Why APA Formatted Papers Have Different Levels of Headings and Subheadings

The proper usage of headings and subheadings in APA Formatted Papers can seem mysterious to most college writers. What headings are necessary? When should you use subheadings? How do you properly format them so you donΓÇÖt lose points on your paper?

In simplistic terms, think of your headings and subheadings as a visual roadmap helping you to organize your paper for your readers while giving them a succinct understanding of what information you will be sharing in each section. Your professor will inform you which of these categories you need to include in your paper.

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References and Appendices

The Title Page of an APA formatted paper is normally considered the first page. The title of your paper does not count as a level. The second page of an APA paper will be the one to contain the “Abstract.” Since the Abstract is a summary, you should limit it to just one paragraph of about 150 to 250 words without any subheadings, whereas other sections of your paper will require them.

You can create up to five levels of headings and subheadings. Many APA Formatted Papers contain only one or two levels, while other more in-depth papers will need all five. The APA style will require you to format these in a specific way to clearly illustrate their increasing levels of specificity for your readers.

Here are some general rules for creating effecting headings and subheadings.

Keep your headings short. Most are one to five words that provide a strong indication of the information in the section. Only use a heading if you have more than one heading for the level. Think of it this way, you wouldnΓÇÖt create a bulleted list of one item. The same holds true for headers in your APA Formatted Papers.

Subheadings are often a little longer than headings because they are more descriptive and expand upon the heading. Think of your subheadings as a reference for readers to skim through your papers to get a quick understanding of what information you will be sharing with them and how you will transition from your Abstract through to your Conclusion. If you are including a subheading to a section, APA formatted papers require you to have two subheadings on the same level.

Some other general tips for you to consider are, donΓÇÖt overdo the use of headings and subheadings. Not every paragraph needs them. They are intended to enhance the content in your paper, not detract from it. It is often best to write the content of your paper first, and then add in concise headings and subheadings where appropriate.

Before you get started with the formatting of your paper, you will need to research the latest APA style revision to make sure you donΓÇÖt lose points for formatting errors. If you prefer to focus your time wisely on the quality of your content and not the formatting parameters, you’ll be happy to know there are many resources available. Formatting software is one reliable, helpful tool to consider for saving time while taking the guesswork out of formatting your APA style papers.


For more information about APA writing software or how to download our APA Style Software, contact us today!


David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
info @ referencepointsoftware.com

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

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