PhD Programme in Language Pedagogy
ELTE School of English and American Studies
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Just like journal articles and books, research papers and seminar papers also have to follow certain formal requirements. In the social sciences it is the stylesheet of the American Psychological Association (APA) that we use. It is these rules that apply to linguistics, applied linguistics and methodology papers. The APA guidelines give directions on the
format and presentation of academic writing, on
spelling and punctuation and on
This page gives a practical overview of the most important aspects of these requirements.
For further information you can refer to the following websites:
Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) on APA https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
APA style Online http://www.apastyle.org
For further details on referencing see the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Word processing programmes usually have their own citation/reference making component, but there are other tools that can be used. Among others:
This is perhaps the most complex of all the referencing
programmes. To get acquainted with it the following sites may be useful:
This is a site that offers different referencing programmes for download:
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Unless the course tutor instructs you otherwise, the guidelines below can be used for formatting papers. (The text is based on
General Document Guidelines
Margins: 2.5 cms /1 inch on all sides (top, bottom, left, right)
Font Size and Type: 12-pt. font (Times Roman or Courier)
Spacing: Double-space throughout the paper, including the title page, abstract, body of the document, references, appendices, footnotes, tables, and figure captions except for long quotations and the table of contents, where you can use 1.5 or single spacing.
Alignment: Use justified pages (both the left and right margins are even) or flush left (i.e. the right margin is uneven)
Paragraph Indentation: Indent all paragraphs by 5-7 spaces (generally one Tab unit)
Pagination: The page number should appear one inch (2.5 cms) from the right edge of the paper on the first line of every page in the header, beginning with the title page.
Page Header: This does not apply for pieces of writing that are bound into a volume but can be useful for loose pages that are only held together by a paperclip: The author's name and the first two or three words of the paper title appear to the left of the page number on every page, following the title page. Using most word processors, the page header and page number can be inserted into a header, which then automatically appears on all pages.
Notes: Notes may be substantive or explanatory or may identify sources. In APA, footnotes are used rather than end notes.
Footnotes supplement or amplify substantive information in the text, and therefore should not contain irrelevant or nonessential information. They should only be used if they strengthen the discussion. Whenever possible, integrate the information in the text rather than add a footnote.
Structure of a paper
Order of the Sections of a Paper: Title Page, Abstract, Table of Contents, List of Tables, List of Figures, List of Abbreviations, Body, References, Appendices, Tables, Figures. Please note, however, that not all of these sections may be necessary in all papers.
Pagination: The Title Page is page 1.
Key Elements: Paper title, author, course code and title, tutor’s name
Paper Title: Uppercase and lowercase letters, centered on the page.
Author(s): Uppercase and lowercase letters, centered on the line following
centered on the lines following the author.
This is a sample title page:
Abstract: The abstract is a one-paragraph, self-contained summary of the most important elements of the paper. NB: This is not a preview but a summary.
Pagination: The abstract begins on a new page (page 2).
Format: The abstract (in block format) begins on the line following the Abstract heading. The abstract normally does not exceed 120 words. All numbers in the abstract (except those beginning a sentence) should be typed as digits rather than words.
Table of contents / Overview of sections: The table of contents is a mandatory element in a thesis or dissertation. An overview of sections is optional in a long seminar paper.
List of tables: This is a list of the tables - relevant in theses or dissertations.
List of figures: This is a list of the figures - relevant in theses or dissertations.
List of Acronyms: If you use a large number of acronyms in your paper, it is a good idea to list them together with their meaning.
Pagination: The body of the paper begins on a new page as do all main chapters or main sections. Subsections of the body of the paper do not begin on new pages.
Headings: Headings are used to organize the document.
Sections: The decimal system is used for numbering. This reflects the relative importance of sections. The main sections are indicated by one digit numbers while the subheadings by two or three digits. The digits are divided by a period but there is no period after the last digit.
The typical sections in the body of an empirical research paper, with the possible numbering, are:
1 Introduction Introduces and defines the topic/problem, states its relevance, gives a preview of the study and states the research questions
2 Review of the literature / background - Demonstrates the setting of the topic, reviews the relevant literature, establishes a research niche
3 Methods Describes in detail how the study was conducted so that the reader can establish the reliability and validity or credibility of the study; possible subsections are:
3.1 Participants and setting
3.2 Methods of data collection
3.3 Methods of data analysis
4 Results This section summarizes the data collected.
5 Discussion This is the interpretation of the results. Answers are offered to the research question(s).
It is also possible to combine these two sections under a so called "Results and discussion" section.
6 Conclusion Summarizes the results and answers the research questions, outlines the broader implications , points to the limitations of the study and future directions.
References Lists the details of the sources used in the text.
Appendices Contains materials to which reference is made in the text but
which would be distracting to present in the body of the text. These may be
document extracts, sample questionnaires, interview protocols, the translation
of these where relevant, sample transcripts of interviews, samples of filled in
The following sections may appear in the Appendices or separately afterwards:
Tables If tables are important but cannot be put in the body of the text,
they appear here. These are usually tables of numerical results.
Figures If figures are important but cannot be put in the body of the text,
they appear here. These are usually graphs or illustrations.
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The layout of punctuation marks:
Punctuation marks follow the word they are used after without a space. The word after the punctuation mark starts after a space.
Quotation marks - which in English are always printed at the top of the line - come before and after the word or phrase they refer to without a space. E.g., "a phrase in quotation marks"
Hyphens connect words with no spaces. E.g., role-play
A dash is used to alert the reader that additional or explanatory information follows. They are used without spaces, but spaces are also allowed. If a keyboard has no key for a dash, two hyphens can be used.
E.g., The two other items--a boardgame and a puzzle--were not very popular.
Use a comma before a conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet) linking two independent clauses:
Canadians watch America closely, but most Americans know little about Canada.
Use a comma after an introductory clause, phrase or word:
To prepare for the exam, Jan attended an evening school after work.
Use a comma after a conjunctive adverb at the beginning of a sentence or clause:
Labor unions no longer denounce the use of robots in manufacturing. Nevertheless,
some of the problems caused by automation remain unsolved.
Various factors had to be considered. However, a fast decision was vital.
Except After a short introductory phrase or adverb: Today students protest
individually rather than in concert.
Use a comma or a set of commas to set off non-restrictive elements: words, phrases, and clauses that are not essential to the meaning of the sentences in which they appear:
Dorothy Straight of Washington D.C., who published her first book at the age of
six, was a remarkable child.
The surgeon, her hands moving deftly, probed the wound.
Use commas to separate three or more coordinate items in a series:
The cat awoke, stretched(,) and leaped from the chair.
Research needs to be carefully planned, meticulously carried out, and the writing
up is also important.
Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives modifying the same noun:
A big, old, dilapidated house stood on the corner.
Use a comma when you need one to prevent a misreading of your sentence:
On the left, walls of sheer ice rose over five thousand feet into the clouds.
Do not use a comma before a conjunction that links a pair of words or phrases:
He was genial but shrewd.
I phoned the store and asked to speak to the manager.
Do not use commas to separate adjectives when they are not coordinate (i.e. when they do not modify the same noun.)
His deep blue eyes stared at me.
Do not use a comma before and in a compound phrase with just two items.
The man carried a blue suitcase and a red umbrella.
Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses that are closely related in meaning:
During the summer the resort crowded with tourists; during the winter only sea
gulls perch on the benches or walk the beach.
Use a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb (a word or phrase that shows the relationship btw. the clauses it joins) when it joins two clauses.
The Iron Duke had complete confidence in his soldiers' training and valor; f
furthermore, he considered his battle plan a work of genius.
Use semicolons to emphasize the division between items in a series when one or more of the items include commas:
There were three new delegates at the meeting: Ms. Barbara Smith from Red Bank,
New Jersey; Ms. Beth Waters from Pocmutuck, Massachusetts; and Mr. James
Papson from Freeport, Maine.
Use a colon to introduce a list coming at the end of a sentence:
Passengers may have four beverages: coffee, tea, milk(,) or soda.
Use a colon to introduce an example or an explanation related to something just mentioned:
The animals have a good many of our practical skills: some insects make pretty fair
architects, and beavers know quite a lot about engineering.
Use a colon to introduce a quotation (usually more than one line) in an essay:
In the opening sentence of his novel, Sabatini says of his hero: 'He was born
with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad.'
The use of quotation marks:
Use double quotation marks for
- introducing a word or phrase that is not used in its original meaning the first
time you use it in the paper
- setting off the title of an article, chapter or book when the title is mentioned in
- reproducing in-text quotations
Use single quotation marks for quotations within quotations.
Do not use quotation marks
- to introduce technical terms, instead italicize the term
- to cite a term as a linguistic example, instead italicize the term
- to hedge, i.e. to attenuate the meaning of the word.
Dictionaries should be used for checking the spelling of compound words and phrases.
As a general rule, hyphens should be used with:
- a compound with a participle when it precedes the term it modifies. (e.g., role-
playing technique, anxiety-arousing condition)
- a phrase used as an adjective when it precedes the term it modifies. (e.g., trial-by-
trial analysis, to-be-recalled items)
- an adjective-and-noun compound when it precedes the term it modifies. (e.g.,
middle-class families, low-frequency words)
- a compound with a number as the first element when it precedes the term it
modifies. (e.g., 1st-grade students, six-trial problem)
Text in brackets:
Avoid inserting text in brackets to clarify or illustrate meaning. Incorporate the information in the text itself.
Abbreviations and acronyms:
The overuse of acronyms makes a text difficult to read. Make sure that abbreviations -even common acronyms- are spelt out when they are first used in a text. In this case the full form appears first, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. If you have a large number of acronyms that are used throughout the text, you might want to consider including an explanation of acronyms at the beginning of the paper.
Use of periods with abbreviations:
Use periods with:
- initials of names (J.R. Smith)
- abbreviation for United States when used as an adjective (U.S. navy)
- identity concealing labels for study participants (F.I.M.)
- Latin abbreviations (a.m., cf., i.e., vs.)
- reference abbreviations (Vol. 1, 2nd ed., p.6.)
Do not use periods with
- abbreviations of state names (NY, Washington DC) in reference lists
- capital letter abbreviations (APA, IQ)
- measurement abbreviations (kg, lb, min, ft)
The general rule is to use figures to express numbers 10 and above and words to express numbers below 10. However, exceptions exist:
Use figures to express numbers below 10 if
- they are grouped for comparison with other numbers in the same paragraph (e.g., 25
words...8 verbs, 12 nouns and 5 adjectives)
- they are interpretations of numbers appearing in a table or figure (e.g., line 5 in Figure
- they precede a unit of measurement (e.g., a 5-mg dose, 2 litres of milk )
- they represent statistical or mathematical functions, quantities, ratios, percentages,
etc.(e.g., multiplied by 5, 3% of the population...)
- they represent time (e.g., March 3, 2005 , 12:30 a.m., 2 weeks ago)
- they represent participants in an experiment, scores and points on a scale, exact sums
of money (e.g., 9 rats, $8, the highest score was 4)
- they represent a specific place in a book article, etc. (e.g., Table 3, Chapter 7)
Use words to express numbers if
- they stand at the beginning of a sentence (e.g., Forty-eight percent of the sample
showed an increase, while 2 % showed no change.)
- they are common fractions (e.g., one fifth of the class)
- they are set phrases (e.g., The Fourth of July, the Ten Commandments, )
Figures and words are combined in the case of
- rounded large numbers starting with millions (e.g., 3 million people, a budget of 2.5
- back-to-back modifiers (e.g., 2 two-way interactions, twenty 6-year-olds, the first 10
Roman numerals: Only use roman numerals if they are part of an established terminology, otherwise use Arabic numerals. (e.g., Type II errors)
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The APA format documents a paper's sources by both citing them in the text and describing them bibliographically in the paper's References list.
Reference Citations in Text: the Author-date Method
1. Integral and non-integral citation (Swales, 1990):
2. One work by one author:
3. One work by multiple authors:
Three or more authors:
4. Works with no author:
5. Authors with the same surname:
6. Two or more works published in the same year and in-press works:
7. Direct quotation: cite word by word, use quotation marks, indicate exact location
8. Citing works discussed in a secondary source: name the original work, give a citation for the secondary source (in the References list only the secondary source appears)
9. Long quotations (usually those of 40 words or more): indent them 5 spaces from the left margin, use 1.5 or single spacing, do not use quotation marks, put source after period.
10. Personal communication (including letters, memos, electronic communication, telephone conversations): because they do not provide recoverable data, they are not included in the reference list!
Beginner researchers typically overuse direct quotations.
Only use direct quotation if
In all other cases summarise the author's ideas in your own words and indicate your source very clearly by including the author's name and the publication date in parentheses.
Plagiarism is using another person's language or ideas without acknowledgement. This also applies to unpublished materials (e.g., student theses, lectures, lecture handouts, internet pages). When quoting from such materials, the sources must be documented explicitly. Intentional or not, all plagiarism is theft; therefore, it will result in the immediate rejection of any kind of academic writing.
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References should be placed at the end of the paper, in the References section, listing each source cited in the text alphabetically by the author's name (or by a work's title when no author is given). For details, see the examples below. Please note the use of punctuation marks, capital and small case letters in each of the examples. All the works or authors listed in the Reference section must be referred to in the text.
With multiple works by the same author, arrange the items in the order of their publication. If the year of publication happens to be the same, use small letters (a, b, c, ...) to distinguish between the works. If the References contain a work written by a particular author and another work co-authored by the same author, the single-author’s work should come first regardless of the publication dates.
Purdue Online Writing Lab: Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications) http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/
Eid, M., & Langeheine, R. (1999). The measurement of consistency and occasion specificity with latent class models: A new model and its application to the measurement affect. Psychological Methods, 4, 100-116. Retrieved November 19, 2000 from PsycARTICLES database.
Reference to Internet articles based on print source
VandenBos, G., Knapp, S., & Doe, J. (2001). Role of reference elements in the selection of resources by psychology undergraduates [Electronic version]. Journal of Bibliographic Research, 5, 117-123.
Reference to an article in an Internet-only journal
Fredrickson, B. L. (2000, March 7). Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention & Treatment, 3, Article 0001a. Retrieved November 20, 2000 from http://journals.apa.org/prevention/volume3/pre0030001a.html
Reference to document available on university program or department Web site
Chou, L., McClintock, R., Moretti, F., & Nix, D. H. (1993). Technology and education: New wine in new bottles: Choosing parts and imagining educational features. Retrieved August 24, 2000 from Columbia University, Institute for Learning Technologies Web site: http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/papers/newwinel.html
Reference to computer program
Miller, M. E. (1993). The Interactive Tester (Version 4.0) [Computer software]. Westminster, CA: Psytek Services.
Reference to stand-alone document, no author identified, no date
GVU’s 8th WWW user survey. (n.d.). Retrieved August 8, 2000 from
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