At least in North America, and in education domains, in which I am involved, The American Psychological Association calls the shots in terms of formatting and style for most education publications, student papers and thesis work. In addition it is the normal format required for many (most?) educational Journals including the one I edit IRRODL.

Thus, I pay attention when a new edition comes out. Generally the edits and enhancements made to each addition are useful and helpful in reducing complexity and increasing intuitiveness. In particular as an online journal we are concerned with the ways that electronic resources are cited, quoted and included in formal academic discourse.  The 6th edition continues this positive trend. The changes are covered in both podcast and text format at the APA’s site. They also offer an online course Mastering the 6th Edition for $40.

Things I like about the 6th edition include:

  • a discussion of self-plagiarism- becoming an increasing problem for journal editors when preprints, conference, papers, blog posts and a host of other content is “self published” often prior to submission to a journal
  • simplification of the Headings to be used – gone are those old days using heading levels 1, 3 and 5 unless you have 4 and then use 1345 etc etc.
  • gone is the need for the silly “Retrieved Sept 21, 2009” except when the content is likely to change, as in a wiki. I mean, who cares when you downloaded it for most content? Even if the content has disappeared it may be accessible from the Internet WayBack machine
  • The guidelines discussing the peer review and publication process have been revised and updated. If all authors followed these it would make our editing job easier and result in higher acceptance rates.

Things I still don’t like:

  • Maybe just a style thing, but I like tables to have borders, instead of bleeding off into the text. The 6th edition adds new types of tables, dependent on the data (good) but still they look unfinished to me and remind me of typewriter days when borders were hard to draw.
  • Referencing online articles is still a pain. At least now the requirements for page numbers (especially where they are not used, as in IRRODL) has been eliminated. But the guidelines now talks about noting which paragraph in the article or the section of article – as in “quotation…..” para 4.   or conclusion, para 6.  I mean who likes to count paragraphs as author or reader? That is why text search has been invented. The reader need merely go to the document in PDF , HTML, Doc or any other online format and do a text search- no paragraph or page number needed.
  • The text is NOT available as open access and not previewed (yet?) by Google Books, but is available from Amazon for $33  paperback or $45 spiral bound. So like other commercial booksellers, a new edition is a great way to raise revenue, but is only an annoying cost to students and academics.

So all in all, I like most of what has been changed in the 6th edition, but like everyone except babies in diapers, I never rally like to change that much.