APA Headings | 6th Edition

Even experienced APA users will sometimes feel confused about APA headings. Headings in your paper are separate from your paragraphs. They work to let readers know what content is coming and to help organize your information in a heirarchical structure. If you have written a paper in APA, you know how important those headings are to establishing focus, flow, and cohesion in your paper, but many are unsure about how to use those headings, especially the different levels.

For beginning writers, most of the time, APA first-level headings are all we need, and in some cases, we have to take it to the second level. But, if you have to create a larger project in APA, chances are you really are going to need to know how to use third and fourth-level headings.

The following provides summaries and examples of all of the headings in APA, from your title to fourth-level.

  • Your title is at what is called a zero-level heading. It is centered, not in bold font, and all major words should be capitalized. When all major words are capitalized, this is called Title Case. First-level headings should look like this on your page.

Title of Paper

  • First-level headings are next. They should be centered, in bold font, and in Title Case. A first-level heading should look like this on your page:

First Level of Headings

  • Second-level headings are for sections within first-level headings, so you would use second-level headings to break up a bigger section that you have established with a first-level heading. Second-level headings are placed against the left margin, in bold font, and in title case. A second-level heading looks like this on your page:

Second Level of Headings

  • Third-level headings are necessary when you need to break down your second-level headings into smaller sections. A third-level heading exists inside a second-level heading section. Third-level headings are tabbed once from the left margin, in bold font, and in sentence case for capitalization. This means on the first word and any proper nouns will be capitalized. This level of heading is unique in that a period should be placed after it. You should also note that the first line of text will appear on the same line as a third-level heading. A third level-heading will look like this on your page:

Third level of headings. Your paragraph begins right here.

  • Fourth-level headings are sections inside third-level headings. Fourth-level headings are tabbed once from the left margin, in bold AND italic font, in sentence case for capitalization, and end with a period. Your text should also appear on the same line as a fourth-level heading. Essentially, fourth-level headings are just like third-level headings, only they are in italics as well as bold font. On your page, fourth-level headings will look like this:

Fourth level of headings. Your paragraph begins right here.

  • The final level of headings APA describes is the fifth-level. This fifth level would be necessary if you need to break up your fourth-level section into additional sections. Fifth-level headings are tabbed once from the left margin, in italic font, in sentence-case for capitalization, and end with a period. Just like third and fourth-level headings your text begins after the period. On your page, fifth-level headings will look like this:

Fifth level of headings. Your paragraph begins right here.

NOTE: The new 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual has just released. OWL staff are working on updating our content. As always, please follow the guidelines in your course.

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