How do I Format APA Headings?

APA format is a manuscript format overseen by the American Psychological Association. This format is one of the most prominent formats in academic writing. Students at high school, graduate and post graduate levels often use it. The format also is required by some publishing organizations who produce research papers. Creating headings in APA format is tricky because each of the five heading levels must appear different. The APA also has made changes to the way headings are treated. These changes appear in the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual.

Step 1

Write your heading text in upper and lower case. Center and bold the text to make a level one heading.

Step 2

Place your text flush left for a level two heading. Bold the text and make sure all words are upper and lower case.

Step 3

Bold the words for your level three heading, indenting once from the left margin. Place a period after the heading text, which should be completely in lower case.

Step 4

Indent once from the left margin for a level four heading. Ensure the text is lower case with a period at the end. Italicize and bold your text.

Step 5

Indent once from the left margin if your paper has five heading levels. Italicize (but do not bold) the lower case text. Place a period at the end of the heading.


Always start with level one headings and work your way down. APA format does not use numbering in headings. The introduction is not labeled if you have one.


Look through your entire paper before deciding what heading levels to apply. Draft an outline of the paper and write a note to yourself at the beginning of each major section so you remember how many heading levels are in each section. Apply the headings as you type out the paper and you won't get confused by having to scroll up and down through the paper on your computer.