Research Paper Subheadings Apa Style

APA Headings and Seriation

Summary:

APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).

Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-01-16 12:03:43

Headings

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 6th edition of the APA manual revises and simplifies previous heading guidelines. 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, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings
  2Left-aligned, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading
  3    Indented, boldface, lowercase heading with a period.
  4    Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.
  5    Indented, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.

Thus, if the article has four sections, some of which have subsections and some of which don’t, use headings depending on the level of subordination. Section headings receive level one format. Subsections receive level two format. Subsections of subsections receive level three format. For example:

                    Method (Level 1)

Site of Study (Level 2)

Participant Population (Level 2)

          Teachers. (Level 3)

          Students. (Level 3)

                    Results (Level 1)

Spatial Ability (Level 2)

          Test one. (Level 3)

          Teachers with experience. (Level 4)

          Teachers in training. (Level 4)

          Test two. (Level 3)

Kinesthetic Ability (Level 2)

In APA Style, the Introduction section never gets a heading and headings are not indicated by letters or numbers. Levels of headings will depend upon the length and organization of your paper. Regardless, always begin with level one headings and proceed to level two, etc.

Seriation

APA also allows for seriation in the body text to help authors organize and present key ideas. For numbered seriation, do the following:

On the basis of four generations of usability testing on the Purdue OWL, the Purdue OWL Usability Team recommended the following:
  1. Move the navigation bar from the right to the left side of the OWL pages.
  2. Integrate branded graphics (the Writing Lab and OWL logos) into the text on the OWL homepage.
  3. Add a search box to every page of the OWL.
  4. Develop an OWL site map.
  5. Develop a three-tiered navigation system.

For lists that do not communicate hierarchical order or chronology, use bullets:

In general, participants found user-centered OWL mock up to be easier to use. What follows are samples of participants' responses:
  • "This version is easier to use."
  • "Version two seems better organized."
  • "It took me a few minutes to learn how to use this version, but after that, I felt more comfortable with it."

Authors may also use seriation for paragraph length text.

For seriation within sentences, authors may use letters:

On the basis of research conducted by the usability team, OWL staff have completed (a) the OWL site map; (b) integrating graphics with text on the OWL homepage; (c) search boxes on all OWL pages except the orange OWL resources (that is pending; we do have a search page); (d) moving the navigation bar to the left side of pages on all OWL resources except in the orange area (that is pending); (e) piloting the first phase of the three-tiered navigation system, as illustrated in the new Engagement section.

Authors may also separate points with bullet lists:

On the basis of the research conducted by the usability team, OWL staff have completed
  • the OWL site map;
  • integrating graphics with text on the OWL homepage;
  • search boxes on all OWL pages except the orange OWL resources (that is pending; we do have a search page);
  • moving the navigation bar to the left side of pages on all OWL resources except in the orange area (that is pending);
  • piloting the first phase of the three-tiered navigation system, as illustrated in the new Engagement section.

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

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

Method

Design 

Participants. 

Demographics.

Characteristics.

Limitations

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

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

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

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

First level

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

Second level

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

Third level

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

Fourth level

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

Fifth level

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

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