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PSY 321: Social Psychology: APA Style

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Common Errors

Be mindful of correct grammar, an important component of my evaluation of your paper and poster. Several issues to monitor include: 


  • Agreement: Make sure that you use singular pronouns and verbs when using singular nouns. Consider this example: “A person should examine their values before judging obese people.” This is incorrect, because the singular noun (person) does not match the plural pronoun (their). The correct sentence is, “A person should examine his or her values before judging obese people.”
  • Avoid using contractions in formal papers. You should also avoid using colloquial language or slang, except in quotations.
  • Avoid using quotations. Use of quotations shows me that you did not understand the paper well enough to put it in your own words. Paraphrase instead. Quotations are appropriate in very few and select instances. For example, beginning your paper off with a well-known proverb or quotation from literature is appropriate. I will take points off your paper if I see quotations inappropriately used. When in doubt, do not use them.
  •  Avoid using the word “you” in scientific papers. For example, do not say “When your relationship produces anxiety, you will feel….” Instead say something like, “When a relationship produces anxiety, it also produces feelings of…” or “When a person’s relationship produces anxiety, they feel…”
  • Always spellcheck and grammar check your papers and drafts before turning them in. A great way to detect errors in your paper and poster is to read your work aloud. A great way to make sure your paper makes sense is to have a friend read it.
  • The word data is plural, so please use appropriate pronouns and verbs when discussing your data (e.g., “The data do not support...”).
  • Active vs. Passive Voice. Try to write in active rather than passive voice. For example, “The class collected data from 70 participants” is better than “Data from 70 participants was collected.” You MAY use first person in your paper (“I collected data from…”) but try not to over-use it. This is a scientific paper not a story of your life.

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