Saturday, March 31, 2007

APA's So-Called Sense of Style

On my list of things to do today is to go back through my dissertation proposal and make sure all of the citations in the text match the 10 pages or so of references in the back and double-check each one in the APA Publication Manual to be sure that they are all formatted correctly. If you've never used APA style, consider yourself lucky because it takes a great deal of getting used to and even with 439 pages (most of it centered on information other than reference formatting), it's still difficult to decipher exactly what you're supposed to do most of the time because the answers are hard to find, inconsistent and rarely clear-cut.

What made the American Psychological Association think they had a fucking clue about writing style is beyond me other than to sell more books by forcing people who do research in the social sciences - and anybody else they can con into buying into their line of bullshit to use their "accepted" method. In my most humble and considerate opinion APA style is possibly the least effective way to communicate scholarly information ever devised.

Aside from being cumbersome and apparently minutiae-driven, the biggest thing that bothers me about it is the way it handles references. Instead of using footnotes so that the text flows in an uninterrupted fashion, APA style has the writer insert citations in the body of the text in parenthesis like this (drsharna, 2007) every single (HeresYourSign, 2002) time (Tally & Whacker, 2002) the writer (Pompous-OldGuy, 1947) references a piece (Hey-Vern, 1988) of research (Jimbob, et al, 1998) from another source (Somedeadguy, 2004). To say the least it's annoying as hell for the reader, although once you've read 80-gozillion articles the brain gets trained to skipping over anything in parenthesis, which is not necessarily a good thing. The full references to these parenthetical citations are then located at the very end of the document in their own special section, instead of using footnotes where, if the reader is interested in knowing more about a cited work, it's conveniently located at the bottom of the page so you don't have to go searching for the damn thing waythehell back in the references section. This isn't such a big issue if you're reading a journal article of just a few pages, but if you're tackling something larger like, say a dissertation or a larger book like Lezak's 1016-page tome, "Neuropsychological Assessment," (2004) where the reference section can be over a hundred pages (Lezak (2004) boasts a meaty 197 pages of references), you have to stop, find the references section and wade through them to find the right one. Granted they are listed in alphabetical order by the last name of the primary author, so that's a plus, but good gawdamighty, it's just such a pain in the ass to have to stop and go digging for what you're looking for, because you know if you don't do it right then while you're thinking about it you'll forget all about it by the time you get to the end of whateveritis you're trying to read. Which is really kind of irrelevant because by the time you do find it, you've forgotten where you were and what you were reading in the first place. Yepperz, that tangentialism - it's really conducive to logical flow and information processing.

Frankly, I think the APA is a racket, but that's a rant for another day. --Back to work.

Lezak, M. D., Howieson, D. B., Loring, D. W., Hannay, H. J. & Fischer, J. S. (2004). Neuropsychological Assessment (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.


Natalia said...

I am an MLA whore. Not by choice, you realize. That's just what my program uses. I have to teach both. I don't much like APA. It doesn't flow well.

It is exhausting. All of it. But we keep at, don't we?

*le sigh*


Anonymous said...

Why make it so hard? There is a program called EndNote that will format everything for you.

drsharna said...

Yes we do. At this point I can appreciate the viewpoint of those who just say, "Fuck it," and drop out ABD. I won't do it though. Dunno about you, but I have too much time, effort and money in it to turn back now.

I never said Fuck so much before starting grad school, either. That would make an interesting study, but I don't have the energy to conduct it ;o)

drsharna said...

You're right, Anonymous. I used EndNote for years. It's great if you never want to throw a reference away, just in case you need it again. However, it's notorious for "almost but not quite" formatting references properly and I got tired of still having to go through and adjust every single one anyway. On top of that, at the final "format bibliography" page, inevitably it would cause bad things to happen throughout my document that I had to go back and re-configure. It even ate an entire final paper for my Developmental Psychology course once. In the end it's just easier to do it myself. That way I know all the t's are dotted and the i's are crossed.

Don't even waste your money on the APA "Style Helper" software. That's a piece of shit if I've ever seen one.

Natalia said...

No, I am not dropping out ABD. This is my everest, if you will. And I will climb up as long as I have breath in me.

See what the doctoral program process does to you? It turns you into an incoherent, babbling, dramatic idiot.

Well, at least it does me.


drsharna said...

I'm not dropping out either, but at this point I can certainly sympathize with those who do. As for me, I have something to prove. Fortunately, I'm almost there.

Totally with you on the babbling idiot part, though.

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