3 posts categorized "Running heads"

May 10, 2012

Mysteries of the Running Head Explained

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

The running head is one of the smallest parts of a manuscript, yet it seems to cause big problems for some. In previous posts, we’ve given an overview of the running head and how to format it, but recently we’ve received some new questions that have folks scratching their heads.

What Is the Running Head?

The running head is a shortened form of the title of your paper that appears  in  uppercase letters at the top left of each page of your manuscript. It helps to identify the pages of your paper and keep them together (without using your name, in case you’re submitting it for blind review). When your paper is published, this short title will appear at the top of each odd-numbered page.

On the title page of your manuscript, the label “Running head:” precedes the running head itself. It’s there to let the typesetter know that this shortened title is, in fact, the running head for your article. (This is a holdover from the fifth edition of the APA Publication Manual, which required a “manuscript page header” on every page as well as a running head on the title page.)

How Long Should the Running Head Be?

The running head should be a brief version of the title of your paper, no more than 50 characters long (including spaces). The label “Running head:” that precedes the running head on the title page is not included in the 50-character count, because it’s not part of the title of your paper. (Unless, of course, the title of your paper is something like “Running Head: Feature or Bug?”)

What Makes For a Good Running Head?

It’s usually not a good idea to simply copy the first 50 characters of your title. The running head needs to both make sense as a phrase and give some idea of what your paper is about.

Pop quiz: If the title of your paper is “A Review and Meta-Analysis of the First Decade of Articles About the Psychology of Llamas,” which would be a more informative running head?
(a)    A REVIEW AND META-ANALYSIS OF THE FIRST DECADE OF
or
(b)    REVIEW OF THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LLAMAS

Where Does the Running Head Go?

Use the automatic header feature of your word processing program to set the running head at the top left of the page. Don’t worry about the running head’s precise distance from the top of the page or relationship to the margin; the default setting for your software is fine.

For more about the running head, see the APA Publication Manual (6th ed., pp. 229–230).

May 26, 2011

A Marginal Note

More Tales from the Style Expert Inbox

.rev2 by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Dear Style Expert,

I would like a clarification about the margins for an APA Style paper. The APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) says to “leave uniform margins of at least 1 in. (2.54 cm) at the top, bottom, left, and right of every page” (p. 229). I believe the correct thing to do is to space 1 in. at the top margin, then single space down and insert the running head. Some of my students are using a ½ in. margin for the top of the page, then single spacing down to type in the header, followed by a double space where the text of the paper begins. Who is right here? A lot of grades are riding on this.

—Inquiring Instructor

Dear Inquiring,

Typist Unless you’re teaching at Luddite State (where manual typewriters are a must), no one should be “spacing down” anything. The APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) does direct authors to use a 1-in. margin (p. 229), but it also directs them to “use the automatic functions of your word-processing program to generate headers” (p. 230). That means there’s no need to adjust the spacing around the header—it’s automatic!

Just set your margins at 1 in. (2.54 cm) and use the default setting for headers in your word-processing program. Voila! Your paper is correctly formatted in APA Style.


Dear Style Expert,

Now my whole study group is extremely confused, because your instructions seem to contradict the sample papers in the Publication Manual. It looks like there is more margin at the top of sample p. 4 than sample p. 3, and some of the pages are cut off at the bottom. What gives?
—Going Cross-Eyed in Cincinnati

Dear Cross-Eyed,

The sample papers are illustrations, not scale models. Just enough of each page is shown to illustrate the rules that are called out in the attached boxes. They’re not intended to show every point of APA Style, however, and you certainly can’t deduce margin guidelines from them. Fortunately, those guidelines are clearly stated on pp. 229–230 of the Publication Manual. If there ever appears to be a contradiction between an illustration and the text, follow the text.


Dear Style Expert,

Why, that’s crazy talk! A margin is empty space. If you have a 1-in. margin, then there should be 1 in. of empty space at the top of the page, with no headers in it.

—Marginal Maniac


Dear Marginal,

Think of it this way: The margin is, by definition, the part of a page outside the main body of text. The running head (again, by definition) is not part of the main body of text. Therefore, it is included in the margin, not below it.

Got a Question?

If you have a question (marginal or otherwise) about APA Style that hasn’t been answered yet, post it in the comments here. We’ll do our best to demystify it for you!

November 11, 2010

Running Head Format for APA Style Papers

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

If you've ever been confused by what a running head is or wondered how to format one for an APA Style paper, read on.

A running head is a short title (50 characters or fewer, including spaces) that appears at the top of every page of your paper. The running head identifies the pages for the reader in case they get separated, and if you submit your paper for publication, it does this while preserving your anonymity during the review process. In published articles it also identifies the article for the reader at a glance.

Formatting Instructions

The running head (along with the page numbers) appears in the header of every page (the header by nature is situated within the top margin of your paper; all the margins themselves should be set to 1 inch). Type it in all capital letters, make sure it is no longer than 50 characters (including spaces), and left justify it. Then add your page numbers, right justified.

On the first page only, the running head is also preceded by the words Running head and a colon. On all other pages, just the running head itself and the page number appear, without the words Running head:. Our APA Style FAQ addresses how to set up a different header on the first page, and there are also instructions available on Microsoft’s webpage for Word 2003 and Word 2007 and 2010. If you use other word-processing software, please feel free to share links or instructions in the comments. Finally, you can see examples of the running head format in our APA Style sample papers.

If you've ever been confused by what a running head is or wondered how to format one for an APA Style paper, read on.

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