Basic Heading Format for an Essay in APA
American Psychological Association, or APA, style refers to a set of guidelines for writing and formatting papers in the social sciences. The sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual lists the specific format required for the headings of your paper, including the running head at the top of every page, the headers for the main sections of the paper, and the subsection levels within main sections.
The running head refers to a shortened title placed in the top margin of every page of your paper. Your running head should be 50 characters or fewer, including spaces, and should be in all-caps and left-justified. Place the page number on the same line and right-justify it. On your title page, the running head includes the words "Running Head," followed by a colon and the running head.
Major Section Headers
APA papers are divided into four sections: the title page, abstract, main body and references. Of these sections, only the abstract and references are labeled. These pages should be titled "Abstract" or "References" in plain text at the top center of the page. Do not put these headers in bold, italics or quotation marks. In addition, don't use a heading for the introduction of the paper.
APA style includes five levels of headings to use for paper subsections. However, you probably won't need all five levels unless you're writing a long assignment, such as a dissertation. The first level of heading, such as the "Methods" section, is centered, bold and in title case. The next level, such a subsection for "Methods," is left-justified, bold and in title case. The third level of headings are indented, bold, in sentence case and followed by a period. In the fourth level, headings are indented, bold, italicized, in sentence case and followed by a period. The fifth and final level of headings in APA style is indented, italicized, in sentence case and followed by a period.
- American Psychological Association: Running Head Format for APA Style Papers
- American Psychological Association: How to Use Five Levels of Heading in an APA Style Paper
- American Psychological Association: Five Essential Tips for APA Style Headings
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: APA General Format
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition
Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at tolerance.org. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.