• Comprehensive Guide to Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

Comprehensive Guide to Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

Section 1: Introduction to Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0-

In academic writing, the use of headings and subheadings is crucial for organizing and structuring a paper. APA (American Psychological Association) style, specifically in its 7th edition, provides clear guidelines on how to effectively use headings and subheadings to enhance readability and comprehensibility of research papers, essays, and other scholarly works. This section will provide a comprehensive introduction to the importance, purpose, and benefits of using headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 format.

Purpose of Headings and Subheadings

Headings and subheadings serve as visual cues to help readers navigate through the content of a paper. They create a hierarchical structure, indicating the relationships between different sections and subsections, and aid in organizing ideas and presenting information in a logical manner. By using headings and subheadings, writers can effectively divide their work into manageable and coherent sections, making it easier for readers to comprehend and follow the main arguments and supporting details.

Importance of Headings and Subheadings

Clear and well-structured headings and subheadings are essential in academic writing for several reasons. First and foremost, they enhance the overall readability of the paper by breaking down the text into smaller, digestible chunks. This organization allows readers to quickly identify and locate specific information, especially when they are scanning or skimming through the document.

Secondly, headings and subheadings contribute to the coherence and flow of the paper. By providing a clear roadmap, they guide the reader through the main ideas, supporting evidence, and key points presented in each section. This not only improves the overall structure of the paper but also helps maintain the logical progression of thoughts and arguments.

Additionally, headings and subheadings assist both readers and writers in comprehending complex topics. They enable writers to organize their thoughts, ensuring that each section focuses on a specific aspect or theme. This organization facilitates a deeper understanding of the subject matter for both the writer during the drafting process and the reader during the consumption of the paper.

Formatting Guidelines for Headings and Subheadings

APA 7.0 provides specific rules and formatting guidelines for using headings and subheadings. These guidelines include the use of different levels of headings, capitalization rules, and placement within the paper. Understanding and adhering to these guidelines is crucial for maintaining consistency and conformity with APA style.

The APA 7.0 formatting guidelines for headings and subheadings are based on a five-level hierarchy, with each level indicating the level of importance and hierarchy of information. Level 1 headings are the highest level, followed by Level 2, Level 3, and so on. Each level has a specific formatting style, such as font size, boldness, and indentation, to differentiate it from the other levels. Furthermore, APA 7.0 also provides guidance on the appropriate use of sentence case, title case, and capitalization in headings and subheadings. For instance, Level 1 headings are typically written in sentence case and are centered and bolded. Level 2 headings are aligned to the left margin, bolded, and written in title case. To maintain clarity and consistency, APA 7.0 also provides recommendations on the number of headings to use within a paper. It suggests that at least two headings should be used in any given section, as a single heading alone may not adequately represent the content covered.

Section 2: The Purpose and Importance of Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

Facilitating information retrieval.

One of the primary purposes of headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 is to facilitate information retrieval for readers. When faced with a lengthy document, readers often engage in scanning or skimming techniques to locate specific information or sections of interest. Well-structured headings and subheadings act as signposts, allowing readers to quickly identify the content they are seeking without having to read the entire text. By providing a clear and organized hierarchy, headings guide readers to the main sections of a paper, while subheadings further break down the content into more specific subsections. This hierarchical structure enables readers to navigate the document with ease, locating relevant information efficiently. Thus, headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 contribute significantly to the overall accessibility and user-friendliness of academic papers.

Enhancing Readability and Comprehensibility

Headings and subheadings play a vital role in enhancing the readability and comprehensibility of academic writing. They help break up large blocks of text into smaller, digestible sections, preventing the overwhelming feeling that dense paragraphs can create. By visually separating different sections and subsections, headings and subheadings allow readers to mentally prepare for the content they are about to encounter. Additionally, headings and subheadings improve the flow and coherence of a paper. They provide a roadmap for readers, helping them understand the organization and structure of the author's arguments and supporting evidence. Well-crafted headings and subheadings enable readers to follow the logical progression of ideas and maintain a clear understanding of the paper's main points. Finally, headings and subheadings aid in the comprehension of complex topics. By breaking down the content into smaller, focused sections, readers can grasp the material more easily. Headings act as cognitive cues, preparing readers for the information presented in each section. This approach not only facilitates understanding but also allows readers to engage with the content at a deeper level, promoting knowledge retention.

Organizing and Structuring Ideas

Headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 serve as valuable tools for organizing and structuring ideas within a paper. They help writers divide their work into meaningful sections, each addressing a specific aspect or theme related to the overall topic. This organization ensures that information is presented in a coherent and logical manner, making it easier for both the writer and the reader to navigate the paper.

By using headings and subheadings, writers can create a clear outline for their work, ensuring that each section has a distinct focus. This outline acts as a framework, guiding the writer in presenting their arguments and supporting evidence in a systematic and organized way. Writers can use headings to delineate major sections or main ideas, while subheadings allow for further subcategorization and exploration of subtopics.

Furthermore, headings and subheadings assist writers in structuring their thoughts during the writing process. By providing a visual representation of the paper's organization, headings help writers maintain a coherent flow of ideas and prevent the inclusion of irrelevant or tangential information. This structured approach not only improves the overall quality of the paper but also enhances the writer's ability to communicate their ideas effectively.

Conveying the Hierarchical Relationship of Information

Another important purpose of headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 is to convey the hierarchical relationship of information. By assigning different levels to headings, the writer can indicate the relative importance and order of ideas within the paper. Higher-level headings represent broader themes or major sections, while lower-level headings address more specific subtopics or subsections. This hierarchical structure helps readers understand the organization and logical flow of the paper at a glance. It allows them to grasp the overall structure and the relationships between different sections without having to read the entire document. Additionally, the use of indentation and formatting styles for each level of heading further reinforces the hierarchical relationship and aids in visual differentiation.

Section 3: Formatting Guidelines for Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

Proper formatting of headings and subheadings is crucial in APA 7.0 style to ensure consistency, clarity, and readability in academic writing. This section will delve into the specific formatting guidelines provided by APA 7.0 for headings and subheadings, including the use of different levels, capitalization rules, and placement within the paper.

Levels of Headings

APA 7.0 introduces a five-level hierarchy for headings, each denoting a different level of importance and significance within the paper. These levels provide a structured framework for organizing the content and help readers understand the organization and flow of ideas. Here are the five headings in APA 7.0:

Level 1: Centered, Bold and Title Case

            Text begins here.

Level 2: Left-Aligned, Bold and Title Case

Level 3: Left-Aligned, Bold, Italics, and Title Case

Level 4: Left-Aligned, Bold, Title Case, and Period. Text begins here.

Level 5: Left-Aligned, Bold, Title Case, Italics, and Period . Text begins here.

Section 4: Organizing and Structuring Your Paper

Using headings and subheadings in apa 7.0.

Organizing and structuring your paper effectively is crucial for presenting your ideas in a logical and coherent manner. Headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 play a vital role in achieving this goal by providing a clear framework for organizing your content. This section will delve into strategies and best practices for utilizing headings and subheadings to organize and structure your paper in accordance with APA 7.0 guidelines.

Preparing an Outline

Before you begin writing your paper, it is helpful to create an outline that outlines the main sections and subsections you intend to cover. An outline acts as a roadmap, allowing you to visualize the overall structure and flow of your paper. It serves as a foundation for developing meaningful headings and subheadings that accurately represent the content and facilitate logical organization. Start by identifying the major sections that your paper will include, such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. These major sections will serve as Level 1 headings in APA 7.0. Next, break down each major section into subsections that address specific subtopics or aspects related to the main theme. These subsections will be represented by Level 2 headings. Depending on the complexity and depth of your paper, you may further divide the subsections into sub-subsections using Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5 headings. Creating a comprehensive outline not only helps you organize your thoughts but also ensures that you cover all the necessary components of your paper. It allows you to see the relationships between different sections and subsections, enabling you to present your arguments and evidence in a logical and coherent sequence.

Maintaining Consistency and Parallelism

Consistency is key when it comes to organizing and structuring your paper using headings and subheadings. It is important to establish a consistent framework that is followed throughout the entire document. Consistency ensures that readers can easily understand the hierarchy and relationships between different sections and subsections. When creating headings and subheadings, aim for parallelism in terms of grammatical structure and formatting. Parallelism means that headings at the same level should have a similar grammatical structure and formatting style. For instance, if you choose to use noun phrases for Level 2 headings, maintain this pattern consistently across all Level 2 headings in your paper. This helps readers navigate through the content smoothly and maintain a sense of coherence. Furthermore, parallelism extends to the use of punctuation and capitalization within headings and subheadings. Maintain consistent capitalization rules, such as sentence case for Level 1 headings and title case for Level 2 headings. This uniformity enhances the visual hierarchy and clarity of your paper.

Balancing Depth and Granularity

Effective organization and structuring involve finding the right balance between depth and granularity in your headings and subheadings. Level 1 headings represent major sections and should encapsulate broad themes or concepts, providing an overview of what will be discussed within each section. Level 2 headings, as subsections, delve into more specific topics or aspects related to the main theme of the major section.

Reviewing and Revising the Organization

Organizing and structuring your paper using headings and subheadings is not a one-time task. It is an iterative process that requires regular review and revision to ensure optimal clarity and coherence. Once you have completed the initial draft of your paper, review the organization of your headings and subheadings. Ask yourself if the structure effectively reflects the flow of your ideas and supports your main argument. Consider whether the headings accurately represent the content of each section and subsection. During the review process, pay attention to transitions between sections and subsections. Ensure that the headings and subheadings create a smooth transition from one topic to another, guiding readers through the logical progression of your paper. If you notice any gaps or inconsistencies, revise and refine the organization accordingly. Additionally, seek feedback from peers, mentors, or instructors. Their fresh perspective can provide valuable insights into the clarity and effectiveness of your headings and subheadings. Incorporate their feedback and make necessary adjustments to improve the overall organization and structure of your paper.

Section 5: Common Mistakes to Avoid in Using Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

While using headings and subheadings in APA 7.0 can greatly improve the organization and readability of your paper, it's important to be aware of common mistakes that can compromise the effectiveness of your headings. By understanding and avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure that your headings enhance the clarity and coherence of your academic writing. This section will explore some common mistakes to avoid when using headings and subheadings in APA 7.0.

Inconsistent Formatting

One of the most common mistakes is inconsistent formatting of headings and subheadings. In APA 7.0, it is crucial to maintain consistency in capitalization, alignment, and formatting styles across headings at the same level. Inconsistencies can confuse readers and disrupt the visual hierarchy of your paper. Ensure that all Level 1 headings have the same formatting, all Level 2 headings have the same formatting, and so on. Consistency in formatting contributes to the overall professionalism and readability of your work.

Poor Alignment and Spacing

Another mistake to avoid is incorrect alignment and spacing of headings and subheadings. In APA 7.0, Level 1 headings are centered and typically start on a new page or a new line with an extra line space before and after the heading. Level 2 headings and lower-level headings, however, are left-aligned and generally require an extra line space before the heading but not after. Failure to align and space headings correctly can create confusion and disrupt the logical flow of your paper. Review APA 7.0 guidelines carefully to ensure proper alignment and spacing of your headings.

Lack of Parallelism

Parallelism, or consistent grammatical structure, is crucial when using headings and subheadings. Headings at the same level should follow a similar structure to maintain coherence and readability. For example, if you use noun phrases for Level 2 headings, ensure that all Level 2 headings follow this pattern. Lack of parallelism can make your headings appear disjointed and may confuse readers. Consistently apply parallel structure within each level of headings to create a smooth and organized flow of information.

Overcomplicating the Heading Structure

While it is important to provide a clear and hierarchical structure to your paper, overcomplicating the heading structure can lead to confusion and excessive fragmentation. Strive to find a balance between providing enough detail to cover your content effectively and avoiding an excessive number of headings and subheadings. Each heading should represent a meaningful subdivision and contribute to the overall organization and coherence of your paper. Aim for a clear and concise heading structure that guides readers without overwhelming them with excessive levels or overly specific subdivisions.

Lack of Descriptiveness

Headings and subheadings should be descriptive and informative to accurately represent the content covered within each section. Avoid using generic or ambiguous headings that do not provide a clear indication of what readers can expect to find. Vague headings can leave readers uncertain about the content or make it challenging to locate specific information within your paper. Ensure that your headings succinctly capture the main ideas or themes of each section, guiding readers through your content effectively.

Ignoring the Reader's Perspective

When creating headings and subheadings, it's important to consider the perspective of your readers. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how your headings will facilitate their understanding and navigation through your paper. Consider whether your headings effectively communicate the main points, guide readers through the logical flow of your arguments, and enable them to locate specific information easily. Ignoring the reader's perspective can result in headings that are unclear, unhelpful, or inconsistent, hindering the overall readability and comprehension of your work.

Neglecting to Revise and Edit Headings

Headings should not be an afterthought or treated as static elements in your paper. Neglecting to revise and edit your headings can lead to inaccuracies, lack of clarity, or poor alignment with the final content of your paper. As you progress through the writing process, continuously review and refine your headings to ensure they accurately represent the content and flow of your arguments. Make necessary adjustments, reword headings for better clarity, and ensure that they align with the finalized structure and organization of your paper.

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AP 7th Edition Headings

You'll want to use headings to structure your lit review. The APA 7th Additions specifies five levels of headings, in descending levels of emphasis (i. e. level 1 headings are the most important and level 5 headings the least).  The number of headings you use will depend on the length and complexity of your paper, but in any case, make sure to begin with a level 1 heading and proceed sequentially to level 2, then level 3, etc.

The introduction to your paper does not begin with a heading of any kind. Note that there cannot be single level 3, 4, or 5 headings. That is, you must have more than one heading at each of those levels.

Level 1 Headings Are Centered, Title Case and Bold With No Closing Period

Start a new, indented paragraph on the next line after Level 1 headings.

Level 2 Headings Are Flush Left (Not Centered and Not Indented) and Are Title Case and Bold With No Closing Period

Start a new, indented paragraph on the next line after Level 2 headings.

Level 3 Headings Are Flush Left (Not Centered and Not Indented) and Are Title Case, Bold, and Italicized, With No Closing Period

Start a new, indented paragraph on the next line after Level 3 headings.

               Level 4 Headings are Indented Left , Title Case and Bold With a Closing Period. Continue writing the paragraph on the same line after Level 4 headings.

          Level 5 Headings are Indented Left , Title Case , Bold, and Italicized With a Closing Period .  Continue writing the paragraph on the same line after Level 5 headings.

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  • APA 7th Edition Template Here's a handy template for writing papers conforming to the APA 7th Edition, created by our own Prof. William Doverspike. This is a great resource to use when formatting your research papers.

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APA Headings and Subheadings

The use of headings and subheadings give the readers a general idea of what to expect from the paper and leads the flow of discussion. These elements divide and define each section of the paper. APA recommends five-level heading structure based on the level of subordination.

Table of Content

  • 2 Guideline
  • 4  A Couple of Writing Tips

Levels indicate the hierarchy of importance and scope of each heading and subheading. The extent of using the different levels depends on the length and complexity of the paper. Usually, short papers or articles use two to three levels, but longer papers necessitate up to five levels. Level 1 encompasses a broader topic and levels 2 to 5 covers narrow to more detailed topics.

Level 1 Section heading

Level 2 Subsection heading

Level 3 Subsection of a subsection heading

Level 4 Subsection under a subsection of a subsection heading

Level 5 Subsection under the three subsections heading

  • No heading is needed for the first part of a paper as it is already assumed as the introduction.
  • Headings and subheadings are not accompanied by letters or numbers.
  • Use as many levels as required in your paper to present the most organized structure.
  • The same level of heading or subheading should be of equal importance regardless of the number of subsections under it.
  • Use at least two subheadings for each section and subsection, or use none.
  • Start with level 1 through 5.
  • Paragraph begins below levels 1 and 2, whereas for levels 3-5, the paragraph begins in line with the headings.
  • Capitalize each word for levels 1 and 2.
  • For levels 3-5, the headings are indented and end with a period.
  • Only the first word is capitalized for levels 3-5.

To give you a clearer picture, here is the recommended format and example for the heading levels.

Methods (Level 1)

Research Design (Level 2)

Paragraph begins here…

Study Site and Participant (Level 2)

Data Collection (Level 2)


Instruments. (Level 3) Paragraph begins here…

Procedures. (Level 3) Paragraph begins here…

Socio-demographic and medical history data gathering. (Level 4) Paragraph begins here…

Anthropometric and body composition assessment. (Level 4) Paragraph begins here…

Dietary assessment. (Level 4) Paragraph begins here…

Three-day food record. (Level 5) Paragraph begins here…

Semi-qualitative FFQ. (Level 5) Paragraph begins here…

 A Couple of Writing Tips

Writing is meant to communicate ideas and get our points across as clearly and as effective as possible. But no matter how informative your writing is, it wouldn’t be as valuable if it is incoherent. You have to write in such a way that every part of your paper will have a logical sequence and sound structure to make it comprehensive and easy to understand. There are certain ways in writing a clear and concise paper, and here are simple tips which are especially useful for scientific studies:

First, state your points clearly and precisely .

Second , integrate parts with relevant or similar information to avoid repetition .

Third, use an active voice .

And fourth, organize the structure of your paper.

As a writer, I think the most important among the aforementioned tips is the organization of structure. Once you have a complete picture of what you will include in your paper, everything else will follow.

Formatting APA Headings and Subheadings

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In American Psychological Association style, APA headings and subheadings are used to give readers a general idea of the content and what to expect from a paper , and it leads the flow of discussion by dividing up a paper and defining each section of the content.

APA style is different than Modern Language Association style , which is used in most humanities courses, and Chicago style , which is used in most history courses. There are some differences between APA, MLA, and Chicago style headings in papers, particularly on the title page as well as at the top of subsequent pages.

Fast Facts: APA Headers

  • APA style is generally used for social science research papers.
  • There are five heading levels in APA. The 6th edition of the APA manual revises and simplifies previous heading guidelines

APA uses something called a "running head," while the other two styles do not. MLA uses a left-indented topper for the paper author's name, the professor's name, the course name, and date, while MLA and Chicago style do not. So it's important to use the correct style for APA headings when formatting a paper in APA style. APA style uses five levels of headings.

APA Level Headings

​APA style recommends using a five-level heading structure based on the level of subordination. Purdue OWL notes the APA headings levels as follows:

The sections named above are considered major elements of your paper, so these sections should be treated as the highest level of headings. Major levels (highest level) titles in your APA title are centered on your paper. They should be formatted in boldface and the important words of the heading should be capitalized .

In addition to the above rules, headings and subheadings also should not be accompanied by letters or numbers. You should use as many levels as required in your paper to present the most organized structure. Not all five levels should be used, but the same level of heading or subheading should be of equal importance regardless of the number of subsections under it.

For level one and two headings, paragraphs should begin under the heading on a new line, and these levels should capitalize each word in the heading. However, levels three through five should have the paragraph begin in line with the headings, and only the first word is capitalized. In addition, in levels 3-5, the headings are indented and end with a period.

Example APA-Formatted Paper

The following shows, in part, what an APA-formatted paper would look like. Where needed, explanations have been added to indicate the placement or formatting of the headers:

RESEARCH PROPOSAL (Running head, all caps and flush left)

(The below title page information should be centered and at the center of the page)

Research Proposal

Professor XXX

April. 16, 2019

XXX University

RESEARCH PROPOSAL (Each page should start with this running head, flush left)

Abstract (centered)

Research shows that developmentally disabled individuals need skills training in order to be able to function independently as adults (Flannery, Yovanoff, Benz & Kato (2008), Sitlington, Frank & Carson (1993), Smith (1992). There is a need for further research detailing what kinds of services are important to success, such as reinforcement of domestic, vocational and social skills, as well as financial planning . This paper proposes to answer the question: What is the effect of services provided by Regional Centers on the independent living skills of developmentally disabled adults?

Operational Definition of Variables.

The Independent Variable would be services provided by Regional Centers. The dependent variable would be independent living skills of developmentally disabled adults. I will test my hypothesis – that such services could lead to greater independence in developmentally disabled adults – by examining living skills of a group of developmentally disabled adults with services provided by Regional Centers to a group of developmentally disabled adults who do not receive Regional Center services. I will establish this “control” group by examining a similar group of individuals who have sought – but refused – Regional Center services.

Benefits of the research

An abundance of literature reveals a great need for better transitional services for developmentally delayed individuals leaving high school and entering adulthood (Nuehring & Sitlington, 2003, Sitlington, et. al., 1993, Beresford, 2004). Many of the studies focus on transitional services needed to aid developmentally disabled adults move successfully from high school to the adult working world (Nuehring & Sitlington, 2003, Sitlington, et. al., 1993, Flannery, et. al., 2008). Yet, some of those same researchers note that most developmentally disabled adults do not work after high school (Sitlington, et. al.,


1993). More recently (and even in older studies), researchers have begun to note that developmentally delayed adults need services to help them succeed in adulthood in a variety of areas needed for successful independent living, such as living arrangements, financial and budgeting skills, relationships, sex, aging parents, grocery shopping and a host of other issues (Beresford, 2004, Dunlap, 1976, Smith, 1992, Parker, 2000). Few agencies exist nationally to provide such services to developmentally delayed individuals from birth through adulthood. However, in California, a group of 21 Regional Centers provides services to developmentally delayed adults ranging from life-planning, funding of services and equipment, advocacy, family support, counseling, vocational training, etc. (What are regional Centers? n.d.). The purpose of this study, then, is to determine the effects of Regional Center services on the independent living skills of disabled adults.

Literature Analysis (centered)

Smith (1992) notes that many developmentally disabled adults fall “through the cracks” once they reach adulthood. Smith used a survey method to examine the success or lack thereof of 353 developmentally disabled adults. Smith noted that 42.5% were employed full time, 30.1% were employed part time and 24.6% were unemployed. In discussing results, Smith noted that what was needed to improve the employment situation of these individuals was to ensure that they learn how to access Vocational Rehabilitation services and that those providing services –vocational rehabilitation counselors, teachers, and other professionals -- be better trained in reaching out to such individuals. In other

words, if developmentally delayed adults simply had better access to vocational rehabilitation services (the independent variable), they would somehow become more successful in terms of full-time employment. Smith provides no empirical evidence to demonstrate how or why this would occur.

Synthesis of Literature Relevant to the Research Proposition

Sitlington, et. al. (1993) imply that if developmentally delayed individuals are not successful in adulthood, it is, essentially, their fault. Sitlington, et. al. give no indication that providing vocational services alone may not be enough. And, there is nothing in Sitlington, etc....

Title Page, Abstract, and Introduction

The title page is considered the first page of an APA paper. The second page will be the page containing an abstract. Because the abstract is a main section, the heading should be set in boldface and centered on your paper. Remember that the first line of an abstract is not indented. Because the abstract is a summary and should be limited to a single paragraph, it should not contain any subsections.

Every paper begins with an introduction, but according to APA style, an introduction should never carry a heading that labels it as such. APA style assumes that the content that comes at the beginning is an introduction and therefore doesn't require a heading.

As always, you should check with your instructor to determine how many main (level-one) sections will be required, as well as how many pages and sources your paper should contain.

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  • Bibliography: Definition and Examples
  • Definition of Appendix in a Book or Written Work
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  • Definition and Examples of Title Case and Headline Style
  • MLA Style Parenthetical Citations

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Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

Marco pautasso.

1 Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE), CNRS, Montpellier, France

2 Centre for Biodiversity Synthesis and Analysis (CESAB), FRB, Aix-en-Provence, France

Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications [1] . For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively [2] . Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every single new paper relevant to their interests [3] . Thus, it is both advantageous and necessary to rely on regular summaries of the recent literature. Although recognition for scientists mainly comes from primary research, timely literature reviews can lead to new synthetic insights and are often widely read [4] . For such summaries to be useful, however, they need to be compiled in a professional way [5] .

When starting from scratch, reviewing the literature can require a titanic amount of work. That is why researchers who have spent their career working on a certain research issue are in a perfect position to review that literature. Some graduate schools are now offering courses in reviewing the literature, given that most research students start their project by producing an overview of what has already been done on their research issue [6] . However, it is likely that most scientists have not thought in detail about how to approach and carry out a literature review.

Reviewing the literature requires the ability to juggle multiple tasks, from finding and evaluating relevant material to synthesising information from various sources, from critical thinking to paraphrasing, evaluating, and citation skills [7] . In this contribution, I share ten simple rules I learned working on about 25 literature reviews as a PhD and postdoctoral student. Ideas and insights also come from discussions with coauthors and colleagues, as well as feedback from reviewers and editors.

Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience

How to choose which topic to review? There are so many issues in contemporary science that you could spend a lifetime of attending conferences and reading the literature just pondering what to review. On the one hand, if you take several years to choose, several other people may have had the same idea in the meantime. On the other hand, only a well-considered topic is likely to lead to a brilliant literature review [8] . The topic must at least be:

  • interesting to you (ideally, you should have come across a series of recent papers related to your line of work that call for a critical summary),
  • an important aspect of the field (so that many readers will be interested in the review and there will be enough material to write it), and
  • a well-defined issue (otherwise you could potentially include thousands of publications, which would make the review unhelpful).

Ideas for potential reviews may come from papers providing lists of key research questions to be answered [9] , but also from serendipitous moments during desultory reading and discussions. In addition to choosing your topic, you should also select a target audience. In many cases, the topic (e.g., web services in computational biology) will automatically define an audience (e.g., computational biologists), but that same topic may also be of interest to neighbouring fields (e.g., computer science, biology, etc.).

Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature

After having chosen your topic and audience, start by checking the literature and downloading relevant papers. Five pieces of advice here:

  • keep track of the search items you use (so that your search can be replicated [10] ),
  • keep a list of papers whose pdfs you cannot access immediately (so as to retrieve them later with alternative strategies),
  • use a paper management system (e.g., Mendeley, Papers, Qiqqa, Sente),
  • define early in the process some criteria for exclusion of irrelevant papers (these criteria can then be described in the review to help define its scope), and
  • do not just look for research papers in the area you wish to review, but also seek previous reviews.

The chances are high that someone will already have published a literature review ( Figure 1 ), if not exactly on the issue you are planning to tackle, at least on a related topic. If there are already a few or several reviews of the literature on your issue, my advice is not to give up, but to carry on with your own literature review,

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The bottom-right situation (many literature reviews but few research papers) is not just a theoretical situation; it applies, for example, to the study of the impacts of climate change on plant diseases, where there appear to be more literature reviews than research studies [33] .

  • discussing in your review the approaches, limitations, and conclusions of past reviews,
  • trying to find a new angle that has not been covered adequately in the previous reviews, and
  • incorporating new material that has inevitably accumulated since their appearance.

When searching the literature for pertinent papers and reviews, the usual rules apply:

  • be thorough,
  • use different keywords and database sources (e.g., DBLP, Google Scholar, ISI Proceedings, JSTOR Search, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science), and
  • look at who has cited past relevant papers and book chapters.

Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading

If you read the papers first, and only afterwards start writing the review, you will need a very good memory to remember who wrote what, and what your impressions and associations were while reading each single paper. My advice is, while reading, to start writing down interesting pieces of information, insights about how to organize the review, and thoughts on what to write. This way, by the time you have read the literature you selected, you will already have a rough draft of the review.

Of course, this draft will still need much rewriting, restructuring, and rethinking to obtain a text with a coherent argument [11] , but you will have avoided the danger posed by staring at a blank document. Be careful when taking notes to use quotation marks if you are provisionally copying verbatim from the literature. It is advisable then to reformulate such quotes with your own words in the final draft. It is important to be careful in noting the references already at this stage, so as to avoid misattributions. Using referencing software from the very beginning of your endeavour will save you time.

Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write

After having taken notes while reading the literature, you will have a rough idea of the amount of material available for the review. This is probably a good time to decide whether to go for a mini- or a full review. Some journals are now favouring the publication of rather short reviews focusing on the last few years, with a limit on the number of words and citations. A mini-review is not necessarily a minor review: it may well attract more attention from busy readers, although it will inevitably simplify some issues and leave out some relevant material due to space limitations. A full review will have the advantage of more freedom to cover in detail the complexities of a particular scientific development, but may then be left in the pile of the very important papers “to be read” by readers with little time to spare for major monographs.

There is probably a continuum between mini- and full reviews. The same point applies to the dichotomy of descriptive vs. integrative reviews. While descriptive reviews focus on the methodology, findings, and interpretation of each reviewed study, integrative reviews attempt to find common ideas and concepts from the reviewed material [12] . A similar distinction exists between narrative and systematic reviews: while narrative reviews are qualitative, systematic reviews attempt to test a hypothesis based on the published evidence, which is gathered using a predefined protocol to reduce bias [13] , [14] . When systematic reviews analyse quantitative results in a quantitative way, they become meta-analyses. The choice between different review types will have to be made on a case-by-case basis, depending not just on the nature of the material found and the preferences of the target journal(s), but also on the time available to write the review and the number of coauthors [15] .

Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest

Whether your plan is to write a mini- or a full review, it is good advice to keep it focused 16 , 17 . Including material just for the sake of it can easily lead to reviews that are trying to do too many things at once. The need to keep a review focused can be problematic for interdisciplinary reviews, where the aim is to bridge the gap between fields [18] . If you are writing a review on, for example, how epidemiological approaches are used in modelling the spread of ideas, you may be inclined to include material from both parent fields, epidemiology and the study of cultural diffusion. This may be necessary to some extent, but in this case a focused review would only deal in detail with those studies at the interface between epidemiology and the spread of ideas.

While focus is an important feature of a successful review, this requirement has to be balanced with the need to make the review relevant to a broad audience. This square may be circled by discussing the wider implications of the reviewed topic for other disciplines.

Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent

Reviewing the literature is not stamp collecting. A good review does not just summarize the literature, but discusses it critically, identifies methodological problems, and points out research gaps [19] . After having read a review of the literature, a reader should have a rough idea of:

  • the major achievements in the reviewed field,
  • the main areas of debate, and
  • the outstanding research questions.

It is challenging to achieve a successful review on all these fronts. A solution can be to involve a set of complementary coauthors: some people are excellent at mapping what has been achieved, some others are very good at identifying dark clouds on the horizon, and some have instead a knack at predicting where solutions are going to come from. If your journal club has exactly this sort of team, then you should definitely write a review of the literature! In addition to critical thinking, a literature review needs consistency, for example in the choice of passive vs. active voice and present vs. past tense.

Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure

Like a well-baked cake, a good review has a number of telling features: it is worth the reader's time, timely, systematic, well written, focused, and critical. It also needs a good structure. With reviews, the usual subdivision of research papers into introduction, methods, results, and discussion does not work or is rarely used. However, a general introduction of the context and, toward the end, a recapitulation of the main points covered and take-home messages make sense also in the case of reviews. For systematic reviews, there is a trend towards including information about how the literature was searched (database, keywords, time limits) [20] .

How can you organize the flow of the main body of the review so that the reader will be drawn into and guided through it? It is generally helpful to draw a conceptual scheme of the review, e.g., with mind-mapping techniques. Such diagrams can help recognize a logical way to order and link the various sections of a review [21] . This is the case not just at the writing stage, but also for readers if the diagram is included in the review as a figure. A careful selection of diagrams and figures relevant to the reviewed topic can be very helpful to structure the text too [22] .

Rule 8: Make Use of Feedback

Reviews of the literature are normally peer-reviewed in the same way as research papers, and rightly so [23] . As a rule, incorporating feedback from reviewers greatly helps improve a review draft. Having read the review with a fresh mind, reviewers may spot inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and ambiguities that had not been noticed by the writers due to rereading the typescript too many times. It is however advisable to reread the draft one more time before submission, as a last-minute correction of typos, leaps, and muddled sentences may enable the reviewers to focus on providing advice on the content rather than the form.

Feedback is vital to writing a good review, and should be sought from a variety of colleagues, so as to obtain a diversity of views on the draft. This may lead in some cases to conflicting views on the merits of the paper, and on how to improve it, but such a situation is better than the absence of feedback. A diversity of feedback perspectives on a literature review can help identify where the consensus view stands in the landscape of the current scientific understanding of an issue [24] .

Rule 9: Include Your Own Relevant Research, but Be Objective

In many cases, reviewers of the literature will have published studies relevant to the review they are writing. This could create a conflict of interest: how can reviewers report objectively on their own work [25] ? Some scientists may be overly enthusiastic about what they have published, and thus risk giving too much importance to their own findings in the review. However, bias could also occur in the other direction: some scientists may be unduly dismissive of their own achievements, so that they will tend to downplay their contribution (if any) to a field when reviewing it.

In general, a review of the literature should neither be a public relations brochure nor an exercise in competitive self-denial. If a reviewer is up to the job of producing a well-organized and methodical review, which flows well and provides a service to the readership, then it should be possible to be objective in reviewing one's own relevant findings. In reviews written by multiple authors, this may be achieved by assigning the review of the results of a coauthor to different coauthors.

Rule 10: Be Up-to-Date, but Do Not Forget Older Studies

Given the progressive acceleration in the publication of scientific papers, today's reviews of the literature need awareness not just of the overall direction and achievements of a field of inquiry, but also of the latest studies, so as not to become out-of-date before they have been published. Ideally, a literature review should not identify as a major research gap an issue that has just been addressed in a series of papers in press (the same applies, of course, to older, overlooked studies (“sleeping beauties” [26] )). This implies that literature reviewers would do well to keep an eye on electronic lists of papers in press, given that it can take months before these appear in scientific databases. Some reviews declare that they have scanned the literature up to a certain point in time, but given that peer review can be a rather lengthy process, a full search for newly appeared literature at the revision stage may be worthwhile. Assessing the contribution of papers that have just appeared is particularly challenging, because there is little perspective with which to gauge their significance and impact on further research and society.

Inevitably, new papers on the reviewed topic (including independently written literature reviews) will appear from all quarters after the review has been published, so that there may soon be the need for an updated review. But this is the nature of science [27] – [32] . I wish everybody good luck with writing a review of the literature.


Many thanks to M. Barbosa, K. Dehnen-Schmutz, T. Döring, D. Fontaneto, M. Garbelotto, O. Holdenrieder, M. Jeger, D. Lonsdale, A. MacLeod, P. Mills, M. Moslonka-Lefebvre, G. Stancanelli, P. Weisberg, and X. Xu for insights and discussions, and to P. Bourne, T. Matoni, and D. Smith for helpful comments on a previous draft.

Funding Statement

This work was funded by the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) through its Centre for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity data (CESAB), as part of the NETSEED research project. The funders had no role in the preparation of the manuscript.

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APA headings (6th edition) | How to use and format (example)

Published on November 7, 2020 by Raimo Streefkerk .

A paper is usually divided into chapters and subsections. Each chapter or section has its own heading, and these headings provide structure to a document. As well as many other APA format requirements , there are specific guidelines for formatting headings to ensure that all papers are uniform and easy to read.

Table of contents

Apa heading formatting, apa headings example, using heading levels, aligning word’s heading styles to apa style, setting up in google docs.

The APA formatting guidelines for each heading style are outlined in the table below. APA recommends using 12pt. Times New Roman font for both the body text as the headings.

* Capitalize the first word of the title and all major words (including words that have four or more letters). Example: The Effects of Autism on Listening Skills. ** Capitalize the first word of the title and proper nouns (just as you would capitalize a sentence). An example: Teenagers with autism in the United States.

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apa literature review subheadings

The example shows the different heading levels according to APA style. Hover over the different headings to see the specific APA formatting guidelines. You can also download the APA heading Template to add the correctly formatted APA heading styles to Word.

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The Effects of Smartphones on the Attention in Classrooms

This research aims to gain insight into the relationship between smartphones and students’ attention in classrooms. This chapter further discusses the research method, the sampling method and the data analysis procedure.

Research Method

In addition to an extensive literature review, 40 interviews were conducted for this study. The goal of conducting interviews was to find out how students looked at the use of smartphones in the classroom.

Sampling Method

A non-probability sample was used to gather participants for this research. The driving factors behind this decision were cost and convenience.

Procedure. Participants were given an introductory text prior to the survey. In this introductory text, the participants were informed that all answers would be processed anonymously.

Participant recruitment. Students who participated in this study were recruited through posts on the school’s Facebook page. As an incentive, students who participated were granted an exemption for writing an essay.

Participant assessment. Participants were selected based on their age and gender to acquire a representative sample of the population. Furthermore, students had to share additional demographic information.

Data Analysis

The interviews collected for this research were transcribed and then coded. Next, the coded interviews were analysed and compared. The statistical program SPSS was used to perform the analysis.

First Hypothesis

The first hypothesis was tested using a regression analysis that used attention in classrooms as the dependent variable and the use of smartphones as the independent variable. The results of this analysis showed that the attention of the student decreases when a smartphone is used.

Using the right heading levels not only helps readers navigate your paper, but also enables you to automatically generate an APA style table of contents in Word.

Use as many heading levels as you need. Some papers only have three heading levels, whereas others use all five. It’s also possible for one section (e.g. “methods”) to have more subheadings than other sections. When writing your paper or thesis, you will often use these heading levels:

Heading 1 : Use heading 1 for the main elements of your paper, such as the “methods,” “results,” “conclusion” and “discussion” sections.

Heading 2 : Use heading 2 for the subsections underneath heading 1. For example, under “methods,” include sections describing the “participant selection,” “experiment design’ and “procedure.”

Heading 3:  The heading 2 subsections (e.g. “procedure”) can be split up further into subsections such as “data collection” and “data processing.” Use heading 3 for these subsections.

Heading 4 and 5:  Depending on your paper, you can also use heading 4 and 5 for subsections that fall underneath heading 3 and 4, respectively.

Instead of formatting every heading individually, use Word’s built-in headings feature, which you can find in the toolbar at the top of your document. This is the easiest and fastest way to format all the headings in your paper.

By default, Word’s heading styles do not follow APA style. However, you can change the default settings by right-clicking on the heading style and selecting “modify.”

You can also download the Scribbr APA Heading Word template . When attaching this template to your Word document the correctly formatted APA headings are added and the heading formatting will automatically apply on all existing headings.

To attach the APA heading template to your Word document go ‘tools’ and ‘Templates and Add-ins’. Next, attach the downloaded template to the document and check the box ‘automatically update heading styles’.

This video will demonstrate how to format different APA heading levels in Google Docs.

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The Power of Headings & Subheadings: Tips to Improve Your Writing

Tom Winter

In content writing, crafting an engaging and well-structured piece is only half the battle. The real trick lies in making your work visually appealing and easy to navigate, ensuring readers can quickly locate the information they seek. This is where mastering the power of headings and subheadings can dramatically elevate your content’s impact. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore effective tips for creating headings and subheadings that improve readability and enhance your articles’ overall organization. So let’s dive deep into this essential writing skill, touching upon everything from APA heading styles to best practices for formatting head-turners.

What are Headings and Subheadings?

What are Headings and Subheadings?

Headings are titles or phrases that break down a document or article into organized sections or topics. They provide structure by dividing content according to subject matter or theme while serving as cues for readers looking for specific information.

Subheadings are smaller divisions within those larger sections marked by headings. By offering deeper segmentation of the material, subheadings make it easier for readers to skim through an article quickly without needing to read every word on the page when attempting to answer their questions.

In essence, headings and subheadings work as signposts throughout your written work – guiding users toward particular points of interest within an otherwise dense text grouping. You can also think of them as section labels.

To better understand how these elements fit together in practice, consider examining great examples like:

  • Headings:  Bolded section titles in newspapers or chapters in books
  • Subheadings:  Descriptive captions under images or lists inside long-form articles

These distinctions enable authors (like you!) to keep their ideas organized while giving readers valuable cues about each segment.

Why are Headings and Subheadings Important?

Why are Headings and Subheadings Important?

Headings and subheadings are crucial in enhancing the readability and organization of written content. They serve multiple purposes, primarily guiding the reader through your work. Some key reasons explaining the importance of headings and subheadings are:

Structuring Your Content

Incorporating headers and subheaders facilitates structuring your article into logical sections, making it easy for readers to follow your line of thought. By breaking down your piece into smaller segments, you ensure that the audience clearly understands each aspect without getting overwhelmed.

Enhancing Readability

Including headings and subheadings improve readability by clearly signaling transitions between topics, thus helping readers navigate smoothly through the content. Furthermore, they aid in maintaining interest as well-formatted articles with properly separated sections create visually appealing work that encourages continued reading.

Boosting SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

From an online perspective, using headings and subheadings can significantly contribute to your article’s search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines prioritize pages with well-structured content, employing informative headers containing relevant keywords over others lacking this feature. Consequently, including these elements increases visibility on search engine results pages, driving more organic traffic to your site.

Aiding Readers’ Retention

Headings serve as visual cues that assist readers in processing information swiftly while staying focused on critical points in your text. Additionally, the appropriate use of headers aids reader retention; when people can quickly access specific sections containing pertinent details within an article or blog post, they will be more likely to remember those details later.

Catering to Skimmers

Many individuals skim through content instead of thoroughly reading it word-for-word. Properly formatted headings emphasize vital concepts discussed throughout any piece—an academic paper or a blog post—enabling skimmers to grasp the main ideas without reading every new paragraph.

Factors to Consider When Creating Headings

Factors to Consider When Creating Headings

Creating successful headings involves much more than simply identifying topics; it requires careful consideration of several factors since they function as roadmaps for your readers’ journey through your piece. Here are a few essential aspects:

  • Understandability: The backbone role of any header is to look after your content’s readability by breaking it down into digestible parts. So, prioritizing clarity should be foremost.
  • Relevance : Each heading must directly correlate with its associated text block. If users click on a header expecting specific information, ensure that’s precisely what they get.
  • Brevity : Remember this mantra – short enough to catch attention but long enough to encapsulate relevance.
  • Consistency : Stick rigorously to one style throughout the article; varying formats might confuse readers about the text hierarchy.
  • SEO-consciousness : Incorporate keywords into headers correctly for SEO ranking benefits—but not at the cost of undermining reader comfort.

Indeed, creating impactful headers isn’t simply an act—it’s an art that demands precision and practice that we will delve deeper into in the following sections.

Types of Headings and Subheadings

Types of Headings and Subheadings

Before plunging into writing, one crucial element you must comprehend is the different types of headings that constitute a significant aspect of your content layout. When crafting an article or blog post, three types of headers come into play: Main headings, subheadings, and section headings.

Main Headings

Main headings (commonly known as H1 tags in digital print) serve as the title of your work. They’re responsible for communicating what your entire piece is about at a glance. Typically bold and larger than other text elements on the page, they should clearly echo the topic handled in your content.

For instance, if I were crafting a comprehensive guide about cooking basics targeted at novices, my main heading could be “Mastering Culinary Basics: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners.” It’s concise yet descriptive enough to give readers valuable insights into what they’ll gain from perusing my article.


While main headings offer a broad idea of your subject matter, what is a subheading? It narrows down and organizes specific sections within this umbrella topic you’re discussing. Notably labeled as H2 or H3 tags in blog/article formatting interfaces, these findings you present after thorough exploration under chunky waters beneath the surface.

Consider them as subdivisions within your primary theme; each handles specific arguments or ideas related to it. For example, using our above “Culinary Basics” storyline, suitable subheadings would be “Understanding Your Kitchen Equipment,” “Exploring Basic Food Preparation Techniques,” or “Must-know Cooking Terms.”

Section Headings

Finally, we have section headings – essentially bridges between main titles and their designated subsections. They assume vital responsibility by offering further granularity along our reader’s journey through our written masterpiece. Assume that under your “Understanding Your Kitchen Equipment” category (a 

Section headings come into play – each could focus on a specific gadget like “Mastering the Art of Using an Oven,” “The Miraculous Whisk: More Than Just An Egg Beater,” etc. Hence, they provide structure, enhancing readability by guiding readers smoothly from point A to B while not losing sight of our central theme.

Understanding these distinctions in headings and subheadings hierarchy provides clarity as it directs your writing flow, defining how your points interrelate, thus reinforcing coherence and logic in your discussion.

Best Practices on how to write Subheadings and Headings

Best Practices on how to write Subheadings and Headings

Learning the art of crafting riveting headings and subheadings can vastly improve your content’s readability, navigation, and SEO performance. Following are some best practices to help you master this skill.

Capturing Reader Attention with Compelling Subheadings

The true power of a captivating subheading lies in its ability to draw readers into the heart of your content. In essence, compelling subheadings serve as mini headlines – they should be engaging informative, and establish an intriguing promise for what’s yet to come. Especially in digital platforms where users scan through pages, persuasive subheadings ensure a better user engagement rate, fearing less about bouncing off from installing intrigue into their minds.

Avoid clickbait : While catchy titles might attract quick attention from readers or potential visitors, refrain from producing deceptive titles that may mislead users about what they are clicking into – providing disillusionment might cost you credibility.

Adding Variation and Creativity to Subheadings to Enhance the Overall Flow of the Content

Incorporating creativity into your subheadings not only lends an element of surprise but significantly improves the flow of your content. A little playfulness or unexpectedness can break the monotony while maintaining reader interest. It’s like being on an unpredictable journey, holding their attention until they reach their destination: the end of your article.

Using Subheadings to Break Up Large Chunks of Text and Improve Readability

Chunking down intimidating walls of text by strategically placing subheaders can drastically improve such segments’ readability quotient. Brevity allows readers’ eyes – weary from screen glare – to repose periods within dense sections while enhancing comprehension by categorizing information concisely under respective subdivisions.

Choosing Clear and Descriptive Headings

Ensuring your headings accurately depict what follows is vital. Readers want clarity; they appreciate knowing immediately whether the provided details will satisfy their inquiry without needing poetic decipherment skills. This clear, descriptive style also aids search engines in understanding page context—supporting SEO benefits apart from user-friendliness.

Formatting and Styling Headings for Readability

Proper formatting is non-negotiable when aiming to amplify readability. As a rule of thumb, headers and subheaders should stand out in your text – which could be achieved through font size, bolding, or color variations. This visual hierarchy leads readers smoothly through the storyline.

Incorporating Keywords in Headings for SEO Purposes

Incorporating keywords strategically into your headings is crucial from an SEO perspective, as search engines give higher weightage to terms in these sections. However, this should not compromise flowing articulation; these insertions must be natural-sounding and illuminative about subsequent content.

Proper Capitalization and Punctuation

Following accepted grammatical conventions relating to capitalization and punctuation ensures professional integrity while avowing reader trust. Each word within headings typically capitalizes the first letter – excluding minor ones like prepositions or conjunctions unless starting or ending the subtitle.

Consistency in Style and Formatting

Create continuity by maintaining consistency across all headings and subheadings within an article. This involves maintaining uniform styling, tense usage, capitalization rules, and lexicon choice for all titles under a particular heading category. Uniformity aids comprehension while granting your written piece a structured, polished aesthetic sheen.

Maintain hierarchy

Properly structuring your heading levels is important for establishing a logical flow within your document or article. Start with a primary heading (H1), then follow it up with secondary (h2), tertiary (h3), and so forth, using smaller header sizes accordingly.

Examples of Great Headings and Subheadings

Examples of Great Headings and Subheadings

To provide some inspiration for creating impactful headlines yourself, let me share a few examples of excellent headings and subheadings:

  • Subheading : Stand Out With Creative Captions
  • Subheading : Engage Your Audience Through Stories
  • Subheading : Collaborate With Influencers
  • Subheading : Establish Your Budget and Priorities
  • Subheading : Research Neighborhoods and Amenities
  • Subheading : Schedule Visits And Inspections
  • Subheading : Preparing The Necessary Documentation

By analyzing these examples, one can notice how each heading effectively communicates the article’s main topic in a clear and captivating manner. Additionally, the subheadings further break down those topics into specific sections that are easy for readers to navigate as they progress through your writing.

In conclusion, mastering the art of crafting attention-grabbing headings and informative subheadings is essential for any content writer. By employing clarity, strategic keyword use, proper structuring techniques with hierarchy, and avoiding clickbait headlines – you will be able to create engaging content that maintains reader interest while providing an effortless reading experience.

How to choose the proper headings and subheadings for the article

How to choose the proper headings and subheadings for the article

Choosing the right headings and subheadings for your article is crucial in effectively organizing and structuring your content. They help guide your readers through your text and make it easier to comprehend. To ensure that you choose relevant, concise, and engaging headings for your article, follow these tips:

  • Identify the main topic : Start by identifying the main subject of your article. Your headings should reflect this central theme.
  • Divide into logical sections : Break down your main topic into smaller, related sections using headers and subheaders as waypoints for guiding the reader on their journey through the content.
  • Use keywords strategically : Incorporate 3-5 relevant keywords within each heading or subheading, making them sound natural; examples of such phrases include “examples of subheadings,” “apa heading,” or more granular concepts like “header and subheader.”
  • Keep it clear & concise : Make sure each heading accurately represents its corresponding section’s content without being too long or complicated. Be succinct in expressing ideas while also maintaining an engaging tone.
  • Maintain consistency:  Adopt a consistent style throughout all headings and subheadings levels and parallel structure in phrasing similar ideas across different sections.
  • Consider hierarchy:  Ensure appropriate ordering using higher-order headers (H1) and lower-order ones (H2, H3) denoting subsections nested under overarching themes.
  • Test readability : After crafting potential headers/subheaders, read them aloud to evaluate how easily they flow together; adjust wording wherever necessary for improved clarity overall.

These strategies can significantly enhance organization and comprehension when drafting high-quality articles with engaging headings/subheadings – ultimately benefiting both authors and intended audiences!

Steps to Create a Proper Outline with Headings

Steps to Create a Proper Outline with Headings

Creating a clear and well-structured outline is essential for organizing your thoughts, ensuring the logical flow of ideas throughout your writing, and effectively guiding readers. Headings are integral in outlining content as they provide essential context and help develop a coherent structure. Here are some steps to follow when crafting an outline using headings:

  • Identify main points : Start by brainstorming the core concepts you want to discuss in your article or document. These will form the basis for your primary headings (e.g., Level 1).
  • Create heading levels : Once you have determined the main topics of discussion, group related ideas under these higher level headings. For each subtopic, create subheadings that align with lower-level categories.
  • Use consistent formatting : To distinguish between different heading levels quickly and easily, maintain consistency in their formatting style (e.g., font size or boldness). This visual hierarchy simplifies readability across the entire piece. You can use default heading settings in Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
  • Apply parallel structure : Ensure consistency by utilizing similar phrasing and construction across all headings at the same level.
  • Review and revise : As you progress through your draft or outline, frequently review the overall coherence of headlining choices. Modify them as needed until a harmonious organizational structure flows naturally from topic to subtopic.
  • Connection to title : Make sure every heading relates to the central theme established in the title of your article or document; this enables continuity and focus throughout.
  • Be succinct : Effective headings capture vital intent within a brief phrase—aim for brevity while conveying what readers should anticipate from subsequent content.

When executed carefully, adequately structured outlines that employ insightful heading choices can drastically elevate any written piece’s quality—academic work or casual blog posts—and better engage target audiences by promoting an accessible and organized format for navigating subject matter.

Formatting Headings and Subheadings

Proper formatting is crucial to improving the readability and organization of your content. By following a consistent format, you can ensure that your article has a clear hierarchy and navigable structure for your readers.

Subheading Best Practices

To make the most out of your structure, consider these best practices:

  • Keep the style consistent: Once you have decided on a specific font, size, and color for the main headings, stick to it throughout the piece. The same applies to subheadings.
  • Use appropriate nesting: Always use an H1 (header 1) for primary headings before moving to H2 (header 2) for subsequent levels.
  • Use proper spacing: Ensure adequate spaces between headers, separating them from other text elements.

Use Parallel Structure

Parallel structure entails applying consistent grammatical patterns to each heading level. This uniformity creates coherence and enables readers to follow the flow of ideas:

  • Start with action verbs.
  • Keep tense usage consistent.
  • Ensure similar phrasing throughout each level of headings.

For example:

I. Cooking Techniques

   A. Stir-frying

   B. Grilling

   C. Baking

Connect to Your Title

Headings should be extensions of your title, delving deeper into its message while maintaining relevance as they narrow down aspects of the broader theme:

  • Ensures topical consistency across sections
  • Prevents deviation from key messages

Be Succinct

Ideally, aim for brief yet descriptive section headings, by using concise language:

  • Avoid lengthy phrases or clauses, use a few words
  • Opt for simple wording without compromising clarity
  • Refrain from posing questions within section headers

Pairing succinctness with informative language leads readers smoothly through content without causing disengagement due to verbosity.

Think of Subsection Headings as a Table of Contents

Subheadings should serve as accessible entry points to your content, much like chapters in a book’s table of contents:

  • Provide clear, comprehendible indicators for the section’s focus.
  • Arrange content logically and sequentially to guide users through topics.
  • Make it easy for readers to skim and identify their areas of interest.

Treating subsection headings as if they formed a miniature table of contents allows you to create well-structured articles that cater to diverse reader requirements, helping them to locate key takeaways effortlessly.

Using Headings and Subheadings for SEO Optimization

The strategic usage of headings and subheadings plays a crucial role in structuring your text and maximizing the visibility of your content on search engines. Here’s how to enhance your article’s readability and SEO performance through savvy heading selection.

Incorporating Keywords in Headings for Search Engine Visibility

Your mission to optimize headings should start with embedding keywords effectively. Why? Because search engines like Google place a higher weightage on terms within headings or subheader content. This priority given to header text helps these algorithms determine what your page is about, thus indexing it more accurately.

When adding keywords to subheaders or headers, ensure they are relevant to the content that follows them. Remember that stuffing irrelevant terms into your subtitle heading will come off as confusing at best—and deceptive manipulation attempting to game the system at worst.

Here are some tips:

  • Use long-tail keyword phrases instead of single words; they tend to be less competitive and more specific.
  • Utilize variant synonyms or related concepts rather than repeating the same phrase multiple times.
  • Maintain a natural flow – don’t shoehorn in keywords unnaturally.
  • Prioritize inclusion in main headings where appropriate, although sub-subheading placements count too!

For instance, if I’m writing about “APA formatting headings,” I could use phrases like “how to format subheadings” or “example of headings and subheadings” throughout my piece.

Balancing SEO Optimization with User Readability

While incorporating keywords into headers for improved search engine visibility is beneficial, balancing SEO optimization and user readability is paramount.

As much as we might obsess over pleasing Google’s algorithmically finicky appetites, never forget that, ultimately, you’re writing first and foremost for human beings – not machine crawlers! Skewing too heavily towards SEO at the cost of clarity will only alienate readers, rendering your efforts pointless.

Instead, keep your title subtitle heading subheading formulation both SEO-friendly and user-considerate by ensuring it’s:

  • Accurate: It should clearly convey what the subsequent section is about.
  • Intriguing: Your headings should motivate your readers to continue reading. 3. Validating: Show that you’re providing value or solving a problem with your content.

To bring everything together—an essential facet of mastering ‘header subheader’ interaction rests on marrying search engine visibility goals with the crucial human aspect of content consumption—ensuring your hard work reaches the audience it deserves.

APA Headings and Subheadings – APA Style Papers

The American Psychological Association (APA) publication manual format is widely used in academic writing for organizing content and presenting research work. APA headings have specific rules for formatting to establish a clear structure that is easy to follow. It distinguishes five levels of headings.

APA Heading Level 1

Level of Heading no 1 signifies the main sections of your paper, such as the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. In an APA-styled document:

  • Center-align the text.
  • Use bold font.
  • Title case – capitalize all significant words in the heading.
  • Keep the heading on a separate line with no additional indentation or spacing.


APA Heading Level 2

Heading level 2 marks sub-sections within each main section represented by heading level 1. To keep the same line with APA style:

  • Left-align this text.
  • Utilize a bold font.
  • Title case.
  • Place the heading on its line without indentations or extra spacing.

Example of a heading level 2 subheading:

Literature Review

Historical Development

  • Current Trends

APA Heading Level 3

Sub-subsections are denoted by heading level 3 under an existing sub-section represented by heading level 2. These should be formatted according to APA standards as follows:

  • Indent slightly from the left margin.
  • Bold and italicize the text.
  • Only capitalize the first significant word along with any proper nouns.
  • Conclude with a period before continuing into subsection content.

For instance,

The origin of psychological theories.  Early psychological theories can be traced back…

APA Heading Level 4

Following levels of organization further down the article’s hierarchy are labeled as heading level 4 under each related subsection (heading level 3). Formats vary depending on how many subsections are required, but abide by APA guidelines to:

  • Left-align the heading.
  • End with a period before beginning the paragraph.

Example of heading level 4:

The origin of psychological theories.

Influential psychologists during the 1800s.  Some prominent figures include…

APA Heading Level 5

Lastly, sub-subsections requiring attention should be marked under an existing subheading (level 4) as previously described. Adhere to these formatting rules for the introduction section heading level 5 in an APA-styled document:

  • Use italics exclusively.
  • Capitalize solely the first letter of the initial word and any proper nouns.
  • Also, end with a period before commencing paragraph content.

For example,

Influential psychologists during the 1800s

Psychodynamic theory: Sigmund Freud.  Sigmund Freud was a pioneer in…

Headings and Subheadings in Blogging

Headings and Subheadings in Blogging

In the blogging world, headings and subheadings are crucial in making your content more accessible, captivating, and easy to digest. By incorporating well-crafted headers and subheaders throughout your blog posts, you can keep the reader engaged, provide them with context and structure, and make it easier for search engines to index your content.

The Role of Headings in Blog Posts

When writing blog posts, headings enable readers to screen content. They help:

  • Catch the reader’s eye: A strong heading grabs the reader’s attention and entices them to read further.
  • Organize your content: Headers offer visual separation between different sections or ideas within your post.
  • Improve readability: Easy-to-scan headings enable readers to identify which sections are most relevant to their interests quickly.

Using key phrases from your keyword research in headings (for example, “header subheader”, “what are headings and subheadings”) further enhances readability while signaling search engine bots about the topic.

Enhancing Structure with Subheadings

Subheadings act as additional signposts within a piece of writing. They divide content into smaller categories, making it easier for readers to understand complex ideas or processes seamlessly while offering several benefits:

  • Guide reading flow: Well-placed subheadings lead readers through your article by breaking down information logically.
  • Highlight important points: Effective use of subheadings can emphasize vital concepts or tips that resonate with the audience.
  • Facilitate skimming for users and screen readers: Busy internet users often skim articles before fully committing; clear subheadings ensure they comprehend crucial details even at a cursory glance.

Integrating keywords such as “examples of headings and subheadings”, and “headers and subheaders” into your text creates harmony across sections while enhancing SEO performance.

Impact on SEO

Effective use of headings and subheadings, especially when incorporating relevant keywords, can improve your blog’s search engine optimization (SEO) performance. Here are some reasons why:

  • Content prioritization: Search engines assign more weight to the text within headings and subheadings, making it essential to include target keywords for better ranking.
  • Ease of crawling: Providing separate sections through headers and subheaders makes it easier for search engine bots to crawl and index your content accurately.
  • Boost accessibility: A logical structure with clear headings impacts the user experience positively and improves your site’s overall accessibility.

Tips for Writing Engaging Headings and Subheadings in Blogging

To make the most of headings and subheadings in blogging, keep these points in mind:

  • Use action words: Begin with strong verbs that convey a sense of purpose or achieving something beneficial.
  • Be concise yet descriptive: Prefer short, attention-grabbing phrases that accurately reflect the section’s contents without being overly long.
  • Emphasize benefits or solutions: Showcase value proposition by highlighting solutions or outcomes readers can expect from the section.
  • Leverage numbers/lists: Use numbered lists or steps whenever appropriate to add order to content while enhancing readability.

By carefully crafting captivating headings and well-structured subheadings in your blog posts, you’ll witness an improvement in user engagement levels leading to higher conversion rates on your platform.

FAQs on Headings and Subheadings Examples

FAQs on Headings and Subheadings Examples

What is the difference between a heading and a subheading?

Headings and subheadings are crucial in organizing content, but their distinct purposes can often lead to confusion. Let’s examine each one to understand the difference between these two terms better.

Heading : A heading is an overarching title that indicates a section’s main theme or subject within your document, article, or blog post. Headings are typically formatted with larger, bold text than the surrounding content to grab readers’ attention quickly. These headings act as signposts for readers scanning through long content to find particular topics of interest.

Subheading : In contrast, a subheading serves as a smaller, more detailed description or label under the main heading. Subheadings further divide sections into subsections by providing context and highlighting specific aspects of your material under their respective headings. Typically formatted to be slightly smaller than headings but still stand out from the body text, they help guide readers through your content by making it easy for them to identify relevant information.

By using headings and subheadings effectively in tandem – providing clear overviews yet breaking data down into digestible chunks –you create accessible, engaging documents for various audiences.

How many heading levels should you use?

The number of heading levels you should use depends on several factors:

  • Content length and complexity : Use multiple heading levels if your content addresses various themes or contains in-depth analyses with subsections. Thoughtful navigation facilitates quick searches throughout complex works.
  • Reader comprehension : Different audience members will possess varying knowledge bases; aim for clarity by structuring information accordingly.
  • Style guidelines : Depending on stylistic preferences (for example, APA style), specific formatting rules may dictate how many hierarchical subdivisions prove most effective.
  • Platform requirements : Evaluate your chosen platform’s standards (such as blogging platforms like WordPress) to ensure readability.

In general, most articles or papers utilize 2 to 4 levels of headings and subheadings. This range balances the need for structure alongside passage flow. Working with highly technical documents reaching beyond 15 pages may require additional hierarchical divisions for seamless comprehension.

Remember that employing too few heading levels can inhibit topic organization, while excessive use may render narratives convoluted or cluttered. Experiment accordingly to strike the appropriate balance tailored to your unique content needs.

Tom Winter

Seasoned SaaS and agency growth expert with deep expertise in AI, content marketing, and SEO. With SEOwind, he crafts AI-powered content that tops Google searches and magnetizes clicks. With a track record of rocketing startups to global reach and coaching teams to smash growth, Tom's all about sharing his rich arsenal of strategies through engaging podcasts and webinars. He's your go-to guy for transforming organic traffic, supercharging content creation, and driving sales through the roof.

Table of Contents

  • 1 What are Headings and Subheadings?
  • 2 Why are Headings and Subheadings Important?
  • 3 Factors to Consider When Creating Headings
  • 4 Types of Headings and Subheadings
  • 5 Best Practices on how to write Subheadings and Headings
  • 6 Examples of Great Headings and Subheadings
  • 7 How to choose the proper headings and subheadings for the article
  • 8 Steps to Create a Proper Outline with Headings
  • 9 Formatting Headings and Subheadings
  • 10 Using Headings and Subheadings for SEO Optimization
  • 11 APA Headings and Subheadings – APA Style Papers
  • 12 Headings and Subheadings in Blogging
  • 13 FAQs on Headings and Subheadings Examples

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Education Blog

Apa vs. mla understanding citation styles for academic writing.

In the world of academic writing, mastering the art of citation is not just a requirement; it’s a skill that underscores the credibility and integrity of your work. Whether you’re penning a research paper, thesis, or any scholarly article, knowing when and how to use APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA (Modern Language Association) format is crucial. An essay writing service can help ensure that your work adheres to these essential standard

But why is proper citation so important? It not only gives credit where it’s due but also allows readers to trace the genesis of ideas, fostering a transparent and interconnected academic dialogue.

APA vs. MLA: A Comparative Overview

  • Origin and Application

APA and MLA stand as the two colossi in the field of academic citation, each with distinct origins and applications. APA, predominantly used in the social sciences, emphasizes the date of publication, reflecting the importance of recent research in these fields. MLA, on the other hand, is favored in the humanities, particularly for its more flexible approach to authorship and source integration.

  • General Formatting Guidelines

Before diving into specifics, understanding the general layout each style adheres to can illuminate the broader differences. APA champions a more structured format, with precise headings and subheadings, while MLA offers a bit more freedom, focusing on the fluid integration of sources into the text.

Understanding APA Format

  • In-text Citation

APA format requires the author’s last name and the year of publication within the text, catering to the style’s emphasis on the timeliness of research.

  • Reference List

The reference list is a staple of APA, offering a comprehensive overview of every source cited in the paper. This list not only includes books and journal articles but extends to audiovisual and electronic sources, reflecting the modern landscape of research.

Navigating MLA Format

MLA’s in-text citation style is more reader-friendly, often incorporating the author’s name into the narrative of the paper, which can enhance the flow of arguments.

  • Works Cited Page

Unlike APA’s reference list, MLA uses a works cited page, emphasizing the work over the publication date. This approach caters to the humanities’ focus on the evolution of ideas over time.

Key Differences Between APA and MLA

  • Citation in Text

The most noticeable difference lies in how each style approaches in-text citations. APA’s author-date format contrasts sharply with MLA’s author-page method, reflecting their differing emphases on timeliness and narrative flow, respectively.

  • Reference List vs. Works Cited

The terminology and structure of the final list of sources also differ, with APA focusing on a comprehensive reference list and MLA on a more selective works cited page.

When to Use APA and MLA

  • Subject Matter Consideration

Choosing between APA and MLA often comes down to the subject matter of your paper. Social sciences, education, and psychology lean towards APA, while literature, arts, and humanities prefer MLA.

  • Journal or Publisher Requirements

Always consider the requirements of the journal or publisher. Some are strict about citation styles, so knowing the expected format is essential.

Practical Tips for Effective Citation

  • Use Software

Modern citation and reference management software can automate much of the formatting process, allowing scholars to focus more on content than citation styles.

  • Stay Updated on Style Guidelines

Both APA and MLA periodically update their guidelines. Staying abreast of these changes ensures your citations remain current and accurate.

  • Keep a Detailed Research Log

As you gather sources, maintain a detailed log that includes all necessary citation information. This practice saves time and ensures accuracy when you’re ready to cite. Include notes on key points from each source to help integrate quotes and ideas seamlessly into your writing.

  • Understand the Purpose of Each Citation

Each citation style serves a different academic purpose. APA’s focus on dates highlights the timeliness of research, while MLA’s emphasis on page numbers facilitates reader engagement with primary sources. Recognizing this can help you choose the most effective way to incorporate and highlight your research.

  • Consistency is Key

Ensure that every citation follows the same format throughout your document. Inconsistencies can distract readers and undermine your work’s professionalism. Pay special attention to punctuation, capitalization, and italicization.

  • Use Direct Quotes Sparingly

While direct quotes can strengthen your argument, relying too heavily on them can disrupt the flow of your paper. Summarize or paraphrase where appropriate, and use direct quotes to highlight particularly impactful or unique phrases. Remember to always cite the original source, even when paraphrasing.

  • Cross-Check Your Citations

Before submitting your work, double-check your citations against the latest version of the citation style guide. Small errors, such as misplaced commas or incorrect publication years, can compromise your paper’s credibility.

  • Cite as You Write

Instead of leaving citations as the last step, cite sources as you incorporate them into your paper. This approach prevents accidental plagiarism and ensures you don’t overlook any sources.

  • Seek Feedback

Have peers, mentors, or writing centers review your citations. Fresh eyes can catch mistakes you might have overlooked and provide suggestions for improvement.

The choice between APA and MLA formatting styles is not merely a matter of preference but a strategic decision that reflects the nature of your work, its audience, and the norms of your academic discipline. By understanding the key differences and applications of each style, you can navigate the complex landscape of academic writing with greater ease and precision.


  1. APA Headings and Subheadings

    apa literature review subheadings

  2. √ Free APA Literature Review Format Template

    apa literature review subheadings

  3. Apa Style Subheadings Example / 012 Apa Format Research Paper Template

    apa literature review subheadings

  4. Example Of Apa Paper With Headings And Subheadings

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  5. APA Headings and Subheadings

    apa literature review subheadings

  6. APA Headings and Subheadings. Introduction

    apa literature review subheadings


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  1. APA Headings and Subheadings

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  2. Writing a Literature Review

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    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 organized 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.

  4. Comprehensive Guide to Headings and Subheadings in APA 7.0

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  5. PDF Ordering the Sections of an APA Literature Review -- and when to start

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  6. Literature Review

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  7. How to Write a Literature Review

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  8. How to Write an APA Methods Section

    Subheadings within this section are left-aligned, boldfaced, and in title case. You can also add lower level headings within these subsections, as long as they follow APA heading styles. To structure your methods section, you can use the subheadings of "Participants," "Materials," and "Procedures."

  9. Literature Review

    " Key takeaways from the Psi Chi webinar So You Need to Write a Literature Review via APA Style.org Examples of Literature Reviews Financial socialization: A decade in review (2021) The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the development of anxiety disorders - a literature review (2021)

  10. APA Headings and Subheadings

    For professional papers, place the page number in the top right margin and the running head in the top left margin of every page of the paper. Running heads should be a shortened version of the paper title. Improve the clarity of your work by using APA-style headers. Use subheadings when there are at least two subsections within a larger section.

  11. LibGuides: APA Help (7th Edition): Headings Example

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  12. PDF APA Literature Review

    1. Choose which articles you will cover and assess the material Do not try to include every article you encountered. Choose the ones that address your research question most directly and that are most current (unless you need to include a landmark study). Take careful notes including: A brief summary of each article

  13. APA Headings and Subheadings

    The use of headings and subheadings give the readers a general idea of what to expect from the paper and leads the flow of discussion. These elements divide and define each section of the paper. APA recommends five-level heading structure based on the level of subordination. Table of Content [ hide] 1 Levels 2 Guideline 3 Example

  14. Formatting APA Headings and Subheadings

    There are five heading levels in APA. The 6th edition of the APA manual revises and simplifies previous heading guidelines APA uses something called a "running head," while the other two styles do not. MLA uses a left-indented topper for the paper author's name, the professor's name, the course name, and date, while MLA and Chicago style do not.

  15. Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

    Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications .For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively .Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every ...

  16. APA Sample Paper

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  17. Sample papers

    Sample Papers This page contains sample papers formatted in seventh edition APA Style. The sample papers show the format that authors should use to submit a manuscript for publication in a professional journal and that students should use to submit a paper to an instructor for a course assignment.

  18. APA headings (6th edition)

    Heading 1 : Use heading 1 for the main elements of your paper, such as the "methods," "results," "conclusion" and "discussion" sections. Heading 2 : Use heading 2 for the subsections underneath heading 1. For example, under "methods," include sections describing the "participant selection," "experiment design' and ...

  19. A 'Heads Up' on Headings (and Sub-Headings)

    Some journals specify a whole number for the headings, for example '1. Introduction' and then a system of numbering which uses periods and numbers to denote subsequent levels such as: '1.1'; '1.2'; '1.2.1'. etc. Usually, it is unnecessary to use more than three levels of heading—i.e. a heading and two sub-headings—and for most purposes, two levels are sufficient.

  20. PDF Heading Levels Template: Student Paper, APA Style 7th Edition

    Use Level 4 headings for subsections of Level 3 headings. Use only the number of headings necessary to diferentiate distinct sections in your paper. Short student papers may not require any headings. Level 4 Heading.

  21. PDF counselling department Writing a Literature Review

    Often divided by headings/subheadings, the body summarizes and evaluates the current state of knowledge in the field. It notes major themes or topics, the most important trends, and any findings about which researchers agree or disagree.

  22. APA Formatting and Style Guide (7th Edition)

    Basic guidelines for formatting the reference list at the end of a standard APA research paper Author/Authors Rules for handling works by a single author or multiple authors that apply to all APA-style references in your reference list, regardless of the type of work (book, article, electronic resource, etc.)

  23. Power of Headings & Subheadings: Tips to Improve Your Writing

    APA Headings and Subheadings - APA Style Papers. The American Psychological Association (APA) publication manual format is widely used in academic writing for organizing content and presenting research work. ... Level of Heading no 1 signifies the main sections of your paper, such as the introduction, literature review, methodology, results ...

  24. APA vs. MLA Understanding Citation Styles for Academic Writing

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  25. A systematic review of creativity evaluation and ...

    The current systematic literature review, conducted according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-analyses) guidelines, (a) provides a comprehensive overview and critical assessment of the available idea evaluation and idea selection performance measures and (b) offers a theoretical framework and practical ...