in the behavioral and social sciences.

But what are “styles” in general?

Each discipline or field of study uses a style manual to standardize the usage, practice, and presentation of language. But it also goes beyond that. Style manuals, published by the biggest and most important organizations in that given field, provide writers, students, editors, and educators with guidelines on how to correctly, rigorously, and clearly conduct research and communicate their findings to the members of their scholarly community. The depth with which each style manual discusses its guidelines varies, but they are often considered the definitive and authoritative word in communication within the discipline.

What does the APA manual talk about?

The APA talks about several important writing-related guidelines from writing the introduction to conducting qualitative and quantitative studies and to ethical reporting of research results and citations in the social sciences.

Introduction. According to APA, the introduction should include 1) introduction to the problem, 2) importance of said problem, 3) discussion of relevant scholarship, and 4) hypotheses and their correspondence to research design. The introduction appears as a new page, identified with a  running head and the page number, 3. The title of the manuscript or article also appears in headline case centered at the top of the page followed by the introduction. The next section should follow immediately after the introduction text, starting with the new heading. See pp. 27-28.

Continuity in Presentation of Ideas. APA also recommends that texts should aim for a “continuity in words, concepts, and thematic development from the opening statement to the conclusion” (65). This can be achieved through 1) punctuation, 2) transitional words such as the use of pronouns, time links, additional links, cause-effect links, and contrast links.

Reducing Bias in Language. Because the APA is the authoritative style for scientific writing in the social sciences, the language used in writing articles that follow it should be “free of implied or irrelevant evaluation of the group or groups being studied” (p. 70). This means making sure that your text is free of any expressions that could be interpreted as demeaning attitudes or assumptions about people based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnic group, disability, or age. (See pp. 70-77 for guidelines and suggestions).

Appropriate Levels of Citation. APA recommends citing the works of individuals whose ideas, theories, or research have directly influenced your work. The number of sources you cite will vary by the intent of the article, but for most articles, one or two of the “most representative sources for each key point” should be included (p.169). Literature reviews, however, might entail a more exhaustive list of citations to better acquaint the reader with all that has been written on a topic. See Chapter 6 of the manual for more information.

The APA manual also includes sample papers and guidelines on how to discuss and display your results. Particularly for research papers, article reviews, and journal-length articles, the APA manual is helpful in helping you navigate your writing assignments.

American Pyschological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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What (or who) is the Graduate Writing Coach at Annenberg?

What is the Graduate Writing Coach?

The Graduate Writing Coach is a free resource for graduate students in the Annenberg School of Communication. Graduate school can be a challenging time, and navigating its academic conventions can be equally perplexing. Because of this, the Writing Coach assists graduate students in addressing and developing their writing skills to develop stronger, more independent, and self-sufficient writers and editors. Additionally, the Writing Coach instructs students in best practices for graduate-level academic writing through individual appointments and group tutoring sessions, as well as workshops.

Who is the Graduate Writing Coach?

Francesca Gacho (PhD, ABD) joined the Annenberg School of Communication staff as the Graduate Writing Coach in the Spring 2017 semester. She also works as a Writing Consultant at a graduate student-only Writing Center and teaches graduate writing and reading courses for first-semester international graduate students, in addition to teaching first-year composition courses at the undergraduate level. She has been teaching and tutoring since 2006 and has been working with graduate student writers since 2012. She is currently a doctoral candidate in English and received her MA and BA in English from Claremont Graduate University and CSU Fullerton, respectively.

What can I expect from conferences with the Writing Coach?

Each 45-minute conference with the Writing Coach is student-directed. This means students decide what the focus of the session will be. With the Writing Coach, the student will set an agenda for the session at the beginning of the conference to make the meeting as productive as possible. Students are required to submit a Pre-Session Form prior to their conference.

Successful sessions typically address global issues first (larger issues in writing related to answering the prompt/assignment, thesis statement, argumentation, organization and logical structure of arguments, incorporating sources, coherence, and unity). Similarly, students who come prepared with specific questions about their writing typically leave the meetings with practical strategies that they can then employ when writing on their own. Pertinent documents such as assignment prompt, primary and/or secondary sources, samples (if available) can be helpful during the session, though not required.

In 50-minutes, it is typical to read and revise about 4-5 pages of a text, depending on the issues that may be apparent in the text. Each session–just as each writer–is different and develops at its own pace. Conferences are not proofreading or copyediting sessions, though grammar and style are valid and welcome topics of discussion. The Writing Coach provides non-evaluative feedback (as in no comments about what grade the assignment could get); rather, the Writing Coach provides feedback on the degree to which the assignment fulfills assignment requirements, meets genre expectations and academic conventions, and employs rhetorical features of the text to meet its purpose.

At the end of each session, the Writing Coach and the student will decide on action items to complete before the next appointment or before submitting the assignment.


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