Category Archives: Academic Writing

Big Changes to Reference List

If you do not see the podcast player, click here to listen.

APA Style 7th edition introduced some big changes to the references list that you will want to keep straight. Let’s start with the nomenclature. The list of references at the end of an APA formatted paper has long been referred to as the “references page” as a simple Google search will demonstrate, but the omission of this term in the APA manual makes it clear that “reference list” is the preferred term. In addition, APA no longer uses the term reference citations or full citations to refer to the bibliographic information about the sources that appear on the references list. That content is now called reference entries or references or even reference list entries. The term “citations” is now exclusively used to refer only to in-text citations. (For additional information, check out last week’s blogcast titled “New APA Lingo.”)

In terms of the basic formatting on the reference list, the one difference is the word “References” is not only centered at the top of the page, but it is also now bolded. I have to wonder to what extent this change is a result of so many students bolding the word “References” in the 6th edition even though such formatting was not correct until now in the 7th edition.

One welcome change on the reference list is the ability to tame the long and winding URLs via a URL shortener. Yes, gone are the days of unsightly chunks of white space and alphanumeric strings of characters that could take three or more full lines on the page. A URL shortener enables the writer to tame those URLs and present them neatly on the page. 

And for those sources with a long and winding DOI, APA Style 7th edition allows one to shorten the length of those links as well but stipulates that one must use the official ShortDOI service provided by the International DOI Foundation at

In addition, DOIs should now be presented as weblinks and APA encourages writers to standardize the look of DOIs by making sure all begin with “” followed by the alphanumeric character string. 

Students often ask what color font a hypertext link should be on the reference list and whether or not it should be underlined. Well, APA has an answer. First, the hypertext links should be live and function if the paper will be read online. In terms of the color and underlining of the link, APA says that it’s fine for the link to be the default color for hypertext links of the word processing software being used, which is usually blue, and it’s fine for the hypertext link to be underlined. APA also says that it’s fine to use plain text for the hypertext link and if that’s the case, the link should not be underlined. 

Another notable change to the reference list includes the elimination of the phrasing “Retrieved from” before a URL or DOI. APA points out such phrasing is no longer necessary because it’s understood that a link should take one directly to content for retrieval. 

APA Style has also eliminated the need to include the place of publication for a book that appears on the reference list because such information could easily be procured online. In many ways, what APA Style has tried to do in the seventh edition is simplify and make easier the requirements for documenting sources, which is why such changes as eliminating the place of publication for a book and the ability to use a URL shortener for references is now the standard. 

Having said that I will leave you with a doozy of a change: When listing authors on the list of references, APA Style now allows the inclusion of up to twenty authors. That’s right: If you have a source with twenty listed authors, then you will need to include each in the order in which they are listed in the source. What if there are more than twenty sources? List the first nineteen authors, include ellipsis marks followed by the last listed author.

Until next week–

Kurtis Clements

Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

New APA Lingo

If you do not see the podcast player, click here to listen.

Shakespeare, loosely paraphrased, once wrote that a rose by any other name is still a rose, and that idea, by extension, now applies to APA Style as familiar terms now have new names. 

In the past, the term “citation” was used to refer to information about sources within a paper and at the end. To differentiate where the citations appeared in a paper, the terms “in-text citation” and “reference citation” and sometimes “full citation” were used. Now, however, the term “citation” refers only to those citations found within the body of the paper. The terms “reference citation” and “full citation” do not even exist in the 7th edition of APA Style. So if someone says, “Where’s the citation?,” the question can only refer to in-text citations. 

So what is all the bibliographic information that appears on the “references page” called? Well, first, the term “references page” is no longer being used in APA Style. That page is now called “references” or “references list” or even “list of references.” Now this is not to say that the page with the references could not be called “references page” given that it is a separate page with the list of references, but it is to say that APA is no longer using that nomenclature. 

Another language change concerns how to talk about in-text citations. 

In the previous edition of APA, citations within the body of the paper were referred to as “citations” or “in-text citations” and sometimes “parenthetical citations,” but all of the terms meant essentially the same thing–information about a source that followed APA’s author-date citation format within the body of a paper. Those same terms still apply in the 7th edition, but APA has taken steps to be more intentional in terms of the types of citations. 

APA Style 7th edition more clearly establishes two types of in-text citations: parenthetical and narrative. With the author-date citation system, sometimes both the author and date appear in parenthesis separated by a comma–thus, a parenthetical citation–and sometimes only the date appears in parenthesis, and the author’s name is used in the sentence as part of the narrative–hence narrative citation. Narrative citations existed in the previous edition of APA, but that term was not actually put into use. Now APA Style more intentionally uses the term. 

A sentence with a narrative citation, for example, would include some kind of signal phrase, the date of publication in parentheses, and the rest of the sentence like this: Clements (2020) (in parentheses) explained the difference between a parenthetical in-text citation and narrative citation. 

One final  language change concerns APA’s recognition of the singular “they,” which was the focus of an earlier entry (and if you missed that blogcast, you can view and listen to that content here). 

Grammatically speaking, the pronoun “they” has long been a plural pronoun in that “they” refers to more than one person. Grammar requires agreement between a pronoun and the antecedent (what the pronoun refers to), so a sentence like “Each grammar curmudgeon rolled their eyes at the thought of a singular ‘they’” would not be grammatically correct because “their” is plural and refers to “curmudgeon,” which is singular. Well, the singular “they” resolves this agreement issue, and thus “Each grammar curmudgeon rolled their eyes at the thought of a singular ‘they’” is now grammatically correct given “they” exists in both a singular and plural form. 

Singular “they” also resolves the awkward “he or she” and “his or her” constructs because with singular “they” sentences like “Each student realized that he or she should do all he or she could to write well” would not be needed since singular they could be used instead of “he or she.”

The primary impetus, however, for this language change has to do with APA Style’s strong belief in using bias-free language in writing. To this end, the singular “they” is a pronoun of inclusivity in that it is a nonbinary singular pronoun for those individuals who do not identify with either he or she. 

Until next week–

Kurtis Clements

First Impressions

First impressions are, after all, first impressions, so setting up your APA formatted title page and header correctly will provide the kind of first impression you want readers to have of your paper and of you.

And it’s the “and of you” part that’s worth a little discussion. When one writes, the writing to include the “look” of the paper is a reflection of the writer just like in a business context, the writing an employee produces reflects on the business or organization. A sloppy-looking title page sends a message whether the writer likes it or not, and that message does not bode well for credibility, so tuck in your shirt and wash your face if you want a favorable first impression. 

To learn the step-by-step process of setting up the title page and header based on the 7th edition of APA Style, view this six-minute video presented by Learning and Development Specialist, Chrissine Cairns. 

Until next week–

Kurtis Clements

If you do not see the video, click here to view.

New Video Tutorial: APA 7th Demystified!

Bewildered by APA? Head spinning just thinking about the transition to the 7th edition of the Publication Manual? Fear not! The Writing Center at Purdue Global has rolled out its updated video aptly titled “APA Demystified in Five Minutes.”

That’s right–in five minutes! Learn about the basic formatting of the header and title page for a student paper, the proper set-up of in-text citations, the differences between parenthetical and narrative citations, and the layout and purpose of the list of references.

If you need a brief orientation to or a general overview of the 7th edition of APA Style, this video is for you.

Until next week,

Kurtis Clements

If you do not see the video, please click here to view.

The Singular “They”

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The singular they?!

Yes, the singular “they,” as in Everyone learns “their” ABCs or What one doesn’t know can’t hurt “them.”

While the singular “they” has been a topic of much discussion lately, the Oxford English Dictionary traces its use back to 1375 where singular “they” appeared in a poem titled “The Romance of William and the Werewolf.” In fact, the singular “they” is not new at all and has been used for some six hundred-plus years as a gender-neutral pronoun when the gender of a pronoun’s antecedent (what the pronoun refers to) is not clear, known, or important.

What is new, however, is the use of “they” as a non-binary pronoun–that is, a singular pronoun for those who do not identify with either he or she.

Grammar curmudgeons and language snobs rail at such use because “they” is a plural pronoun and can’t possibly refer to a singular word.

Yet such style guides and publications as The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the list goes on, all recognize this new use of and meaning for “they.” The American Dialect Society, a long-standing group of linguists, scholars, grammarians, etymologists, editors, and others, not only voted singular “they” the word of the year in 2015 (as did Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary in 2019), the American Dialect Society also voted singular “they” the word of the decade for 2010 – 2019.

While some are not comfortable with or simply dislike the use of singular “they,” one needs to realize that language is a reflection of culture, and culture, we can only hope, evolves. In Puritan New England in the 15th century flirting was considered a crime. Flirting! If you had too much to drink and wandered about in public, your punishment was to march around town with a sign that read “Drunkard.” And let’s not forget poor Hester Prynne or the

“witches” in Salem. Much as those crimes and punishments changed over time, so, too, has the meaning of “they.”

In fact, language changes all the time. New words are added. Old words fall out of favor. Words take on new meanings or have new shades of meaning. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 650 new words were added in 2019 alone, bringing the total of words in the English language to around 470,000 words. That’s a ginormous number of words!

At one time the word baseball was written as two separate words, base ball, but over time as the word (and indeed, the sport) caught on, it evolved to “base” and “ball” being hyphenated and then eventually, as use continued and as the sport continued to gain in popularity, “base-ball” became “baseball” to reflect its ongoing presence in American culture. The etymological evolution of the word parallels the way in which the word became a part of American culture. The nonbinary use of the singular ‘they” is essentially following the same trajectory as the word baseball in terms of its general evolution and use in American English. 

So what’s all the hooey?

Perhaps tradition. Perhaps stubbornness. Perhaps just a general resistance to change. One long-standing work-around to the singular “they” conundrum had been the use of a singular masculine pronoun. For many years, such bristle-worthy sentences as “Everybody is entitled to his opinion” or “I do not know who the doctor is, but I am sure he is great” were not only commonplace but they were also correct. In the1960s, such usage of masculine pronouns exclusively began to lose favor because they excluded women and the singular gender-neutral pronoun constructs “he or she” and “his or her” saw the light of day. While gender neutrality is important and using sexist language in one’s writing is not acceptable or correct by today’s standards, the problem with using “he or she” came down to awkwardness.

Listen to this sentence: “Everybody tries to do his or her best but success is determined by how much motivation he or she has and the sacrifices he or she is willing to make in order to reach his or her goal.” Sure, the sentence is an extreme example, but the awkwardness is real, and often several sentences running need to use a “he/she” construct, so the awkwardness continues.

“They” as a singular nonbinary word makes perfect sense for a couple of reasons. First, its initial use was not only an effort to improve the ambiguity of a reference, but it was also an effort at gender-neutral language in the sense that using “they” in the singular could be both masculine and feminine. Second, just as the use of “he/she” constructs was an effort at language inclusivity, so, too, is the nonbinary singular “they” as more and more people do not identify with the pronoun “he” or “she.” Bias-free language is needed to be inclusive of all people regardless of what language purists or traditionalists or stuck-in-the past grammarians advocate is the correct way to use language. While the “rule” may require pronoun-antecedent agreement, if “they” is both singular and plural, then it would agree with a singular antecedent.

To be fair, the singular nonbinary use of “they” is gaining wider acceptance even among staunch grammarians. In addition, the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association–that’s right, APA–has now officially endorsed the use of singular “they,” writing on its blog the pronoun is “inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender.”

Thus, we have grammatically correct sentences such as “When someone feels alienated by language that is not inclusive, they feel left out.”

Many people will not even be aware of the difference in usage as “they” in the plural has long been used to refer to singular indefinite pronouns such as “each,” everyone,” “everybody,” and “someone” much to the chagrin of English teachers everywhere. However, the times they are a-changing, and some may even find it ironic that a sentence like “Each person had to make their own decision” that was once grammatically incorrect when they were in school is now grammatically correct.

Some people–even those who recognize the importance of inclusivity in language use–may find using the singular “they” difficult, but the English language does not have a singular pronoun other than “it” that lacks gender identification, and writing a sentence like “The linguist said that it thought any change in language usage would certainly bring about new language problems” just sounds wrong.

While no singular gender-free pronoun other than “it” exists in English, some have used such alternatives as “zir,” “ze,” “hir”–h, i, r–and others, but no particular pronoun substitute has caught on. Other countries without gender-neutral singular pronouns have faced the same dilemma, but so far only Sweden seemed to have solved the problem by officially adding the singular gender-neutral pronoun “hen” to its language.

One way writers resolve this issue is by using the pronoun of choice of an individual when possible. APA says in the 7th edition to “always use a person’s self-identified pronoun, including when a person uses the singular “they” as their pronoun.” Of course it’s not always possible to know an individual’s choice, and a writer should not make assumptions about what someone’s choice might be, so in this regard, the best approach is to either reword the sentence entirely to eliminate any pronoun reference or follow the rule for usage and use the singular “they.”

Until next week–

Kurtis Clements

One Space, Two Spaces

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One mind-blowing change APA made in the 7th edition is the switch to using one space after a period rather than two. Why is this mind-blowing? After all, most publication styles such as MLA, Chicago, and AP specify that one space is to be used after a period. Even Microsoft has an opinion, as Word will flag two spaces after a period as an error. 

The reason the change from two spaces to one space is mind-blowing–and perhaps mind-numbing– is that the 5th edition of APA specified that one space be used after a period, but when the 6th edition came out in 2009, APA changed the requirement to two spaces. And now the 7th edition has returned to the one-space-after-a-period requirement. 

As a result of this change, folks in the Writing Center have been busy updating all of our resources from two spaces after a period to one space. I’m serious. The task would be far more tedious than you might think if it weren’t for the word processor’s “Search and Replace” function. 

It’s worth noting that when APA shifted to two spaces after a period in 2009, an appreciable level of hullabaloo followed. Everyone had an opinion. Those who learned to type on an actual typewriter felt vindicated. Typesetters were flummoxed. A 2018 Skidmore College research study found that two spaces after a period was actually beneficial to readers in that the two spaces allowed readers to process text faster. Of course that same study ended with “while period spacing does influence our processing of text, we should probably be arguing passionately about things that are more important.”

What’s confounding about the whole one-space-two-spaces issue, however, is the way in which APA discusses the change in the new publication manual. APA writes that it recommends (emphasis on recommends) the use of one space after periods, but if an instructor or publisher has other requirements such as using two spaces after a period, to follow those guidelines. There. That clears it up. Nothing fuzzy about the spacing requirement at all. To quote my favorite tragic literary hero, “Good grief!”

Until next week–

Kurtis Clements

Celebrating Writing

Amy Sexton, MSEd, Writing Tutor

Fall means crisp, cooler weather, stunning autumn shows of crimson, rust, and golden leaves, bountiful garden harvests, and, on Friday, October 20, a celebration of writing!


October 20 is designated as the National Day on Writing. The National Day on Writing is sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). NCTE recognizes that writing is a central tenet of literacy and founded the National Day on Writing to draw more attention to and celebrate writing across the nation. This fall, the Writing Center invites students, faculty, and staff to join us in celebrating the National Day on Writing.

On October 20, from 9 am to 5 pm ET, students, faculty, and staff can connect with a writing tutor to talk about writing and its importance in our lives.  Click here to chat with a writing tutor about why writing is important to you.  We also invite you to share your comments here.  Why do you write?  What role does writing play in your life?  What does writing allow you to accomplish daily?  Please share your thoughts, and be sure to include the hashtag #WhyIWrite. You can also learn more about the National Day on Writing by visiting the official web site here.  Happy National Day on Writing!


I Really Want to Present at a Conference: The Keys to a Successful Submission Process: Part One

Steven V. Cates, DBA SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Purdue University Global, School of Business and IT

You may be asking yourself, “Why is making a presentation of my research at a conference important? What is the big deal?” Here are a few good reasons:

  1. It allows you to contribute to and learn about the most recent advances in YOUR field.
  2. You become an ADVOCATE for your field of study.
  3. If it is NOT important to conduct research in YOUR field, then why should students major in it?
  4. You learn how to discuss your findings with other academic colleagues.
  5. You get the opportunity to meet and network with other researchers in the same field.
  6. This allows you to build your own Research Brand.

So what is a Research Brand? As academics, we are not only required to provide university and community service through serving on committees and boards, but we are called upon to transfer learning through teaching our students about the subjects in our specific disciplines.  How are you going to provide that learning opportunity unless you are a Subject Matter Expert in your teaching field? How do you become a Subject Matter Expert? In some cases, your past and current professional experiences might make you an expert. As an academic, your expertise also comes from the research you are constantly performing on chosen topics in your field. This allows you to then share your research findings with your students and your colleagues.


You may ask, “How do I even get started?” One way is to read the journals that are published in your field. You may also have trade journals, other magazines, or internet sites that provide the “Hot Topics” that are being discussed in your discipline. This will give you an idea about what is being written and read about in any teaching field.

If you belong to a professional association, this is also a great place to hear new and exciting discussions on topics that are unexplored. You might even want to consider attending a conference and listening to presenters discuss the trending topics that have people talking. Certainly, networking with other academics is a great way to find out what are the major issues being faced and what research, if any, is being done on a given topic.

If you have enjoyed reading about ways to begin submitting to conferences, please keep an eye out for Part Two next month.  This will be followed by the rest of the I Really Want to Present at a Conference series.



Tools for Preventing Plagiarism

By Amy Sexton, Purdue University Global Center Tutor

One way that the Writing Center supports university students is by presenting live workshops each month on the important topic of plagiarism, and we strive to explore different perspectives on plagiarism with each offering.  Last month, I presented one of our most popular titles, Preventing Accidental Plagiarism.  This presentation offers students many helpful tools they can use throughout the writing process to prevent plagiarism in their assignments.

We begin the workshop with a look at Purdue University Global’s  official plagiarism definition, as well as some examples of plagiarism.  One example that seems to surprise some students is self-plagiarism, as many of them do not realize that one form of plagiarism is reusing a previously submitted paper for a new course.  After talking about what plagiarism is and what it may look like, we then turn our attention to strategies to prevent plagiarism.

Preventing plagiarism begins with careful research.  Students must take detailed notes during their research, including recording all bibliographic information needed to cite and reference their sources and properly noting any information that they record verbatim by enclosing it in quotation marks.  At this point in the workshop, I usually relate stories of working with students who waste precious time tracking down necessary bibliographical information because they did not record it during the research process or who unintentionally plagiarize because they forget that they recorded source material word for word in their notes and cite it as a paraphrase in their papers.  Finally, we know that students sometimes plagiarize because they have not thought through the topic enough to   form their own opinions and ideas, so we encourage students to use the research process to think critically about the topic, analyze what they are reading, and ask probing questions.

Next, we look at what effective paraphrases look like.  A common misconception among students is that paraphrasing means to take an original sentence and change it by finding synonyms to replace some of the words.  One effective way to unravel this misconception is to suggest to students that paraphrasing does not mean to “put something into your own words” but instead means to extract the meaning from the original text.  While this may not seem like a huge distinction, this change in defining paraphrasing does seem to make a difference in helping students understand the goal of paraphrasing.

In addition, students sometimes unintentionally commit plagiarism when they paraphrase an entire paragraph or more of source material.  This often occurs when beginning students are learning about a new or unfamiliar topic.  Many times, students erroneously think that adding a citation at the end of a paraphrased paragraph is sufficient.  This workshop offers a good opportunity to talk about this misconception with students and to introduce the concept of using both signal phrases and parenthetical citations to cite large passages of paraphrased material properly.

In the last part of this workshop, we look at what proper citation looks like including in the text and on the references list.  Specifically, we look at the differences between in-text citations for quotations and paraphrases and talk about why paraphrasing is often preferred over quotation.  Finally, we review a sure-fire strategy that all students can use to detect issues with plagiarism in their writing: matching in-text citations and references.  Sometimes, students may include a reference for a source they used on the references page but forget to include an in-text citation to show where they used the source material in their writing.  Ensuring that each in-text citation has a matching reference and vice versa can help students see where additional citation may be needed or discover that they overlooked including a reference on the references page.

By reviewing definitions and examples of plagiarism, careful research, effective paraphrasing, proper attribution of  all borrowed source material, and corresponding citations and references, students attending this workshop leave with a tool box full of useful strategies that they can use to proactively prevent plagiarism in their writing.


Resource Spotlight: 3 NEW Effective Writing Podcasts

By Chrissine Rios, MA, Purdue University Global Writing Center, Tutor

Until this week, Purdue University Global (Purdue Global) Composition students have had exclusive access to three new Effective Writing Podcasts from podcaster Kurtis Clements who offers some of the best writing advice around for students who need a deeper understanding of important concepts and processes quickly.   Kurtis was a writing tutor in the Purdue Global Writing Center when he began producing the extremely popular Effective Writing Podcast Series in 2011.  However, when he became the Assistant Chair of Composition at the start of 2012, the series seemed concluded at episode 36.  Happily, this is not so!

Kurtis produced three podcasts specifically for Composition that he recently offered to the Writing Center for publication with the original series, and they are excellent!  (Thank you, Kurtis!)

 APA Reference Page Checklist

Argument and the Toulmin Model of Argument

Using Signal Phrases and Interacting with Texts