APA 7th Edition Error - authors with same surname and initials

While previous editions of the APA style manual called for full names to be used when there are multiple authors with the same surname and initials in in-text citations, the 7th edition guides that when this happens, the standard name, date format be used. This can be found in section 8.20, on page 267 of the manual: "If the first authors of multiple references share the same surname and the same initials, cite the works in the standard author-date format."

In my case, I have two S Wilson references, and one A T Wilson reference. If I only had a single S Wilson, then it would work correctly, but both Shawn Wilson and Stan Wilson's references are appearing in-text with full first names.
  • CSL/Zotero can't do that, sorry. Not sure if we're going to try to accommodate that rule. It seems like a completely random divergence from what they had previously.
    @bwiernik do you happen to know the rationale here?
  • No sure why they changed that (perhaps because they decided the only purpose of the in-text reference is to direct readers to the correct item in the references list?). I agree this is a fairly bizarre divergence. I agree that I don't think it is worth trying to accommodate that rule.

    @bennein If you really want to follow the rule, you could manually edit the items when you are done writing, or you could edit the item data to just have the author initials. But I would recommend just using Zotero's output and leaving it to the journal typesetters to make a call one way or the other. Even APA journals are fairly inconsistent with how they apply the given name disambiguation rules.
  • That seems odd. Right now, I have three references with the same last name: Alex Wilson, Shawn Wilson, and Stan Wilson. If I remove the Stan Wilson Reference, than the in-text citations show as "(A. T. Wilson, 2020)" and "(S. Wilson, 2008)." When I add the Stan Wilson reference, they change to "(Alex Wilson, 2020)," "(Shawn Wilson, 2008)," and "(Stan Wilson, 2001)" in-text. It should check for the same first name and create initials, then if all first initials in the group are the same, only use the surname, and if there are different first names in the group, use initials.
  • I'm writing my thesis. I can't move it on until the citations are correct, and if I manually change them all, then Zotero won't work as I go through drafts, making me do all citations manually that include my primary sources. That is unpleasant. It is the rule with APA moving forward, and it's disappointing that it won't work correctly within Zotero.
  • edited 9 days ago
    @bwiernik Can you perhaps point me to the code that does this name-checking so I can play with my own variation of this to see if I can get it to work, at least for my own purposes?
  • Do Shawn and Stan Wilson have middle initials (e.g., in some of their other publications)? If so, add those. If not, another minor workaround would be to add placeholder fake middle initials, which you can find-and-replace to remove once you are done with your thesis.

    But honestly, I would just recommend using this version of the style, which disables author given name disambiguation entirely https://raw.githubusercontent.com/bwiernik/zotero-tools/master/apa-no-disambiguation.csl

    In my years of working with APA style, in my experience most authors ignore given name disambiguation entirely (or even complain when it is done correctly according to the manual). I don't think you would receive any pushback for leaving off initials.

    I wouldn't overestimate how common these occurrences are. Given name disambiguation is rare, and the case where two different authors share the same initials extremely so. APA's rule here is completely unlike any other citation style, and I really don't think it's worth the extreme amount of complexity it would add to accommodate it given how rarely it comes up.
  • @bwiernik Thanks for sending this along. I can always give it a try, but my advisor seems to be a bit of a stickler for matching the guide. Unfortunately, no middle names on any publications I've found.
  • I'd suggest adding fake middle initials to these authors then:

    Shawn Z. Wilson and Stan Q. Wilson. Then, you can find and replace "S. Z." and "S. Q." with "S." once at the end.
  • edited 9 days ago
    @bwiernik I've tried your workaround csl file, but unfortunately when these authors appear in the same group of citations it lumps them all together as though they are a single author. I'm going to have to either do it manually, making Zotero non-functional for me as I move forward (these are primary sources for me and appear through a 90 page thesis proposal), or find a way to manually code it. I would recommend that if this is the way APA will be formatting for the foreseeable future that it might be worthwhile to have it work properly.
  • (FWIW, the code for disambiguation starts about here: https://github.com/Juris-M/citeproc-js/blob/master/citeproc.js#L8460 and is compiled with Zotero. This should give you a sense of the level of complexity involved here -- there's no way trying to tweak this is a good time investment for a dissertation)
  • @adamsmith Thanks for sending this along. It looks like this is not something that's part of the CSL file itself. I'm beginning to see why this such a headache. It's disappointing, but I may see where you're coming from.
  • Right, if this were possible in CSL, we could just fix it or tell you how to modify it relatively easily.
  • @adamsmith So this s a rule that is used commonly across all citations styles, giving you good cause to build it directly into Zotero's code, and APA has shifted away from this while the other citation styles continue to use whole first names to differentiate between authors? That would make your life quite difficult. Have a great night.
  • That's correct. Though in fairness, not many citation styles go into that level of detail at all, so it's not like there are hundreds of styles that do one thing and APA decided to do the opposite.
    Chicago Manual is the only other one for which I know this for sure and they continue to use the whole first names if needed (but also use whole first names in the bibliography, so it's not entirely the same).
  • @adamsmith and @bwiernik: Thanks for the quick responses and attempts to help. I think I’m going to have to do this on my own and manually.

    I’ll probably have to just keep two copies at all times. One with linked citations that work properly, and one with unlinked citations and updated 7th edition citations.
  • Like I’ve said, I think the least amount of work will be to add fake middle initials to the 2 authors and delete them once at the end. You can use Word’s find and replace tool to automatically replace “S. Q.” And “S. Z.” with just “S.”
  • edited 6 days ago
    Actually, now that I think about this, I think CSL will do with by changing the disambiguation rule to “primary-name-with-initials”. Will submit a fix.
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