Headings,Paragraph Styles, and Lists
In this article I provide guidelines for writing in scientific style, starting
with the detail of punctuation and working up through to the whole document.
The guidelines are based on material presented in the publication manual of
the American Psychological Association (1994). I
indicate departures from APA style in brackets, thus: [APA:...].
You can access the APA manual and related material via the links provided by Dewey(1998).
This article also defines the general style for articles published at the
Sportscience website. Intending contributors should use this article in
conjunction with the appropriate template downloaded from the Sportscience
site. Some of the material in the templates is duplicated here.
Insert a comma wherever there would be a
slight pause between words or phrases in the spoken sentence.
- Insert a semicolon
between two parts of a sentence; the proviso is that both parts must be
able to stand alone as separate sentences.
- Use a colon to
introduce an explanation or an example of something: here is an example.
If there are several simple explanations or examples, separate them with
commas; otherwise, use semicolons.
- Avoid excessive use
of parentheses ( ). Use them to make an aside (an extra remark) only if
commas could be confusing. Never use parentheses within parentheses:
find another way of saying it.
- Use brackets [ ]
for material inserted into a quotation and ellipsis (three dots) for
material omitted: According to Smith (1999), "few such [descriptive]
studies were done… before 1950."
- Use dashes--two
hyphens with no spaces anywhere--for emphatic asides.
- Use one or two
spaces after a period, colon, or semicolon. Note, though, that Web
browsers delete more than one space unless you make them non-breaking
- Use double
quotation marks (") for speech and verbatim quotations.
- If a quotation is
long, type it as an indented block of text without quotation marks, as
shown in this example:
According to Smith (1982)...
The "newbie effect" disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner. Examples of
methods included indirect observation, self-reports, and retrospective
questionnaires. (p. 276)
- Use double
quotation marks the first time you introduce a newly coined or slang term;
do not use quotation marks thereafter.
- Don't use
"smart quotes" (66 and 99), because they create problems when
translated into Web documents.
- Use single
quotation marks (') for quotes within quotes.
- Use the apostrophe
(') to denote possession:
an athlete's responses, two athletes' responses.
But note that its = of it, whereas it's = it is.
- Put commas,
semicolons, colons, and periods outside closing quotation marks:
"this", for example, but not "this," or
"this." Exception: "If the quotation ends in a complete
sentence, the period is part of the quote and should therefore go inside
the quotation marks, like this." [APA: all punctuation goes within
the quotation marks.]
- Use of and/or
instead of or is acceptable when you want to emphasize either
- The forward slash
(/) can be used instead of or in sentences that are already
replete with ands and/or ors.
- Use Title Case
(initial upper-case letters for words of four or more letters) in:
- the title and
subheadings of your article;
- titles of
- titles of books or
articles in the text, but not in the reference list;
- proper nouns,
including trade names (Wilks's lambda, Aspro, the Web and a Web site, but not in a
- names of tests
(the Stroop Color-Word
- nouns followed by
numbers (on Day 2, in Group B) but not in the control group;
- names of
institutional departments (Department of Sport Science, University of
Wherever), but not of disciplines (a department of sport science);
to sections of the article (in the Methods section; see Results; in
Figure 1; in Table 2; see Appendix 3; in Chapter 4).
Use your spelling checker to decide whether to
include a hyphen with a prefix. If the word is not recognized without a
hyphen, put one in. Examples: non-athlete, ultra-marathon, pre-treatment.
[APA: use a hyphen only with self-.]
- Here is the
paradigm example of hyphenation of adjectives or nouns: a clear-cut
case. (If you wrote a clear cut case, you would imply a cut case
that was clear. The emphasis in pronunciation also provides a clue.)
More examples: role-playing technique, two-way analysis of variance, high-anxiety group. Hyphenation is not necessary
if the first word is an adverb or comparative adjective (according to
APA, anyway): widely used text, randomly assigned subjects, higher
- Note also: t-test
results, but results of t tests; student-centered
teaching, but the teaching was student centered.
- Note also: long-
and short-term memory; 2-, 5-, and 10-min trials.
Use italics for emphasis and bold
for strong emphasis. Avoid italic bold, which does not always
show up as bold in some browsers. [APA does not use bold.]
- Use italics in
expressions such as the term whatever, and for listing
descriptors of a scale. For example, items on the 5-point scale ranged
from not at all to always.
- Put the title of a
paper, book, or journal in italics in the body of the text. In the
reference list, titles of papers are in normal case. [APA uses quote marks
for titles of papers in the text.]
- Put headings in BOLD UPPER CASE.
- Put subheadings in Bold Title Case. [APA: italic.]
- Put sub-subheadings
in Plain Title Case.
- Do not use italics
for foreign words and abbreviations common in scientific English, such as
ad lib, per se, et al., via, ad hoc, post hoc, a priori, a posteriori.
Keep the fonts shown in the template of the
article you are writing: Times New Roman for the body of the text, and Arial (PCs) or Helvetica (older Macs) for
the headings and subheadings.
- You may use
Insert/Symbol from the menu bar of Microsoft programs. Choose the normal
text font to get these symbols: ± ° · µ. Choose the Symbol
font to get ± ° ×
å and so on.
- Make a non-breaking
space in Word documents with option-spacebar on a Mac, and with
control-shift-spacebar in Word on a PC. You can also use the Special
Characters sub-window of the Insert/Symbol window to get a non-breaking
- Macintosh users can
also produce the following limited set of symbols by use of shift,
option and command keys: ° ± … · and the usual accent marks and
international letters of the alphabet. Do not attempt to produce any
other symbols using shift, command or option keys, because the symbols
do not transfer to Web documents via Word. Use Insert/Symbol for other
An abbreviation or acronym (short name) is
justified only if the full expression is excessively long or if the
abbreviation is well known to all researchers in the discipline. Even so, an
easily understood short form of the expression that avoids abbreviations or
acronyms is preferable.
- If you must use an
abbreviation, define it in parentheses the first time you use it: for
example, body mass index (BMI), maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max),
the fatigue dimension of the Profile of Mood States (POMS-fatigue).
- Use the following
well-known Latin abbreviations only within parentheses: that is (i.e.),
for example (e.g.), and so on (etc.). Do not use the abbreviations for namely
(viz.) or compare (cf.), which few people understand. [APA allows these
- Use vs (versus) and
et al. (and others) inside or outside parentheses without defining them.
- Use Note: instead of
N.B. (note well).
- Use abbreviations
without explanation for the following terms in the Summary, but define
them in the Methods: standard deviation (SD), 95% confidence interval
(95%CI), 95% confidence limits (95%CL).
- Note the lack of
periods in acronyms and the lack of apostrophes in their plurals: ACSM,
APA, IQ, IQs.
- Use no periods or
spaces in abbreviations of countries: US, UK, NZ. [APA has periods and
- Use a period only if
the last letter of the abbreviation is not the last letter of the word,
as in these examples: Prof., Dr, Mr, Ms, Vol. 1, p. 3, p. 23-25, 2nd
ed., et al., vs, etc., and so on. [Minor departures from APA style
- Use the following Systeme Internationale
(SI) abbreviations for units of measurement (Young,
1987) [APA uses some of these abbreviations.]
L (not l)
- Never add an
"s" to the above abbreviations.
- Use the style ml.min-1.kg-1
for scientists and ml/min/kg for non-scientists.
PARAGRAPH STYLES, AND LISTS
Use the heading, subheading, font, and
paragraph styles appropriate for the publication you intend you submit your
article to. [APA has a confusing hierarchy of headings.] For Sportscience the
styles are shown in the templates for the article and are included in the
Styles pull-down in the menu bar. Here are the main ones:
TITLE OF DOCUMENT: Optional subtitle 14-pt Arial
HEADING in 11-pt
Subheading in 11-pt Arial
Sub-subheading in 11-pt
First paragraph in 11-pt Times New Roman...
Use this convention for an itemized list
within a paragraph: (a) first item, (b) second item, and (c) the final item.
If one or more items contain a comma, use this convention: (a) separate the
items with semicolons, as shown in this example; (b) second item, etc.; and
(c) the final item. Include the letters only if you refer subsequently to one
or more of the items: for example, Item (b).
- Use bullets to list
points that are complete sentences, as shown throughout this document.
[APA does not use bullets.] Exception: use numbered points if you want
to refer subsequently to one or more of the points by number. For
- Use a numbered list
for items that could stand alone as paragraphs.
- Do not try to
include two or more paragraphs under one number.
- Somewhere in the
article you would have to refer to one or more of these numbered
points, for example Points 1 and 2, above. Otherwise you would list them
Use tilde (~) to mean approximately equal
- Numbers beginning a
sentence must be spelled. Rewrite a sentence so you don't start it with
numbers greater than ninety-nine.
- Note: one, two, three… nine, 10, 11, 12… Exceptions: a 2-m tape
measure; 3 million.
- Put a space between
numbers and units: for example, 75 kg. Exception: 75%.
- Note: 0.32, not .32.
- Note: 143, 2,461 or
2461, 21,278, 1,409,000…
- When you quote
numbers, make sure you use the minimum number of significant digits or
decimal places. For example, 23 ± 7 years is easier to read than 23.4 ±
6.6 years, and the loss of accuracy is not important in most situations.
- Use the appropriate
number of digits: two significant digits for standard deviations (one
digit if the standard deviation is for a descriptive statistic like
height or weight, or if precision is not important); two decimal places
for correlations, two significant digits for percentages. Examples: 73 ±
5; r = 0.45; r
= 0.08; 16%; 1.3%; 0.013%.
- If it is more
convenient to show p values than confidence limits, show the exact p
value to one significant digit (for p < 0.1) or two decimal places
(for p > 0.10). Do not use p < 0.05 or p > 0.05. Examples: p =
0.03; p = 0.007; p = 0.09; p = 0.74. (The exact p value is important for
anyone using your data to calculate confidence limits or using your data
in a meta-analysis.)
- Make sure the
significant digits of the mean and standard deviation are consistent.
Examples: 20 ± 13; 0.020 ± 0.013; 156 ± 7;
1.56 ± 0.07; 15600 ± 700.
- Use the standard
deviation as a measure of spread. Do not use the standard error of the
- Avoid test
statistics like t, F and c2, but if the journal insists on
them, show only two significant digits.
- Show 95% confidence
intervals for effect statistics like a correlation coefficient or the
difference between means.
- Interpret the
magnitudes of outcomes in a qualitative way, using both your experience
of the magnitudes that matter in this area of human endeavor
and also any published scales of magnitudes (e.g., Cohen,
1988; Hopkins, 1998). You must interpret
the observed effects and the confidence limits. For example, you might have
to say that you observed a moderate effect, but that the true value of
the effect could be anything between trivial and very strong.
Create tables with the Table pull-down in
Word. Do not use tabs.
- Examples of tables in
Sportscience style are shown in Tables 1 and 2.
Table 1: A simple generic table for articles at the
aPut any footnotes here. Note that
the caption and footnotes are in cells of the table.
footnotes as shown.
Table 2: A complex tablea.
aPut any footnotes here. Note that
the caption and footnotes are in cells of the table.
footnotes as shown.
Note these rules for choice of figure format:
- line diagrams or
scattergrams if independent and dependent variables are numeric;
- bar graphs if only
the dependent variable is numeric;
graphs or pie charts for proportions.
- Do not use scanned images
of graphs or diagrams, because the lines and symbols become too
"pixelly." Draw the figures directly in a computer, using
preferably PowerPoint, Excel, or the drawing window of Microsoft Word.
- Make sure the fonts
and any symbols are big enough.
- Do not make figures
any wider than ~14 cm, because they need to be viewable in a Web-browser
window without the reader having to scroll sideways.
- When using Word,
paste each figure directly into the text using Paste Special…, unselect
Float Over Text, and paste them in as bitmaps
or drawings. Also, make sure the figure is displayed at 100% size and
that it looks OK when the document is displayed at 100%
- Put the figure into
the cell of a table, as shown. Place the title and any footnotes for the
figure in cells above and below the figure. The style for this text is
- Place each figure or
table immediately after the paragraph that first refers to it.
- See the examples
Figure 1: Informative title for a time seriesa.
Data are means. Bars are standard deviations (shown only
for Groups B and C).
to label footnotes, if necessary.
Figure 2: Informative title for a scattergram.
Least-squares lines are shown for each variable.
Figure 3: Informative title for a bar graph.
Data are means. Bars are standard deviations.
Figure 4: Informative title for an outcomes figure.
Data are means. Bars are 95% confidence intervals.
- Connect the points
in a line diagram with line segments. Show curves only if you are modeling a curve to the data.
- Change the color and shape of symbols for different groups of
points: . This strategy helps color-blind readers.
- Show scattergrams
only for a good reason (e.g. to call attention to outliers, a nonzero
intercept, heteroscedasticity, or a nonlinear trend); otherwise state
the correlation coefficient and/or standard error of the estimate
without a figure.
diagrams summarizing the relationships between concepts or variables can
be confusing. Make them as simple as possible.
Use a US-English spelling checker.
- Make sure you use
words according to the precise meaning understood by the average person.
- Ideally, you would check
whether every word could be deleted or replaced by a better one.
- Aim for economy: because
based on the fact that; for or to
instead of for the purpose of. Similarly: there were
several subjects who completed…; i t is suggested that
a relationship may exist…; both alike; one and the same; a
total of n subjects; four different groups; absolutely
essential; found previously; small in size; in close
proximity; very close to zero; much better; period of
time; summarize briefly; the reason is because; also
included; in order to; except for.
- Aim for precision: patient
or gymnast instead of
or frequency instead of level.
- Don’t generalize
unnecessarily. For example, don’t say some if you know of only
- This on its
own is known as an ambiguous antecedent. Use instead this test
or this problem or whatever.
- Avoid hype
(hyperbole). Words like very and extremely are usually
- Affect or effect?
Temperature affected the outcome. There was an effect on outcome. Try
this to help you remember which is which: Affluence affects
attitudes. The effects of effluent are everywhere. Note also: the
new regime effected (i.e. produced) substantial changes. Affect
can also mean emotion.
- Note these singular
and plural forms: criterion, criteria; datum, data; medium, media;
- Don’t use however
or its synonyms twice in one paragraph, because changing the direction
of an argument twice in one paragraph may annoy readers.
use however more than once every 10 paragraphs. Try a
thesaurus for synonyms.
- Keep jargon
(technical terms) to a minimum. Explain any that you have to use.
- Avoid the so-called
non-human agent. For example, use the authors concluded that…
the study concluded that….
colloquialisms, such as
steer clear of.
- While sounds
more modern than
Poor: The SCAT is a reliable test of state anxiety. As such,
it is suitable for experimental studies. Better: The SCAT is
a reliable test of state anxiety; it is therefore suitable for
his and any other sexist language, even if the subjects are
clearly of one gender.
- The following APA
rules, in my view, are old fashioned and need not be adhered to
- Use while
and since to refer to time. Do not use them when the meaning is whereas,
although, or because.
- Don't start
sentences with because, since, or as.
Make sure you write well-formed sentences, and
keep their structure simple.
- Use the first
person (I or we tested six runners¼ ) rather than the passive
Six runners were tested ¼ ). Similarly, say Smith
reported instead of reported by Smith.
- With comparatives (more
than, less than), the than
may need to be than that of or than with or than by
etc. to clarify the meaning. Similarly, similar to may need to be
similar to that of. Examples: The measure was more valid than
that of Smith et al. (1994). We experienced fewer problems with the
revised instrument than with the published version. The method was
similar to that of an earlier study.
- Don't use a long
string of qualifiers in front of a noun: a modified test of cognitive
function is better than
a modified cognitive-function test.
- Avoid grammatically
questionable formal cliches, such as:
on these results, it is concluded that ¼ and The results showed
- Use the past tense
to report results (yours or others'). Use the present tense to discuss
them. We have found that…; Smith (1989) reported a similar result. A
simple explanation of these findings is that…
- Avoid so-called misplaced
When sedentary, protein supplementation resulted
in… Athletes were consulted when designing the questionnaire…
If necessary, subjects were tested… Based on these results, we
conclude… The next two examples are marginal: Using
stable tracers, it is possible to measure… Given the importance of body
mass, there has been little study of its effects… Note that a
noun was verbed to verb something (e.g. an
experiment was performed to test this hypothesis) is also
technically incorrect but is used so widely that it has to be accepted. A
noun was verbed (by) verbing…
is also acceptable. The active voice would avoid these awkward
- Put only, partly
and mainly next to the word they modify: The test consists
only of new items.
- Note: partly
vs wholly; partially vs completely. In the same
vein, continual = repeated, whereas continuous = without a
break. Not many writers get these right!
- The following rules
are broken so frequently that I doubt whether they can be considered
rules any more.
- Which or that?
Simple rule: Which always follows a comma (and a pause), but that
never does. This study, which cost $10,000, was a success. The study
that cost $10,000 was a success.
- Owing to or
due to? Simple rule: Owing to always has a comma, due
to never does. The data were lost, owing to computer
malfunction. The loss of data was due to computer malfunction.
- An adverb is
placed usually after the verb. Placing it before the verb produces a split
infinitive. For example, to boldly go… is acceptable if you
are emphasizing go, but if the emphasis is on boldly, to
go boldly is better.
Focus your thoughts by writing the summary
first, even for articles that don't require one.
- Three ways to help
get your ideas in a sensible sequence are to make an outline in the form
of headings, to put the draft aside for days or weeks, and to get others
to comment on the drafts.
- The first sentence
of a paragraph usually sets the topic for that paragraph. Don’t have any
unlinked ideas (non-sequiturs) in the same paragraph.
- A paragraph must
consist of more than one sentence.
- Try to make the
ideas within each section flow together.
- Don’t put things
in the wrong section or subsection. Skim the finished document to make
- When appropriate,
keep the order of ideas the same in different sections of the article.
- Check that you
don't contradict or repeat yourself in different sections of the article.
- Aim for
simplicity: many readers are less intelligent and less knowledgeable
Use Endnote or a similar
reference-managing software to deal with more than a few cited publications
- Cite references consistently
in the style required by the publisher. If the style does not exist in
your referencing software you will have to find something close, then
either edit the style or edit the final list of references. Check that
the style format in the software is correct: sometimes the format in
which you have entered the references makes a difference.
- Make sure you give
part numbers for journals or magazines that start with page 1 in each
issue (e.g. Physician and Sportsmedicine).
- Make sure every
publication referred to in the article is in the reference list, and
- There is no agreed
style for citing material published only on the Web. See American Psychological Association (undated) for
a short Web page on the problems. See also the Web document by Land (1998).
- The style for
articles at the Sportscience site is unique, but similar to that of
Psychopharmacology, Biological Psychiatry, or Journal of Cellular
Biochemistry. In the body of the article refer to publications in this
manner: Jones (1999), Jones and Brown (1999), and for three or more
authors, Jones et al. (1999). When the citation is in parentheses, the
style of citation is as follows: (Jones, 1999; Jones and Brown, 1999; Jones
et al., 1999).
- Here are examples
of the style of the reference list for Sportscience articles:
AB, Jones CD (1999). The title of a paper. Sports Journal 100, 23-46
CD, Smith AB, Brown EF (1999). The title of another paper. Journal of Sport 100,
CD, Brown AB (1999). This is the book title (second edition). City, State:
CD, Jones AB (editors) (1999). This is the title of the edited book (second
edition). City, Country: Free Press
AB (1999). This is the title of the book chapter. In Brown EF, Jones AB,
Smith CD (editors): This is the book title (pages 33-44). City, State:
AB, Brown CD (1999). The title of a paper in a Web journal. Sports Journal
2(3), site.url/directory/subdirectory/filename.html (1234 words)
AB, Jones CD (1999). The title of a Web document.
site.url/directory/subdirectory/filename.html: Host or Publisher
American Psychological Association(1995). Publication manual of the American
Psychological Association (4th ed.). Washington DC: APA
American Psychological Association(undated). How to cite information from the
Internet and the World Wide Web. www.apa.org/journals/webref.html:APA
Cohen J (1988).
Statistical power analysis for the behavioral
sciences (second edition). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum
Dewey RA (1998). APA
Hopkins WG (1998). A
scale of magnitude for effect statistics. sportsci.org/resource/stats/effectmag.html: Internet Society for
Land T (1998). Web
extension to American Psychological Association style (Revision 1.5.2).www.beadsland.com/weapas:New York Connect Net
Young DS (1987).
Implementation of SI units for clinical laboratory data. Annals of Internal
Webmastered by Will Hopkins
Published March 1999