APA Style Guidelines

APA Style is American Psychological Association and is one of the most widely used Styles in the Academic World. The author’s last name and the year of publication are used in the APA in-text citation form, for example: (Canon, 2007).

What are the Mistakes made in APA Style?

The following are some of the most common mistakes people make when submitting a manuscript for publication.

Page Numbers – The page numbers and the brief title, commonly known as the running head, are either missing or incorrectly formatted in most research papers.

Abstract – Some Manuscripts fail to properly style the ‘Abstract’ part, while others fail to even mention this area in their study. The title of the abstract is bold or italicized.

Keywords– The abstract part does not include a list of keywords.

Headings – The majority of the papers contained inaccurate or improper headings that were either at the incorrect level or poorly formatted.

In-text Citation formatting – Spelling abnormalities, incorrect use of ‘et al.,’ erroneous use of commas and ampersands, and jumbled placement of several citations in a single parenthesis are the most typical problems detected in in-text citations. There are references in the document that aren’t on the reference list, or references on the reference list that are never referenced in the paper.

Quotations – Direct quotations without page numbers are provided.

References – Not giving References will lead to Plagiarism.

Single Spacing is incorrect. Not Indenting after the 1st line.  Indenting the 1st line.  Not including the right number of Authors.

How to avoid mistakes in APA Style?

The running head, or abbreviated title, appears in the header of all numbered pages.

The first impression of your paper is the ‘abstract.’ It is strongly recommended that you include an abstract as much as feasible. The abstract is placed on a separate page, with the heading centered and formatted in the same manner as the remainder of the material.

Search engines use keywords to find the information that the reader is looking for. The abstract is followed by a list of keywords formatted according to the APA style guide.

In APA style, headings can be difficult to format. The title of a research article is much easier to format than the heading of a literature review piece, which is a little more difficult.

In-text citations must be correct and reliable. Citations should have the same name and year of publication throughout the work. Multiple citations within a single parenthesis should be organized alphabetically.

It is recommended that page numbers be provided for direct quotation since this will save time and energy spent searching for the page from which the quotation was obtained.

All APA citations should be Double Spaced. All lines after the 1st should be indented. The first line should not be indented.

Conclusion

Even though the fact that the APA essay format is demanding and requires intense attention to detail, it becomes much simpler once you learn each feature separately and follow all of the Submission Guidelines steps.

Plagiarism in Academic writing: How to Identify and Avoid It

Plagiarism is well-known as a breach of publishing ethics which is despised in the academic circle. However, while in some cases the authors engage in deliberate plagiarism, more often than not authors end up being guilty of plagiarism unknowingly. This is because plagiarism, although a very commonly used term, is a vaguely defined concept.

Plagiarism technically means using someone else’s ideas/ intellectual property as one’s own without giving proper credit to the original creator. While the first part (as one’s own) is well understood as improper appropriation, it is often the second part (giving proper credit) where author’s unintentionally falter. 

Some of the most common forms of plagiarism are:

Patchwork: patchwork refers to direct lifting or verbatim representation of another’s work without using quotations or referencing. This is the most blatant form of plagiarism.

Plagiarised ideas: This is when you pass-off someone else’s ideas as your own, even if in your own words or articulation.

Loose paraphrasing: This is the most common form of unintentional plagiarism. Authors, while discussing literature reviews, often write the content of other authors without proper attribution, which technically makes it plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism: This is the most difficult to understand the form of plagiarism. This refers to recycling of one’s own work in multiple publications. While it is difficult to comprehend how one can ‘steal’ from oneself, reproduction of the same work in multiple journal publications or presenting the same content multiple times to bolster the number of one’s publications is a problem in academics that has led to this publishing ethics.

How to avoid unintentional plagiarism:

Proper referencing: while doing your background research, keep meticulous notes of which ideas/sections are from which article. While writing, maintain side notes for proper referencing later while finalizing the article.

Quotes and paraphrasing: authors often tangle themselves up in this issue! For citing what some other author has said, it is advisable to use quotations to drive home a critical or technical detail. While discussing a concept and how others have addressed it, it is better to paraphrase it in one’s own words.

While paraphrasing, one must be careful not to reproduce the same content by just replacing certain words here and there. A proper paraphrasing would be a complete re-articulation of the source material. Proper paraphrasing is rewriting other’s content from one’s own perspective.

In both cases, proper citation or reference is mandatory.

Follow citation rules: every journal has well-defined citation and referencing norms and one must follow them judiciously. Journals nowadays prefer in-text referencing, especially for paraphrasing and quotations and it is a good habit to develop one’s writing style with in-text referencing.

Rewrite your own words: while referring to your own previous works, we often tend to copy-paste paragraphs as one likes one’s own articulation best. However, in order to avoid self-plagiarism, rewrite the content every time for a new article in the context of the new article, and you will see your language will change.

How to Overcome Difficulties in Academic Writing

Academic writing is a skill essential for anyone looking to pursue higher academics. Academic writing is a specific type of writing that involves a lot of reading or material collection, doing in-depth research and critical analysis of scholarly literature, planning of the entire presentation, revising contents and structure, etc. Invariably it ends up involving rewriting, editing, proofreading, and formatting to make it more professional and efficient.

Academic writings can be in the form of essays, term paper, thesis, dissertation, research reports, etc. depending on the core academic activity on which the final manuscript is to be based. While each of these forms has its own peculiarities and specific requirements, there are certain commonalities that every budding academician needs to keep in mind. Making essays with seotoolscentre sentence rewriter can be way easier and faster.

The first key element for academic writing is self-organization. Academic writing is different from other forms of writing as it requires strict discipline not only in preparation for the content but also in how the content is presented. Any academic manuscript needs to be organized in a standard format: an introduction that includes the hypothesis or the premise which is essentially what the entire manuscript tries to address; the body of the content, which should include separate paragraphs discussing evidence that supports or negates the hypothesis; and a conclusion that ties everything together and conclusively connects it to the hypothesis. Self-organization starts with narrowing down the planned manuscript to chalk-out a basic outline even before the first words are drafted.

Research of secondary literature or ‘literature review’ is an essential part of any academic writing. Before one delves into one’s own hypothesis and arguments in favor or in opposition to it, it is customary to first review and present the viewpoints/evidence already presented by all others/peers in this field. Any such research needs to be reported with proper citation and accreditation as deemed fit. Plagiarism is a major problem in the field of academic writing and special care needs to be taken to ensure (a) no referencing is missed out for any secondary source of material and (b) the language of presentation is an authors’ own and not just a plain copy-paste of the original manuscript. One can always quote others but that needs to be done in a limited capacity and in proper formatting and protocols for quoting and citations.

Editing of the manuscript is an absolute must for any academic writing. Grammar, style, and punctuation are incredibly important if the article is to be understood and taken seriously. Language and vocabulary are important, and using jargon just to sound smart often results in the opposite effect if used inappropriately as it exposes overcompensating in their writing. Each body paragraph must start with a topic sentence that presents the main idea of the paragraph and express your point of view, and each paragraph much end with its own mini-conclusion of the discussions covered that logically leads to the next paragraph.

Academic writing is a habit developed by practice and is an integral part of the entire academic exercise.

Mastering the three stages of manuscript editing

Editing your own creative work could sometimes seem intimidating, mainly because looking at your own work with a critical eye is not as easy as it seems. It’s not just about spelling and grammar. Editing is a skill that sometimes requires you to get rid of even your most favorite terms and terminologies. To be a great editor, you would have to detach yourself from your own script and get acquainted with the ‘backspace’ button.

Here are the three stages of manuscript writing:

Content or Substantive Edit

This is the most time-consuming part of manuscript editing. Remember, there is always a better way to present your manuscript. Start by giving yourself some time away from your script so that you can develop a fresh take on what you’ve written. The focus of your editing exercise this time should be on the structural aspect, and you would need to pay attention to what works well and what looks awry. Revisit your overall paper at least three times, pay attention to the text, data, accuracy, and overall consistency and presentation. A professional subject matter editor always takes care of the content issues to make sure your writing is ready to be submitted for publication.

Copy Edit  

Once you have dealt with the structural errors by making the necessary revisions, it’s time to copy edit your paper to ensure correct formatting, grammar, margins, font size, etc. This includes all things technical and presentation-based. Copy editing requires you to pay attention to the tone, language, phrasing, parts of the speech, undue repetitions, etc. A copy edit makes your work free of any technical errors that might be a hindrance at the acceptance stage in the publication cycle. It is indeed a skill, and good copy-editing includes eliminating any wordiness in order to improve readability. Even though copy editing does not take as much time as a content edit, you would still be required to give a good amount of your time to this.

Proofreading  

Proofreading is the third stage in editing your manuscript. Unlike copy edit and content edit, this stage requires you to separate your text into sections, and concentrate on one section at a time. You can consider printing a hard copy if reading online is a problem. By now, you must have clearly understood the focus of the overall paper; therefore at this stage, you must examine each sentence individually for syntax, spelling, and grammar. You should recheck any dates, data, names of people, places, etc. that you have mentioned in the text to ensure accuracy.

Conclusion

We live in a world of technology, and a lot of things become easier with the resources available online. To support your manuscript editing skill, do not hesitate to refer to online applications or websites that might come handy to do minor language, spelling, and phrasing edits. Also, it is advisable to let peers re-read your scripts before starting the edit to incorporate third-party suggestions.

Publication Cycle: An Overview

Every manuscript submitted to a journal has to progress through the complete publication cycle before it finally gets published. The publication cycle takes genesis with the research idea. The researchers take this idea to a new horizon by conducting experiments, taking into account the previous publications that deal with similar topic. The research draft is then submitted to a journal that is followed by the assessment, reviewing, and further production processing before being published. Let’s discuss the different phases in detail so that we can get a bird’s eye view of the entire publication process.

How publication cycle works?

After the manuscript is submitted, it is first screened by the Editor-in-chief; if rejected, the paper is returned to the author, and if accepted, it goes to the next level. Here, the paper is checked for plagiarism, and conformity to the journal guidelines. Once the manuscript clears this technical round it is then sent for review by a panel of reviewers, who are subject experts. Here, the reviewers either reject the paper for lack of novelty or other reasons that might be study specific or they could either accept the paper or suggest revisions before acceptance. The paper with revisions is sent to the Editor-in-chief for approval, before being sent for a second and final round of review. At times, the paper gets rejected even after coming this far. If the paper is accepted it then goes through the in-house publication process, before finally getting published.

Some journals forego this time taking and tedious process and instead publish all manuscripts after checking it for novelty, relevance to the field of study and compliance to the style guide of the journal. This ensures a shorter review time and faster publication.

How long can a publication cycle run?

The publication cycle time of a journal cannot be assessed unless and until it is specified by the journal. Hence, it is difficult to know which journals have a fast publication cycle. Some journals take months before they give their first decision whereas some let their first decision known in a couple of weeks. Generally, the time gap between submission and first decision varies between 2-3 weeks.

What if the publication cycle is slow-moving?

The slow decision process becomes mentally tasking for researchers, as they spent many anxious months and even years before they actually get to know if their manuscript has been published or not. If their manuscript does not get published they have to again go through the same process of preparing their manuscript according to the guidelines of a new journal, submit it there and again wait for its decision. This cycle sometimes goes on for a few years before the manuscript gets published. In this process sometimes it so happens that the relevance of the paper or the research gets outdated by the time it is accepted for publication, thereby making the efforts of the researcher futile.

It is for these reasons that the researchers earnestly want a fast publication cycle, where they do not have to wait for so long to get a decision on their manuscript. Also, the publication houses are trying their best to formulate ways to make the publication process faster so that good and relevant researches do not become irrelevant. However, the authors need to be aware of the millions of predatory journals luring them for publishing within a very short duration. The authors are the best person to judge their options and choose the one that helps their research best.

Usage of machine translation software in academic writing

The number of research articles submitted by non-native English speaking authors is increasing rapidly. However, the language barrier and time constraints are hindering their publication in English journals. With an intention to expand the reach of such innovative researches to other scholars and researchers, automated or machine translation software is a trending tool among academicians.

Akin to online proofreading software, the machine translation system is readily available on the web at little or no fee. Software such as Google Translate, Bing Translator, and Babel Fish are widely used in translating content through the rules-based systems. These systems are based on the translation techniques that analyze word patterns in the text in the documents that have been previously published or translated.

Cons of machine translation

Though useful to some extent, machine translation causes several errors in the document, thus affecting comprehension. Some serious mistakes recorded till date include:

  • Unnecessary fragments of the sentences in the translated material
  • Redundant and lengthy sentences creating confusion
  • Phrases ordered in an illogical manner
  • Word-by-word translation instead of contextual translation

The poor sentence structure along with errors in syntax and terminologies result in lack of clarity in the content and affect readability and comprehension. Eventually, the translated manuscripts or articles get rejected by journal editors because of a lack of clarity and coherence.

Machine translation software vs. Human Translators

Automated translation systems have been used for several years with the aforementioned drawbacks. Hence, the idea of utilizing machine translation software, i.e., Google Translate, Bing Translator, and Babel Fish, etc., is a risky one. Conversely, it is more advisable to use the expertise of academic translators to maintain or even enhance the integrity of the research material. Even if more expensive, manual translation services are worth it because they add credence to your manuscript.

Open Access Journals: The new era of publishing

benefits of open access journal
As the name suggests, the main benefit of an open access journal is that it is free for viewing by all. It can be viewed without making any payments and even downloaded for free. This is highly advantageous for libraries and researchers, who would otherwise have to access each journal through a paid subscription. With subscription rates usually very high, it became very difficult for budding researchers to subscribe to all relevant journals. Besides, researchers often have limited finance to access many journals. Conversely, with open access journals, researchers can access several journals, while libraries can add a large number of journals to their collections and thus benefit the research community as a whole.

Open access journals have high citation because they are freely accessible and referred by many people. For writers, too, open access journals give their papers much greater exposure than subscription based journals. It is also observed that there is a sustained number of downloads over a longer period, while non-open access articles have a shorter attention span. There is no need to pay subscription charge or pay-per-view charges to reach the full material. Open access journals are more likely to be indexed in databases and enlisted in search engines.

Some journals ask the author to pay for making their paper free to viewed, but this amount is nominal. After the manuscript has been accepted, the author also needs to pay a onetime charge for processing and handling. This sum is far smaller than the amount paid for publication in non-open access journals, both printed and online.

The best part of an open access journal is that it gives wider scope of access to researchers in developing countries. Since publication of papers is free in many journals, researchers from developing countries have a better chance to publish their papers and present the results of their study to a global readership.

In contrast to traditional journals, open access journals have a short production cycle, which enables quick publication of accepted papers. Some open access journals also offer fee waivers or discounts for authors from developing countries.

Sometimes, due to negligence or oversight, editors of traditional journals omit few good papers, but the chance of a similar occurrence in an open access journal is much less because the journal’s teams of editors carry out a rapid peer review so that the paper is published without delay.

There are advantages and disadvantages of open access journals, but the advantages surely outweigh the disadvantages. With the arrival of open access journals, accessibility to research papers has increased manifold. Besides, a wider audience prompts higher number of citations. Open access publications have thus come as a boon for researchers and libraries in developing countries.

Post-submission actions: Editorial decision and peer review process

Post submission action : Peer Review

Annually, approximately 3-4 million manuscripts are submitted to various journals for publication. Each journal initiates the ensuing publication process with the screening of the manuscript before finalizing it for the peer-review process. Screening includes analysis of the paper based on the journal’s aim, scope, and reader’s interest. The decision is also influenced by the clarity of the content and adherence to journal instructions. In most journals, around 60-70% manuscripts are rejected during the initial screening process.

Once selected by the journal editors, the paper is sent to peer reviewers. Peer reviewing is a critical assessment of the manuscript by subject experts who are not part of the journal’s editorial team. Hence, journal editors carefully select the reviewers, also known as referees, based on the latter’s expertise in the subject area so that they are competent to review papers that include technical aspects. Some journals ask the authors to recommend both preferred and non-preferred reviewers to save their time while searching for appropriate reviewers for the paper.

Peer review has become an intrinsic part of the journal publication process because it gauges the quality of the paper and determines whether the manuscript is worth publishing. Generally, journals complete the peer-review process within 3-4 weeks; however, some journals have no time restrictions.

The peer review process is categorized into three types: single-blind, double-blind, and open. The first type hides the identity of the reviewers, whereas the second hides the identities of both the authors and the reviewers. Conversely, an open peer review reveals the identities of the authors to reviewers and vice versa.

Based on the feedback received from the reviewers, the journal arrives at the following decisions:

  • Acceptance. The manuscript can be published in the submitted format.
  • Rejection. The manuscript is rejected.
  • Acceptance with minor revisions. The manuscript needs minor revisions and can be published after incorporating the revisions.
  • Acceptance after major revisions. The manuscript needs major revisions by the authors and can be considered for acceptance after the revisions are incorporated.
  • Revision and resubmission. The paper requires additional statistical and/or editorial revision followed by resubmission.

Apart from these decisions, there are few more scenarios in which a manuscript can be published. Some journals follow a reject and resubmit policy. For the authors, this involves a repetition of the entire submission process after making fundamental changes in the paper as advised by the journal editor and peer reviewers. On the other hand, few publication houses reject the paper for the target journal and advice the authors to transfer the submission to another journal within the same publication house. This is referred to as the journal cascading process.

Even if the post-submission processes apparently showcase more cons than pros of the submitted manuscript, they eventually help enhance the quality of the manuscript.

Preparing tables for research papers

How to effectively prepare tables for research papers

Tables and illustrations are important tools for efficiently communicating information and data contained in your research paper to the readers. They present complex results in a comprehensible and organized manner.

However, it is advisable to use tables and illustrations wisely so as to maximize the impact of your research.They should be organized in an easy-to-understand format to convey the information and findings collected in your research. The tabular information helps the reader identify the theme of the study more readily. Although data tables should be complete,they should not be too complex. Instead of including a large volume of data in a single unwieldy table, it is prudent to use small tables to help readers identify the important information easily.

Here are some points you should consider before drafting the tables in your research paper:

  • Finalize the results that are required to be presented in tabular form.
  • Include the data or results that are relevant to the main aim of the study without being choosy and including only those results that support your hypothesis.
  • Create each table in a lucid manner and style without cluttering it with in-table citations.
  • Number the tables in a sequence according to their occurrence in the text.
  • Don’t mix tables with figures. Maintain separate numbering systems for tables and figures.
  • Create tables in a storytelling manner. Remember that your tables communicate a story to the reader that runs parallel to the text.
  • If you are using or reproducing tables from other published articles, obtain permission from the copyright holder (usually the publisher) or/andacknowledge the source.
  • Do not repeat the tabular contents in the text again; that will create confusion among readers.
  • Use clear and informative text for each table title.
  • Take extra care while extending the data in your tables. If you have too many tables, consider using them as appendices or supplementary materials.
  • Create tables with sufficient spacing in the layout so that they do not look messy, crowded, or cluttered.
  • Do not forget to spell out abbreviations used in the tables, ideally in the footnotes.

For the reader, a research paper that is dense and text-heavy can be tiresome. Conversely, tables not only encapsulate your data lucidly, but also welcome a visual relief for the reader. They add value to the layout of your paper. Besides, and more importantly, reviewers often glance at your tabulated data and illustrations first before delving into the text. Therefore, tables can be the initial draw for a reviewer and deliver a positive impact about your research paper. If you can achieve an optimum balance among your text, tables, and illustrations, it can go a long way toward being published.

Authorship Disputes: Tips to avoid conflicts

Tips to avoid Authorship DisputesAuthorship’ denotes the practice of providing truthful credits for intellectual contributions and innovative concepts. It not only helps authors acquire the credit for the work, but also ensures that they assume responsibility for the research conducted and presented. Moreover, it is perceived as a tool for personal satisfaction, prestige, and especially, a stepping stone in a writer’s academic career. Though the term sounds interesting, it involves high risks and problems in practice.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) often receives disputes regarding authorship. These cases usually involve disputes like the omission of a deserving junior researcher’s name from the authors’ list or a proposal by a sponsor for including the name of a non-contributing author. However, it also received a shocking complaint from a female author, who said that her name was replaced with that of her boss in the final version when she was away on maternity leave.

Apart from having a direct impact on the publication in question, authorship disputes can also have repercussions on a writer’s fair credit, collegial relationships, future collaborations, and reputations.

Following the adage that prevention is better than cure, the following are some guiding principles to avoid conflicting situations like authorship disputes.

  • Adhere to the authorship criteria of the publication

Each publisher follows specific authorship guidelines enunciated by organizations such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), Council of Science Editors (CSE), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and Good Publication Practice (GPP2). Non-compliance with the concerned guidelines—i.e., unequal application of authorship criteria, granting authorship to undeserving individuals, and/or omitting authorship to deserving individuals—is considered to be a serious offense in the academic world and can be construed as  research misconduct.

  • Hold prior discussions with co-authors

All the authors of a paper should discuss and finalize the authorship order and contributions along with respective responsibilities before beginning to prepare a manuscript and, if possible, even before starting a study.

  • Stick to the plan of action

In few cases, it has been observed that even if the authors have agreed to the sequence of authorship and contributions, fraudulent authors make last-minute changes in the manuscript or research paper just before submission. This leads to conflicts in publishing the paper, and some even end with retraction of the paper. To avoid such anomalies and unpleasant situations, it is advisable to comply with the agreement made between the author and co-authors.

However, even the best plans sometimes fail. So it is better to track and revisit the issues and monitor any changes or modifications in authorship or contributions. If one discovers any changes before publication, it can be revised after discussions with the co-authors. Conversely, if the detection is made post-publication, one can contact the journal along with the written agreements and evidence of contributions, and request for a correction or a retraction of the paper.