Instructions for Authors


Preparing Manuscripts for Publication  

in Psychology Journals:  

A Guide for New Authors  

American Psychological Association  

Washington, DC 

Copyright © 2010 by the American Psychological Association. All rights reserved.  Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this  publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a  database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.  

A previous version of this paper was authored by Robert C. Calfee and Richard R.  Valencia. The paper was revised extensively to reflect guidelines contained in the sixth  edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 

Published by  

American Psychological Association  

750 First Street, NE  

Washington, DC 20002-4242 

Manuscript Preparation Guide 


This guide provides an overview of the process of preparing and submitting a scholarly  manuscript for publication in a psychology journal. Drawing on the experiences of  authors of scholarly writings, peer reviewers, and journal editors, we seek to demystify  the publication process and to offer advice designed to improve a manuscript’s prospects  of publication. To exemplify the process, we describe specific publication procedures for  journals of the American Psychological Association.  

 As anyone planning to submit a manuscript for publication is well aware, the  process of conceptualizing testable research questions, reviewing the literature,  conducting experiments, performing analyses, interpreting results, and, finally, writing a  paper that effectively describes the study and communicates the findings involves large  investments of time and energy. When one also considers the pressure to publish in  academic settings; the high rejection rates of prestigious journals, APA journals being  among these; and the waiting period for a publication decision, the stress that can  accompany the process becomes readily understandable.  

 Yet, the rewards of discovery and contribution to the literature of psychological  science are substantial. In the research and writing process, scholars are likely to meet  exciting challenges in developing their intellectual and creative potential. Through  publication, authors have a unique opportunity to build on previous discoveries and add  to the lore of science.  

We therefore encourage new authors to take heart, recognizing that, like any  worthwhile endeavor, developing skills in conducting research and writing scholarly  manuscripts is a learning process. Those embarking on this journey need not feel alone  but rather are encouraged to seek mentors and colleagues to help guide them in the genre  of psychological science. It is in this spirit that the current guide was written.   We cover three areas of journal publication. First, we present an overview of the  process, focusing on manuscript submission and peer review, affording readers a behind the-scenes view of the ways in which a new manuscript might be approached by an editor  or a reviewer. This is followed by a more detailed discussion of some characteristics of a  strong manuscript, which are drawn alongside shortcomings that may detract from a  manuscript’s publication potential. Finally, because a new scholar’s initial manuscript  submission is often developed from the dissertation, we offer some suggestions for  converting a dissertation into a journal article.   

The Journal Publication Process  

In this section, we provide an overview of journal publication from an editorial  perspective. We consider the front end of the process, beginning with submission of a  manuscript for journal publication and proceeding to consideration of the peer review  process.  

Submitting a Manuscript for Publication  

The selection of the journal to which one’s manuscript will be submitted is an important  one. A manuscript of more specific, local interest may be better suited to a more  specialized journal, whereas one with broad interest across subdisciplines may reach a  wider audience in a journal with a more generalist approach, such as Psychological  Bulletin or the American Psychologist. 

A key criterion in publication decisions is the manuscript’s fit for the particular  journal and the readership of that journal. Colleagues and mentors in one’s field are likely  to be well versed in the types of manuscripts published by various journals in the field  and can serve as additional resources in making the selection.  

One may also wish to consider the quality and reputation of the journal. Both the  journal’s impact factor (a measure of how frequently its articles are cited in other  journals) and its rejection rate provide indices of its quality. For APA journals, impact  factors are listed in the current Periodicals Catalog of the Journals Program of the  American Psychological Association (, and rejection rates are published  annually in the archival (August) issue of the American Psychologist. As ethical  guidelines prohibit submission of a manuscript elsewhere while it is under consideration  for a particular journal, timeliness considerations may also guide one’s choice.  

Manuscripts for APA journals are to be submitted according to the “APA Journals  Manuscript Instructions for All Authors” on the APA website as well as the specific  Instructions to Authors for the journal of interest, which are published in the individual  journals and also posted on the APA website. An online manuscript portal, the Journals  Back Office (, facilitates the process of submission, allowing authors to  upload their manuscripts in a few steps through a common online entry point.  

General guidelines for preparing the manuscript for submission are summarized in  the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.; APA, 2010,  pp. 228–231). Authors may also find the document “Checklist for Manuscript  Submission” on the APA website helpful for preparing manuscripts for APA journals.  

On receipt, the journal editor may give the manuscript a preliminary read to  ensure that it generally adheres to APA Style, that the content is within the purview of the  journal, and that the type of article (e.g., empirical study, theoretical review) is  appropriate for the journal. If a manuscript is clearly inappropriate, the editor informs the  author. Otherwise, the author can expect the manuscript to undergo peer review. The  review process can vary in length, but authors can anticipate a response regarding the  publication decision within 2–3 months.  

The Peer Review Process  

Fundamental to progress in science is its nature as shared knowledge and understanding  about the world. In the words of Hengl and Gould (2006), “the core goal of any scientific  work is to make discoveries and explain them” (p. 3). Much of this communication  occurs through the exchange of ideas and findings in scholarly publications. Essential to  this constructive, communicative process is that scientists understand and work within the  social conventions of their respective disciplines (Committee on Science, Engineering,  and Public Policy; National Academy of Sciences; National Academy of Engineering; &  Institute of Medicine, 1995).  

A key convention in the publication of research is the peer review process, in  which the quality and potential contribution of each manuscript is evaluated by one’s  peers in the scientific community. Like other scientific journals, APA journals routinely  utilize a peer review process to guide manuscript selection and publication decisions.  Toward the goal of impartiality, the majority of APA journals follow an established  masked review policy, in which authors’ and reviewers’ identities are concealed from  each other.  

APA journal reviewers are scholars selected by the action editor (typically, the  journal editor or associate editor) to review a manuscript on the basis of their expertise in  particular content areas of their field. To enhance objectivity, two to three peer reviewers  typically are selected to evaluate a manuscript. In addition to technical expertise, criteria  for selection of reviewers may include familiarity with a particular controversy or  attention to a balance of perspectives (APA, 2010, p. 226). Whereas the journal editor  holds final responsibility for a manuscript, the editor usually weights reviewers’ inputs  heavily.  

Authors can expect their manuscripts to be reviewed fairly, in a skilled,  conscientious manner. Reviewers are held to demanding standards: They must (a) present  a clear decision regarding publication, considering the quality of the manuscript, its  scientific contribution, and its appropriateness for the particular journal; (b) support the  recommendation with a detailed, comprehensive analysis of the quality and coherence of  the study’s conceptual basis, methods, results, and interpretations; and (c) offer specific,  constructive suggestions to authors.  

“Quick Read”  

After reviews are in hand but before considering the reviews in detail, the decision editor  (either the editor or associate editor) scans the paper to gain an independent view of the  work. This “quick read” provides a foundation for the more thorough reading that  follows—it by no means determines the final decision. On the other hand, it probably  parallels how authors can expect many reviewers (and readers) to approach their papers.   First, the editor scans the paper from beginning to end for obvious flaws in the  research substance and writing style. If problems show on the surface, a deeper reading is  likely to uncover other matters needing attention. The quick-read process is relatively  simple. In the initial examination of your manuscript, the editor or associate editor will  follow these general guidelines:  

Read the abstract. The editor thinks about the following questions: What is  the sense of the research question, methodology, findings, and interpretations?  Major problems in the abstract often reflect internal flaws. The major goal in  reading the abstract is to understand the research question. Is it clearly  defined, relevant, and supported by the methodology? APA publication policy  emphasizes conclusion-oriented abstracts: What did the research find, and  what do the findings mean?  

Examine the full manuscript. If it is more than 35 typed, double-spaced pages  (including references, tables, and figures), this could pose a problem for some  journals. How long are the introduction and the Discussion section relative to  other sections of the paper?  

Scan the paper’s headings. Are they well organized? Does a clear structure  emerge? If not, the author has not achieved coherence.  

Scan the references. Are they in APA Style? If not, the author is not using  APA publication format.  

Scan the tables and figures. Do they portray the information clearly? Can they  stand alone without captions? Are they well constructed and in APA Style? A  “no” to any of these questions suggests problems in the author’s presentation  of findings. If the text contains a large number of statistics, could they be  more appropriately put into tables or figures?  

Finish the quick read by reading a page or two from each section of the  paper. How often does the red pen jump into the mental fingers? Do problems  result from sloppiness or something deeper? Are there long paragraphs (more  than a page) and sentences (more than three lines)? Does the author  communicate skillfully? Writing problems can signal more serious  


 The quick read leads to an initial impression of the care with which a manuscript  has been prepared. Weaknesses do not necessarily speak to the quality of the research,  but they do reflect barriers to understanding the work and give a sense of the paper’s  quality and suitability for publication. Authors preparing their own papers should ask  themselves questions like those listed above.  

Actions Taken on a Manuscript  

After completing a quick read, the decision editor scrutinizes the manuscript and the  reviews. The following categories constitute the editorial actions that may be taken on a  manuscript:  

Rejection. The flaws that lead to this decision generally center on substantive  or methodological issues. A manuscript is usually rejected because (a) it is  outside the area of coverage of the journal; (b) it contains serious flaws of  

design, methodology, analysis, or interpretation; or (c) it is judged to make  only a limited novel contribution to the field. Below, we further discuss  problems that may increase the probability of rejection.  

Rejection with invitation to revise and resubmit. In some cases, manuscripts  may have publication potential but are not yet ready for final publication. The  study as presented may not merit acceptance as is but may warrant  

consideration after substantive revision (e.g., reorganizing the conceptual  structure, conducting additional experiments, or modifying analyses). The  action editor will give the author an invitation to revise and resubmit for  another round of reviews (usually with the same reviewers). An action editor  cannot guarantee acceptance of a revised manuscript, but authors who respond  flexibly and attend closely to suggested revisions enhance their chances for an  acceptance. Authors are advised to include a detailed cover letter outlining  their responses to the revisions.  

Acceptance. In very few cases, a manuscript may be accepted for publication  on first reading, with only minor revisions required. More typically,  acceptances follow the successful revision of a manuscript previously rejected  with invitation to revise and resubmit. Once a manuscript is accepted, it enters  the production phase of publication. At this point, no further changes can be  made by the author other than those suggested by the copyeditor.  

New scholars who wish to learn more about the editorial and peer review process  as it operates with APA journals are referred to “The Publication Process” (Chapter 8 of  the Publication Manual; APA, 2010; see also Eichorn & VandenBos, 1985).  

Characteristics of a Strong Manuscript  

Before describing the characteristics of a good manuscript, we turn briefly to problems  associated with a poor one. Bartol (1983, cited in Eichorn & VandenBos, 1985) identified  chief problems as the following:  

inadequate review of the literature,  

inappropriate citations,  

unclear introduction,  

ambiguous research questions,  

inadequately described sample,  

insufficient methodology,  

incompletely described measures,  

unclear statistical analysis,  

inappropriate statistical techniques,  

poor conceptualization of discussion,  

discussion that goes beyond the data,  

poor writing style, and  

excessive length.  

Sternberg (1988) gave a list of misconceptions about research manuscripts, which may  help new authors avoid common pitfalls.  

Beyond the more serious shortcomings highlighted above, Kupfersmid and  Wonderly (1994) have drawn attention to the problems of the lack of relevancy and  scientific contribution of a number of articles that are, in fact, published in professional  journals. Clearly, creating a strong empirical or review manuscript that contributes to  scientific knowledge requires thought and planning at each stage of the research and  writing process.  

Below we highlight features of substance and style that pertain to the quality of  the manuscript and have bearing on its evaluation in the editorial review process.  Throughout we refer to relevant sections of the Publication Manual (APA, 2010). The  manual picks up where this guide leaves off, providing authors with a rich source of  information on both substantive concerns and APA Style, which is well established as the  gold standard in editorial style for a wide range of disciplines in addition to psychology.  

Substantive Aspects  

Central to the quality of an empirical research paper or literature review is its substantive  core—that is, the research questions that are posed; the ways in which they are  conceptualized; and the methodological soundness with which they are studied, assessed,  and interpreted. From this perspective, we consider, in turn, various sections of the  manuscript and refer the interested reader to more extensive description of the qualities of  a strong research paper in the Publication Manual (APA, 2010; see also Bem, 2004;  Hengl & Gould, 2006; Kupfersmid & Wonderly, 1994; Sternberg, 1988).  

Title and abstract. The title and the abstract are key elements that inform the  reader of the contents of the manuscript and, as a rule, are the parts of the manuscript that  gain the widest exposure. Haggan (2003) observed a trend toward increasing  informativeness of titles and referred to them as “texts in miniature,” which in this fast paced world of information overload “must add to the reader’s mental representation of  the world” (p. 312). Given the title’s prominence, we encourage authors to exercise  thought and creativity in selecting a title that will capture the reader’s attention and  clearly inform the reader of the contents within.  

Similarly, the abstract is read by far more readers than is the average article. The  abstract serves important purposes in summarizing the hypotheses, design, and findings  of the study and in representing the article in indexing databases. Readers frequently  decide whether to delve further into an article on the basis of the abstract. Thus, a well written abstract that conveys the research questions and findings succinctly can entice  readers to learn more. It is not an understatement to say that “a well-prepared abstract can  be the most important single paragraph in an article” (APA, 2010, p. 26).  

Some journals use structured abstracts, in which participants, methods, results,  and conclusions are set off in separate sections. Regardless of whether these elements are  formally set off, authors should include these aspects of the study and seek to provide the  information accurately and coherently and in a nonevaluative manner.  

Introduction. A strong introduction engages the reader in the problem of interest  and provides a context for the study at hand. In introducing the research concern, the  writer should provide a clear rationale for why the problem deserves new research,  placing the study in the context of current knowledge and prior theoretical and empirical  work on the topic. Responsible scholarship stipulates that the writer properly credit the  work of others. Whereas it is impractical to exhaustively describe all prior research, the  most current and relevant studies should be cited. Swales and Feak (2004) identified four  cornerstones of the introduction in a research paper, advising authors  

to establish current knowledge of the field;  

to summarize previous research, providing the wider context and background  and the importance of the current study;  

to set the stage for the present research, indicating gaps in knowledge and  presenting the research question; and  

to introduce present research, stating its purpose and outlining its design.  

Within this framework, the writer states the hypotheses of the current study and their  correspondence to the research design (APA, 2010, pp. 27–28).  

Method. In both quantitative and qualitative research, the use of appropriate  methods of participant sampling, study design, measures, and statistical analysis critically  influences the study’s methodological soundness. Calfee and Valencia (2007) suggested  that good methodology can be described by the two “Cs”—clean and clear.  

The soundness of the study hinges on clean methodology, that is, use of  appropriate, valid, and unflawed methods of sampling and use of instruments,  procedures, and analysis. In a clean study, Calfee and Valencia (2007) noted that the  researcher ensures that  

sample variables are free of confounding influences (e.g., education is  controlled for),  

recruitment and sampling techniques are appropriate,  

measures are reliable and valid for assessing the variables of interest, and  the statistical procedures are appropriate and sufficiently sophisticated to  examine the data and are carried out appropriately.  

 The ideal Method section is written in a clear manner, such that another  researcher could duplicate the study. Toward this end, the writer should provide a  thorough description of methods of recruitment, participant characteristics, measures and  apparatus, and procedures. Recruitment methods and effects of attrition should be  articulated. The writer should take care to thoroughly describe the sample with regard to  demographic characteristics, including notation of any characteristics that may have  bearing on the results (e.g., socioeconomic status). This information assists the reader in  understanding the characterization of the current sample and the degree to which results  may be generalizable. Measures should be appropriately referenced, including notation of  their reliability and validity, and any adaptations to their customary use should be noted.  In a clear study, the author explicates the research design and plan for analysis, noting  whether conditions were manipulated or naturalistic, whether groups were randomly  assigned, and whether the design explored variables within or between participants  (APA, 2010).  

 Results and discussion. The Results section should include a summary of the  collected data and analyses, which follows from the analytic plan. All results should be  described, including unexpected findings. Authors should include both descriptive  statistics and tests of significance. The Publication Manual provides information on tests  of significance, including null hypothesis testing, effect sizes, confidence intervals,  inferential statistics, and supplementary analyses.  

 In the Discussion section, the writer evaluates and interprets the findings. This  section should begin with a statement of support or nonsupport for the original  hypotheses in light of the findings. If the hypotheses were not supported, the author  considers post hoc explanations. In interpreting the results, authors consider sources of  bias and other threats to internal validity, imprecision of measures, overall number of  tests or overlap among tests, effect sizes, and other weaknesses of the study (APA, 2010,  p. 35).  

Limitations and a discussion of the importance of the findings should conclude  the discussion. Providing a link to future research, the author may offer recommendations  for further study. More specific recommendations are more useful. As Skelton (1994)  observed, researchers too often end their papers with a recommendation that is “too  imprecise to be operationalized, or too grand to be implemented by a decision at much  lower than a ministerial level” (p. 459).  

Tables and figures. Tables and figures are particularly valuable for conveying  large amounts of information and for showing relationships among data. The expanding  development of advanced tools for graphic display provides authors with greater  flexibility and capability for illustrating their results. Such tools can convey information  in visually engaging ways that facilitate the reader’s understanding of comparisons and  evaluations of change over time. Authors should avoid duplicate reporting of data but  instead should decide on the most comprehensible ways of presenting the information,  whether it is through text or through tabular or graphic form.  

Good tables and figures should be structured according to APA Style and be clear  and self-explanatory so that, with their captions, they can stand apart from the text. In  addition to Chapter 5 of the Publication Manual on displaying results, the interested  writer may wish to consult the APA publication, Displaying Your Findings (Nicol &  Pexman, 2010), as well as the article on this topic published in the American Psychologist (Smith, Best, Stubbs, Archibald, & Roberson-Nay, 2002).  

Ethical Considerations  

In planning for and conducting a study, researchers should consult the “Ethical Principles  of Psychologists and Code of Conduct” (APA, 2002) as well as the ethical guidelines of  the institution where the research was conducted. The APA Ethics Code requires that  researchers ensure approval by relevant institutional review boards and obtain informed  consent from all participants. Fulfillment of these requirements should be noted in the  Method section. Researchers should take care to exercise proper conduct in administering  measures and carrying out experiments with participants. When applicable, participants  should be thoroughly debriefed, and such procedures should be indicated in the  manuscript.  


Style in scholarly manuscripts can refer to various aspects of the writing technique. Here,  we highlight editorial style and writing style. Authors preparing a manuscript for  submission will want to attend closely to APA editorial style, the mechanics of  convention laid out in the Publication Manual—the decisive resource for capitalization,  italics, abbreviations, heading structure, and so forth. The Publication Manual also  includes guidance on avoiding bias in language, which is particularly important in  demonstrating sensitivity to such concerns as participants’ mental illness and cultural  background.  

 A strong manuscript will demonstrate the author’s command of writing style in  the academic genre of a research article. Tardy and Swales (2008) characterized writing  genres in the following way:  

Written texts are known to have culturally preferred shapes that structure their  overall organization and influence their internal patterning. These shaping forces, at both general and local levels, are neither incidental nor accidental; rather, they  exist to provide orientations for both readers and writers. (p. 565)  

Learning the language of the genre will contribute to the production of a  technically sound, well-written manuscript. In the case of an empirical research article,  perhaps the most apparent feature is its standard structure, which follows some variation  on the format of Introduction–Method–Results–Discussion. Beyond this organizational  frame, however, there are a number of major and more subtle features that characterize  the empirical research article.  

 A good research article hinges on its coherence and organization. These aspects of  the article are influenced by the ways in which the study evolves from the data. Whereas  a typical psychology research article will follow a standard framework of ordered  sections, as noted above, a coherent article is not usually written in the order of these  sections but instead develops from the data analyses. As expressed by Bem (2004) in his  chapter on the empirical research article,  

There are two possible articles you can write: (a) the article you planned to write  when you designed your study or (b) the article that makes the most sense now  that you have seen the results. They are rarely the same, and the correct answer is  (b). (p. 186)  

Although the research paper should be guided outward from the hypotheses and  resulting data, the paper should be guided by ideas and one’s point of view. As stated by  Sternberg (1988), “Facts are presented in service of ideas: to help elucidate, support, or  refute these ideas. They provide a test against which the validity of ideas can be  measured” (p. 4). Along these lines, an organizing principle of strong research papers is  to convey central features first, followed by more peripheral or less important aspects  (Bem, 2004).  

Whereas selectivity in presentation is important, it is crucial to present facts  objectively, both those that refute and those that support one’s position. “Scientists  demand that scientific reporting be scrupulously honest. Without such honesty, scientific  communication would collapse” (Sternberg, 1988, p. 5).  

Additional suggestions for writing accurate, clear, and concise research articles  are provided in Chapter 3 of the Publication Manual, which discusses continuity and  transitions, tone, precision, word choice, and grammatical principles. Another source of  useful information is the APA Style website (  

Converting One’s Dissertation Into a Journal Article  

Beginning scholars will often choose to develop a journal article from a doctoral  dissertation (or master’s thesis) as an initial submission for publication. In this section,  we first provide some considerations regarding the status of the dissertation with regard  to its potential for publication. We then offer suggestions for converting the dissertation  into a publishable manuscript. Often this involves reducing a document of over 100 pages  to perhaps one third its original length. In particular, we highlight the following features  most likely to distinguish the two types of documents: brevity, extent of literature review,  data analyses, writing style, and interpretation of results.  

Deciding to Submit the Manuscript  

First, the writer will want to consider whether the study merits publication in a journal  article—specifically whether the findings tell a compelling story or answer important  questions and whether the research makes a novel contribution to the literature. If the  

study is deemed worthy of publication, consideration should be given to such issues as  whether all of the original research questions should be included in the present study and  whether the results warrant additional experiments that could assist in answering the  research questions more fully.  

The author may also want to consider such factors as whether the current sample  size provides sufficient power to merit publication and whether additional analyses might  clarify ambiguous findings. Consultation with colleagues can help the author evaluate the  status of the manuscript and its potential for publication as well as the selection of an  appropriate journal to which to submit one’s manuscript.  

Adapting a Dissertation for Publication  

Once a decision is made to convert a dissertation into an article, the author will want to  focus attention on adapting the manuscript to an empirical article (or literature review)  for publication. By attending to brevity and focus, relevant data analyses, appropriate  interpretation of results, and writing style, authors can enhance the fit of a manuscript for  journal publication. Editors and reviewers readily recognize an article that has been  hastily converted from a dissertation. Whereas most reviewers are generous with their  time and knowledge in guiding a new colleague through the publication maze, greater  effort on the part of the author to make these adjustments at the front end is likely to  increase the manuscript’s potential for serious consideration.  

 Brevity and focus. Throughout a manuscript to be considered for journal  publication, brevity is an important consideration, particularly in the Introduction and  Discussion sections. In a dissertation, the writer’s task is to demonstrate breadth of  knowledge on a topic as well as the skills to fully explore the research problem under  consideration. In contrast, an empirical article must maintain a clear focus. The abstract may need to be condensed to meet the length requirements of the journal. Whereas  Dissertation Abstracts International accepts abstracts of up to 350 words, journal abstract  requirements are likely to be more limited. For most APA journals, the maximum length  is 250 words.  

One of the major challenges in the dissertation’s transformation is that of paring  the more comprehensive literature review characteristic of a dissertation to a more  succinct one suitable for the introduction of a journal article. The writer’s task is one of  selectivity, in which he or she takes care to preserve the relevant substance while  omitting extraneous material. The writer will want to edit the text to material relating to  the more immediate context of the research questions.  

Selection of sources is similarly important. Given the rapidly expanding literature,  it is generally impractical to exhaustively review prior research in a journal article. The  author should nonetheless take care to reference the most relevant and current studies and  avoid omitting key studies pertinent to the research problem. Citation of reviews and  meta-analyses can guide the interested reader to the broader literature while providing an  economical way of referencing prior studies. Depending on the timing of rewriting, the  author should review the most recent literature to avoid overlooking relevant studies that  may have been published since the writing of the dissertation.  

Evaluation of analyses. The researcher should be selective in choosing analyses  for inclusion in the journal article. An unbiased approach is important to avoid omitting  study data. However, reporting every analysis that may have been run for the dissertation  often is not feasible, appropriate, or useful in the limited space of a journal article.  Instead, analyses that directly address the research questions should be retained and more  supplemental analyses excluded. Prior to submitting the manuscript, the researcher may  also wish to consider whether the existing data would be better explained by additional or  more sophisticated analyses. Sternberg (1988) noted that the Results section should be  organized so that the most important results are listed first, followed by results of  secondary or post hoc analyses.  

Interpretation of results. In writing the Discussion, researchers should focus on  interpreting the results in light of the research questions. In particular, Calfee and  Valencia (2007) advised new authors to be aware of tendencies to overinterpret their data.  Taking into account sample size and composition, effect size, limitations of  measurement, and other specific considerations of the study is important to avoid  extrapolating beyond the data.  

A strong Discussion section notes areas of consensus with and divergence from  previous work. New authors should make particular efforts to attend to connections with  existing literature. Such attunement strengthens the communicative function of the  research article within the framework of the broader scientific literature.  

Writing style. New scholars are advised to familiarize themselves with the  details of APA Style. In addition to the general considerations on style noted above, two  points are worth highlighting here. First, a manuscript that closely follows APA Style  guidelines is likely to make a more seamless presentation, with fewer features to distract  the reviewer from the content of the paper. Second, in some cases, there are differences between formatting requirements specific to one’s university or dissertation publishing  services and journal style requirements. Areas of difference can involve tables and  figures, organization of sections, and reference lists. For example, theses and  dissertations may include bibliographies, which list additional sources beyond those  included in the reference list. In such cases, the reference list will need to be edited to  include only those references cited in the submitted manuscript.   


Although conducting research and writing publishable articles invokes challenges that  involve considerable investments of time and energy, intellectual rigor, and fortitude, we  encourage new scholars and researchers to take the progressive steps of developing their  manuscripts for submission to psychology journals. Bringing to fruition the hard work of  one’s research and sharing one’s findings with the scientific community can bring  personal rewards. Beyond such rewards, it is through the continued communication of  theoretical developments, carefully planned and executed research, and discovery that the  field of psychological science and application can advance.  


American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and  code of conduct. American Psychologist, 57, 1060–1073. doi:10.1037//0003- 066X.57.12.1060  

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American  Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.  

Bartol, K. M. (1983). Manuscript faults and review board recommendations: Lethal and  nonlethal errors. In American Psychological Association, Committee on Women in  Psychology and Women’s Programs Office, Understanding the manuscript review  process: Increasing the participation of women (pp. 29–45). Washington, DC: American  Psychological Association.  

Bem, D. J. (2004). Writing the empirical journal article. In J. M. Darley, M. P. Zanna, &  H. L. Roediger III (Eds.), The compleat academic (2nd ed., pp. 185–219). Washington,  DC: American Psychological Association.  

Calfee, R. C., & Valencia, R. R. (2007). APA guide to preparing manuscripts for journal  publication (Revised) [Technical guide]. Washington, DC: American Psychological  Association. (Original work published 1985)  

Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy; National Academy of Sciences;  National Academy of Engineering; & Institute of Medicine. (1995). On being a scientist:  Responsible conduct in research. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.  

Eichorn, D. H., & VandenBos, G. R. (1985). Dissemination of scientific and professional  knowledge: Journal publication within the APA. American Psychologist, 40, 1309–1316.  doi:10.1037/0003-066X.40.12.1309  

Haggan, M. (2003). Research paper titles in literature, linguistics and science:  Dimensions of attraction. Journal of Pragmatics, 36, 293–317. doi:10.1016/S0378- 2166(03)00090-0  

Hengl, T., & Gould, M. (2006). The unofficial guide for authors (or how to produce  research articles worth citing). Luxemburg, Belgium: Office for Official Publications of  the European Communities.  

Kupfersmid, J., & Wonderly, D. M. (1994). An author’s guide to publishing better  articles in better journals in the behavioral sciences. Brandon, VT: Clinical Psychology  Publishing.  

Nicol, A. M., & Pexman, P. M. (2010). Displaying your findings: A practical guide for  creating figures, posters, and presentations (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American  Psychological Association.  

Skelton, J. (1994). Analysis of the structure of original research papers: An aid to writing  original papers for publication. British Journal of General Practice, 44, 455–459.  

Smith, L. D., Best, L. A., Stubbs, D. A., Archibald, A. B., & Roberson-Nay, R. (2002).  Constructing knowledge: The role of graphs and tables in hard and soft psychology.  American Psychologist, 57, 749–761. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.57.10.749  

Sternberg, R. S. (1988). The psychologist’s companion: A guide to scientific writing for  students and researchers (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.  

Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2004). Commentary for academic writing for graduate  students: Essential tasks and skills (2nd ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan  Press/ESL.  

Tardy, C. M., & Swales, J. M. (2008). Form, text, organization, genre, coherence, and  cohesion. In C. Bazerman (Ed.), Handbook of research in writing: History, society,  school, individual, text (pp. 565–581). New York, NY: Erlbaum.