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APA 7th Edition Style Guide: Headings in APA

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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

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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  • 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 Style 7th Edition: Citing Your Sources

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What are headings?

Levels of headings.

  • Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
  • Additional Resources
  • Reference Page

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.

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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APA 7th Guide: Formatting Resources

  • Formatting Resources

In-Text Citations

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Paper Formatting

Short Direct Quotes

Long Direct Quotes

References Page

Different Sources

Paper Formatting Checklist for Students

General formatting.

  • Header includes page numbers, right aligned at the top of each page
  • Margins are 1 inch on all sides
  • All text is double spaced
  • All paragraphs are left-aligned
  • All paragraphs in the Text have the first line indented
  • Font may be 12pt Times New Roman*
  • Header may include a running head*
  • Text is center aligned
  • Full title of the paper, bolded
  • Author name(s)
  • Affiliated institution and department
  • Course number
  • Instructor Name
  • Assignment due date (Month Day, Year)
  • Left aligned 
  • No paragraph indentation
  • Usually no more than 250 words
  • Starts on a separate page from the Title Page/Abstract
  • Title of the paper in level 1 heading format at the top of the first page
  • The first line of each paragraph is indented 1/2 inch
  • Section headings to organize content

Reference List

  • Starts on a new page, separate from the Text
  • "References" is capitalized, bold, and centered at the top of the page
  • Left aligned with a hanging indent on each reference entry
  • Organized alphabetically by the first letter in each reference entry

Tables & Figures* 

  • Can appear in the text after the paragraph in which they were mentioned or at the end of a paper after the reference list
  • Number (bolded)
  • Brief title in italics
  • Note following

Appendices*

  • Appears in the text after Tables and Figures or the Reference List
  • Each appendix is referenced parenthetically in the Text
  • Each starts on its own page
  • Appendix (X) and Title must be centered and bold at the top of the page

*Not required in the APA 7th Ed. Manual for students, but may be required by your professor.

Which Font?

APA 7th Ed. permits several styles of font, depending on whether the text will be read on a screen or in physical copy. Always check to see if your professor requires a certain font, especially since Times New Roman 12pt font has been the default for so long.

Sans-serif fonts for reading on a screen

  • Calibri 11 pt.
  • Arial 11 pt.
  • Lucida Sans Unicode

Serif fonts for reading in physical copy

  • Times New Roman 12pt.
  • Georgia 11pt.
  • Computer Modern 10pt.

Online Resources for APA Style

  • Style & Grammar Guidelines This page links to brief explanations of every aspect of the APA 7th edition manual.
  • APA Style Blog Official companion to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 7th Edition.
  • Essentials of Paper Formatting A page with links to the essentials of general guidelines for formatting your paper in APA 7th Ed.
  • Sample APA 7th Ed. Papers The American Psychological Association has provided a few example papers for both student and professional formatting.
  • Purdue OWL APA 7th The Online Writing Lab (OWL) is provided and maintained by Purdue University. It contains examples and detailed explanations of APA 7th edition style guidelines.
  • General Paper Formatting Handout
  • Types of References Handout
  • Formatting Checklist Handout

Level 1 Heading

     This is the highest level of heading and should be used to denote the primary sections within a paper such as the Methods, Discussion, or Conclusion of a paper. Level one headings should be centered, bolded, use title case (upper and lower case letters). All headings should be the same font size as the rest of your manuscript.

Level 2 Heading

     Use this level of heading to organize topics within the major sections of your manuscript. For example, you could have sections for sample selection, participant recruitment, and/or assessment tool in the methods section of your manuscript. The level 2 heading is formatted the same as the level 1 heading except it should be flush with the left margin.

Level 3 Heading  

     This heading is very useful for organizing specific subjects within a topic. For example, if assessing different sources in a literature review, list the name of each source as a level 3 heading at the beginning of the paragraph in which a specific source is discussed. This heading is formatted the same as a level 2 heading, except it is italicized.

Tables & Figures

Each table is assigned a number in bold based on the order it is used in the article (i.e. Table 1 ). Located below the table number (and just above the table itself) should be a clear but concise title in italics and title case. Notes about the table go underneath the table. To format one, put " Note. " in italics with a period or colon then follow it with a description or explanation.

7th edition table formatting

Example provided courtesy of Dr. Kandi Pitchford.

For more information on formatting and when to use tables, check out the link below.

Each figure is assigned a number in bold based on the order it is used in the article (i.e.  Figure 1 ). Located below the figure number (and just above the figure itself) should be a clear but concise title in italics and title case. Notes about the figure go underneath. To format a note, put " Note. " in italics with a period or colon then follow it with a description or explanation.

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For more examples and guidelines for how and when to use figures in a paper, follow the link below.

  • APA Figures

Formatting Appendices

  • What is an appendix?
  • How do I use an appendix?
  • How do I make an appendix?

An appendix is a section that can come after the reference list that includes supplementary content that doesn't belong in the main text.

Examples:  results table from a cited source, an info-graphic, a guideline checklist, or a diagram of complex equipment.

Point readers to the content of an appendix in the body of an article by referring to the corresponding appendix heading. Each appendix should be referred to at least once in the text with a parenthesis.

Example:  This kitchen is rated a 5 on the Hazard Scale (for more information on the Hazard Scale, see Appendix B). 

Format an appendix the same way you would start a reference list, with "Appendix" and the title bolded and centered at the top of a new page. If there is more than one appendix, start each on a new page and include a capital letter with the heading. Appendices are lettered and organized by the order they are referred to in the body of the article.

Example: 

Hazard Scale

  • 1 - The room is completely safe and the likelihood of being injured is very low.
  • 2 - The room is relatively safe, but injury is likely if one is inattentive to the environment.
  • 3 - The room is completely unsafe and injury or illness is very likely.

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APA 7 Style: Formatting Guidelines

Common guidelines for apa-format papers.

APA 7 (2020) has introduced new guidelines for student papers that differ from the guidelines for professional papers being submitted for publication. Make sure to check with your professor or teaching assistant on whether they prefer that you use the student or professional format for your work.

Common Guidelines for All APA-Format Papers

Line Spacing

Paragraph alignment and indentation, page numbers.

  • Figures and Tables

References Page

Guidelines Specific to Student Papers

Guidelines Specific to Professional Papers Being Submitted for Publication

  • Headers with Running Head and Page Numbers

Guidelines for All APA-Format Papers

APA 7 (2020) accepts the use of a wider range of fonts than previous editions. Use a consistent font throughout the paper. While the size of the font in the text of the paper should confirm to one of the options below, figures may include a smaller or larger font size as needed.

Font options include:

  • Times New Roman (12-point)
  • Calibri (11-point)
  • Arial (11-point)
  • Lucinda (10-point)
  • Sans Unicode (10-point)
  • Georgia (11-point)
  • Computer Modern (10-point)

The entire paper, including the title page, body of the paper, references and appendices, should be double-spaced. The bodies of figures and tables are excluded from this rule. Do not add extra line spaces between paragraphs or after a heading. 

Use 2.54 CM (1 inch) margins on all sides of the paper.

All paragraphs should be left-aligned (do not full-justify text). For each new paragraph indent five spaces or ½ inch.  Use the tab key to indent paragraphs.

All papers should have a page number in the top right corner of the header. Page numbers should be on every page of the paper, with the title page being page 1.

APA 7 (2020) recommends the use of headings in order to clarify the organization of papers. Note that a heading for the introduction is not needed or recommended. The number and level of headings required depend on the length and complexity of the paper.

  • Level One headings are centred and bolded and use title case capitalization (all key words capitalized). The text of the paper begins on the next line as a new paragraph.
  • Level 2 Headings are left-aligned and bolded and use title case capitalization (all key words capitalized). The text of the paper begins on the next line as a new paragraph.
  • Level 3 Headings are left-aligned, bolded, and italicized . They use title case capitalization (all key words capitalized). The text of the paper begins on the next line as a new paragraph.
  • Level 4 Headings are indented, bolded and use title case capitalization (all key words capitalized). There is a period at the end of a level 4 heading, and the text of the paragraph begins immediately after the period.
  • Level 5 Headings are indented, bolded, and italicized . They use title case capitalization (all key words capitalized). There is a period at the end of a level 5 heading, and the text of the paragraph begins immediately after the period.

Sample Paper with Different Levels of Headers  

Tables and Figures

Label both tables and figures, numbering them consecutively in the order that they are discussed in the text. 

Tables include a numbered label, such as “Table 1”, and this bolded label is placed above the title. Below the label, insert a table title in italics; this title should briefly identify the data in the table that follows the label.

Figures can include maps, graphs, charts or other images. Place a label, such as "Figure 1", above the figure; this label is in bold. Below the label, insert a figure title using title case and italics. Below the image, place a caption to offer more detailed information on the figure.

Refer to all tables and figures in the text of your paper by their label: “In Table 1, it is clear that . . .” or “. . . area is separated into five geographically distinct sections (see Figure 2).

APA 7 (2020) offers two options for the placement of tables and figures. They can either be integrated into the text of the paper soon after it is first mentioned in the text. Or, tables and figures can be included after the references. If you choose to position tables and figures after the references page, each table should be positioned on a separate page followed by each figure positioned on a separate page.

More advice on figures and tables from the APA Style website

  • APA (2020) recommends that you ask your professor or the editor to which you are submitting a manuscript for publication whether they have a preference as to whether figures and tables be integrated into the text or included on separate pages after the references.

All sources cited in the paper (except for personal communications) should be included in a references list. Begin the references page on a separate page, following the conclusion on the text of the paper. On the top line of the references page, the word References should be centred and bolded. The first reference begins on the next line of the reference page.

For further information on how to format the references page, see APA 7 Style: References . 

Sample References Page

Appendices 

An appendix includes relevant, supplementary information to the paper. Appendices should be placed after the references page and tables and figures (if relevant).

  • Each appendix should begin on a separate page and should have a label and title.
  • The appendix label and title should be centred and bolded. Write the label on one line and then the title on the next line.
  • If you have only one appendix, label it Appendix.
  • If you have more than one appendix, label them Appendix A, Appendix B, or Appendix C etc. in the order that it is discussed in the text of the paper.
  • You must refer to all appendices in the text of your paper by their label (see Appendix) or (see Appendix A).

Sample Appendix 

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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.

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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    There are 5 heading levels in APA. Regardless of the number of levels, always use the headings in order, beginning with level 1. The format of each level is illustrated below: APA Headings. Level. Format. 1. Centered, Boldface, Title Case Heading. Text starts a new paragraph.

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    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. Headings

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    For detailed guidance on formatting headings, including headings in the introduction of a paper, see the headings page and the headings in sample papers. Alignment: Center Level 1 headings. Left-align Level 2 and Level 3 headings. Indent Level 4 and Level 5 headings like a regular paragraph. Font: Boldface all headings. Also italicize Level 3 ...

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    APA 7 (2020) accepts the use of a wider range of fonts than previous editions. Use a consistent font throughout the paper. While the size of the font in the text of the paper should confirm to one of the options below, figures may include a smaller or larger font size as needed. Font options include: Times New Roman (12-point) Calibri (11-point ...

  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.

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    Headings help writers highlight the important content in their work, and they also help readers easily find the information they need. Generally, a writer may find themselves incorporating three or more heading levels in a paper, using a Level 1 heading for the top-level or main sections of a paper, a Level 2 heading for the subsections of a Level 1 heading in a paper, a Level 3 heading for ...

  17. How to Write an Introduction & Conclusion for an APA Style Paper

    The introduction is the first paragraph of the main body of your paper. If your instructor requires you to write an abstract, your paper will begin on the page after the abstract; otherwise, begin on the page following the title page. Use a serif typeface, such as Times New Roman, and set your word processing program to double space the lines.

  18. APA Headings and Seriation

    APA Style uses a unique headings system to separate and classify paper sections. 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. The 6 th edition of the APA manual ...

  19. PDF Writing in APA Style: A Sample Student Paper Commented [LBW2]

    Levels of Headings APA style uses the devise of Levels of Headings to create a hierarchical system of organization. Five levels of headings may be used (APA, 2020), although most undergraduate papers use only Levels 1 to 3. Using the levels of headings will allow you to logically present the concepts of your paper. Level 1 Headings Level 1 ...

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

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  22. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

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