Style & Substance

Beth Schwartz and colleagues pen student-friendly guide to APA style

When the American Psychology Association (APA) released the sixth edition of its publication manual in 2009, psychologists and students across the nation ordered the book, which dictates the format and writing style required of those writing in the field of psychology, as well as a number of other fields.

Beth Schwartz, Randolph’s Thoresen Professor of Psychology and assistant dean of the College, like many in her field, was surprised to find the manual included errors on 80 of its pages.

“It’s ironic because this is the book that we use as faculty to point out to students how to avoid errors in their papers,” she said.

The APA released a corrected edition, but Schwartz and two colleagues, R. Eric Landrum of Boise State University and Regan A.R. Gurung of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, decided it was the perfect time to write a more student-friendly guide.

Understanding that timing was of the essence, Schwartz and her colleagues fast-tracked the book, An EasyGuide to APA Style, completing it in just six months for Sage Publications. The timeline created a frenzy of activity for Schwartz, who was already working on another book at the time, The Teaching of Psychology: An Empirically Based Guide to Picking, Choosing, & Using Pedagogy. That book, ironically, will be published by the APA.

“Eric, Regan, and I have all taught research methods and how to write in APA style,” Schwartz said. “When we’re teaching students to first learn APA style, our goal is to help them learn the basics.”

APA’s publication manual is geared mainly toward professionals and includes information students do not need to know when first learning APA style .

Schwartz’s book was specifically created as a guide for students and professors. Written in a conversational tone, the book is filled with examples and includes a unique visual table of contents and a sample paper that highlights particular APA style and format details.

The book also includes tips, commonly made mistakes, a checklist for students to use before turning in a paper, and instructions for using Microsoft Word 2007 for APA-style papers. The goal, according to Schwartz, was to help psychology students by presenting an easy-to-understand guide.

“There really is no resource out there similar to this,” Schwartz said. “We think it will be an easy-to-use book that will be helpful to students who are just learning this type of writing.”