Before the potential writer begins writing in the field of psychology it is important for them to become familiar with the proper writing style. Of the three journals used for research: The American Journal of Psychology, The Journal of Experimental Psychology, and The Psychological Record, all of them refer to the style described in The Publication Manual of the American
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Psychological Association, or the APA Manual for short. Referring to this book is the most effective way to become familiar with the desired style. Out of the three journals researched, none of them described the style at all, they just referred the writer to the APA Manual. However, this does not mean that the potential writer should not look at the journals. They provide a good source of example articles, and it is important to see some examples before beginning to write.
The APA Style Manual specifically describes how a paper should be formatted to meet it's style requirements. First of all the article is to have a title page consisting of the title, the author's name and the author's affiliation (22). The title should fully explain the article when standing alone, and the author's affiliation should identify where the research was conducted. This page, as well as every subsequent page, should have a running head consisting of an abbreviated title and the page number (23).
The body of the paper should be divided into six different sections. The first section of a psychology paper should be an abstract. The abstract is a brief summary of the contents of the article (23). It should give the reader a general understanding of what the article is going to accomplish. The APA Manual describes five characteristics of a good abstract: accuracy, self-containment, conciseness, coherence, and that it is non evaluative. Following the abstract should be an introduction. The introduction should present the problem under study and describe the research method (24). A good introduction should also briefly develop the background of the study and state the purpose and rationale (25). After introducing the subject, the third section of the paper should
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describe the method of how the study was conducted (25). It is important in this section of the paper to identify subsections of the method, which includes descriptions of the subjects, the materials used, and the procedure.
The fourth section of the paper should state the results of the study. This section should summarize the data collected and the statistical treatment of them (27). The manual recommends using tables or charts to present the data in the clearest possible way. Using tables and charts also attracts the readers eye because they best illustrate interactions and comparisons. Following the results, the writer should end their paper with a discussion of the paper. In the discussion the writer should examine, interpret, and draw inferences from the results (27). The discussion should leave the reader with an overall view of what the writer accomplished and an idea of what effect these findings will have on our society.
At this point it is important to point out the specific organizational style used required by the APA Manual. The paper written in APA style requires the use of headings, which indicate the organization of a paper and establish the importance of each topic (65). All topics of equal importance requires the same level of heading throughout the paper (65). Two types of headings are recommended for the psychology paper. They are the centered uppercase and lower case heading; for example:
and the flush left, underlined, upper and lower case heading:
Spacing is off due to the interface. Psychological Discourse, 4
These headings should be used to separate the five sections of the paper described above along with subsections of these sections.
A paper on how to write in the discourse community of psychology would be incomplete without discussing the style of citation used. The manual requires that all references to previously published materials must be cited in the text, and all the sources of information must be listed in a reference list at the end of the article (107). A citation should consist of the authors name, the year of publication, and the page number (110). Here is an example taken from The American Journal of Psychology:
"Ninety-seven percent the breast cancers can be found in fifty-seven percent of the population" (McGee, 1979, p. B-1).
And then the source would appear in the reference list at the end of the paper as:
McGee, G.(1979, Feb. 6). Breast surgery before cancer. Ann Arbor News, Sec B, B-1.The manual requires that each entry contains the following elements: author, year of publication, title, and publishing data (112). The manual also includes a list of proper abbreviations that are to be used in the reference list.
Now that an overview of writing in the discourse community of psychology has been presented, it is important that the potential writer continue their research on the style of writing. University libraries are a good location to continue the hunt for more information. Here at Illinois State University's Milner Library, the APA Manual can be found at the information desk, and many examples of writings can be found in the psychological journals on the first floor. Reading over these journals is a great way to become familiar with the style.
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The more familiar the writer is with the style, the better their chances of having their findings published.
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