Much of what we are asked to do in academia and in the workplace involves research, which is loosely defined as systematic investigation undertaken with a goal in mind. Indeed, course research can take a wide variety of forms. In a history class, for instance, students might be tasked with researching the circumstances that contributed to a historical event. In a biology class, they might be asked to conduct a laboratory experiment to test a hypothesis. In a business course, they may be presented with a case study of a situation in a company and asked to research ways to respond to it. And in an engineering class, students may be expected to investigate the viability of a particular project or design. Workplace research projects can likewise be varied. An employee working in one organization may conduct an informational interview with someone working in another organization, for example, to determine the effectiveness of a particular product before recommending that it be purchased. A human resources professional might also survey employees to gauge their reaction to a company policy. A safety inspector, in comparison, might conduct a walk-through of a facility to review staff adherence to health and safety regulations.
Regardless of its purpose, a research project must be planned, executed, and reported with care for its findings to be valuable and useful. This chapter addresses these stages, focusing in particular on reporting research outcomes in APA-style reports.
How does an investigator begin a research project?
A research project often begins with a kernel of an idea, a thought about something that has the potential to drive further exploration. Whether the kernel is inspired by an assignment prompt, a piece of reading, a campus problem, a workplace issue, or personal curiosity, the objective is to turn the kernel into a pursuable topic for research. In broad terms, a pursuable topic is
- Manageable, meaning that it is not too broad or narrow.
- Defined in scope, meaning that its focus is delineated.
- Practicable, meaning that it can be investigated in a feasible way.
If you have the opportunity to propose an idea for a research project, also aim to identify a topic that is interesting to you to inspire momentum as you work.
Taking the above information into account, which of the following items, adapted from Reynolds Community College Libraries (2019b, “Sample Topic – Broadening Chart”; 2019c, p. 1), is a pursuable topic for a five- to seven-page research paper? Provide a rationale for your choice(s) in the space provided.
- Global warming
- Should state laws be enacted to ban texting and cellphone use while driving?
- How have government fishing regulations in the United States affected the freshwater fish population?
- What marketing strategies implemented by Publix Super Markets, Inc. have been successful in increasing the company’s sales in the Richmond, Virginia, area since it opened its location in the Short Pump Crossing Shopping Center in 2017?
The quest to identify a pursuable topic might begin with a brainstorming session to ascertain what you know about a subject, what you do not know, and what you wish to discover through research. Brainstorming techniques include the following.
- Listing all the ideas that come to mind about the topic without editing your work.
- Free writing by noting down anything you can think of about the topic.
- Answering who, what, when, where, why, how, and so what questions about the topic.
- Expressing the topic as a problem and creating an outline of its causes, effects, and potential solutions.
- Writing the topic in the center of a page and grouping offshoot ideas around that topic while using lines or arrows to show how the elements are connected (mind mapping).
A brainstorming session may help you to identify areas of interest regarding a topic and narrow the focus of a broad subject area.
To determine whether a topic is pursuable, you might also explore existing research in the area. Have other investigators studied the same topic? What have they found? What methods have they used? What time period, geographic location, or demographic have they focused on? Where have they reported their results? Are these reputable publication outlets? By exploring existing research, you can get a sense of what type of material already exists on the topic and what kind of contribution you might make to the research landscape.
Librarians can also offer invaluable advice about how to explore potential research topics. For instance, they can demonstrate how to efficiently and effectively use Google Scholar, a widely accessible internet search engine that provides access to peer-reviewed journal articles and other sources, as well as library databases, large, searchable online directories of research materials. Additionally, they can help you narrow search terms to maximize productive use of these resources by employing techniques similar to those outlined in Figure 1, from The Learning Portal, College Libraries Ontario (2020).
Effective internet and library research largely hinges on defining useful search terms, and librarians have considerable expertise in this area, making them excellent academic support resources.
Also remember that your instructor is a valuable academic support resource who can help to resolve questions about assignments and encourage research efforts. Instructors build office hours into their work calendars each week—times when they are available to meet or talk with students—and these are opportunities to discuss research project as they take shape. Follow the guidance in Figure 2 to gain maximum benefit from office hour sessions.
Do not hesitate to contact your instructor for help with a research project; after all, instructors were once novice researchers, so they can understand the complex nature of research undertakings.
How does an investigator develop research questions?
Upon identifying a pursuable topic, you might construct one or more research questions, questions a study seeks to answer, to help further define your project’s focus and direction. Depending on the discipline, instructor, or assignment, you might be expected to list the questions in your project deliverable. Alternatively, you might be expected to articulate your answer to the research questions in the form of a thesis statement that establishes your research report’s purpose and direction. Figure 3 illustrates how a research question can be converted into a thesis statement.
|Step 1: Topic||Step 2: Problem||Step 3: Question||Step 4: Answer (Thesis)|
|What area or issue are you interested in?
Example topic: Using laptops to study in university.
|Within your topic, where is there controversy or uncertainty? What bothers you or seems strange?
Example problem: It’s unclear whether using laptops helps or hinders academic success in university.
|What is a question you might ask about that problem?
Example question: Are laptops an effective tool for academic success in university?
|Answer your question to form your thesis statement.
Example thesis statement: Although laptops may appear to be a useful study tool, the risks of using laptops for studying actually outweigh the benefits.
Try it yourself.
As Figure 3 explains, a thesis statement is the answer to a research question: it communicates a viewpoint reached as a result of research.
Research questions can determine a project’s agenda, scope, and approaches to data collection and analysis if they are purposefully constructed, so it is worth thinking about them carefully. In broad terms, a research question should precisely specify the focus of an investigation so that it can feasibly be pursued through inquiry. The multipage handout in Figure 4, adapted from the Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo (n.d.a), illustrates the process of moving from a pursuable topic to a research question and further defines the characteristics of effective research questions.
A research question guides your research. It provides boundaries, so that when you gather resources you focus only on information that helps to answer your question. Without this guide, you would simply gather a collection of facts, not knowing when and where to end your search for information.
Where Do I Begin?
Good research questions come from solid research topics. For more information, see our resource Developing and Narrowing a Topic.
From a Topic to a Problem
Once you narrow your topic, you need to think about related problems. The goal of research is to answer questions that help to solve one of these larger problems. Using bicycle lanes in urban areas as our topic, we can start to generate some potential problems:
bicycle lanes in urban areas
bike lanes are not being used
bike lanes interfere with traffic flow
bike lanes are not consistently integrated into cities
bike lanes are not being respected
Where do I find problems?
Look at current research on your topic in academic articles or reliable web sources. The motivation (or problem) behind others’ research is often discussed in the abstract or introduction.
From a Problem to a Question
Once you find a current problem that can help to motivate your research, you need to develop a question that helps to answer the problem. Let’s use one of the problems above as an example:
bike lanes are not consistently integrated into cities
how does public perception of safety affect policy toward bike lane infrastructure?
how do economic incentives affect policy-making for bicycle lane infrastructure?
how do municipal level policies affect the design and building of bike lane infrastructure?
Tip: The mistake that most novice researchers make is to attempt to answer a question that’s too big to answer through a single research project. Keep it narrow.
Characteristics of effective research questions
Tip: To better understand disciplinary requirements for your research, talk to your professors and look for resources in your discipline.
While the initial version of a research question can guide the course of a study, the question may also evolve with the project, so be prepared to adjust it as the research takes shape. The multipage handout in Figure 5, adapted from McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph (n.d.a), reinforces this point and offers a graphic organizer to help with constructing and refining research questions.
Figure 5. A guide to developing research questions
For a research question to be effective, it must be focused, as figures 4 and 5 emphasize.
How does an investigator conduct research?
During the process of identifying a pursuable research topic and question(s), an investigator must also consider what research methods to use. Research methods are means for conducting an investigation, and these should be selected with a study’s purpose in mind. The existing literature, context, scope, discipline, and timeline for a project will also help define what research methods are typical, practical, and useful.
In terms of research approaches and methods, an investigator might use primary or secondary research or both when carrying out a project. Primary research is raw data that an investigator collects or examines firsthand; such information may be gathered, for example, through the use of interviews, questionnaires, experiments, or observations. The “Interviewing for Information” chapter of this textbook and its accompanying reading, “Introduction to Primary Research: Observations, Surveys, and Interviews” (Driscoll, 2011), discuss several of these research methods in detail. The “Conducting Primary Research” section of the Purdue Online Writing Lab (https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html) provides additional information about primary research. An investigator might decide to use primary research, for instance, to delve into a little studied topic, to gather first-person accounts of situations or events, or to uncover various perspectives on issues. Secondary research comprises previously conducted studies and organized accounts of what others have discovered or said about a topic. Secondary research can be found in journal articles, laboratory reports, governmental reports, trade publications, magazines, and newspapers, among other sources. By reading secondary research, an investigator can get a feel for the existing scholarship on a topic. In addition, a secondary research source can often lead to other useful sources on the same topic via means of its reference list. A librarian can help you search for useful secondary research sources for a project.
Although this chapter discusses research activities in a linear fashion in an effort to be clear, in reality, research processes are typically recursive, meaning they occur in repeated sequences and oftentimes involve different approaches and types of data sources. Textbook writers Hamlin et al. (2017b, p. 43) explain this point with an example. Imagine you are assigned a course research project. You might begin the project by trying to read journal articles on your chosen topic, only to discover you lack the necessary background knowledge to fully understand the articles. To increase your background knowledge, you might consult an encyclopedia or textbook on the topic. You may then encounter a statement in a newspaper editorial that inspires you to return to journal articles to see if existing research supports the statement. Figure 6 illustrates the recursive nature of research and resource use.
Expect to engage with different sources of information at different times as you undertake a research project.
How does an investigator evaluate research information?
Whether you use primary research, secondary research, or both in a project, you have a responsibility as an ethical technical communicator to evaluate the quality of information you incorporate into a deliverable. Readers use research for various purposes—for example, to find out about new medical treatments, ways to use technology, or means for building structures—and they need accurate information to proceed safely and confidently. Looking at the issue another way, the worth of your own research can be called into question if you rely on questionable or disreputable sources. Evaluating the quality of research information is clearly an important task, as Figure 7, a handout adapted from the Excelsior Online Writing Lab (2020d), makes clear.
Can you think of other tips you might add to the handout?
Figure 7. “Evaluating a Website” is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International license.
Although Figure 7 focuses on the trustworthiness of websites, the “Writing Topic Proposals” and “Writing Essays” chapters of this textbook provide additional guidance on how to evaluate the quality of various types of sources.
How does an investigator use research information?
As a research project takes shape and progresses, you will also need to think about the relationship of source information to your research deliverable. That is, what type of information will you use, and how will you use it? The following text, adapted from Hayden and Margolin (2020), discusses this point in further detail.
How to Use a Source: The BEAM Method
Different kinds of sources may be used for various purposes in a paper. The BEAM method, developed by Bizup (2008), may help you identify the usefulness of different types of sources. BEAM stands for Background, Exhibit, Argument, and Method.
- Background: using a source to provide general information to explain a topic. For example, using a textbook chapter to explain what it means to interview for information.
- Exhibit: using a source as evidence or as a collection of examples to analyze. For a technical writing assignment, for instance, you might analyze a formal report. For a history paper, you might analyze a historical document. For a sociology paper, you might analyze the data from a study.
- Argument: using a source to engage its argument. For example, you might use an editorial from The New York Times on the value of higher education to refute in your own paper.
- Method: using a source’s way of analyzing an issue to apply to your own issue. For example, you might use a study’s methods, definitions, or conclusions on gentrification in Chicago to apply to your own neighborhood in New York City.
Bizup, J. (2008). BEAM: A rhetorical vocabulary for teaching research-based writing. Rhetoric Review, 27(1), 72-86. https://doi.org/10.1080/07350190701738858
Using the BEAM method as inspiration, we can create the graphic organizer in Table 1 to guide our efforts to match sources to purposes in a deliverable. Note that the number of source cells can be reduced or increased depending on the research project.
A graphic organizer for matching sources to their purposes in a deliverable
|Source 1 (identify source):
|Useful section or page:
|Where and how I will use it:
|Source 1 (identify source):
|Useful section or page:
|Where and how I will use it:
|Source 1 (identify source):
|Useful section or page:
|Where and how I will use it:
|Source 1 (identify source):
|Useful section or page:
|Where and how I will use it:
A graphic organizer like the one in Table 1 offers a visual layout of how different types of sources might be used and how they ultimately tie back to a research question.
In addition to determining what types of sources might be useful for what purposes in a deliverable, a researcher also needs to synthesize source information, in other words, combine it purposefully with the objective of creating something new, to make a contribution to the existing field of research. Figure 8, a multipage handout adapted from the Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo (n.d.b), illustrates the process of synthesis in a research project.
Many assignments ask you to critique and evaluate a source. Sources might include journal articles, books, websites, government documents, portfolios, podcasts, or presentations.
When you critique, you offer both negative and positive analysis of the content, writing, and structure of a source.
When you evaluate, you assess how successful a source is at presenting information, measured against a standard or certain criteria.
Elements of a critical analysis:
opinion + evidence from the article + justification
Your opinion is your thoughtful reaction to the piece.
Evidence from the article offers some proof to back up your opinion.
The justification is an explanation of how you arrived at your opinion or why you think it’s true.
How do you critique and evaluate?
When critiquing and evaluating someone else’s writing/research, your purpose is to reach an informed opinion about a source. In order to do that, try these three steps:
- Read and react to the piece. As you read, take notes. Record what the article means AND how you feel about it. Identify the parts that are worth talking about by asking
- How do you feel?
- What surprised you?
- What left you confused?
- What pleased or annoyed you?
- What was interesting?
- Ask deeper questions based on your reactions above.
- What is the purpose of this text?
- Who is the intended audience?
- What kind of bias is there?
- What was missing?
TIP: See our resource on analysis and synthesis (Move From Research to Writing: How to Think) for other examples of questions to ask.
3. Form an assessment.
The questions you asked in the last step should lead you to form an assessment. Here are some assessment/opinion words that might help you build your critique and evaluation:
inappropriate interpretation of evidence
unsound or discredited methodology
easy to understand
4. Write your critique or evaluation using the opinion+ evidence from the text + jusitification model. Here is a sample:
Opinion: This article’s assessment of the power balance in cities is confusing.
Evidence: It first says that the power to shape policy is evenly distributed among citizens, local government, and business (Rajal, 232)
Justification: but then it goes on to focus almost exclusively on business. Next, in a much shorter section, it combines the idea of citizens and local government into a single point of evidence. This leaves the reader with the impression that the citizens have no voice at all. It is not helpful in trying to determine the role of the common voter in shaping public policy.
Sample criteria for critical analysis
Sometimes the assignment will specify what criteria to use when critiquing and evaluating a source. If not, consider the following prompts to approach your analysis. Choose the questions that are most suitable for your source.
- What do you think about the quality of the research? Is it significant?
- Did the author answer the question they set out to? Did the author prove their thesis?
- Did you find contradictions to other things you know?
- What new insight or connections did the author make?
- How does this piece fit within the context of your course, or the larger body of research in the field?
- The structure of an article or book is often dictated by standards of the discipline or a theoretical model. Did the piece meet those standards?
- Did the piece meet the needs of the intended audience?
- Was the material presented in an organized and logical fashion?
- Is the argument cohesive and convincing? Is the reasoning sound? Is there enough evidence?
- Is it easy to read? Is it clear and easy to understand, even if the concepts are sophisticated?
As this section makes clear, a research project involves more than just gathering data. It calls upon an investigator to use the data in purposeful ways to address research objectives.
How does an investigator track steps in the research process?
Although the research process discussed thus far may seem rather involved, effective preparation can prevent it from becoming overwhelming. A simple tool like the one in Table 2 can help you systematically plan and monitor the progress of a project in order to work confidently toward its conclusion.
Table 2. A tool for tracking steps in the research process
|Research Task||Deadline||Complete (Insert Check Mark)|
To manage the complexities of research in an orderly manner, use a tool such as this one when undertaking a project.
How does an investigator report research outcomes?
Research outcomes are reported in various types of deliverables, such as infographics and presentations. This chapter concentrates on written reports of research outcomes, focusing in particular on APA-style reports. APA establishes standards for document organization, page design, text construction, and source attribution, as forthcoming sections make clear. This standardization helps bring consistency to APA-style research reports.
APA reports are designed for utility so that readers can readily access and use the information contained therein. The body of an APA research report generally follows IMRaD structure, which stands for Introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion. Lab reports similarly follow this structure, as do many journal articles. Using information adapted from Price et al. (2015, pp. 213-221), we can explore the structure of an APA-style research report in further detail.
Constructing the Title Page
An APA-style research report begins with a title page. The title should specifically and concisely communicate the focus and purpose of the investigation, possibly by addressing the study’s research question(s). A clear and informative title, such as “Bilingual, Digital, Audio-Visual Training Modules Improve Technical Knowledge of Feedlot and Dairy Workers” (Reinhardt et al., 2010), immediately alerts readers to a report’s content, helping them determine whether the document is relevant for their needs.
Constructing the Abstract
The abstract is a synopsis of the study, presented on its own separate page, which summarizes the research objectives, the method used to conduct the investigation, the basic results, and the most important conclusions, oftentimes in one concise paragraph of 250 words or fewer. Because an abstract outlines a research report, it is written after the report is complete. Readers use abstracts to determine whether texts are relevant for their needs. Figure 9, adapted from Bethel (2020, p. 61), presents a sample journal article abstract—an abstract is a standard feature of the journal article genre. Notice that the abstract follows IMRaD structure.
Figure 9. A sample abstract from a journal article
An abstract’s strategic location in a journal article—at the top of the article’s first page—efficiently directs readers to useful information.
Although APA style does not require abstracts for student papers, some instructors may assign them regardless. If you are required to compose an abstract for an APA-style report, follow these instructions.
- Start the abstract on its own separate page.
- Double space the page.
- Place the heading Abstract (sans italics) at the top of the page; center the heading and use bold type for it.
- Begin the abstract text on the next line; do not indent the line.
- Insert the keywords list on the line right below the abstract by typing the label Keywords: (italicized), indenting that line, and listing three to five specific keywords that describe the research. (Keywords identify the most important aspects of a paper, again helping readers to discern what texts are relevant for their needs.) or
Figure 10 (Excelsior Online Writing Lab, 2020b, “Abstract”) provides a sample abstract and keywords list for an APA-style student paper.
If you are required to produce an APA research report for a class, ask your instructor whether an abstract and keywords list is required.
Constructing the Introduction
The introduction section of an APA-style research report sets the context for the rest of the document. It does so by announcing the research focus and explaining why it is interesting, reviewing previous research pertinent to the study, identifying a gap in the previous body of research and establishing how the current study intends to fill the gap, stating the research question(s)/research purpose, and outlining how the rest of the report is organized.
Depending on publication conventions, field of study, or research topic, the literature review segment of an introduction may be incorporated into the introduction proper or presented as its own separate section. A literature review can span several paragraphs or pages, depending on the length and complexity of the research report, and it constitutes a balanced argument for why the research question(s)/research purpose is worth addressing. By the end of the literature review, readers should be convinced that the study’s aims and direction make sense and that the study is a logical next step in extending the existing body of research in the area.
Figure 11, adapted from University of Waterloo (2015, p. 2), provides a sample introduction from an APA-style research report. Integral components of the student’s introduction are highlighted for your reference.
Figure 11. An introduction from a student research report
What is your general impression of the sample introduction? What specific features contribute to its effectiveness/ineffectiveness?
This introduction explains the what, why, how, and so what of the report, giving readers a sense of context for the research study.
Constructing the Method Section
The method section describes how a researcher conducted a study and explains what types of primary and secondary research were used and how. Figure 12, excerpted from the journal article “Open Textbooks: Quality and Relevance for Postsecondary Study in The Bahamas” (Bethel, 2020, p. 66), provides an extract from a method section of a research report. You previously read the abstract for this report in Figure 9.
Figure 12. An extract from the method section of a journal article
As Figure 12 illustrates, the method section should be clear and detailed to facilitate reader understanding; in some cases, the level of detail should allow other researchers to replicate the study by following the procedures outlined.
Constructing the Results Section
The results section presents an investigation’s findings and oftentimes contains illustrations to concisely explain points and illustrate complex concepts. Figure 13, adapted from Excelsior Online Writing Lab (2020e), overviews some of the different types of visuals that might be found in a results section.
Figure 13. An overview of common types of visuals
The results section of the Bethel (2020) article on open textbooks contains various types of visuals, as Figure 14, an extract from pages 70 and 71 of the article, illustrates.
Figure 14. An extract from the results section of a journal article
As you review Figure 14, think back to your previous reading about integrating visuals. What change might improve the design of the extract? Provide a rationale for your answer.
The “Designing Documents” and “Integrating Graphic Elements” chapters of this textbook provide further information about the kinds of illustrations that might be found in the results sections of research reports. The APA website (https://apastyle.apa.org/instructional-aids/handouts-guides) also provides useful guidance about designing and incorporating visuals.
Constructing the Discussion Section
The discussion section of a research report tells readers what the study’s results mean, draws conclusions based on this interpretation, and may also identify limitations of the research and make suggestions for future investigations. In so doing, the discussion draws connections between the study and existing research discussed in the literature review. Sometimes the results and discussion segments of a report are combined, enabling the writer to discuss both components together; a separate conclusions section may also be included at the end of a report to reinforce the contributions of the research.
Figure 15, adapted from University of Waterloo (2015, p. 7), presents the discussion section of the student research report on children with ADHD that you began reading earlier. What is your general impression of this text? Explain the reason for your response.
Figure 15. Discussion section of a student research report
As Figure 15 illustrates, a discussion section should bring a research report to a logical conclusion.
Constructing the Reference Section
The reference section of a report, which begins on its own separate page, lists the full bibliographic details for sources mentioned in the document. Any source listed in the reference section must have an accompanying in-text citation.
Appendices contain supplementary material that is relevant to the report and may enhance readers’ understanding of its content but that is too lengthy or detailed to be integrated into the report proper. Appendices may not feature in every report; if a report does include them, each appendix is placed on a separate page and is comprised of an individual document or piece of information, such as a map, a list of interview questions, or other material that does not fit neatly into the report. Figure 16, an appendix from the Bethel (2020) article on open textbooks, contains a textbook evaluation instrument presented on its own page (p. 80).
Figure 16. An appendix page from a journal article
If a report contains one appendix, it is labelled Appendix (sans italics). When a report contains more than one appendix, the appendices are lettered in the order in which they are mentioned in the report and labelled with a descriptive tag, as is the appendix in Figure 16.
APA sets specific formatting standards for student research papers. The template below, adapted from Clackamas Community College Library (2020), Excelsior Online Writing Lab (2020c), and University of Texas Arlington Libraries (2016, “Alphabetizing References”), describes formatting guidelines for APA student papers. The original Clackamas Community College Library (2020) template can be downloaded from http://libguides.clackamas.edu/citing/apa7.
Title of Student Paper
Department Name, College Name
Course Number and Course Title
Assignment Due Date (written in month, day, year format)
Title of Student Paper (this is a first-level heading)
The title at the top of this page is formatted as a first-level heading, meaning that it should be centered, bold, and use title case capitalization. Title case means
that the first letters of all the content words in the title are capitalized but other words are not.
Do not use Introduction as a title; instead, list the specific and informative title of the research report at the top of this page. The title on document page one (the
title page) and at the top of this page should match.
Indentations, Margins, Alignment, and Spacing
Indent every paragraph 0.5 inches (not five spaces), and use 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, left, and right sides of every page.
Use left alignment when formatting an APA-style paper. Leave the right alignment ragged; do not right-justify the paper.
Double space the entire report, including the title and reference pages, and make sure there are no extra spaces between paragraphs. MS Word’s default is to add
extra space between paragraphs when you hit Enter. You will need to undo that default in Word’s Paragraph toolbox.
Use descriptive headings to organize sections of your paper. APA student papers may contain some or all of the following sections: an introduction with a re
search question or thesis, background about the topic, current findings, your analysis or discussion of the topic, further research needed or unanswered questions,
and a conclusion.
In many instances, you will only need to use first-level headings to label the sections of a paper, but when composing a long or complex piece of writing, you
might need to use additional heading levels. You may also notice additional heading levels when reading journal articles.
Second-Level Headings (this is a second-level heading)
Second-level headings are for sections within first-level headings, so you would use second-level headings to break up a larger section you have created with a
first-level heading. Align second-level headings with the left margin, bold them, and use title case capitalization.
Guidelines for Using Headings
Insert headings into a text only where necessary. Headings should help to effectively signpost document content for readers but should not overwhelm them
with visual clutter. When subdividing a document section, use at least two lower-level headings. We can compare lower-level headings to the elements of an outline
here: you cannot have an A without a B in an outline.
Never leave a heading as the final line of a page. If two lines of text will not fit underneath the heading, begin the section on the next page of the report.
Third-Level Headings (this is a third-level heading)
Third-level headings are necessary when you need to break down your second-level headings into smaller sections. A third-level heading exists inside a second-
level heading section.
Guidelines for Formatting Third-Level Headings
Align third-level headings with the left margin, bold them, italicize them, and use title case capitalization.
Fourth-Level Headings (this is a fourth-level heading). When using a fourth-level heading, your paragraph begins right here on the same line. Fourth-level head
ings may be found in long and complex documents.
Guidelines for Formatting Fourth-Level Headings. Fourth-level headings are sections inside third-level headings. A fourth-level heading is indented, bold, uses title
case for capitalization, and ends with a period. Your text should appear on the same line as a fourth-level heading.
Fifth-Level Headings (this is a fifth-level heading). When using a fifth-level heading, your paragraph begins right here on the same line. You may encounter a fifth-
level heading in a lengthy report or book.
Guidelines for Formatting Fifth-Level Headings. This is the last APA heading level. The fifth level is used to break up a fourth-level section into additional sections.
A fifth-level heading is indented, bold, italicized, uses title case for capitalization, and ends with a period. Just like fourth-level headings, the text begins right after
In-Text Citations and References
Whenever you include an idea in your paper that is not originally your own, you must attribute that information to the original author(s). When using APA style,
authors attribute source information by citing and referencing. In-text citations consist of the author’s last name, followed by year of publication and page number. A
citation may be written into a sentence in narrative format using a signal phrase, which helps introduce the idea discussed. Alternatively, a citation can be enclosed in
parentheses at the end of a sentence (called parenthetical citation). Here are examples of both formats.
In-Text Citations in Narrative Format Using Signal Phrases
Apardian and Reid (2020) reported that…
Bauer (2018) proposed…
According to Clifford (2011), subjects were…
In-Text Citations in Parenthetical Format
Here is a parenthetical citation: The researchers found that… (Schein & Schein, 2016). In the signal phrase examples above, notice the word and was spelled out
when used in a sentence to connect authors’ names. In the parenthetical example, and was replaced with an ampersand (&) because the citation was enclosed in
Paraphrase or summarize authors’ ideas whenever possible rather than using direct quotations. If you choose to include a direct quotation, place it inside quota
tion marks and “always provide the author, year, and page number of the quotation in the in-text citation” (American Psychological Association, 2020, p. 270).
Remember that paraphrased and summarized ideas still require citations; the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological
Association, 2020, p. 269) recommends including page numbers in these citations to help readers find source information in lengthy documents.
If you need assistance with APA, contact a college librarian or your instructor or consult the following resources.
· American Psychological Association (APA)
American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000
Apardian, R. E., & Reid, N. (2020). Going out for a pint: Exploring the relationship between craft brewery locations and neighborhood walkability. Papers in Applied
Geography, 6(1), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/23754931.2019.1699151
Bauer, B. A. (2018, December 20). What are the benefits of CBD—and is it safe to use? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/
Clifford, S. (2011, December 28). Nine Lives, One Leash. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/29/garden/training-a-cat-to-walk-on-a-leash.html
Schein, E. H., & Schein, P. A. (2016). Organizational culture and leadership (5th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
In addition to page design specifications, APA makes recommendations regarding text construction. Conveniently, some of these items overlap with stylistic characteristics common to technical writing. We will explore a number of these items here.
Using Appropriate Verb Tenses in Reports
Writers use different verb tenses in the various sections of reports to describe research stages and outcomes. Figure 17, adapted from Tsai (2017, p. 2), details the circumstances for verb tense use in report sections.
As Figure 17 makes clear, verb tenses point to different conceptual and temporal circumstances in research reports.
Eliminating Contractions (adapted from Schall, 2014c, para. 2)
Contractions—in which an apostrophe is used to contract two words into one by joining parts of them—are considered to be informal, conversational expression. Contractions should not be included in a formal document, such as a report, unless the report writer is quoting something that contains contractions.
Avoiding Commonly Confused Words
Word choice errors may affect the readability of a research report. Here are few sets of commonly confused words that can influence readers’ perceptions of a document.
- Use amount to refer to something that cannot be counted.
- Jagdish was disgusted by the amount of litter on the ground.
- Use number to refer to something than can be counted.
- Ali was surprised by the number of mistakes in the report.
- Use between to associate two persons or items.
- The workshop participants discussed the differences between paraphrasing and summarizing.
- Use among to associate three or more persons or items.
- The instructor distributed the tasks among four groups.
- Use less to refer to an uncountable quantity.
- I have less homework this week than I did last week.
- Use fewer to refer to a countable quantity.
- I have fewer pieces of homework this week than I did last week.
Be on the lookout for these commonly confused words when reading and writing research reports.
Avoiding Dangling Modifiers (adapted from Schall, 2014c, paras. 12-13)
Dangling modifiers, descriptive words that seem to dangle off by themselves because they do not accurately describe the words next to them, are a common occurrence in technical writing and are easily overlooked by the writer who assumes the reader will automatically follow the sentence’s meaning. Most often, writers dangle modifiers at the beginnings of sentences. Grammatically, a group of words preceding a sentence’s main subject should directly describe the subject; otherwise, that group of words can become a dangling modifier. The following sentences contain dangling modifiers.
- Using an otoscope, her ears were examined for damage.
- Determining the initial estimates, results from previous tests were used.
Even though these sentences are understandable, grammatically they are unacceptable because the first implies that the ears used the otoscope, while the second implies that the results themselves determined the initial estimates. The words that describe a sentence’s subject must be sensibly related to the subject, and in these two sentences that is not the case. Although here the intended meaning can be discerned with some minimal work, readers often have a hard time sorting out meaning when modifiers are dangled, especially as sentences grow longer. Revision of these sentences to avoid dangling modifiers involves changing the wording slightly and shuffling sentence parts around so the meaning is more logical.
- Her ears were examined for damage with an otoscope.
- Results from previous tests were used to determine the initial estimates.
Because dangling modifiers lead to unintelligible sentences, avoid them.
Referring to Temperature Measurements (adapted from Schall, 2014a, para. 3)
Degree measures of temperature are normally expressed with the ° symbol rather than with the written word, and a space is inserted after the number but not between the symbol and the temperature scale: The sample was heated to 80 °C. Unlike the abbreviations for Fahrenheit and Celsius, the abbreviation for Kelvin (which refers to an absolute scale of temperature) is not preceded by the degree symbol (e.g., 12 K is correct).
Writing about Numbers (adapted from Schall, 2014a, paras. 4-5)
The rules for expressing numbers are as follows.
- Express statistical and mathematical functions and measured quantities—those involving decimal points, scores, dimensions, degrees, distances, weights, measures, ages, times, and sums of money—in numeral form (e.g., 1.3 seconds, $25,000, 2 amperes).
- The depth to the water at the time of testing was 16.16 feet.
- Express percentages as follows: use the % symbol preceded by a numeral when referring to an exact number, and spell out the word percent (sans italics) when referring to a general size (“a sizable percent of the population”). → Note: this is the APA guideline. General technical writing guidelines recommend using the word percent (sans italics) instead of the symbol (%) in sentences (e.g., 25 percent) and using the symbol (e.g., 25%) in tables to save space.
- Write the numbers zero through nine as words, unless they appear as part of a string of larger related numbers. Write numbers 10 and above as numerals.
- For this treatment, the steel was heated 18 different times.
- Avoid beginning sentences with numbers. If you must begin a sentence with a number, write out the number.
- Fifteen new staff members attended the safety training session.
- Treat similar numbers in grammatically connected groups alike.
- Two dramatic changes followed: four samples exploded and thirteen lab technicians resigned.
If you are not sure about when to use numerals versus words, consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2020), the definitive source for APA standards. The APA also provides a number of quick reference guides on its website (https://apastyle.apa.org/instructional-aids/handouts-guides), including one that covers statistics and numbers.
Using Parentheses (adapted from Schall, 2014b)
In general, parentheses are used to identify material that acts as an aside, but in technical writing the rules for using parentheses can be more nuanced. Parentheses may also be used
- To introduce tables or figures within a sentence.
- In pulse-jet collectors (Figure 3), bags are supported from a metal cage fastened onto a cell plate at the top of the collector.
- To represent converted units.
- The funnel used for this experiment was 7 in. (17.8 cm) in length.
- When enumerating.
- The system has three principal components: (1) a cleaning booth, (2) an air reservoir, and (3) an air spray manifold.
- To indicate product manufacturer names.
- The filtering process involves a 10-mm Dorr-Oliver cyclone (Zefon International).
- To introduce an acronym after it has been written out.
- Units will be expressed in cubic feet per minute (cfm).
If parentheses enclose a full sentence beginning with a capital letter, then the end punctuation for the sentence falls inside the parentheses.
- Typically, suppliers specify air to cloth ratios of 6:1 or higher. (However, ratios of 4:1 should be used for applications involving silica or feldspathic minerals.)
If the parentheses indicate a citation at the end of a sentence, then the sentence’s end punctuation comes after the parentheses are closed.
- In a study comparing three different building types, respirable dust concentrations were significantly lower in the open-structure building (Hugh et al., 2005).
Finally, if the parentheses appear in the middle of a sentence (as in this example), then any necessary punctuation (such as the comma that appeared just a few words ago) is delayed until the parentheses are closed.
In addition to document organization, page design, and text construction specifications, APA also establishes standard conventions for citation and referencing. A writer uses in-text citations to attribute source information within the body of a report and reference list entries to provide the full publication details for the sources cited in text.
Using In-Text Citations
Although other sections of this textbook cover in-text citations in some detail, we will review their construction and conventions for use here to reinforce the importance of source attribution skills to your college and professional careers. Figure 18, a multipage handout adapted from the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, University of Toronto Mississauga (n.d.a, pp. 5-8), provides an overview of APA in-text citations.
As you review the conventions for APA in-text citations, keep in mind the following punctuation rules, which apply to quotation marks placed at the ends of sentences.
- Place commas and periods inside closing quotation marks.
- Place colons and semicolons outside closing quotation marks.
- Place question marks and exclamation points inside closing quotation marks when they are part of the material being quoted and outside the closing quotation marks when they are not part of the material.
Figure 18. An overview of APA in-text citations
For expanded coverage of APA in-text citations, refer to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2020) or the APA website
The previous figure mentions pairing signal phrases with in-text citations, and you may recall from previous reading that writers use signal phrases to integrate source material into documents in a cohesive way. Signal phrases, in turn, convey various circumstances, as Figure 19, adapted from the Academic Writing Help Centre, Student Academic Success Services, University of Ottawa (2016), points out.
You may use such signal phrases along with in-text citations and accompanying reference list entries to cohesively incorporate source material into a research report.
Reference list entries accompany in-text citations in an APA-style research report. Figure 20, a multipage handout adapted from Reynolds Community College Libraries (2020a), provides an overview of reference formats for various source types.
|General guidelines||· Authors’ names are formatted as follows: Last Name, Initials. (e.g., Smith, J.B.) The rules for authors’ names apply to all source types.
· Titles for all source types (e.g., articles, books, chapters, journals, magazines & newspapers) are formatted in sentence case and in italics.
· If the source has no date, document the following in the date field: (n.d.).
· When the source has two to 20 authors, an ampersand (&) goes before the last author.
· When listing page numbers, use p. for a single page (example: p. 32) and pp. for a page range (example: pp. 12-27).
· For book editions other than the first, place the edition in parentheses after the title. Do not italicize the edition field. Example: Raising children (6th ed.)
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Year of publication). Book title. Publisher.
Goldsworthy, A. (2016). Pax Romana: War, peace, and conquest in the Roman world. Yale University Press.
two to 20 authors
|When there are two to 20 authors, all authors must be listed. An ampersand (&) precedes the name of the last author.
Greig, A., Taylor, J., & MacKay, T. (2013). Doing research with children: A practical guide. Sage.
|Edited book||Editor Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Ed.). (Year of publication). Book title. Publisher.
Shotton, M. A. (Ed.). (1959). Psychology: A study of science. McGraw-Hill.
Stevens, A. C., & Crosby, J. (Eds.). (1976). Principles of psychology. Greenleaf Press.
in an anthology or edited book
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Year of publication). Chapter/Section title. In Editor Initials Last Name (Ed.), Book title (page number[s] using p. or pp.). Publisher.
Leigh, J. A., & Brewster, A. E. (2008). Primary language acquisition. In J. Carruthers & K. McNeil (Eds.), Developmental psychology (pp. 312-337). Ivory Publications.
Ryder, W. & Miller, S. (2006). Introduction. In E.M. Harris (Ed.), Consequences of illiteracy (2nd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 1-2). Essex Press.
in a multivolume work
|Author Last Name, First & middle initials. (Date[s]). Book title (Vol[s].). Publisher.
Gutkind, L. (Ed.). (2007). The best creative nonfiction (Vol. 1). Creative Nonfiction Foundation.
|Entry in an encyclopedia (print or online)||Author(s) Last Name(s), First & middle initials. (Year of publication). Title. In Editor Initials Last Name (Ed.), Encyclopedia title (ed., Vol., page number[s] using p. or pp.). Publisher.
Laberge, M. (2015). Gastric bypass. In J.L. Longe (Ed.), The Gale encyclopedia of medicine (5th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 2100-2105). Gale.
Tobacco. (2009). In P. Korsmeyer & H. R. Kranzler (Eds.), Encyclopedia of drugs, alcohol & addictive behavior (3rd ed., Vol. 4, pp. 95-130). Macmillan Reference USA.
other than the 1st edition
|The edition goes in parentheses after the title. Notice the edition is not italicized.
Kenney, L.W., Wilmore, J., & Costill, D. (2015). Physiology of sport and exercise (6th ed.). Human Kinetics.
|E-book from a database||Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Year of publication). Book title. Publisher.
Gillick, M. R. (2017). Old and sick in America: The journey through the health care system. The University of North Carolina Press.
Note: Ebooks found in a database should be treated as print works. Do not list the database name or the URL of the eBook in the database or publisher’s home page. Only include database information in the reference if the eBook comes from a database that publishes original, proprietary content. For an explanation of this change, click here.
|E-book not from a database||Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Year of publication). Book title. URL (can be shortened with a short-URL service)
Christian, B., & Griffiths, T. (2016). Algorithms to live by: The computer science of human decisions. Henry Holt and Co. https://amzn.to/36eIjnH
more than 20 authors
|List the names of the first 19 authors, then insert an ellipsis, and then the name of the last author.
Kalnay, E., Kanamitsu, M., Kistler, R., Collins, W., Deaven, D., Gandin, L., Iredell, M., Saha, S., White, G., Woollen, J., Zhu, Y., Chelliah, M., Ebisuzaki, W., Higgins, W., Janowiak, J., Mo, K.C., Ropelewski, C., Wang, J., Leetmaa, A.,… Joseph, D. (1996). The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 77(3), 437-471. https://doi.org/fg6rf9
|Journal or magazine article
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Year). Article title. Journal Title, volume #(issue #), page # range. https://doi.org/………
McCauley, S.M., & Christiansen, M.H. (2019). Language learning as language use: A cross-linguistic model of child language development. Psychological Review, 126(1), 1-51. https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000126
Bergeson, S. (2019, January 4). Really cool neutral plasmas. Science, 363(6422), 33-34. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aau7988
|Journal, magazine or newspaper article
from database or in print
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Date). Article title. Periodical Title, volume #(issue #), page # range.
Anderson, M. (2018). Getting consistent with consequences. Educational Leadership, 76(1), 26-33.
Goldman, C. (2018, November 28). The complicated calibration of love, especially in adoption. Chicago Tribune.
Hess, A. (2019). Cats who take direction. The New York Times, C1.
Weir, K. (2017, January). Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. Monitor on Psychology, 48(1), 30.
Notes: Journal and magazine articles without a DOI # including newspaper articles found in a database should be treated as print works. Do not list the database name or the URL of the article in the database or publisher’s home page. Only include database information in the reference if the source comes from a database that publishes original, proprietary content such as UpToDate. For an explanation of this change, click here.
· For newspapers or magazines, the date field includes the month and the day if available.
· For newspapers, include the section # if given.
|Journal, magazine or newspaper article
from open web
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Date). Article title. Periodical title, volume #(issue #), page # range. URL
Ahmnann, E., Tuttle, L.J., Saviet, M., & Wright, S.D. (2018). A descriptive review of ADHD coaching research: Implications for college students. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 31(1), 17-39. https://www.ahead.org/professional-resources/publications/jped/archived-jped/jped-volume-31
Bustillos, M. (2013, March 19). On video games and storytelling: An interview with Tom Bissell. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/on-video-games-and-storytelling-an-interview-with-tom-bissell
Guarino, B. (2017, December 4). How will humanity react to alien life? Psychologists have some predictions. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/12/04/how-will-humanity-react-to-alien-life-psychologists-have-some-predictions
|Blog post||Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Date). Article title. Blog Title. URL
Klymkowsky, M. (2018, September 15). Can we talk scientifically about free will? Sci-Ed. https://blogs.plos.org/scied/2018/09/15/can-we-tal-scientifically-about-free-will/
|General guidelines for web pages||Note:
· If you cite multiple pages from a website, create a reference for each.
· To mention a website in general, do not create a reference or an in-text citation. Instead, give the name of the website in the text, and include the URL in parentheses.
Example: PBS Kids (https://pbskids.org/games/) provides many entertaining games for children.
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Date). Article title. Website name. URL
Martin Lillie, C.M. (2016, December 29). Be kind to yourself: How self-compassion can improve your resiliency. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/self-compassion-can-improve-your-resiliency/art-20267193
|Group author. (Date). Article title. URL
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, January 23). People at high risk of developing flu-related complications. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm
World Health Organization. (2018, March). Questions and answers on immunization and vaccine safety. https/www.who.int/features/qa/84/en
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Date). Article title. Website name. URL
Avramova, N. (2019, January 3). The secret to a long, happy, healthy life? Think age-positive. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/03/health/respect-toward-elderly-leads-to-long-life-intl/index.html
Note: Use this format for articles published in online news sources such as CNN, HuffPost, Reuters, Salon, BBC News, Vox, etc.
|Web page title. (Date). Site Name. URL
Tuscan white bean pasta. (2018, February 25). Budget Bytes. https://www.budgetbytes.com/ tuscan-white-bean-pasta/
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (n.d.). Web page title. Site Name. URL
ASPCA. (n.d.). Destructive chewing. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/destructive-chewing
Note: When the author and the site name are the same, omit the site name from the citation.
|Entry in an online encyclopedia, dictionary or thesaurus, with group author||Group Author. (Date). Entry title. In Title of work. Retrieved date, from URL
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Positive transference. In APA dictionary of psychology. Retrieved August 31, 2019, from https://dictionary.apa.org/positive-transference
· When an online reference work is continuously updated and the versions are not archived, use “n.d.” as the year of publication and include a retrieval date.
· If there is no group author, start with the title of the entry.
|Facebook post||Author Last Name, First & Middle initials (or Name of Group, or Name of Group [Username]). (Date). Content of the post up to the first 20 words [Description of audiovisuals]. Facebook. Post URL (can be shortened with a service such as Bitly)
Gaiman, N. (2018, March 22). 100,000+ Rohingya refugees could be at serious risk during Bangladesh’s monsoon season. My fellow UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett is [image attached] [Status update]. Facebook. http://bit.ly/2JQxPAD
Note: This format can also be used for posts in other social media services.
|Movie||Last Name, First & Middle initials of Director/Producer/Host/Artist/etc. (Director/Producer/Host/Artist/etc.). (Year). Title of work [Description]. Production Company (or companies). URL if applicable
Forman, M. (Director). (1975). One flew over the cuckoo’s nest [Film]. United Artists.
episode or webisode
|Last name, First & Middle initials of writer(s) and director(s). (Year, month, date). Episode title (season and episode) [Description]. In names of executive producers, Series title, Production Company (or companies).
Barris, K. (Writer & Director). (2017, January 11). Lemons (Season 3, Episode 12) [TV series episode]. In K. Barris, J. Graff, A. Anderson, E.B. Dobbins, L. Fishburne, & H. Sugland (Executive Producers), Black-ish. Wilmore Films; Artists First; Cinema Gypsy Productions, ABC Studios.
Note: Include writers and the director for the episode. Include the contributor roles in parentheses after each contributor’s name.
|Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. [User Name]. (Year, month, date). Title of video [Video]. Site. URL
Fogarty, M. [Grammar Girl]. (2016, September 20). How to diagram a sentence (absolute basics) [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be.com/deiEY5Yq1ql
Cutts, S. (2017, November 24). Happiness [Video]. Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/244405542
Fosha, D. (Guest Expert), & Levenson, H. (Host). (2017). Accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) supervision [Film; educational DVD]. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/pubs/videos/4310958.aspx
Note: For the sake of retrievability, the person or group who uploaded the video is credited as the author, even if they did not create the work.
|Podcast episode||Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Role). (Year, month, date). Episode title (episode No.) [podcast type]. In Title of podcast series. Site. URL
Glass, I. (Host). (2011, August 12). Amusement park (No. 443) [Audio podcast episode]. In This American life. WBEZ Chicago. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/443/amusement-park
|Photograph||Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Year). Title of photograph [Photograph]. Site. URL
McCurry, S. (1985). Afghan girl [Photograph]. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/national-geographic-magazine-50-years-of-covers/#/ngm-1985-jun.jpg
Note: Use this format to cite photographs or other artwork not connected to a museum. To reproduce a photograph, permission and/or a copyright attribution may be necessary in addition to the reference.
|Artwork in a museum or on a museum website||Author Last Name, First & Middle initials. (Year). Title of work [Medium or format]. Location where the art resides. URL if applicable.
Delacroix, E. (1826-1827). Faust attempts to seduce Marguerite [Lithograph]. The Louvre, Paris, France.
Wood, G. (1930). American gothic [Painting]. Art Institute of Chicago, IL, United States. https://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/6565
· Use this format to cite all types of museum artwork, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, drawings, and installations; always include a description of the medium or format in square brackets after the title.
· For untitled art, include a description in square brackets in place of a title.
|Classical and religious works||Notes:
· Religious works (Bible, Qur’an, Torah, etc.), classical works (ancient Greek and Roman works, etc.), and classical literature (e.g., works by Shakespeare) are all cited like books.
· Religious works are treated as having no author. An annotated version of a religious work would be treated as having an editor.
· The year of publication of a religious work may be unknown or in dispute, and in these cases, the year is not part of the reference.
· If the religious work has been republished, then the republished dates are included in the reference.
Shakespeare, W. (1995). Much ado about nothing (B.A. Mowat & P. Werstine, Eds.). Washington Square Press. (Original work published 1623)
King James Bible. (2017). King James Bible Online. https://kingjamesbibleonline.org/ (Original work published 1769)
|In-person or telephone interviews, conversations class notes, letters, emails||Personal communications are referenced in text but are not cited in the reference section
T.F. Bass (personal communication, April 18, 2020) advised against cramming for exams.
Patients can call their doctors to discuss options (M. Li, personal communication, May 1, 2020).
“Reviewing study material daily helps to ensure better performance on exams” (I. Bates, personal communication, June 15, 2020).
Figure 20. APA referencing formats for various types of sources
If you require further detail about APA referencing formats, consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2020) or the APA website (https://apastyle.apa.org/instructional-aids/handouts-guides).
How does an investigator report research in an ethical manner?
Research outcomes must be reported in an ethical manner to be credible and useful. Take into account that ethical considerations affect the development of research reports in numerous ways, as forthcoming paragraphs, which are adapted from Hamlin et al. (2017a, pp. 98-102), explain.
Foregrounding or Downplaying Key Information
A writer’s choices about how to present content in a report can affect readers’ understanding of the relative weight or seriousness of the information. For example, hiding some crucial piece of information in the middle of a long paragraph and burying that paragraph deep in a lengthy document de-emphasizes the information. On the other hand, placing a minor point in a prominent spot—for instance, at the top of a bullet list in a report’s executive summary—tells readers it is crucial.
Omitting Research that Does Not Support a Project Idea
When compiling a report, a writer might discover conflicting data that does not support the research project’s goals. For example, let us imagine the writer’s small company has problems with employee morale. Research shows that bringing in an outside expert, someone who is unfamiliar with the company, has the potential to effect the greatest change in addressing the issue. The writer discovers, however, that hiring such an expert is cost prohibitive. If the writer leaves this information out of the report, its omission encourages the employer to pursue an action that is not feasible.
Distorting Visual Information
When writers present information visually in reports, they must be careful not to misrepresent reality. To illustrate this point, consider the pie charts in Figure 21, adapted from Hamlin et al. (2017a, p. 100). The data in each pie chart is identical, but the chart on the left presents information in a misleading way.
Figure 21. Identical data presented two different ways in pie charts
Imagine that these pie charts represent donations received by four candidates running for city council. When looking at the pie chart on the left, the candidate represented by the green slice labeled Item C might think she received more donations than the candidate represented by the blue slice labeled Item A. In fact, if we look at the same data in the differently oriented pie chart on the right, we can see that Item C represents less than half of the donations than those for Item A. Thus, a simple change in perspective can alter the perception of an image.
Relying on Limited Source Information
A thorough research report compiles information from a variety of reliable sources in order to examine a topic from multiple angles. Using a variety of sources helps a report writer avoid the potential bias that can occur when relying on a limited pool of experts. Imagine, for instance, that a writer is composing a report on the real estate market in Central Oregon. The author would be ill-advised to collect data from only one realator’s office. While a particular office might have access to broad data on the real estate market, he/she runs the risk of appearing biased by exclusively selecting material from this one source. Collecting information from multiple brokers would demonstrate thorough and unbiased research.
Documenting Sources in an Inaccurate Manner
When report writers document sources, they are expected to accurately and consistently acknowledge the origin of outside information via use of in-text citations and accompanying reference list entries. Listing a source on a reference page without an in-text citation misleads readers: readers assume that the listed item is a source when in fact it is not or that the writer has failed to mark the boundaries between his/her own ideas and source information in text. Note that many documentation problems occur because writers do not clearly distinguish between their own ideas and source material.
Violating Academic Integrity
Academic integrity violations, such as those mentioned in the previous paragraph, can destroy the credibility of a research report and its writer’s reputation. This reality holds true in both academia and in the workplace. Using information adapted from Student Academic Success Services, Queen’s University (2018a, pp. 4-7), Table 3 explores violations of academic integrity that can affect research reports and other types of knowledge work.
Table 3. Types of academic integrity violations and how to avoid them
|Violation||Examples of Violation||How to Avoid the Violation|
Using someone else’s ideas, phrasing, or visuals without proper acknowledgement and/or representing some or all of another author’s content as your own, either intentionally or inadvertently
|· Copying and pasting from the internet, printed material, or another source and failing to provide appropriate acknowledgement
· Copying from another student
· Providing a reference but not using quotation marks when you take a sentence from another writer’s article
· Quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing material in an assignment without appropriately acknowledging it
· Paraphrasing or summarizing so closely that most of the phrasing resembles that of the original source
· Submitting the same piece of work in more than one course without the permission of the instructors
|· Understand and follow standard documentation styles, such as APA
· Learn how to take effective notes from lectures and texts
· Plan ahead to make sure you have enough time to complete your assignments on your own
· Properly integrate sources with your own insights so it is clear which sources you consulted to support and supplement your own discussion
|Use of unauthorized materials:
Using resources without permission
|· Possessing or using unauthorized study materials or aids during a quiz or test
· Copying from another student’s quiz or test paper
· Using an unauthorized calculator or other aid during a quiz or test
· Removing materials from the library without authorization
|· Understand the course material and expectations
· Prepare effectively for quizzes and tests
Deliberately enabling another person’s breach of academic integrity
|· Knowingly allowing someone else to copy your paper, assignment, quiz, test, or other coursework
· Buying papers, assignments, quizzes, tests, or other coursework and submitting them as your own
· Selling papers, assignments, quizzes, tests, or other coursework
· Posting quizzes or tests on course assistance websites (note that this behavior may also constitute a copyright violation—a legal infringement—if the course handouts or other materials are copyrighted)
|· Understand your professor’s expectations for all coursework
· Make sure you have enough time to complete coursework
· Use integrity when collaborating with others
|· Creating or altering a transcript or other official document
· Impersonating someone in a course, test, or quiz
· Falsifying or fabricating research data
|· Understand expectations and plan ahead
· Discuss academic challenges with your instructor, advisor, or school counselor
Submitting documents that are entirely fraudulent
|· Forging medical notes
· Forging transcripts
|· Understand expectations and plan ahead
· Discuss academic challenges with your instructor, advisor, or school counselor
The following list of frequently asked questions, adapted from Student Academic Success Services, Queen’s University (2018a, pp. 10-11), may help to clarify lingering uncertainties about the information presented in Table 3.
- Is it true that if I paraphrase from a source, I do not have to give credit?
- This is not true. If you use anyone else’s ideas, words, or content in an assignment, you must give appropriate credit.
- Is it true that as long as I provide a citation when I copy something, I am not plagiarizing?
- Providing a citation is a start, but you must add quotation marks if you are copying someone’s content word for word.
- Am I allowed to resubmit previous assignments since I own them?
- No because this constitutes self-plagiarism. When you are given an assignment, you are expected to use original effort to complete it.
- Since my instructor did not ask for sources, do I need to include any?
- Just because your instructor did explicitly ask for sources, this is not an excuse to avoid giving proper credit. To avoid plagiarism, you must acknowledge your sources.
- Is it okay if I did not know that I was plagiarizing/violating other aspects of academic integrity?
- Not knowing is not an excuse, so you should familiarize yourself with forms of academic dishonesty and school policies and talk with your instructor if you still have questions.
- Is it alright to share information with friends when working on an assignment?
- If the work is meant to be independent, you are violating academic integrity standards by discussing answers with others. If your instructor does not address the issue of collaborative work, it is your responsibility to find out whether such work is acceptable rather than simply assuming it is.
- Am I abiding by academic integrity standards if I buy a paper online and submit it for a course?
- The act of purchasing a paper for submission is a deliberate breach of academic integrity standards and constitutes cheating.
- Am I abiding by academic integrity standards if I ask a family member or friend to complete a paper or assignment for me and I submit that material for a class?
- Submitting coursework that a family member or friend completed for you is a deliberate breach of academic integrity standards and constitutes cheating.
Academic integrity violations take a variety of forms, as this textbook section makes clear, and a report writer has an ethical obligation to avoid all of them.
Plagiarism can be a particularly pernicious problem in a research report because misrepresented research data can affect subsequent studies that build on the report’s foundation. The information below, adapted from Student Academic Success Services, Queen’s University (2018b, pp. 1-3), provides detailed guidance for how to prevent plagiarism.
- You must document when
- Using or referring to someone else’s words, ideas, or content from a journal, book, newspaper, magazine, textbook, song, TV program, film, webpage, letter, email, advertisement, speech, dictionary, or other medium.
- Using data collected during an interview.
- Copying the exact words or a unique phrase from somewhere.
- Reprinting any tables or figures.
- You do not need to document when
- Writing about your own experiences, insights, thoughts, or conclusions regarding a subject.
- Using common knowledge (folklore, commonsense observations, shared information within your field of study or cultural group).
- Compiling generally accepted facts.
- Writing up your own experimental research results.
- Material is likely common knowledge if
- You find the same information undocumented in several other sources.
- You think it is information your readers already know.
- Anyone could easily find the information with general reference sources, such as encyclopedias or dictionaries.
- When paraphrasing and summarizing
- Write your version without looking at the original text so you rely only on your memory.
- Rewrite key ideas using different words and sentence structures than those used in the original source.
- Check your version against the original for accuracy. Also look for mistakenly borrowed phrases.
- Introduce the paraphrase or summary with a phrase crediting the source.
- Cite and reference the source.
- When quoting
- Use quotations sparingly: an excessive number can affect your credibility and interfere with your style.
- Enclose the quoted material in quotation marks.
- Indicate added phrases with brackets and omitted text with ellipses.
- Introduce the quotation with a phrase crediting the source.
- Cite and reference the source.
An ethical writer avoids plagiarism and its destructive consequences by keeping the above points in mind when producing a report.
Planning, carrying out, and reporting research requires considerable time and effort, as this chapter makes clear. In return, a research project offers an opportunity to discover new things and activate a valuable skill set that you will hone throughout your time in academia and beyond.
Activity: What do you know about academic integrity standards?
To test your knowledge of academic integrity standards, answer the following questions, which are adapted from the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, University of Toronto Mississauga (n.d.b, p. 3). Provide a rationale for your answers, and be prepared to discuss them in class.
- Does this scenario constitute plagiarism: composing a paragraph by taking phrases from a number of sources and combining them with words of your own, without using quotation marks or citing the sources?
- Martin is having difficulty with his chemistry course. He decides to pay for a tutor to teach him the content and help him with his assignments. Could Martin be committing an academic offence?
- It depends on the type of tutoring Martin receives
- Does this scenario constitute plagiarism: paraphrasing a text by replacing a few words with synonyms and citing the source?
- Laura is taking a math class that her friend previously took. Laura’s course syllabus says that calculators are authorized test aids, but her friend tells her that calculators are not allowed in math exams. Is Laura allowed to use a calculator during her math tests?
- Does this scenario constitute cheating: buying a research report and submitting parts of it as your own?
- Petr wants to make sure his cellphone is safe during his test. He keeps it in his pocket during the test, but does not use it. Is Petr committing an academic integrity offense?
- Does this scenario constitute plagiarism: omitting an in-text citation and reference list entry when incorporating common knowledge information into a document?
- Hafsa gets a doctor’s note to excuse her absence from an exam. She notices that the doctor spelled her name incorrectly. She fixes the spelling and submits the note. Is Hafsa committing an academic offence?
- Does this scenario constitute plagiarism: giving a reference but omitting quotation marks when incorporating one sentence from a source text into your own document.
- Darya’s essay contains only her own writing and a few quotes. She does not include in-text citations, but all her sources are listed on the end-of-text reference page. Is Darya committing an academic offence?
- Does this scenario constitute plagiarism: incorporating material that you created or gathered yourself, such as photos or data from field research, into a document without citing/referencing it?
- After hearing from a friend how helpful course assistance websites can be, Paul decides to upload a quiz he took for a class to one of these sites in order to gain access to its content. Is Paul committing an academic offense?
Homework: How are research and research writing skills used in your field of interest?
What is your career interest? How might a professional working in that career use research and research writing skills in the workplace? Consult the websites listed in the “Understanding Disciplinary Expectations for Writing” chapter of this textbook to research your response to this question, and work with a university librarian if you need to locate additional sources of credible information. Afterwards, write an APA-style report to document the processes and findings of your research project. Use the guidance in this chapter to organize, design, and construct your report and to cite and reference its sources. This exercise is adapted from Successful Writing (2012, para. 11).
After you have drafted your report, use the handouts “Eliminating Wordiness” (Student Academic Success Services, Queen’s University, 2018c) and “APA Checklist” (Excelsior Online Writing Lab, 2020a), provided below, to refine your work.
Academic Writing Help Centre, Student Academic Success Service, University of Ottawa (2016). Signal phrases. License CC-BY 4.0. https://sass.uottawa.ca/sites/sass.uottawa.ca/files/awhc-signal-phrases.pdf
American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000
Bethel, E. (2020). Open textbooks: Quality and relevance for postsecondary study in The Bahamas. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 21(2), 61-80. License CC-BY 4.0. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/4598
Driscoll, D.L. (2011). Introduction to primary research: Observations, surveys, and interviews In C. Lowe, & P. Zemliansky (Eds.), Writing spaces: Readings on writing (Vol. 2, pp. 153-174). Parlor Press. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. https://wac.colostate.edu/books/writingspaces2/driscoll–introduction-to-primary-research.pdf
Excelsior Online Writing Lab. (2020a). APA checklist. License CC-BY 4.0. https://owl.excelsior.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/01/APAChecklist7theditionInteractiveNoImages.pdf
Excelsior Online Writing Lab. (2020b). APA formatting guide: 7th edition [PowerPoint slides]. License CC-BY 4.0. https://owl.excelsior.edu/citation-and-documentation/apa-style/apa-formatting-guide/
Excelsior Online Writing Lab. (2020c). APA headings: 7th edition. License CC-BY 4.0. https://owl.excelsior.edu/citation-and-documentation/apa-style/apa-headings/
Excelsior Online Writing Lab. (2020d). Evaluating a website. License CC-BY 4.0. https://owl.excelsior.edu/orc/what-to-do-after-reading/analyzing/evaluating-a-website/evaluating-a-website-handouts/
Excelsior Online Writing Lab. (2020e). How to read visual aids. License CC-BY 4.0. https://owl.excelsior.edu/orc/what-to-do-while-reading/annotating/annotating-how-to-read-visual-aids/annotating-how-to-read-visual-aids-handouts/
Hamlin, A., Rubio, C., & DeSilva, M. (2017a). Ethics in technical writing. In A. Gross, A. Hamlin, B. Merck, C. Rubio, J. Naas, M. Savage, & M. Desilva, Technical writing (pp. 91-104). Open Oregon Educational Resources. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/technicalwriting/
Hamlin, A., Rubio, C., & DeSilva, M. (2017b). The research cycle. In A. Gross, A. Hamlin, B. Merck, C. Rubio, J. Naas, M. Savage, & M. Desilva, Technical writing (p. 43). Open Oregon Educational Resources. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/technicalwriting/
Hayden, W., & Margolin, S. (2020). How to use a source: The BEAM method. Hunter College Libraries. https://library.hunter.cuny.edu/research-toolkit/how-do-i-use-sources/beam-method
McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph. (n.d.a). Developing a research question. License: CC-BY-SA. https://learningcommons.lib.uoguelph.ca/item/developing-research-question-worksheet
McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph. (n.d.b). Make the most out of office hours. License: CC-BY-SA. https://learningcommons.lib.uoguelph.ca/item/make-most-out-office-hours
McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph. (n.d.c). Templates for writing thesis statements. License: CC-BY-SA. https://learningcommons.lib.uoguelph.ca/item/templates-writing-thesis-statements
Reinhardt, C.D., Thomson, D.U., & Retzlaff, D.D. (2010). Bilingual, Digital, Audio-Visual Training Modules Improve Technical Knowledge of Feedlot and Dairy Workers. Online Journal of Rural Research & Policy, 5(7). License: CC-BY 4.0. https://doi.org/10.4148/ojrrp.v5i7.266
Reynolds Community College Libraries. (2019b). Refine, narrow or broaden a topic. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. https://libguides.reynolds.edu/c.php?g=143583&p=939853
Reynolds Community College Libraries. (2019c). Refine, narrow or broaden a topic worksheet. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. https://libguides.reynolds.edu/c.php?g=143583&p=939853
Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, University of Toronto Mississauga. (n.d.a). APA formatting and style guide. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0. https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/asc/sites/files/asc/public/shared/pdf/tip_sheets_writing/APA_7th_StyleGuide_v3_PR.pdf
Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, University of Toronto Mississauga. (n.d.b). 6 essential skills for your academic career at UTM. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0. https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/asc/sites/files/asc/public/shared/pdf/study_skills/SkillsBooklet__6Skills_Web_v1.pdf
Schall, J. (2014a). Expressing temperatures and numbers: Effective technical writing in the information age. Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/styleforstudents/c2_p10.html
Schall, J. (2014b). Parentheses: Effective technical writing in the information age. Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/styleforstudents/c2_p8.html
Schall, J. (2014c). Special stylistic issues in technical writing: Effective technical writing in the information age. Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/styleforstudents/c1_p15.html
Student Academic Success Services, Queen’s University. (2018a). Academic integrity. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 2.5. https://sass.queensu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Academic-Integrity.pdf
Student Academic Success Services, Queen’s University. (2018b). Avoiding plagiarism. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 2.5. https://sass.queensu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Avoiding-Plagiarism.pdf
Student Academic Success Services, Queen’s University. (2018c). Eliminating wordiness. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 2.5. http://sass.queensu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Eliminating-Wordiness.pdf
Successful Writing. (2012). Writing from research: What will I learn?License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/successful-writing/s15-writing-from-research-what-wil.html
Teaching & Learning, University Libraries. (2018). Choosing & using sources: A guide to academic research. The Ohio State University. License: CC-BY 4.0. https://ohiostate.pressbooks.pub/choosingsources/
Tsai, S.C. (2017). How to decide the format and verb tense of in-text citations in research writing. The Ohio State University Writing Center. https://cstw.osu.edu/sites/cstw.osu.edu/files/Research%20Citation%20Practices.pdf
UC (University of California) Libraries. (n.d.). A cycle of revolving research. License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. https://library.ucmerced.edu/rpt/knowledge_cycle_8
University of Waterloo. (2015). Health sciences annotated literature review. WriteOnline.ca. . License: CC-BY-SA 4.0. http://writeonline.ca/litreview.php?content=section6
Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo. (n.d.a). Develop a research question. . License: CC-BY-SA 4.0. https://uwaterloo.ca/writing-and-communication-centre/sites/ca.writing-and-communication-centre/files/uploads/files/step_4_develop_a_research_question.pdf
Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo. (n.d.b). Move from research to writing: How to think. . License: CC-BY-SA 4.0. https://uwaterloo.ca/writing-and-communication-centre/sites/ca.writing-and-communication-centre/files/uploads/files/step_8_how_to_analyze_the_information_in_your_source_h.pdf