Instructions for Authors

These guidelines are intended for invited contributors or authors of accepted proposals preparing their manuscripts for submission. Please do not submit complete manuscripts unless invited to do so. For instructions on submitting a proposal, please go here.

Many of these guidelines differ from those that guide the usual scientific paper in part because of the broad readership to which we appeal. I am very pleased that you are undertaking this paper or proposal for the journal. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can answer any questions.

-Randall W. Engle, Editor

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The major purpose of Current Directions in Psychological Science (CD) is to keep readers abreast of developments across the broad spectrum of the behavioral sciences. The journal publishes brief reviews intended to alert a general audience to important new developments in research, theory, methods, and applications, in language that is accessible to a much wider audience than the target audience of other scientific journals.

The authors of our articles are generally invited by the editor and are the researchers who conducted the empirical work that is the focus of the article.

If a paper is invited, a few coauthors are permitted, but we expect the first author to be the person invited to write the paper.

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The Writing Challenge

The writing challenge of the manuscript is to present the latest science in ordinary and everyday (jargon-free) language, as it is intended to be readable not only to psychologists but also to graduate and undergraduate students who are not necessarily expert in the domain of the article, as well as to scientifically literate laypeople. CD articles are often used as readings in psychology courses, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and they are also sometimes sent to science writers and policymakers. Given the broad audience, you should assume that the readers may not be familiar with terms, concepts, paradigms, and methods that are commonly used in your area of research.

So as you prepare the article, please be alert to the degree to which the terms and concepts you use require explanation or elaboration. Indeed, to the extent possible, replace technical terms with more familiar words and phrases that require no explanation. Use as few acronyms or abbreviations as possible (better yet, none), and spell them out on first use. If technical terms are used, it would be best to provide the clarifying material at the point in which the new concepts appear in the text—perhaps a short explanatory sentence will suffice.

Wherever possible, use examples to illustrate abstract ideas, principles, and processes.

CD policy is to eschew most statistics unless they are needed to convey a conceptual point. Remember that many readers of the journal have no training in statistics. Means, standard deviations, and percentages are fine. Significance tests and p-values should not be reported; it will suffice to refer to results as significant (or not). Terms like “effect size”and “meta-analysis” can be used, but generally should be accompanied by a plain-English explanation—e.g., “a study aggregating the results of earlier studies of x (i.e., a meta-analysis).” If effect-size values are reported, they should be accompanied by descriptions—e.g., “an effect size of .50, which is considered a moderately large effect.” Correlations are acceptable if needed to clarify meaning, preferably reported in parentheses. As with effect sizes, correlations should be explained in plain English—e.g., “… x and y were strongly positively correlated (+ .80).”

When referring to brain regions, do not assume that readers are familiar with common anatomy and function. Introduce brain areas as areas associated with particular functions. Avoid unnecessary detail—it is very unlikely that readers’ comprehension of your main message will be increased by lists of brain regions. This is often done well with figures. Avoid medicalese either by using clear language—e.g., “damage” is better than “lesion” (unless the terminology is specifically needed)—or by defining terminology—e.g., “in the rostral (forward) anterior cingulate cortex.”

CD articles are intended to be succinct and focused. For that reason, we impose a limit of 40 cited references (although we would prefer that the number be nearer to 20) and 2,500 words for the abstract and text proper (that is pretty strict). Because of the article’s brevity, please do not highlight all possible views or theories or the full history of the topic. Of course, the very notion of advances requires placing current work in context. This ought to be completed briefly so that greater attention can be accorded to what is currently known, why this is important and an advance, and current issues. CD doesn’t report data not yet vetted by peer review elsewhere.

A good rule of thumb is to take your recent colloquium presentation and turn it into a short paper.

Figures and tables should be relatively simple, with different elements that are easy to distinguish; they should preferably not exceed a couple of panels. Color may be used, and is encouraged if it helps make sense of the figure (but simple bar graphs or line graphs generally work fine in black and white). Table titles should fully explain the table and mention each column. Figure captions should explain the figure and be fully understandable without reference to the text; every figure element should be mentioned, and captions for diagrams/models should walk the reader through each part.

Each paper should end with a list of between three and five recommended readings, at least one of which should be a review of the literature that is general enough that it would include the references to the field that the author would include if CD weren’t so restrictive in the citations in our papers. Recommended readings may or may not overlap with those in the main reference list (and are not included in the 40-source limit), and each should be accompanied by a brief, one-sentence description (e.g., “A comprehensive, highly accessible overview of what is known about TOPIC X” or “A recent article discussing ISSUE Y about TOPIC X in more detail than the current paper”). Please consider the accessibility of the sources you cite. Include one or two recently published reviews of the relevant literature and key primary sources that are readily accessible through ordinary library or search resources. Unpublished articles or articles in sources that may be difficult to access should not be used.

The recommended readings, cover page, tables, figures, and figure captions do not count in the 2,500 word limit.

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Preparation of Manuscripts

All manuscripts must be submitted in digital format as MS Word documents (not a pdf), using the APS manuscript portal at Double-space all material.

For the text, we recommend that you divide your article into sections with headings; further subdivisions may be used, but must be clearly distinguishable.

The order in which elements of the final manuscript should appear is as follows. Each begins a separate page:

  • Cover Page, including Word Count (see guidelines) and address and e-mail of contact author
  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Main text, including figures, tables, and captions located where they are discussed in the text*
  • Acknowledgements and endnotes
  • References
  • Recommended Readings

*Please note the exception to APA style in the location of figures and tables. I find that it is much easier on the reviewers and editor if the initial submission has the figures and tables integrated into the text where they are discussed. The copy editor will move the tables and figures before sending them to the printer.

The journal uses the American Psychological Association’s format (6th edition) for bibliographic citations. Explanatory material will be presented in endnotes. Footnotes are not used in Current Directions. Superscript numbers, numbered consecutively in the text, are used to refer to endnotes. The first numbered endnote is: 1Address correspondence to. . . .[full name and address of corresponding author]. A corresponding superscript ought to be on the title page (e.g., Melvin Smyth1).

Figures can be very helpful to explain, illuminate, and clarify points made in the text. Please consider 1 or 2 figures that will enhance the accessibility of your thesis to our audience. In preparing figures, please consider that their size may be substantially reduced in the printed paper. A figure’s legend and caption ought to be in sufficient detail to allow the reader to understand the content of the figure (though not its significance and implications) without reference to the text. CD captions tend to be lengthier and more informative than the usual APA-journal captions. We have increased the use of color in the journal, so include color figures if they will enhance the presentation. If the figure was used in a previous publication and includes some conditions not mentioned in this paper, please re-draw it, leaving out the unmentioned conditions.

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Preparation of Graphics

The following is VERY important: Authors are requested to provide their figures in their native file format (e.g., Excel if they were created in Excel, Word only if they were actually created in Word, and definitely not TIFF or JPEG, except for photographs). This facilitates reformatting the figure labels, etc., without the typesetters having to completely redraw the figures, which can introduce major errors.

Any table or figure that has been previously published or has a copyright owner requires a signed permission if it is to be included in the article. Signed permissions are required from the publisher. The signed permissions can be submitted at the revision stage. If the tables and/or figures require no permissions, please note this in a cover letter when the manuscript is submitted.

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Notes on Accepted Manuscripts

When a manuscript is accepted for publication, the authors will receive information on how to prepare the text and figures for publication. Accepted manuscripts are edited to improve readability and effectiveness of communication.

Authors are free to disseminate to colleagues and media outlets information about a forthcoming article that they have contributed to Current Directions as soon as the manuscript has been accepted and they have completed the Contributor Publishing Agreement form.

Additionally, it is anticipated that media releases may be written for some articles published in Current Directions. Such releases generally benefit the field of psychology, and the author as well. Authors who do not want a press release about their article should notify the Editor of this when their manuscript is accepted. Media or press office inquiries should be directed to APS’s Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Anna Mikulak, at

The APS journals offer both green and gold open-access options that enable authors to comply with mandates from funders such as the National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust, and RCUK.

APS and SAGE can help fulfill many funders’ mandates to archive your accepted manuscript by making your article open access and depositing your manuscript files in PubMed Central. Authors who wish to pay to make an article/manuscript publicly available immediately upon publication in order to comply with NIH or similar requirements may use the SAGE Choice option (gold open access).

Note that authors who do not choose to participate in SAGE Choice must choose a 12-month embargo for manuscripts submitted to PubMed Central.

Authors may share the version of their manuscript that was submitted to the journal at any time. Upon acceptance, authors may post the final, accepted version of the article on their personal or their departmental Web site(s) or in their departmental or institutional repository(ies) (green open access). One year after publication, authors may make the final, accepted version available in other repositories. Authors may not post the final published PDF anywhere without permission.

For more information on open-access options and compliance at SAGE, including author self-archiving deposits (green open access) or SAGE Choice (gold open access), visit SAGE Publishing Policies on the Journal Author Gateway.

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Ethical Considerations

Authors reporting research involving human subjects should indicate whether the protocol was approved by an institutional review board or similar committee. Authors reporting medical research involving human subjects (i.e., research designed to understand the causes, development, and effects of diseases and improve preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions) should indicate whether it was carried out in accordance with the provisions of the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki. Authors reporting research involving nonhuman animal subjects should indicate whether institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of laboratory animals were followed. Authors who are merely describing or meta-analyzing the research reports of others do not need to so indicate.

Identifying information of participants will not be published unless the information is necessary and written, informed consent is obtained.

Any potential conflicts of interest should be reported in the online submission process and in the article. The Declaration of Conflicting Interests section that appears in every article will state any reported conflicts; if there are no conflicts, the Declaration will read “The author(s) declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship or the publication of this article.”

Manuscripts should conform to the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, which can be found in full at In particular, authors should reference the following sections:

  • II.A. Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors
  • II.B. Author Responsibilities—Conflicts of Interest
  • I.E. Protection of Research Participants
  • III.B. Scientific Misconduct, Expressions of Concern, and Retraction
  • III.K. Clinical Trial Registration (if applicable).

The journals of the Association for Psychological Science follow the code of conduct of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and pursue COPE guidelines when misconduct is suspected or alleged.

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Authors may include the names of 4 to 5 possible objective reviewers and their email addresses. Objective means that the list should exclude former mentors and teachers, current colleagues, and collaborators. Authors often are familiar with experts in their area of research, and editors appreciate the suggestions. Keep in mind that the editor will consider these requests but cannot guarantee that they will be honored.

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Other Considerations

Manuscripts under review at another journal cannot be simultaneously submitted to Current Directions. The article cannot have been published elsewhere, and authors are obligated to inform the Editor of similar articles they have published. If a submission has a history at another journal, the author should submit the reviews and editorial letter when submitting the manuscript, as this information has the potential to accelerate the decision process.

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Check List for Format Requirements

Please note, the mission, publication format, production, and circulation require a number of format issues. Consideration of the manuscript for the journal requires that each is met exactly as specified. You may find the sheet useful as a checklist. Please note that the word and reference limits are strict.

_____Separate Cover Page for corresponding author (name, full address, phone, fax, e-mail, & ms word count)

_____Separate Title Page with name and affiliation of each author

_____Abstract (separate page, 100-200 words) and 3-5 key words underneath

_____Double space all material. Full double spacing (3 lines of double-spaced text/inch)

_____No right justification

_____Give page number(s) and source of any material in quotes

_____Add headings or subheadings to break up the text

_____Reduce technical terms or explain those that are used. The paper will be heavily edited to reduce such terminology in a later step of the production process. Terms we as psychologists converse with freely (e.g., effect size, proportion of variance, heritability), leaving aside theory-specific terms, are all within the bounds of technical terms. Any reduction in technical terms at this stage will be very helpful later.

_____Separate Notes Page at the end with the first numbered note beginning, “1Address correspondence to. [full name and address of corresponding author]—A corresponding superscript ought to be on the title page after the name of the corresponding author (e.g., Marilyn Smyth1)

_____References (APA format, all authors listed; pp. for chapters in edited books, full titles of journals)

_____References — maximum of 40 citations at the end of the manuscript

_____Separate Recommended Readings page (3-5 related readings you would recommend)

_____Separate Figure Caption page

_____Word count maximum of 2,500 (count only the abstract and all text).