Headings in APA

APA Style uses a unique headings system to separate and classify paper sections. Headings are used to help guide the reader through a document. The levels are organised by levels of subordination, and each section of the paper should start with the highest level of heading. There are 5 heading levels in APA. The 6th edition of the APA manual revises and simplifies previous heading guidelines. Regardless of the number of levels, always use the headings in order, beginning with level 1. The format of each level is illustrated below:

Level Fomat
1 Centred, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings
2 Left-aligned, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading
3   Indented, boldface, lowercase heading with a period. 
4   Indented, boldface, italicised, lowercase heading with a period.
5   Indented, italicised, lowercase heading with a period. 

Thus, if the article has four sections, some of which have subsections and some of which don’t, use headings depending on the level of subordination. Section headings receive level one format. Subsections receive level two format. Subsections of subsections receive level three format. For example:

                    Method (Level 1)

Study Site (Level 2)

Respondents (Level 2)

          Soldiers. (Level 3)

          Police Officers. (Level 3)

                    Results (Level 1)

Stress Disorders (Level 2)

          Test one. (Level 3)

          Soldiers with experience. (Level 4)

          Soldiers in training. (Level 4)

          Test two. (Level 3)

Retirement Age (Level 2)

In APA Style, the Introduction section never gets a heading and headings are not indicated by letters or numbers. Levels of headings will depend upon the length and organisation of your paper. Regardless, always begin with level one headings and proceed to level two, etc.

Seriation in APA

APA also allows for seriation in the body text to help authors organize and present key ideas. For numbered seriation, do the following:

On the basis of four rounds of customer feedback on the usability of the Bridger Jones website, the Digital Design Team recommended the following:

  1. Stick the navigation bar to the top of the page.
  2. Integrate a bold and clear logo.
  3. Add a search box to the navigation bar.
  4. Make the path to price quote as simple as possible.

For lists that do not communicate hierarchical order or chronology, use bullets:

In general, participants found the redesigned website easier to use. What follows are samples of participants’ responses:

  • “This version is easier to use.”
  • “Version two is better organised.”
  • “It took me a few minutes to learn how to use this version, but after that, I felt more comfortable with it.”
  • Authors may also use seriation for paragraph-length text.

For seriation within sentences, authors may use letters:

On the basis of four rounds of customer feedback on the usability of the Bridger Jones website, staff have completed (a) Sticking the navigation bar to the top of the page; (b) integrating a bold and clear logo; (c) adding a search box to the navigation bar.

Authors may also separate points with bullet lists:

On the basis of four rounds of customer feedback on the usability of the Bridger Jones website, staff have completed

  • sticking the navigation bar to the top of the page;
  • integrating a bold and clear logo;
  • adding a search box to the navigation bar.

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