Monday, June 30, 2014

Revisions to APA

Following a recent twitter thread, I've been musing on the APA publication and citation formats. Here are few modest suggestions for modification of APA standards.
  • Place figures and captions in the text. Back when we used typewriters and early word processors, it was not possible for people to put the figures in text. That's no longer the case. Flipping back and forth between figures, captions, and text is cognitively challenging for reviewers and serves no current typesetting purpose.
  • Get rid of addresses for publishers. There is no clear format for these – do you put City, State, Country? Or City, State? Or City, Country? Does it depend on whether it's a US city or not? It's essentially impossible to find out what city you should put for most major publishers anyway, since they are all currently international conglomerates. 
  • Do away with issue numbers. The current idea is that you are supposed to know how the page numbers are assigned in a volume to decide whether to include the issue number. That is absolutely crazy. 
  • Require DOIs. This recommendation is currently not enforced in any systematic way because it's a bit of a pain. But requiring DOIs would deal with many of the minor, edge-case ambiguities caused by removing addresses and issue numbers, as well as making many bibliometric analyses far easier.
  • Come up with a better standard for conference proceedings. For those of us who cite papers at Cognitive Science or Computer Science conferences like CogSci, NIPS, or ACL, it can be a total pain to invent or track down volume, page, editors, etc. for digital proceedings that don't really have this information.
Update in response to questions: I have had several manuscripts returned without review for failures to put figures and captions at the end of the manuscript, both from APA journals (JEP:G and JEP:LMC), although other journals explicitly ask you to put figures inline

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