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APA Headings and Subheadings | With Sample Paper

Published on November 7, 2020 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on October 24, 2022.

Headings and subheadings provide structure to a document. They signal what each section is about and allow for easy navigation of the document.

APA headings have five possible levels. Each heading level is formatted differently.

APA headings (7th edition)

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Table of contents

Additional guidelines for apa headings, how many heading levels should you use, when to use which apa heading level, section labels vs headings, sample paper with apa headings, using heading styles in word or google docs.

As well as the heading styles, there are some other guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Double-space all text, including the headings.
  • Use the same font for headings and body text (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt.).
  • Don’t label headings with numbers or letters.
  • Don’t add extra “enters” above or below headings.

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Depending on the length and complexity of your paper, you may not use all five heading levels. In fact, shorter student papers may have no headings at all.

It’s also perfectly fine for some sections in your paper to go as deep as five levels, where others use only heading level 1.

Heading level 1 is used for main sections like “ Methods ”, “ Results ”, and “ Discussion ”. There is no “ Introduction ” heading at the beginning of your paper because the first paragraphs are understood to be introductory.

Heading level 2 is used for subsections under level 1. For example, under “Methods” (level 1) you may have subsections for “Sampling Method” and “Data Analysis” (level 2). This continues all the way down to heading level 5.

Always use at least two subheadings or none at all. If there is just one subheading, the top-level heading is sufficient.

In addition to regular headings, APA works with “section labels” for specific parts of the paper. They’re similar to headings but are formatted differently. Section labels are placed on a separate line at the top of a new page in bold and centered.

Use section labels for the following sections in an APA formatted paper :

  • Author note
  • Paper title
  • Reference page

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apa 7 research paper headings

Instead of formatting every heading individually, you can use the “Styles” feature in Word or Google Docs. This allows you to save the styling and apply it with just a click.

The first time you use APA Style, you need to update the default heading styles to reflect the APA heading guidelines. Click here for the instructions for Microsoft Word and Google Docs .

An added benefit of using the “Styles” feature is that you can automatically generate a table of contents .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Streefkerk, R. (2022, October 24). APA Headings and Subheadings | With Sample Paper. Scribbr. Retrieved July 11, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/apa-headings/

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APA Style 7th Edition: Citing Your Sources

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What are headings?

Levels of headings.

  • Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
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Headings are used to effectively organize ideas within a study or manuscript.  It can also highlight important items, themes or topics within sections.  By creating concise headings, the reader can anticipate key points and track the development of your argument.  The heading levels establish the hierarchy of each section and are designated by their formatting.

1


Text begins as a new paragraph.           

2


    Text beings as a new paragraph.

3
   Text begins as a new paragraph.
4         Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.
5         Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.

Adapted from American Psychological Association. (2009). Format for Five Levels of Heading in APA Journals. Publication manual of the American psychological association (6th ed., p. 62) Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

  • If you need to use subsections in any given section, use a least two, otherwise omit their use.
  • Do not label headings with numbers or letters
  • Use of title case : Use of both upper and lower case letters, all major words are capitalized
  • Paragraph headings are immediately followed by text for that subsection, rather than starting on a new line.  The heading sits at the start of the first paragraph for that section.
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  • Last Updated: Jun 13, 2024 1:51 PM
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APA Style 7th Edition Resource Guide

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APA Headings

Heading level templates for student and professional papers.

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Headings are used to help guide the reader through a document. There are five levels  of headings in APA. Always use the headings in order, beginning with level 1. Only use as may headings as are needed to differentiate between sections of a paper.  Headings are not necessary if your paper doesn't have separate sections. 

See more guidance below.

  • Headings Guidance from the APA Style website
Level Format
1

Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading

     Text begins as a new paragraph.

2

Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading

     Text begins as a new paragraph.

3

     Text begins as a new paragraph.

4

     Indented, Bold, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and

continues as a regular paragraph.

5

       Text begins on the same line and

continues as a regular paragraph

Note. In title case, most words are capitalized.

  • Headings for Student Paper
  • Headings for Professional Paper

Chapter 7 of the APA manual provides guidance about creating tables and figures. Please consult the manual or the abbreviated guidance located on the APA Style website.

Table and figures can be presented either in the text of the paper or after the reference list on separate pages.

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     Paragraph begins here, on the line after the heading. This example is singled spaced, but should be double-spaced as all text in the paper.

     Paragraph begins here, on the line after the heading. This example is singled spaced, but should be double-spaced as all text in the paper.

     Paragraph begins here, on the line after the heading. This example is singled spaced, but should be double-spaced as all text in the paper.

      Paragraph begins here, on the same line as the heading. This example is singled spaced, but should be double-spaced as all text in the paper.
      Paragraph begins here, on the same line as the heading. This example is singled spaced, but should be double-spaced as all text in the paper.

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What are headings?

Headings, sections, subsections, or levels of subordination are a style of dividing your research paper into major parts, then minor subsections. Most college papers do not need headings, especially if you are only producing two to five pages. However, if your professor requests you use headings or your are writing an especially long or detailed paper, then use headings to help readers navigate your text. Follow the APA style rules for creating the correct level of heading. Always start with a level one heading and drill down to the last subsection possible (five) in order as seen below. Instructions and examples for headings are available on p. 47- 49 of the new APA 7th Edition manual.

Levels of Headings

1

Text begins as new paragraph.

2

Text begins as new paragraph.

3

Text begins as new paragraph.

4         Text begins on the same line.
5         Text begins on the same line.

Additional Headings Resources

  • APA Style: Headings This page of the APA Style Blog provides more details about styling paper section headings in APA style.
  • Heading Levels Template: Student Paper APA Style 7th Edition This example student paper clearly illustrates how to style section headings including the paper title and the Introduction section (which should not be labeled Introduction as APA assumes all papers begin with an introduction section).

Proper Title Case vs. lowercase paragraph heading

Proper title case is using both uppercase and lowercase letters in a title. It calls for the major words to be capitalized while any small conjunctions are made smaller, i.e., 

The Title of this Paper is Lengthy

Lowercase paragraph heading calls for the first word to be capitalized along with any proper nouns contained within the heading, i.e., 

        The title of this heading is much shorter and all lowercase except for the first word.

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apa 7 research paper headings

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Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, apa headings and subheadings.

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  • headings when there are at least two subsections within a larger section.
  • using subheadings only when the paper has at least two subsections within a larger section

APA headings and subheadings refers to the rules for formatting sections of documents in the 7th Edition of the American Psychological Association’s Publication Manual .

A research paper written in APA style should be organized into sections and subsections using the five levels of APA headings. 

Related Concepts:

Notice how sections contain at least two smaller subsections in the example below:

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.

Method  (1st level)

Design (2nd level)

        Participants (3rd level)

        Demographics. (4th level)

              Age Group. (5th level)

Limitations  (2nd level)

  • For student papers, include only the page number in the top right margin of every page of the paper
  • For professional papers, place the page number in the top right margin and the running head in the top left margin of every page of the paper. Running heads should be a shortened version of the paper title.

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7th Edition APA Style: How to Use APA Headings in Your Paper

APA headings and subheadings give your paper the structure it needs to differentiate and separate sections –  much like how we’ve structured this article.  Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. 

Like a reference list, in-text citations, footnotes, and abstract, APA headings require correct formatting. More so since the American Psychological Association (APA) released the 7th edition of their style guide. 

In this article, we’ll go through the different APA heading levels and their formats. You will also have access to APA headings examples and insight on  APA capitalization rules  so you can nail APA heading formatting without breaking a sweat. 

Table of Contents

What Are APA Headers? 

As mentioned earlier, APA headers separate and differentiate your paper’s sections. They are crucial in scholarly works because: 

  • They give structure to your report. 
  • Readers and your adviser or restructure can quickly identify the sections of your paper. 
  • When properly formatted and used, they can provide a visual aid to improve the flow of information in your paper. 

The APA headers are divided into five levels (more on this later!).

APA 6th Edition vs. 7th Edition: Is There A Difference In Headings?  

Before diving down to APA’s unique headings system, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – the style guide edition. And, we hate to break it to you. There are a lot of changes between the APA 6th edition vs. 7th edition, but since we’re only talking about headings, we’re not going to outline all the differences. 

Luckily for you, there are not a lot of changes in the APA style 7th edition headings. 

  • For the capitalization and style, you should write the headings in title case and boldface. 
  • Formatting of the first level (main level of heading) and second level headings are almost identical to the 6th edition, except for the new title case and boldface rules. 
  • The third, fourth, and fifth-level headings of the 7th edition APA are distinguished by using periods, indentation, and italics. 

To better understand these changes, you can refer to the table below.  

Diagram showing the difference between 6th APA edition and 7th APA edition headings

In addition to these formatting changes, the 7th APA style guide also dictates that student papers do not need a running head.

What Are the Different APA Heading Levels? 

Now that you know what APA headings are and the difference between the headings of APA 6th and 7th editions, let’s talk about the levels. 

APA headings levels are divided into five – Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5. In a hurry? You can check the comparison table below.

1CenteredYesNoneBegins as new paragraph 
2Flush leftYesNoneBegins as new paragraph 
3Flush leftYesNoneBegins as new paragraph 
4IndentedYesYesSame line as regular paragraph
5IndentedYesYesSame line as regular paragraph

Expert Insight:  Title case means capitalizing the first letter of words with at least four or more letters. These words are typically proper nouns, pronouns, adverbs, nouns, and adjectives. However, keep in mind that the first word in a header is always in upper case, even if the first word is an article like “ the”  or  “a.”

Level 1 

Level 1, or the first level of heading, represents the main section of your paper. For instance, if your paper topic discusses the effects of social media platforms on university students, the header “Method” should be in level 1. 

In a 7th APA style, the structure should be:

The text after Level 1 will be a new paragraph and not on the same line as the heading. 

Expert Insight:  Does the Level 1 format look familiar? That’s because it has the same structure as the Paper Title element (APA 7 title page) in the APA cover page format.

What if the next portion of your paper discusses the sampling method you’ve used? In that case, the first level of subsection should be the second level of headings or simply Level 2. Why? This is because the “sampling method” is a cluster of the main level “Method.”

The structure of a Level 2 header is, however, different. Instead of having the “Sampling Method” centered, you’ll flush it to the left. A Level 2 header will be in bold, and the paragraph will start in a new line. 

Here’s how a Level 2 APA is formatted:

Tip:  When in doubt, remember that APA sub-headings or subsections should be related to the subsequent header.

Level 3 

The third level of headings, or Level 3, further expounds the information you’ve shared in Level 2 or “Sampling Method.” In this case, your level 3 will be “Procedure.”The formatting of Level 2 and Level 3 are pretty similar.

As a matter of fact, there is one key difference a Level 3 header will be in bold italic. The alignment, boldface, and title case will remain the same. 

You should format a Level 3 APA header like this:

Level 4 

You will need to use the fourth level of headings or Level 4 if there are other details from the Level 3 “Sampling Method” that you need to discuss further. In our APA example, that Level 4 will be the “Participant Recruitment.”

The format of Level 4 is distinct from levels 1, 2, and 3 because: 

  • It is indented. 
  • The paragraph is in line with the heading. 
  • You will add a period at the end of the heading. 

To better understand an APA Level 4 heading format, here is an example:

You’ve probably caught on that Level 5 is a subheading of Level 4, and you are correct! If “Participant Recruitment” warrants more information, you can use the fifth level of headings for either “Tools” or “Compensation.”

The formatting of Level 5 is a bit similar to Level 4; the only difference is that you’ll use a boldface italic. Other elements like indent and period will remain the same. 

APA Heading Examples 

If you combine the levels, your paper should look like this:

picture showing an APA heading example paper

How to Choose the Right APA Heading to Use?

With five levels to choose from, selecting which one you should use for your paper can be daunting. Here are some tips: 

  • Use the Level 1 APA header when it is an important part of the paper. For instance, method, conclusion, and results. 
  • Use the Level 2 heading when the subsections are related to the first level. 
  • You should apply a Level 3 header when the APA subheadings are related to Level 2. 
  • Level 4 headers should be used in your paper if the sections are directly correlated with Level 3. 
  • Lastly, you should use Level 5 headers when the information is related to Level 4. 

How Do You Organize Headings in APA 7? 

Now that you are familiar with all the five-level headings in APA 7. The question now is, how do you arrange them? The rule of thumb for organizing APA 7 headers is to always start with Level 1, followed by subsequent headings of equal importance. 

Does that mean that the levels should only be used once? Not technically. You can have all the number of levels in a section as long as you follow the progression, wherein Level 1 always comes first. 

Tip:  Don’t mistake section labels and APA headings or vice versa. Section labels or special headings are different from regular headings. Not only are they formatted differently, but they also appear at the top section of the paper, below the pagination or page number. You will always find them at the start of a new page. 

Additional APA 7 Header Guidelines 

On top of the format or structure of the level headers, you should also watch out for the following: 

  • Text, including the headers, should be double-spaced.
  • Font size and typeface should stay consistent throughout your article. For instance, if you’ve used Times New Roman 12pt in your headers, the text should also have the same typeface and size. 
  • Depending on your teacher’s requirements, you may or may not need labels (letter or number) for the headers. When in doubt, ask for clarification. 
  • There should be at least two APA subheadings in your paper. If you only have one, consider adding more sections in your paper or use no subheadings at all. 

APA Headings FAQ

How to create table of contents in apa format.

In APA 7th edition, it is not required to have a table of contents, but in case your adviser requires one, you can easily do so whether you are using Google docs or Microsoft Word. 

In Google Docs: 

  • Set the headers in the correct header size. Click the “Normal Text” dropdown and choose Header 1 for Level 1 APA headings, Header 2 for Level 2, and so on. 
  • Go to Insert>Table of Contents. 

Note:  Keep in mind that APA 7th style guide dictates that the headings and text should have the same font size and typeface. So, after printing the table of contents, make sure to revert the levels to the correct size. 

In Microsoft Word: 

  • Highlight the level heading 
  • Select Update the Heading
  • Match the heading size with the level heading. For instance, if you have a Level 1 Header, select Header 1. 
  • Go to References > Table of Contents > Custom Table of Contents.  
  • Input how many headings you will need. 

Tip:  Ensure you set the levels in the correct format before creating the table of contents. All levels no longer have a lower case heading. The only thing you should watch out for is the alignment, boldface, italics, and period.

Do You Have to Use All the APA Headers?

No, you don’t have to use all five APA headers in your paper. The headers and the number of subsections will highly depend on your writing style and subject matter. 

Is There an Introduction Heading? 

No, there isn’t an “introduction heading.” This is because the first paragraphs of a paper are already understood as the introduction section. 

Heading in the Right Direction 

The format of APA headings and subheadings can be confusing at first. But remember, APA capitalization rules for the 7th APA edition mean using title case for all heading levels; no more uppercase and lowercase headings. And you can distinguish the third, fourth, and fifth-level headings through italicization, period, and indentation. As for the text after the heading, only levels 4 and 5 will have the paragraph in line with the headings. 

Don’t forget that running headers are no longer required in student papers! But just to be on the safe side, make sure to always ask your instructor.

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  • Comprehensive Guide to Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

Comprehensive Guide to Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

Section 1: Introduction to Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0-

In academic writing, the use of headings and subheadings is crucial for organizing and structuring a paper. APA (American Psychological Association) style, specifically in its 7th edition, provides clear guidelines on how to effectively use headings and subheadings to enhance readability and comprehensibility of research papers, essays, and other scholarly works. This section will provide a comprehensive introduction to the importance, purpose, and benefits of using headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 format.

Purpose of Headings and Subheadings

Headings and subheadings serve as visual cues to help readers navigate through the content of a paper. They create a hierarchical structure, indicating the relationships between different sections and subsections, and aid in organizing ideas and presenting information in a logical manner. By using headings and subheadings, writers can effectively divide their work into manageable and coherent sections, making it easier for readers to comprehend and follow the main arguments and supporting details.

Importance of Headings and Subheadings

Clear and well-structured headings and subheadings are essential in academic writing for several reasons. First and foremost, they enhance the overall readability of the paper by breaking down the text into smaller, digestible chunks. This organization allows readers to quickly identify and locate specific information, especially when they are scanning or skimming through the document.

Secondly, headings and subheadings contribute to the coherence and flow of the paper. By providing a clear roadmap, they guide the reader through the main ideas, supporting evidence, and key points presented in each section. This not only improves the overall structure of the paper but also helps maintain the logical progression of thoughts and arguments.

Additionally, headings and subheadings assist both readers and writers in comprehending complex topics. They enable writers to organize their thoughts, ensuring that each section focuses on a specific aspect or theme. This organization facilitates a deeper understanding of the subject matter for both the writer during the drafting process and the reader during the consumption of the paper.

Formatting Guidelines for Headings and Subheadings

APA 7.0 provides specific rules and formatting guidelines for using headings and subheadings. These guidelines include the use of different levels of headings, capitalization rules, and placement within the paper. Understanding and adhering to these guidelines is crucial for maintaining consistency and conformity with APA style.

The APA 7.0 formatting guidelines for headings and subheadings are based on a five-level hierarchy, with each level indicating the level of importance and hierarchy of information. Level 1 headings are the highest level, followed by Level 2, Level 3, and so on. Each level has a specific formatting style, such as font size, boldness, and indentation, to differentiate it from the other levels. Furthermore, APA 7.0 also provides guidance on the appropriate use of sentence case, title case, and capitalization in headings and subheadings. For instance, Level 1 headings are typically written in sentence case and are centered and bolded. Level 2 headings are aligned to the left margin, bolded, and written in title case. To maintain clarity and consistency, APA 7.0 also provides recommendations on the number of headings to use within a paper. It suggests that at least two headings should be used in any given section, as a single heading alone may not adequately represent the content covered.

Section 2: The Purpose and Importance of Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

Facilitating information retrieval.

One of the primary purposes of headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 is to facilitate information retrieval for readers. When faced with a lengthy document, readers often engage in scanning or skimming techniques to locate specific information or sections of interest. Well-structured headings and subheadings act as signposts, allowing readers to quickly identify the content they are seeking without having to read the entire text. By providing a clear and organized hierarchy, headings guide readers to the main sections of a paper, while subheadings further break down the content into more specific subsections. This hierarchical structure enables readers to navigate the document with ease, locating relevant information efficiently. Thus, headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 contribute significantly to the overall accessibility and user-friendliness of academic papers.

Enhancing Readability and Comprehensibility

Headings and subheadings play a vital role in enhancing the readability and comprehensibility of academic writing. They help break up large blocks of text into smaller, digestible sections, preventing the overwhelming feeling that dense paragraphs can create. By visually separating different sections and subsections, headings and subheadings allow readers to mentally prepare for the content they are about to encounter. Additionally, headings and subheadings improve the flow and coherence of a paper. They provide a roadmap for readers, helping them understand the organization and structure of the author's arguments and supporting evidence. Well-crafted headings and subheadings enable readers to follow the logical progression of ideas and maintain a clear understanding of the paper's main points. Finally, headings and subheadings aid in the comprehension of complex topics. By breaking down the content into smaller, focused sections, readers can grasp the material more easily. Headings act as cognitive cues, preparing readers for the information presented in each section. This approach not only facilitates understanding but also allows readers to engage with the content at a deeper level, promoting knowledge retention.

Organizing and Structuring Ideas

Headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 serve as valuable tools for organizing and structuring ideas within a paper. They help writers divide their work into meaningful sections, each addressing a specific aspect or theme related to the overall topic. This organization ensures that information is presented in a coherent and logical manner, making it easier for both the writer and the reader to navigate the paper.

By using headings and subheadings, writers can create a clear outline for their work, ensuring that each section has a distinct focus. This outline acts as a framework, guiding the writer in presenting their arguments and supporting evidence in a systematic and organized way. Writers can use headings to delineate major sections or main ideas, while subheadings allow for further subcategorization and exploration of subtopics.

Furthermore, headings and subheadings assist writers in structuring their thoughts during the writing process. By providing a visual representation of the paper's organization, headings help writers maintain a coherent flow of ideas and prevent the inclusion of irrelevant or tangential information. This structured approach not only improves the overall quality of the paper but also enhances the writer's ability to communicate their ideas effectively.

Conveying the Hierarchical Relationship of Information

Another important purpose of headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 is to convey the hierarchical relationship of information. By assigning different levels to headings, the writer can indicate the relative importance and order of ideas within the paper. Higher-level headings represent broader themes or major sections, while lower-level headings address more specific subtopics or subsections. This hierarchical structure helps readers understand the organization and logical flow of the paper at a glance. It allows them to grasp the overall structure and the relationships between different sections without having to read the entire document. Additionally, the use of indentation and formatting styles for each level of heading further reinforces the hierarchical relationship and aids in visual differentiation.

Section 3: Formatting Guidelines for Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

Proper formatting of headings and subheadings is crucial in APA 7.0 style to ensure consistency, clarity, and readability in academic writing. This section will delve into the specific formatting guidelines provided by APA 7.0 for headings and subheadings, including the use of different levels, capitalization rules, and placement within the paper.

Levels of Headings

APA 7.0 introduces a five-level hierarchy for headings, each denoting a different level of importance and significance within the paper. These levels provide a structured framework for organizing the content and help readers understand the organization and flow of ideas. Here are the five headings in APA 7.0:

Level 1: Centered, Bold and Title Case

            Text begins here.

Level 2: Left-Aligned, Bold and Title Case

Level 3: Left-Aligned, Bold, Italics, and Title Case

Level 4: Left-Aligned, Bold, Title Case, and Period. Text begins here.

Level 5: Left-Aligned, Bold, Title Case, Italics, and Period . Text begins here.

Section 4: Organizing and Structuring Your Paper

Using headings and subheadings in apa 7.0.

Organizing and structuring your paper effectively is crucial for presenting your ideas in a logical and coherent manner. Headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 play a vital role in achieving this goal by providing a clear framework for organizing your content. This section will delve into strategies and best practices for utilizing headings and subheadings to organize and structure your paper in accordance with APA 7.0 guidelines.

Preparing an Outline

Before you begin writing your paper, it is helpful to create an outline that outlines the main sections and subsections you intend to cover. An outline acts as a roadmap, allowing you to visualize the overall structure and flow of your paper. It serves as a foundation for developing meaningful headings and subheadings that accurately represent the content and facilitate logical organization. Start by identifying the major sections that your paper will include, such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. These major sections will serve as Level 1 headings in APA 7.0. Next, break down each major section into subsections that address specific subtopics or aspects related to the main theme. These subsections will be represented by Level 2 headings. Depending on the complexity and depth of your paper, you may further divide the subsections into sub-subsections using Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5 headings. Creating a comprehensive outline not only helps you organize your thoughts but also ensures that you cover all the necessary components of your paper. It allows you to see the relationships between different sections and subsections, enabling you to present your arguments and evidence in a logical and coherent sequence.

Maintaining Consistency and Parallelism

Consistency is key when it comes to organizing and structuring your paper using headings and subheadings. It is important to establish a consistent framework that is followed throughout the entire document. Consistency ensures that readers can easily understand the hierarchy and relationships between different sections and subsections. When creating headings and subheadings, aim for parallelism in terms of grammatical structure and formatting. Parallelism means that headings at the same level should have a similar grammatical structure and formatting style. For instance, if you choose to use noun phrases for Level 2 headings, maintain this pattern consistently across all Level 2 headings in your paper. This helps readers navigate through the content smoothly and maintain a sense of coherence. Furthermore, parallelism extends to the use of punctuation and capitalization within headings and subheadings. Maintain consistent capitalization rules, such as sentence case for Level 1 headings and title case for Level 2 headings. This uniformity enhances the visual hierarchy and clarity of your paper.

Balancing Depth and Granularity

Effective organization and structuring involve finding the right balance between depth and granularity in your headings and subheadings. Level 1 headings represent major sections and should encapsulate broad themes or concepts, providing an overview of what will be discussed within each section. Level 2 headings, as subsections, delve into more specific topics or aspects related to the main theme of the major section.

Reviewing and Revising the Organization

Organizing and structuring your paper using headings and subheadings is not a one-time task. It is an iterative process that requires regular review and revision to ensure optimal clarity and coherence. Once you have completed the initial draft of your paper, review the organization of your headings and subheadings. Ask yourself if the structure effectively reflects the flow of your ideas and supports your main argument. Consider whether the headings accurately represent the content of each section and subsection. During the review process, pay attention to transitions between sections and subsections. Ensure that the headings and subheadings create a smooth transition from one topic to another, guiding readers through the logical progression of your paper. If you notice any gaps or inconsistencies, revise and refine the organization accordingly. Additionally, seek feedback from peers, mentors, or instructors. Their fresh perspective can provide valuable insights into the clarity and effectiveness of your headings and subheadings. Incorporate their feedback and make necessary adjustments to improve the overall organization and structure of your paper.

Section 5: Common Mistakes to Avoid in Using Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

While using headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 can greatly improve the organization and readability of your paper, it's important to be aware of common mistakes that can compromise the effectiveness of your headings. By understanding and avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure that your headings enhance the clarity and coherence of your academic writing. This section will explore some common mistakes to avoid when using headings and subheadings in APA 7.0.

Inconsistent Formatting

One of the most common mistakes is inconsistent formatting of headings and subheadings. In APA 7.0, it is crucial to maintain consistency in capitalization, alignment, and formatting styles across headings at the same level. Inconsistencies can confuse readers and disrupt the visual hierarchy of your paper. Ensure that all Level 1 headings have the same formatting, all Level 2 headings have the same formatting, and so on. Consistency in formatting contributes to the overall professionalism and readability of your work.

Poor Alignment and Spacing

Another mistake to avoid is incorrect alignment and spacing of headings and subheadings. In APA 7.0, Level 1 headings are centered and typically start on a new page or a new line with an extra line space before and after the heading. Level 2 headings and lower-level headings, however, are left-aligned and generally require an extra line space before the heading but not after. Failure to align and space headings correctly can create confusion and disrupt the logical flow of your paper. Review APA 7.0 guidelines carefully to ensure proper alignment and spacing of your headings.

Lack of Parallelism

Parallelism, or consistent grammatical structure, is crucial when using headings and subheadings. Headings at the same level should follow a similar structure to maintain coherence and readability. For example, if you use noun phrases for Level 2 headings, ensure that all Level 2 headings follow this pattern. Lack of parallelism can make your headings appear disjointed and may confuse readers. Consistently apply parallel structure within each level of headings to create a smooth and organized flow of information.

Overcomplicating the Heading Structure

While it is important to provide a clear and hierarchical structure to your paper, overcomplicating the heading structure can lead to confusion and excessive fragmentation. Strive to find a balance between providing enough detail to cover your content effectively and avoiding an excessive number of headings and subheadings. Each heading should represent a meaningful subdivision and contribute to the overall organization and coherence of your paper. Aim for a clear and concise heading structure that guides readers without overwhelming them with excessive levels or overly specific subdivisions.

Lack of Descriptiveness

Headings and subheadings should be descriptive and informative to accurately represent the content covered within each section. Avoid using generic or ambiguous headings that do not provide a clear indication of what readers can expect to find. Vague headings can leave readers uncertain about the content or make it challenging to locate specific information within your paper. Ensure that your headings succinctly capture the main ideas or themes of each section, guiding readers through your content effectively.

Ignoring the Reader's Perspective

When creating headings and subheadings, it's important to consider the perspective of your readers. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how your headings will facilitate their understanding and navigation through your paper. Consider whether your headings effectively communicate the main points, guide readers through the logical flow of your arguments, and enable them to locate specific information easily. Ignoring the reader's perspective can result in headings that are unclear, unhelpful, or inconsistent, hindering the overall readability and comprehension of your work.

Neglecting to Revise and Edit Headings

Headings should not be an afterthought or treated as static elements in your paper. Neglecting to revise and edit your headings can lead to inaccuracies, lack of clarity, or poor alignment with the final content of your paper. As you progress through the writing process, continuously review and refine your headings to ensure they accurately represent the content and flow of your arguments. Make necessary adjustments, reword headings for better clarity, and ensure that they align with the finalized structure and organization of your paper.

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APA 7th ed. Style Guide

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Formatting guidelines and sample papers are found in chapter 2 of the APA 7th edition Publication Manual

Sample papers.

You can find sample papers from Purdue OWL's website, APA 7th edition Publication Manual, or APA style website.

  • APA Style Student Paper with Annotations in the Comments A Word Document featuring an APA 7th edition Style Student Paper that includes annotations as comments.
  • APA Style Professional Paper with Annotations in Comments A Word Document featuring an APA 7th edition Style Professional Paper that includes annotations as comments.
  • Purdue OWL Sample Papers

General Formatting Guidelines

Follow these guidelines throughout your paper:

  • Double space text
  • Header for student and professional papers includes the page number in the upper right hand corner
  • Single space after ending punctuation
  • Font size and style: Times New Roman 12 pt, Arial 11 pt, Calibri 11 pt, or Georgia 11 pt
  • Use the same font type and size throughout the paper (exceptions for figure images, computer code, and footnotes - see 2.19 in APA Manual)
  • Margins: 1 inch on all sides
  • Left align paragraphs and leave ragged (uneven) margins on the right
  • Indention: use 0.5 inch indention for the first line of every paragraph (use tab key for consistency)

Formatting Title Page

The 7th edition Publication Manual for APA introduced the student and professional papers. The major difference between these two types of papers is found on the title page. Please, see the guidelines below for formatting the title page of your document. Also note, follow your professors' guidelines for formatting the title page.

General Title Page Guidelines:

  • Double space
  • The title should summarize the main idea and be focused/succinct (avoid unnecessary words)
  • Title written in title case (the first letter of each word is capitalized), bold, centered, and positioned in the upper half of the title page
  • Use the author(s) first name, middle initial, and last name as the author's byline

Student Papers:

  • title of the paper
  • name of the author(s)
  • author affiliation (department and institution name)
  • course number and name 
  • instructor name
  • assignment due date (i.e. November 4, 2020)
  • page number (in the header)

Professional Papers:

  • author affiliation
  • author note
  • running head (abbreviated title) - Flush with left margin and written in all capital letters

Formatting Headings

APA 7th edition format for headings

Follow this format for headings (see 2.27 of the Publication Manual for additional details):

Level 1 headings are written in bold title case and aligned to the center. The text begins as a new paragraph.

Level 2 headings are written in bold title case and aligned flush to the left. The text begins as a new paragraph.

Level 3 headings are written in bold, italicized title case, and aligned flush to the left. The text begins as a new paragraph.

Level 4 headings are written in bold title case, indented from the left, and end with a period. The text begins after the period and continues like a regular paragraph.

Level 5 headings are written in bold, italicized title case, indented from the left, and end with a period. The text begins after the period and continues like a regular paragraph.

Formatting Reference List

The following are guidelines for formatting your reference list:

  • Start on a new page after the last page of text
  • Label the page Reference(s) with a capitalized R, written in bold and centered
  • Double space all entries
  • Use hanging indent for reference entries (first line of the reference is flush with left margin, subsequent lines are indented 0.5 inches)
  • Order alphabetically (see chapter 9 section 44-49 for additional instructions on entry order)
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Apa paper formatting, apa references list formatting, hanging indents for references list, formatting a powerpoint using apa style, additional resources.

Headings - APA Style Tips for formatting headings and using the automatic headings function of their word-processing program to create headings.

Sample Papers in APA Format Includes student and professional papers.

Paper Pre-Submission Checklist (APA Style)   A checklist to use before submitting your paper to ensure it follows proper APA formatting.

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   Use APA formatted headings and subheadings to organize the sections of your paper and to help your reader transition from section to section. A suggestion is to use headings that are in the order of the assignment and evaluation criteria or rubric so your instructor can easily see you have fulfilled each part of the assignment’s content requirements.

   The first heading level is centered, boldface, uppercase and lowercase lettering. Do not start a new page for each heading.

   Subheadings are formatted flush left, boldface, uppercase and lowercase lettering.

This sample will give you an example of heading levels used in the body of the paper

The APA Style Blog offers a short sample paper describing level headings and how to properly use headings within a paper.  Click this link to see the Heading Levels Template Student Paper

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APA 7: Sample Paper

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  • Figures - APA 7 The basics of figure setup, including figure components, principles of figure construction, and placement of figures in a paper.
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  1. APA Headings and Subheadings

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  2. 7th Edition APA Style: How to Use APA Headings in Your Paper

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    apa 7 research paper headings

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  1. Creating a Table of Contents, Headings (H1 & H2), Headers, and Page Numbers in Google Docs

  2. How to Create a Research Paper Outline?

  3. How to Write Objectives in Thesis in APA 7?

  4. APA Formatting & Citing with Laura

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  6. APA Style Guide

COMMENTS

  1. Headings

    There are five levels of heading in APA Style. Level 1 is the highest or main level of heading, Level 2 is a subheading of Level 1, Level 3 is a subheading of Level 2, and so on through Levels 4 and 5. The number of headings to use in a paper depends on the length and complexity of the work. If only one level of heading is needed, use Level 1.

  2. APA Headings and Subheadings

    Headings and subheadings provide structure to a document. They signal what each section. is about and allow for easy navigation of the document. APA headings have five possible levels. Each heading level is formatted differently. Note: Title case simply means that you should capitalize the first word, words with four or more letters, and all ...

  3. PDF Student Paper Setup Guide, APA Style 7th Edition

    Indent the first line of every paragraph of text 0.5 in. using the tab key or the paragraph-formatting function of your word-processing program. Page numbers: Put a page number in the top right corner of every page, including the title page or cover page, which is page 1. Student papers do not require a running head on any page.

  4. PDF Heading Levels Template: Student Paper, APA Style 7th Edition

    Title of Paper. Begin your paper with the paper title at the top of the first page of text. The paper title acts as a de facto Level 1 heading: It is centered and in bold title case font. Do not use the heading "Introduction"; text at the beginning of the paper is assumed to be the introduction. APA Style headings have five possible levels.

  5. APA Headings and Seriation

    Headings are used to help guide the reader through a document. The levels are organized by levels of subordination, and each section of the paper should start with the highest level of heading. There are 5 heading levels in APA. Regardless of the number of levels, always use the headings in order, beginning with level 1.

  6. Headings

    Center, Bold, Title Case Heading. Text begins as a new paragraph. 2: Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading Text beings as a new paragraph. 3: Flush Left, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading Text begins as a new paragraph. 4 Indented, Bold, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph. 5

  7. APA Style 7th Edition Resource Guide

    Headings are used to help guide the reader through a document. There are five levels of headings in APA. Always use the headings in order, beginning with level 1. Only use as may headings as are needed to differentiate between sections of a paper. Headings are not necessary if your paper doesn't have separate sections. See more guidance below.

  8. PDF APA 7 Student Sample Paper

    In this sample paper, we've put four blank lines above the title. Commented [AF3]: Authors' names are written below the title, with one double-spaced blank line between them. Names should be written as follows: First name, middle initial(s), last name. Commented [AF4]: Authors' affiliations follow immediately after their names.

  9. Paper Elements and Headings

    Headings. Use headings when necessary to differentiate distinct parts of a long or complex paper. Student papers may not require headings. There are five levels of headings used in APA Style. Use only the number of headings needed to differentiate parts of your paper. Just like an outline, avoid having only one subsection within a section.

  10. Headings

    5 Levels of Headings. Heading.Level. Heading.Format. 1. Centered, Bold, Title Case. Paragraph begins here, on the line after the heading. This example is singled spaced, but should be double-spaced as all text in the paper. 2. Flush Left, Bold, Title Case.

  11. APA 7th Edition Style Guide: Headings in APA

    2. Flush Left, Bold, Upper and Lowercase Heading. Text begins as new paragraph. 3. Flush Left, Bold, Italics, Upper and Lowercase Heading. Text begins as new paragraph. 4. Indent, Bold, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading with a Period at the End. Text begins on the same line.

  12. APA Sample Paper

    Media Files: APA Sample Student Paper , APA Sample Professional Paper This resource is enhanced by Acrobat PDF files. Download the free Acrobat Reader. Note: The APA Publication Manual, 7 th Edition specifies different formatting conventions for student and professional papers (i.e., papers written for credit in a course and papers intended for scholarly publication).

  13. APA Headings and Subheadings

    Definition. APA headings and subheadings refers to the rules for formatting sections of documents in the 7th Edition of the American Psychological Association's Publication Manual. A research paper written in APA style should be organized into sections and subsections using the five levels of APA headings. Related Concepts:

  14. Sample papers

    These sample papers formatted in seventh edition APA Style show the format that authors should use to submit a manuscript for publication in a professional journal and that students should use to submit a paper to an instructor for a course assignment. ... Student Paper (PDF, 257KB) Heading Levels Template: Professional Paper (PDF, 213KB) Other ...

  15. 7th Edition APA Style: How to Use APA Headings in Your Paper

    Set the headers in the correct header size. Click the "Normal Text" dropdown and choose Header 1 for Level 1 APA headings, Header 2 for Level 2, and so on. Go to Insert>Table of Contents. Note: Keep in mind that APA 7th style guide dictates that the headings and text should have the same font size and typeface.

  16. Comprehensive Guide to Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

    Proper formatting of headings and subheadings is crucial in APA 7.0 style to ensure consistency, clarity, and readability in academic writing. This section will delve into the specific formatting guidelines provided by APA 7.0 for headings and subheadings, including the use of different levels, capitalization rules, and placement within the paper.

  17. Research Guides: APA 7th ed. Style Guide: Formatting Your Paper

    Use the same font type and size throughout the paper (exceptions for figure images, computer code, and footnotes - see 2.19 in APA Manual) Margins: 1 inch on all sides. Left align paragraphs and leave ragged (uneven) margins on the right. Indention: use 0.5 inch indention for the first line of every paragraph (use tab key for consistency)

  18. APA Formatting and Style (7th ed.) for Student Papers

    Sample Paper APA 7th ed. Our APA sample paper shows you how to format the main parts of a basic research paper. APA 7th Sample Papers from Purdue Owl << Previous: Block Quotations; Next: Government Documents and Legal Materials >> Last Updated: May 3, 2024 2:22 PM;

  19. APA Document Formatting (7th Edition)

    Headings - APA Style Tips for formatting headings and using the automatic headings function of their word-processing program to create headings. Sample Papers in APA Format Includes student and professional papers. Paper Pre-Submission Checklist (APA Style) A checklist to use before submitting your paper to ensure it follows proper APA formatting.

  20. APA Formatting and Style Guide (7th Edition)

    Guidelines on writing an APA style paper In-Text Citations. Resources on using in-text citations in APA style ... Basic guidelines for formatting the reference list at the end of a standard APA research paper Author/Authors Rules for handling works by a single author or multiple authors that apply to all APA-style references in your reference ...

  21. LibGuides: APA Help (7th Edition): Headings Example

    The first heading level is centered, boldface, uppercase and lowercase lettering. Do not start a new page for each heading. Subheadings. Subheadings are formatted flush left, boldface, uppercase and lowercase lettering. This sample will give you an example of heading levels used in the body of the paper. The APA Style Blog offers a short sample ...

  22. PDF Hi, APA Styler! your paper or assignment

    APA_PM7_Ch2-BLueline.indd 57 8/1/19 7:01 PM. Sample Papers • 57 . Sample Professional Paper (continued) Level 3 heading, 2.27, Table 2.3, Figure 2.5 parenthetical citation of two works, 8.12 "see also" citation, 8.12 parenthetical citation of a work with one author, 8.17 Level 2 heading, 2.27, Table 2.3, Figure 2.5 quotation marks used

  23. Sample Paper

    Optional Paper Sections. Headings - APA 7 Style Guide. Accessible Use of Colors in APA 7. Figures - APA 7. The basics of figure setup, including figure components, principles of figure construction, and placement of figures in a paper. Tables - APA 7.