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What’s New in APA Style

By Stacy Stanislaw


March 31, 2020

This article was originally published on the Drexel University Libraries website.

Arthur Nezu, PhD, DHL, ABPP - Drexel University Professor of Psychology

It had been over a decade since the American Psychology Association (APA) last revamped its writing manual when the organization released the 7th edition of its famous APA Style Guide in October 2019. The latest edition of the manual contains a number of updates and additions designed to make APA style more useful for students, teachers and researchers.

The Drexel community is fortunate to have a University professor as a member of the APA Publication Manual Revision Task Force. The Libraries’ communications manager Stacy Stanislaw sat down with Art Nezu, PhD, DHL, ABPP, Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, professor of medicine and professor of community health and prevention, to learn more about how the revision was undertaken and how the manual reflects changes in scholarship, science and society.

You served on the task force to revise the APA Style manual. Would you tell me how you got involved with the Task Force and a little about your role in the process to update the manual?

The APA Publication Manual Revision Task Force was comprised of seven psychologists who had substantial experience in publishing, scholarship and research. The Task Force worked closely with the APA Style Team who work in the APA’s publications division. I was invited to be a member based on my relevant experiences, especially having served as the Editor of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Associate Editor of the Archives of Scientific Psychology, and Chair of the APA Council of Editors. Simultaneously, I also served on the APA Publications and Communications Board Task Force on Journal Article Reporting Standards (JARS).

I was not involved in all aspects of the revision, buy my appointment to the Task Force was from 2015 to 2018. Each member of the Task Force was responsible for certain chapters within the manual serving as advisors and content authors in conjunction with APA staff members. Over the four-year span of the Task Force, we attended several face-to-face meetings in Washington DC, as well as multiple conference calls, to facilitate progress.

What changes were made for the 7th edition?

The following are just a few of the major changes we made to the 7th edition:

  • Full Color: All formats are in full color, including the new tabbed spiral-bound version.
  • Easy to Navigate: Improved ease of navigation, with many additional numbered sections to help users quickly locate answers to their questions.
  • Best Practices: The Publication Manual (7th ed.) has been thoroughly revised and updated to reflect best practices in scholarly writing and publishing.
  • New Student Resources: Resources for students on writing and formatting annotated bibliographies, response papers, and other paper types as well as guidelines on citing course materials.
  • Accessibility Guidelines: Guidelines that support accessibility for all users, including simplified reference, in-text citation, and heading formats as well as additional font options.
  • New-User Content: Dedicated chapter for new users of APA Style covering paper elements and format, including sample papers for both professional authors and student writers.
  • Journal Article Reporting Standards: New chapter on journal article reporting standards that includes updates to reporting standards for quantitative research and the first-ever qualitative and mixed methods reporting standards in APA Style.
  • Bias-Free Language Guidelines: New chapter on bias-free language guidelines for writing about people with respect and inclusivity in areas including age, disability, gender, participation in research, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and intersectionality.
  • Ethics Expanded: Expanded guidance on ethical writing and publishing practices, including how to ensure the appropriate level of citation, avoid plagiarism and self-plagiarism, and navigate the publication process.

You mentioned the 7th edition includes a chapter on bias-free language and writing for inclusivity. Would you say changes to publication manuals reflect changes in society? Are there other examples of that relationship?

The inclusion of a chapter on bias-free language definitely reflects changes in society, but it is also important regarding the advancement of objectivity in science. According to the manual “ … these principles require that authors and students … avoid perpetuating demeaning attitudes in their writing … Instead, authors should use affirming and inclusive language” (p. 131).

Why are standards important to scholarship? Are there any trends that you see developing in scholarship that may need to be considered in the eventual 8th edition?

According to the APA manual, “uniformity and consistency enable readers to (a) focus on the ideas being presented rather than formatting and (b) scan works quickly for key points, findings and resources” (p. xvii). Standards also foster transparency, communication and readability.

One possible trend in scholarship that is only briefly mentioned in the 7th edition involves the manner in which scientific papers are peer reviewed. In general, authors seeking to publish their work in a scientific or scholarly journal are willing to subject their papers to a peer review process. Currently, most journals in psychology and the behavioral sciences use “blind reviews” whereby the authors of the articles are unaware of who are the peer reviewers simultaneously where the reviewers are unaware of who the author is. In the basic sciences, there is a trend towards making both sides aware of their identities, opining that this leads to improved scholarship. As one strong force in science in general is to foster transparency, it is possible that a future manual may describe this process as being standard.

For more information about the APA Style Manual 7th Edition, visit the Drexel Libraries’ citation style manual guide or contact your subject librarian.