APA style papers

Jun 08

The MBA program director and many of the professors Β at NNU prefer papers to be submitted in APA style, 6th edition format. There are many tutorials and guides about how to follow the APA style. I perfer to use LaTeX.

TeX and LaTeX are typesetting systems that allow the author to focus on content in plain text and leave the formatting alone. When the content is complete, simply use LaTeX to compile or render your document. I typically use pdfLaTeX and render straight to PDF for delivery or printing. There are other formats, including DVI, that can also be used.

Getting LaTeX

One disadvantage to LaTeX is the high learning curve. Another is complexity in installing new styles. Compared to Word, it can take quite a bit of setup to get it going. However, once it’s going, changes are easy to make and the entire document can be recompiled. References, figures, and any other dynamic elements simply update themselves in the new view.

TeX live

I suggest starting with TeX live. I download the .ISO file and use slysoft virtual clone drive to mount it. At that point I have what looks like a drive on my system and can install TeX live.

Getting APA6

Next, I download the apa6 package from CTAN. unzip these files into a temporary directory. I opened up a console window (click start and type ‘cmd’) and changed into the directory where I had just unzipped the package. Once there I created two directories:

  • config
  • pseudoTeX

I then ran the command “latex apa6.dtx”. That created a bunch of files, include the .CLS file.

Install

I then created a local directory for this new class definition here

  • C:\texlive\texmf-local\tex\latex\local\apa6

I copied most of the files into this local directory, including the config folder, that were compiled above when I ran ‘latex’ on the ‘apa6.dtx’ file.

I then ran ‘texhash.exe’ to update the tex database with information about the new apa6 class.

LaTeX editor

On Windows I use the WinShell editor for LaTeX. It includes some shortcuts and other helpers, including one click compile and view in acrobat. This is not a WYSIWYG editor, but it does provide helpers for much of what you want to do.

Versioning

I use a revision control system called Mercurial to keep track of changes to my LaTeX files while I write them. This would also enable me to collaborate with others.

LaTeX is not for the non-technical. There are big long term gains, but a big learning curve up front. If you don’t often write content that requires strict formatting, it may be easier to use Microsoft Word. Word is also getting better at keeping revision history and allowing for collaboration (at least one person at a time).

One comment

  1. Awesome post πŸ™‚

    I know you know Latex already, but I think the following is still cool to share πŸ˜‰

    As a second year psychology student, I am trying to learn Latex right now. Fortunately I have quite some programming experience, but I never got around to start with Latex.

    There is this whole course created by a psychologist in Amsterdam. The interesting thing is that he did not explain what you did (but he did explain the rest).

    If you’re curious/interested check it out at sachaepskamp.com/latex-course

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