16.2 APA Document Formatting

Learning Objectives

  • Describe APA document formatting guidelines for the title page and headers

APA Formatting

APA papers should have 1-inch margins at the top, bottom, left, and right of the page. The font should be easy to read and in a standard size, such as 12-point Times New Roman, 11-point Calibri, or 11-point Arial. The paper should be double-spaced with the text aligned on the left margin, with the first lines of paragraphs indented. Page numbers should be listed in the top-right corner of the page.

APA Title Page

APA papers should begin with a title page that includes:

  • A page number at the top right corner (title page is page 1)
  • The title in bold font centered in the upper half of the page
  • Your name centered two double spaces below the title
  • Your affiliation (name of your school) centered below your name
  • Your course name
  • Your instructor’s name
  • The due date

Watch It

This video shows you how to set up your APA Style paper inside of Google Docs.

You can view the transcript for “Formatting a student version of an APA-Style Paper in Google Docs (APA 7th Edition)” here (opens in new window).

Using Headings in APA

Many APA papers require the use of 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 hierarchical structure.

For most college writers, most of the time, APA first-level headings are all we need (such as the title, abstract, or conclusion) but 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, which is a first-level heading, to fifth-level headings.

Your title should be presented as a first-level heading. It is centered, in bold font, and all major words should be capitalized. When all major words are capitalized, this is called Title Case. It is important to note that you should not use the heading “Introduction.” Your paper title acts as your first-level heading, and the first paragraphs of a paper after the title are understood as introductory paragraphs.

Your Title Is a First-Level Heading

     First-level headings can appear throughout your paper as well. 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 flush 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 flush against the left margin, in bold and italic font, and in Title Case for capitalization. A third-level heading looks like this on your page:

Third Level of Headings

Fourth-level headings are sections inside third-level headings. Fourth-level headings are indented or tabbed once from the left margin, in bold font, in Title Case for capitalization, and end with a period. Your text should also appear on the same line as a fourth-level heading. On your page, fourth-level headings will look like this:

Fourth Level of Headings. Your paragraph begins right here on the same line.

     The final level of headings APA describes is the fifth-level heading. 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 bold and italic font, in Title Case for capitalization, and end with a period. Just like 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 on the same line.

APA Formatting Checklist

Step through this presentation to review the critical components of authoring a paper in APA style.

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