Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Citation & Documentation

An Explanation of APA Level Headings

Headings are an important way to organize one's writing. As the American Psychological Association (2020) explains, "Sound organizational structure is the key to clear, precise, and logical communication" (p. 47). There are five possible levels of heading in APA 7th edition. Level 1 headings are used for top-level or main sections, Level 2 headings are used for subsections of Level 1, and so on. All topics of equal importance should have the same level of heading, and the number of levels of heading needed for a paper is contingent upon its length and complexity. Short student papers, for example, might not require any headings (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020, p. 48).

Regarding headings in the introduction of a paper: because the first paragraphs of a paper are understood to be introductory, do not include the heading "Introduction" (unless specified by your instructor, of course). The paper title at the top of the first page of text acts as a de facto Level 1 heading. If you need to include subsections within the introduction, use Level 2 headings for the first level of subsection, Level 3 for subsections of Level 2, and so on. 

Like in an outline, avoid having only one subsection heading within a section. The Manual suggests "us[ing] at least two subsection headings within a section, or use none" (APA, 2020, p. 47). Be cognizant of the number of headings necessary to differentiate distinct sections in your paper; you do not want to overcomplicate your work by adding too many levels. Remember: clarity and precision are the goal!

APA Level Heading Rules

Format for the five levels of heading in APA Style
Level Format
1

Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading

Text begins as a new paragraph.

2

Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading

Text begins as a new paragraph.

3

Flush Left, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading

Text begins as a new paragraph.

4

Indented, Bold, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.

5

Indented, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.

Sample APA Headings in Student Paper