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July 09, 2009

Five Essential Tips for APA Style Headings


Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

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

  1. APA has designed a five-level heading structure (we numbered them to talk about them, but you won’t actually number your headings in your paper). Click the image below to get a close-up view of the new heading style.APA Style Headings 6th ed

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

  3. The first heading in your paper will appear within the body of the paper, that is, after you have started writing your text. There are two common mistakes to avoid when assigning the first heading in a paper. First, do not use the heading Introduction; the beginning of the text is assumed to be the introduction, so it is redundant to use this heading. Second, although the title of the paper appears at the top of the first page of text (as shown in the sample papers), the title is not considered a heading; it is a section label. Thus, to set up your paper correctly, put the paper title at the top of the first page of text, centered and in regular font, and then start writing your text. When you need to introduce a heading within the text (e.g., the Method heading for an experimental study), format that first heading as a Level 1 heading. 

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

  5. Need more guidance? Consult the Publication Manual (Chapter 3, Section 3.03) for more examples and explanation. Also look at published APA articles to see how it’s done—APA articles published since January 2010 show the new heading style.  

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



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