Academic Writing Style

A number of writing styles are used in academic writing in the public administration field. Some of the major writing styles are the American Psychological Association format (known as the APA style), the Chicago Manual of Style, and Modern Language Association format (known as MLA style). These styles can be divided into two groups. One group uses footnotes at the bottom of the page. The Chicago Manual of Style is one in this group. Some major Public Administration journals, including the Public Administration Review (PAR), use the Chicago Style of Manual. The other group, which includes the APA style, does not use footnotes. The main text of the paper contains only the name of the author cited, publication year and the page. All citations and notes are at the end of the article. Many social science books and articles follow the APA Style. You can use any of these formats unless your professor specifically instructs otherwise. Keep one thing in your mind, however, once you have chosen a style, use the same style throughout your paper.

The faculty of the MPA program at Northern Illinois University adopted a standard writing policy for all courses offered by the department in order to increase the writing proficiency of our students. The employers of our MPA graduates continuously remind us that oral and written communication are critical skills that they seek in employees.

In order to ensure a consistent and high-quality approach to writing across the curriculum policy, the faculty has adopted two books as reference for both writing style and grammar. All students are required to adopt these two books as the reference for all papers submitted in the MPA curriculum. Every member of the faculty has a desk copy of each book. Any questions or concerns about grading and comments on writing style and grammar can be referenced to one of the two books.

This policy does not require that MPA students only use one style or format for MPA courses. Quite the contrary, we wish to introduce students to a variety of writing formats in the course of programs. The point of adopting a grammar and style guide is that everyone in the program will use the same basic elements of style (Swain and Swain) and the same grammar and citation rules (Turabian) when they do so.

The required writing manual is:

Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Eighth Edition, Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. Paperback version: ISBN: 9780226816388, April 2013.

The required style guide is:

John W. Swain and Kathleen Dolan Swain, Effective Writing in the Public Sector, ME. Sharpe, 2014. Paper ISBN: 978-0-7656-4150-2.

Students can assume that these books are now required for each PSPA course in the MPA program. This includes the capstone paper. The requirement pertains to all students admitted to the program beginning fall 2010. Books can be ordered through the NIU University Bookstore (815-753-1081), other bookstores, or online.

The MPA computer lab has the Chicago Manual of Style for your reference.

Nota Bene, which is an academic writing word processor, can be a helpful aid for citations. Once a manuscript is written in Nota Bene, you can change your writing style one way (e.g., footnotes) to another (e.g., inline cite) just by a few clicks. The MPA computer lab has several copies of Nota Bene licensed. Please ask your lab assistant if you are interested in using the program.