To start with, let’s deal with some of those tricky questions:
Why do we need to know about this?
Most of your work is supposed to conform to APA publication guidelines, as set out in the APA Publication Manual (APA, 2009). Also many journals and other organizations require that reports are set out according to APA guidelines.
The American Psychological Association. Not to be confused with the American Psychological Society, which is now the Association for Psychological Science. Or the Advertising Producers Association, or the Albanian Peoples -
Goddammit, we’re British - why should we be interested in American publication style?
OK then… so how does APA style differ from, say, BPS style?
To tell the truth, there’s not a great deal of difference. Minor formatting foibles; whether you put the volume number in bold in your references, that kind of thing. In practice, once you’ve mastered APA style it’s pretty easy to adapt to other systems. And there are plenty of them. For example, Sage and Blackwell (who both publish psychology books and journals) have their own house style that differs (in places) from BPS and APA. Generally speaking, the more important issues in APA style – the reporting of statistical results – are fairly consistent across the board.
I’m doing an IPA study, what do the APA say about that?
Guidelines for preparing reports using qualitative research are mysteriously lacking in the APA manual. This may be related to the mysterious absence of qualitative research from APA journals. As a rule of thumb, if the APA don’t advise on something, it’s probably safest to follow the format of a BPS journal or a reliable (psychology) journal from one of the leading UK publishers. The APA do, however, provide guidance on the layout of block quotes. This will be covered later in the Quotations section.