Skip to main content


APA Style Guide: Headings in APA

American Psychological Association rules for formatting papers, in-text citations, and end references. Examples based on the sixth edition of the Publication Manual from the APA. By Alexis Carlson

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.

Levels of Headings

Level Format
1 Center, Bold, Upper and Lowercase Heading
2 Flush Left, Bold, Upper and Lowercase Heading
3        Indent, bold, lowercase paragraph heading with a period at the end.
4        Indent, bold, italics, lowercase paragraph heading with a period at the end.
5        Indent, italics, lowercase paragraph heading with a period at the end.


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.