Proper Apa Headings For An Essay

How should section and subsection headings be formatted in APA style?

A research paper written in APA style should be organized into sections and subsections using the five levels of APA headings. APA recommends using subheadings only when the paper has at least two subsections within a larger section. Notice how sections contain at least two smaller subsections in the example below:

Method

Design 

Participants. 

Demographics.

Characteristics.

Limitations

Starting with the first level of heading, the subsections of the paper should progressively use the next level(s) of heading without skipping any levels. Major sections of the paper's main body, including the Method, Results, and Discussion sections, should always be formatted with the first level of heading. However, keep in mind that the Introduction section, which is preceded by the full title of the paper, should be presented in plain type. Any subsections that fall under the major sections are formatted with the next level of heading.

Note that all paragraphs of the main body, including those that fall under subsections of a larger section, still maintain the pattern of indentation, use Times New Roman font, 12 pt., and are double-spaced. There are no extra lines or spaces between paragraphs and headings.

How are the five levels of APA-style headings formatted?

Format each of the five levels of APA-style headings as demonstrated in the example below. Note that while the example features headings titled "First Level," "Second Level," and so on, each heading in your paper should be named according to the section it describes. 

First level

The first level of heading is bolded and centered, and the first letter of each word in the heading is capitalized. The paragraph text should be typed on the following line and indented five spaces from the left.

Second level

The second level of heading is bolded and situated flush left, and the first letter of each word in the heading is capitalized. The paragraph text should be typed on the following line and indented five spaces from the left.

Third level

The third level of heading is bolded, indented five spaces from the left, and followed by a period. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word in the heading and of proper nouns. The first paragraph following this heading should be typed on the same line as the heading.

Fourth level

The fourth level of heading is bolded, italicized, indented five spaces from the left, and followed by a period. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word in the heading and of proper nouns. The first paragraph following this heading should be typed on the same line as the heading.

Fifth level

The fifth level of heading is italicized, indented five spaces from the left, and followed by a period. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word in the heading and of proper nouns. The first paragraph following this heading should be typed on the same line as the heading.

See also:

The 6th edition of the Publication Manual brings an important and exciting change: a new way of doing headings. The updated headings style should make headings easier to understand, implement, and see in your finished paper. Here are five essential things you need to know:

  • APA has designed a five-level heading structure (we numbered them to talk about them, but you won’t actually number your headings in your paper). Click the image below to get a close-up view of the new heading style.

  • Proceed through the levels numerically, starting with Level 1, without skipping over levels (this is in contrast to the 5th edition heading style, which involved skipping levels depending on the total number of levels you had—how complicated!).

  • That first heading won’t be called “Introduction” or be the title of your paper; these are common mistakes. Actually, the first heading will likely be somewhere in the body of your paper. In an experimental study, for example, often the first real heading is the Method section, and it would thus go at Level 1.

  • Use as many levels as necessary to convey your meaning. Many student papers and published articles utilize two or three levels. Longer works like dissertations may demand four or five.

  • Need more guidance? Consult the Publication Manual (Chapter 3, Section 3.03) for more examples and explanation. Also look at published APA articles to see how it’s done—APA plans to fully implement the new heading style in its journals by January 2010. 

  • How do you like the new heading style? Do you have any questions or comments about it? Please share!

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