Customer Reviews: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Fifth Edition)
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on October 14, 2001
As an ABD-PhD candidate who's required to use APA format (and halfway through a dissertation using APA 4th edition), the small changes in this latest edition do little to add clarity and readability to a manuscript, but much to frustrate: Underlining references has been replaced with italics; after utilizing first-line indents in a Reference list (easier for a word processor) we've now gone back to second-line hanging indents; and none of these changes are clearly discussed in a "Revisions in the 5th Edition" chapter, you need to find them on your own in each chapter. I appreciate the updated guide for citing electronic resources, but the remainder seems to be aimed at "buy yet-another version" rather than major improvements and substantive changes. Maddening! If you're required to use it, you're stuck. Otherwise, keep the old 4th edition.
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on October 17, 2002
Even though there are only a few changes to the 5th edition, I would recommend getting it. It is too confusing to use an older edition especially if you are pressed for time or have never used this type of manual before.
Also I recommend marking your book with tabs such as in the "Reference Citations in Text" section or the "Reference List" chapter. Marking the book with tabs helped me find my way to the information that I needed over and over again. I've tended to use the same type of references throughout my graduate courses.
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on September 16, 2003
Out of all the stylebooks I have had occasion to use as a professional editor, I have found this one to be the most difficult to follow and understand--the most difficult to master.
I am not a psychologist, but I am a professional medical editor, and I feel sorry for those who must follow this style when writing theses, articles, book chapters, and other items for publication. In addition, I find some of the APA's requirements (particularly in the references, which have their own unique style quite unlike most others) incomprehensible.
That having been said, this book is a must for those who want to be published by the APA, and those who are editing for same. Once it has been read many times, and key passages put to memory, it is not as hard to understand--but it shouldn't be so hard. The section on figures and tables, however, is a truly excellent primer, for any professional writer, not just those in the health care professions.
My grade: C plus.
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Like some of the other reviewers, I am in a program of advanced study in which APA is the "accepted" style of citation for scholarly research. As we can see, APA is an absolutely dreadful citation style, especially with its prohibition of footnotes, leading to incomprehensible paragraphs in which your prose is murdered by names and dates in parentheses. The lack of required page numbers in your citations also allows you, if you're so inclined, to transform your references into all sorts of unsupported speculation and conjecture, and no reader will be able to prove or disprove what you're saying. I realize that arguing about the merits of APA style is not the same as reviewing the merits of this book. But the weaknesses in the core citation style are so prevalent that it would be impossible to create a book of this nature with any sort of usefulness.
Now let's get to the trouble with this particular book. First, it is unnecessarily humungous, trying to beef up the very thin body of APA citation requirements (which by the way can be found for free all over the internet) with hugely unenlightening chapters on basic writing style and methods. Infinitely better guides on how to actually write and conduct research can be easily found elsewhere. Even when you do want to find instructions on the core requirements of APA citation style, this is an annoyingly difficult task in this atrociously organized and indexed book. A thin and under-compiled index sends you to hard-to-find section numbers rather than page numbers. And finally there is the practice of this book's publishers to promote a "new edition" which is merely the same as before with a couple of new entries, sold with a new cover and of course a new full price. In case you're wondering, about the only new information in this edition concerns how to reference websites and online publications. Once again, this info can be found for free on the internet, while you could also spend a pittance on a used copy of the supposedly "outdated" previous edition.
This book gets two stars because it is nominally useful (at least in theory) if you're stuck with it. But if you find yourself required to use the talent-crushing APA style in your attempts to write something of importance, first try to convince your mentors that APA is inherently anti-intellectual. Then find a way to get out of any requirements to buy this unhelpful book, and find the information on the internet instead. [~doomsdayer520~]
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on February 18, 2002
Here we go again... more minor changes to APA style! The hanging indent is back, we don't have to type long lists of author names anymore, and we can now use parentheses (woo-hoo!).
If you need to prepare manuscripts in APA style and don't have a previous edition of the manual, then you need this book. Though it remains relatively user-unfriendly, it is nonetheless the bible of manuscript preparation.
If you already have the fourth edition... determine how many of the changes in the fifth edition apply to your work. If you mostly write "plain vanilla" research reports and your reference lists mostly consist of ordinary journal articles, you may be able to get by with some handwritten notes in the margins of your old book.
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on July 1, 2003
When I originally purchased the current edition, I bought it in a regular binding and immediately regretted it upon first use. This spiral bound edition allows it to lay flat so that when you are trying to confirm the style, you don't have to lay two other books on top of it to make it work. BUY THIS EDITION IF YOU HAVE TO USE APA.
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I am enrolled in a graduate program that, unfortunately, requires all papers to be written in APA format. APA is far and away the least useful or user friendly format ever devised (although a professor friend disagrees and thinks Chicago style is worse), and is largely used by social scientists. Since I am not enrolled in a social science curriculum, you might expect that I would be spared this horror, but someone sold the Dean an APA bill of goods (probably Beelzebub himself.) My theoretical question here is what, exactly, qualifies the American Psychological Association to develop a style and format for research papers? Wouldn't English teachers and linguists be more qualified, as in MLA format? Why is APA more qualified than say The Airline Pilots Association, or The National Prune Anti-Defamation League to develop a writing style? Just a question.
I figured that since I was stuck using this fiendish format, I should learn to use it correctly. My school put out a "Users Guide to APA Format", but it is very general and almost totally ignores documenting electronic (internet) sources; thus, I bought this book. I am generously giving this book two stars inasmuch as most (but not all) reasonable situations are addressed in it, but the format of the book is virtually incomprehensible and frequently sends you to multiple different places to answer a simple question. (This shouldn't surprise me given the lack of logic found in APA style in general, I suppose.)
Unfortunately even the latest (fifth) edition is woefully inadequate in answering very basic questions on documentation of internet sources, particularly addressing situations in which quotations from internet sources are included in a paper. The index is, likewise, next to useless, as looking anything up (if it happens to even be in the index, itself and unlikely development) will result in a wild goose chase of referencing around the book. This is but only one reason the entire format may be more useful to psychologists than those in the hard sciences.
What the guide IS full of is useless trivia, for instance a section on the APA "Policy on Metrication" (needless to say APA mandates metric units), and a definition of "HSD" as "Tukey's honestly significant difference (also referred to as the Tukey a procedure)." While I am not saying that metrication or Tukey's honestly significant difference aren't important (though I am inclined to), I am saying that a book that dwells on minutia like that should definitely cover the basics of references, formats and citations first. Like I said, most (but not all) of the information actually is here, but good luck finding it.
Perhaps APA should put out a guide for using this guide. Better yet, perhaps any format so cumbersome to use and needlessly intricate should be dumped altogether for a better format, like MLA. At this point I'm even willing to try Chicago style.
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VINE VOICEon September 20, 2002
Hard to review a style manual - they are all a pain in the butt to live/write with. However, this spiral bound version is the best, you can lay it down without having to type one handed while you consult it! Any price premium for the spriral binding is worth it, don't buy the regularly bound one, trust me!
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on April 20, 2005
Publications Manual for the American Psychological Association. ISBN: 1557988102.

This book lies in the category of ironing clothes, shoveling snow and doing taxes: it is necessary but not pleasant.

This book is extremely not user friendly. It is organized in such a way that the most relevant information on how to format references is in the middle (pages 232 - 281); one has to jump around to different sections, and try to glean the information necessary to write a footnote, endnote or reference page.

However, this is the new standrda for referncign in the social sciences. Mastery of this format, and this book are key. Once you have gained a working knowledge, you can switch to the software, that prompts you as you go, or use the smaller companion booklet.
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on January 8, 2006
Yes, this book sucks. The index is terrible, it is impossible to find anything in the index so you are reduced to have 27 tabs sticking out of your APA manual. However, it is your bible when you're writing/editing an APA paper, so you're stuck with it.

It is incredibly confusing and frustrating, especially the sections on number rules and citing internet sources. The sample papers could be more detailed.

The sections on writing style are actually helpful. I teach an undergraduate writing course where APA style is required and these rules (e.g, conciseness and clarity) are helpful for students. sum: this book sucks, but if you need to use APA style this is the best one you can get. Be prepared to embark on a journey of post-it tabs!
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