Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
Eye on Psi Chi: Spring 2001
Suggestions for a New Edition
of the APA Style Manual

Mitchell M. Handelsman, University of Colorado at Denver
Joseph J. Palladino, University of Southern Indiana

Many psychology students have had to learn and use APA's Publication Manual, which details everything you need to know to write a paper, including such crucial items as margin size, table format, and reference citation guidelines. As these students know, it is difficult to master all aspects of the Manual (unless you are like those people who read all of their owner's manuals each time they buy a new clock). What you may not know is that a committee of the American Psychological Association, at this very moment, is working diligently to develop the fifth edition of the Publication Manual. You may ask, "Why a new edition? Is it because of all the new technological advances like the Internet?" No. The answer is that APA is looking to buy a new building in Washington D.C. (the old one has some dirt on the walls of the 8th floor) and needs the money from sales of a new edition.

Because we both have experience with several editions of the APA Manual (the senior author still uses the second edition to prop up a table leg in his den at home; the junior author reports that the third edition makes the best confetti), we wanted to offer some suggestions about revisions that could be made. The idea behind all our suggestions is that the Manual could be more user-friendly.
Here are some basic suggestions about references:

  • Ideas in articles or books published before 1965 are deemed to be in the public consciousness and therefore need not be cited at all.
  • References to articles in non-APA journals will be typed in 6-point font rather than the usual 12. They will also be printed in disappearing ink.
  • Because nobody cites Zajonc these days, all references to Zimbardo's work will refer simply to "Big Z." This will save lots of space.

We offer several suggestions based on the fact that journals will soon be shifting to electronic formats:

  • Any journal that publishes exclusively on the Internet should not require any references to printed material. This is because those people who read on the Internet have entirely given up reading from paper, and so will never look at the references anyway.
  • Obviously, the new edition needs to have a completely revised section on citing Internet sources. Rather than citing lists of really long Internet addresses, it would be simpler to list only the search engine and key word that was used to find material. So, for example, reference lists would look something like this:
    AltaVistaphi phenomenon
    Ask Jeevespsychophysiology
    Infoseekcognitive processing
    LookSmartfashion sense
  • All reprint requests will now be required to be sent by e-mail. This is because after waiting 18 months to get an article published, readers deserve to get reprints within 24 hours.

When using good old-fashioned word processing to produce a manuscript, we believe several revisions are in order:

  • Margins need to be 2 inches on all sides of the paper to allow for reviewers and editors to make their comments in crayon.
  • In the Methods section, research subjects will not be called "subjects" or "participants" any more, as these terms are vague and can be construed as demeaning. The new term will be a nonjudgmental, accurate description: "sophomores in need of extra credit."
  • The only statistical abbreviation necessary should be "p" because no other statistical tests will be cited. Why? Because studies show that only 1.3% of readers look at anything other than p values when reading journal articles.
  • All other statistical tests and reports will be condensed into a sentence that describes the effect size as "not so big," "pretty big," "very big indeed," and "a whopper." Research reports containing replications (stop laughing - it could happen!) will be referred to as "supersized."
  • The only exception to this is factor analysis: articles that use factor analysis must contain the original factor rotations done on an Etch a Sketch.

Some suggestions specifically designed to save space:

  • The only articles on Freud that will be published are those submitted by authors who knew Freud personally.
  • The title and abstract of articles will now be combined. Future titles/abstracts are to be written in a form similar to the following:
    ex: "The Elements of Compassionate Conservatism: A Factor Analysis/No Elements Found"
    ex: "Why Fans Watch the XFL/They Don't"
    ex: "How Moral Reasoning Influenced Decision Making in the Clinton White House/Hypothesis Not Supported"
  • To save space in letters from the editor to authors, editors will no longer detail the reasons they believe the author should find another career.

And finally, some general suggestions:

  • Manuscripts written by faculty members are limited to one instance of citing the author's own work. This will shorten manuscript length by an average of six pages.
  • The number of authors will henceforth be limited to one less than the current population of Wyoming or five pages, whichever is less.
  • Manuscripts must contain a minimum of one useful or interesting idea per five pages. This will not only reduce the length of manuscripts by 30%, but reduce the NUMBER of manuscripts by 35%.
  • Journal reviewers will still have some influence over decisions about which articles to publish, but editors will now be required to send all publication or rejection decisions to the Florida State Election Commission for final review.
  • Reviewers from larger schools will now carry more electoral weight in the publication decisionswait a minute . . . that's the way it's always been! Never mind!
  • In the age of the Internet, it's hard to get students into the library. Thus, APA journal covers need to be color-coordinated so when they are on library shelves they spell out "read me" in green against a yellow background.

We know this is not an exhaustive (just exhausting) list. Thus, we welcome your suggestions. In fact, you can submit your suggestions for the next edition of the Publication Manual to usvia e-mail only (the junior author has forgotten where his mailbox is). We will publish the best of those we receive, and the best suggestion will win a prize that is of such little value we are ashamed even to name it. Send your entries today!

Humor Cartoon (image)


Copyright 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 3) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology



Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

Eye on Psi Chi is published quarterly:
Spring (February)
Summer (April)
Fall (September)
Winter (November)






Phone: (423) 756-2044 | Fax: (423) 265-1529 | Certified member of the Association of College Honor Societies
Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal