Dr. Lila Harper

Reoccurring Problems in APA Formatted Theses


Using hyphens


Read APA, pp. 89-94 291 on hyphens. Notice that some words are always hyphenated (check Webster's Collegiate Dictionary to determine spelling); some prefixes in APA are never hyphenated. Words ending with "-ly" are not hyphenated. The placement of words can determine if hyphenation is required. If two words create a compound modifier, they are hyphenated. This situation commonly occurs with ages. We may speak of a class of 8-year-old students and hyphenate the compound phrase "8 year old" because the word "students" follows that phrase. However, if the sentence is styled "a class of children 8 years old," there are no hyphens because no noun follows the phrase. Microsoft Word will usually recognize this grammar problem, but not always. Similarly, in the case of the t test, you would hyphenate "t-test analysis," but not "performance of a t test" (see top of p. 94).


If two or three words are linked together, hyphens, not dashes are used. Dashes—also more technically known as "em dashes"—link phrases together. A dash can be made by typing two hyphens together. There should be no space on either side of the hyphens. Microsoft Word will push the two hyphens together to make a dash if that preference is selected. Type the two hyphens, then a letter, then a space, and see if that preference is activated. However, that preference may not be available if you use a pre-formatted table of contents. The graduate office requests that one form of the dash be used consistently throughout the thesis: either the two-hyphen form or the longer single dash.


Using quotation marks


Always use quotation marks around exact phrases and provide a page number for the quotation (unless the source is electronic). Indicate any changes to the quotation with square bracket or ellipsis points. There must be spaces between each ellipsis point.


As more and more material is available electronically, we benefit from greater access to international material. That means that some of your source material will be written in British, not American, English. There are some differences in punctuation and capitalization rules between the two forms of written English. The biggest headache involves the use of quotation marks. It is not acceptable to merely copy the format used in your source. Follow the APA style manual instructions and change the type of quotation mark used in your sources if necessary. Use double quotation mark around quoted material and titles of articles mentioned in your text (but not in the Reference page). Only use the single form of the quotation mark for quotations within quotations. (The UK uses the single form instead of the double form.) Always place periods and commas inside the quotation marks, colons and semicolons outside. (The UK places all punctuation marks outside the quotation marks.)


As with the hyphens, use the same type of format for quotations consistently throughout the thesis. Microsoft Word's default form is a "smart quote" that makes a distinction between opening and closing quotation marks. Make sure the marks are curving in the correct direction. This preference can be turned off to produce the straight-line marks you see in this document. The straight-line quotation marks are also commonly used in website documents, so if you copy and paste material from a website, be aware that the punctuation format may differ from the rest of your text (and I will notice that).


Using numbers


Read the section of number use on pp. 122-129 very carefully and examine the literature to observe how numeric data is reported.


APA states on p. 108, "Write out abbreviations for metric and nonmetric units that are not accompanied by numeric values (e.g., measured in centimeters, several pounds)."

If there is a numeric value with a measurement listed in APA list of measurements (pp. 106-108), you must use abbreviations rather than writing out the full word (e.g., 5 min., 30 sec., 4 m., not 5 minutes, 30 seconds, 4 meter).