I am writing a paper that I want to submit to a journal in Education. By looking at the formatting requirements I discovered that most of the journals in this area set require to format submissions by following the APA manual standards. Some state:

Prepare manuscripts according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). More information is available at www.apastyle.org/. Any manuscript not in this style will automatically be returned to the author. [*]

Now, the required document is for sale only in printed copies at prices ranging from \$29.95 (Softcover) to \$39.95 (Hardcover). Then one has to add shipping fees, I presume.

It is very easy to find scanned copies of this manual on the internet and these show how vague and superficial the instructions about figures, tables, and other technical details are (I think because it is primarily for social scientists). I can think of better free web sites for that, so I wouldn't use it other than to format papers for a journal requiring that style.

Frankly, I think it is unethical to ask an author to buy a document just to know the formats required to submit a paper (or they should refund the money if the paper is not accepted). If I were paranoid (or realistic?) I would suspect that publishers who request to consult the commercial manual get a cut from the APA?

I know most of people will answer: "publish somewhere else or use the illegal copy -which you already downloaded-" but that means not being able to publish in the top rated journals or being forced to break the law because of a simple formatting problem.

Can anybody suggest a way around this money wringing?

ps. I should also add that most of these journals accept only Microsoft Word documents which is also a commercial product (which I find a most improper application for academic writing.)

  • 4
    By the way, I think this question will be better received if you focus more on the request for practical solutions, and less on how you feel about the APA manual requirement. The latter is not so relevant to the former, and Stack Exchange is explicitly not for promoting opinions. Aug 11, 2017 at 5:39
  • I thought that highlighting the fact that the manual one is forced to buy is not that good is part of my complaint. I do ask for practical advice (thanks for the -1!) Aug 11, 2017 at 10:31
  • 1
    Going through the hits I got searching for "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" I do not see any practical problem. There is tons of material explaining the basic guidelines (youtube videos, pre-formatted docx documents, lists of tips and also, of course, a scanned fulltext). Granted, that's all different from a full-fledged electronic version but from a practical point of view, I do not see a real problem.
    – Dirk
    Aug 11, 2017 at 11:11
  • 1
    @MarcoStamazza: I'm just saying that to me, the overall effect of the post is that of a rant, not of a serious question. By the way, it's not my -1, and the general etiquette on Stack Exchange is not to comment on the votes of others. Aug 11, 2017 at 15:40
  • Years ago I spent ~$20 on the AIP Style Manual. It has been worth every penny over the decades. If you don't like the journal requirements, don't publish there. But, this is mostly a rant, not a question.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 11, 2017 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


You can almost certainly obtain the book from your university library. I just checked my institution's catalog - we have 6 copies available for checkout and a further 5 non-circulating "reference" copies that are always available to read inside the library. Our librarians clearly know that this is a frequently-needed resource - I bet your librarians know it too.

This is the standard way for academics to refer to "commercial" texts without having to pay for them out of pocket.

(Even if you are not affiliated with a university, you'll almost certainly have to get access to a university library in order to be able to read the literature you need to do publishable research - so might as well figure it out now. But even so, I also found out that my town's free public library has several copies of this book as well.)

  • 3
    And if your library doesn't have a copy, you can quite probably ask them to buy one, since it can be useful to many others.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Aug 11, 2017 at 6:23
  • Good point, thanks. Borrowing the book could be a solution, even though not my favourite as electronic copies can be easily searched. Going to the library every time I need to verify a detail would not be so good for my productivity. Aug 11, 2017 at 10:35
  • 1
    @MarcoStamazza So, if you can't take a copy with you: do what you think is right, mark it clearly as "make sure to verify that this is correct" (different color, margin note, or whatever), and batch up a bunch of things to check at once when you do go to the library.
    – user
    Aug 11, 2017 at 14:31

Compare to the following situation: You submit a paper and a referee replies that you should discuss some other work, may it be a paper or a book, which is also "commercial". So, to publish the paper you need access to this "commercial" source (either to discuss it, or to argue why you shouldn't). Your institution either has access to this source or, if not, use your funds to purchase a copy or use interlibrary loan. The same applies to sources like style guides. Actually, I would guess that workgroups that publish in outlets that use a certain style guide had purchased a copy already for their own bookshelves.

So, what your facing is, in my opinion, not an issue. To work, you need things and most things cost money (computers, offices, internet access, books,…). If you want to discuss whether a style guide should cost money or not, that's another question.

  • I am discussing whether the style guide should cost money. And this is not related. Literature review is about the content and how I find academic material is my problem. Formatting a paper is strictly related to having the paper considered by the journal. Aug 11, 2017 at 10:38
  • 1
    Since APA is a scientific organization and part of their mission is "Promoting research in psychology, the improvement of research methods and conditions and the application of research findings." and "Increasing and disseminating psychological knowledge through meetings, professional contacts, reports, papers, discussions and publications." the organization may be open to a discussion whether they should make an electronic version of their style guide available for free. In the context of what is going on with scientific publishing these days, this may well work.
    – Dirk
    Aug 11, 2017 at 11:13
  • I'd say: Go ahead and make an official query to APA. I don't know enough about APA to suggest a good way to do this - without further knowledge: a letter to the president may work, but probably there is a better way…
    – Dirk
    Aug 11, 2017 at 11:17
  • It's useless. Most people here are pointing out how lazy and stupid I am for not wanting to put up with a paid written manual just for the privilege of submitting a paper. They seem to be happy about it. Maybe that is why I will stick to real science journals rather than social science ones. Aug 28, 2017 at 5:45

Use a software package for your references. Free software such as BibLaTeX/Biber, Zotero, and others use CSL and can output APA-styled (and many other) references at the push of a button.

  • While this is absolutely a good idea, it only helps with the references. The APA style isn't just a citation style, it also contains a lot of formatting and language guidelines.
    – Anyon
    Apr 21, 2019 at 23:41

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .