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Essay Title Format Apa Section

If your instructor has asked you to write an APA format essay, it might at first seem like a rather daunting task, especially if you are accustomed to using another style such as MLA or Chicago. Before you begin your essay, familiarize yourself with some of the basics.

The following tips offer some useful guidelines that will help you prepare your paper and ensure that it is formatted properly.

What Is APA Format?

Whether you’re taking an introductory or a graduate-level psychology class, chances are strong that you will have to write at least one paper during the course of the semester.

In almost every case, you will need to write your paper in APA format, the official publication style of the American Psychological Association.

APA format is used in a range of disciplines including psychology, education, and other social sciences. The format dictates presentation elements of your paper including spacing, margins, and how the content is structured.

While it might seem like something you can just gloss over, most instructors, as well as publication editors, have strict guidelines when it comes to how your format your writing. Not only does adhering to APA format allow readers to know what to expect from your paper, it also means that your work will not lose critical points over minor formatting errors. 

While this guide offers some basic tips on how to present your APA format essay, you should always check with your teacher for more specific instructions.

Basics of an APA Format Essay

  • There should be uniform margins of at least one-inch at the top, bottom, left, and right sides of your essay.
  • Your paper should be double-spaced.
  • Every page of your essay should include a running head at the top left. The running head is a shortened form of your title, often the first few words, and should be no more than 50 characters (including spaces).
  • Every page should also include a page number in the top right corner.
  • Your essay should also have a title page in APA format. This title page should include the title of your paper, your name and school affiliation. In some instances, your teacher might require additional information such as the course title, instructor name and the date.
  • The title of your paper should be concise and clearly describe what your paper is about.
  • Your title can extend to two lines but it should be no longer than 12 words.
  • Your essay should also include a reference list. Located at the end of your paper, the reference section is a list of all the sources that were cited in your essay. References should be listed alphabetically by the last name of the author, and they should also be double-spaced.
  • The first word of each paragraph in your paper should be indented one-half inch.
  • The American Psychological Association recommends using Times New Roman size 12 font.
  • While the formatting requirements for your paper might vary depending upon your instructor's directions, your essay will most likely need to include a title page, abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, and reference sections.

Tips for Writing an Essay in APA Format

In addition to ensuring that you cite your sources properly and present information according to the rules of APA style, there are a number of things you can do to make the writing process a little bit easier.

Start by choosing a good topic to write about. Ideally, you want to select a subject that is specific enough to let you fully research and explore the topic, but not so specific that you have a hard time finding sources of information. If you choose something too specific, you may find yourself with not enough to write about; if you choose something too general, you might find yourself overwhelmed with information.

Second, start doing research as early as possible. Begin by looking at some basic books and articles on your topic. Once you are more familiar with the subject, create a preliminary source list of potential books, articles, essays, and studies that you may end up using in your essay.

As you write your essay, be sure to keep careful track of the sources that you cite. Remember, any source used in your essay must be included in your reference section. Conversely, any source listed in your references must be cited somewhere in the body of your paper.

After you have prepared a rough draft of your essay, it is time to revise, review, and prepare your final draft. In addition to making sure that your writing is cohesive and supported by your sources, you should also watch carefully for typos, grammar errors and possible problems with APA format.

Final Thoughts

Writing your first APA format essay can be a little intimidating at first, but learning some of the basic rules of APA style can help. Always remember, however, to consult the directions provided by your instructor for each assignment.


American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2010.

Lee, C. Running head format for APA style papers. APA Style Blog. 2010.

by Chelsea Lee

Headings give structure to your writing. They not only tell the reader what content to expect but also speak to its relative position within a hierarchy. The APA Publication Manual (section 3.03, pp. 62–63; see also the sample papers) gives guidelines for up to five levels of heading in a paper, although most papers will need only two, three, or four.

The example below shows font and indentation formatting for when all five levels are used, including what to do when headings follow one another with no text in between. We have previously explained in detail how to format each level of heading.

Anxiety Made Visible: Multiple Reports of Anxiety and Rejection Sensitivity
Our study investigated anxiety and rejection sensitivity. In particular, we examined how participant self-ratings of state and trait anxiety and rejection sensitivity would differ from the ratings of others, namely, the close friends of participants.
Literature Overview
Anxiety and rejection sensitivity are two important facets of psychological functioning that have received much attention in the literature. For example, Ronen and Baldwin (2010) demonstrated....
Participants were 80 university students (35 men, 45 women) whose mean age was 20.25 years (SD = 1.68). Approximately 70% of participants were European American, 15% were African American, 9% were Hispanic American, and 6% were Asian American. They received course credit for their participation.
Recruitment. We placed flyers about the study on bulletin boards around campus, and the study was included on the list of open studies on the Psychology Department website. To reduce bias in the sample, we described the study as a “personality study” rather than specifically mentioning our target traits of anxiety and rejection sensitivity.
Session 1: Psychiatric diagnoses. During the initial interview session, doctoral level psychology students assessed participants for psychiatric diagnoses. Eighteen percent of the sample met the criteria for generalized anxiety disorder according to the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM–IV Axis I Disorders (First, Gibbon, Spitzer, & Williams, 1996).
Session 2: Assessments. All participants attended a follow-up session to complete assessments. Participants were instructed to bring a friend with them who would complete the other-report measures.
Self-report measures. We first administered several self-report measures, as follows.
State and trait anxiety. Participants took the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory for Adults (STAI–A; Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983), a 40-item self-report measure to assess anxiety.
Rejection sensitivity. Participants took the Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (RSQ; Downey & Feldman, 1996), an 18-item self-report measure that assesses rejection sensitivity.
Other-report measures. We also included other-report measures to obtain independent sources of information about participants’ levels of anxiety and rejection sensitivity.
State and trait anxiety. We adapted the STAI–A so that questions referred to the target participant rather than the self.
Rejection sensitivity. We adapted the RSQ so that questions referred to the target participant rather than the self.
State and Trait Anxiety
State anxiety.
Self-report data. For state anxiety, participant self-report data indicated that participants were significantly less likely....
Other-report data. For state anxiety, other-report data indicated that friends of participants were significantly more likely....
Trait anxiety.
Self-report data. For trait anxiety, participant self-report data indicated that participants were significantly less likely....
Other-report data. For trait anxiety, other-report data indicated that friends of participants were significantly more likely....
Rejection Sensitivity
The results for rejection sensitivity paralleled those for anxiety, demonstrating that....
Strengths and Limitations
Some of the strengths of our research were....
Directions for Future Research
In the future, we hope that researchers will consider multiple sources of information when making assessments of anxiety. We also recommend....

Important notes on formatting your headings:

  • The title of the paper is not in bold. Only the headings at Levels 1–4 use bold. See this post for a clarification on when to use boldface.
  • Every paper begins with an introduction. However, in APA Style, the heading “Introduction” is not used, because what comes at the beginning of the paper is assumed to be the introduction.
  • The first heading comes at Level 1. In this paper, the first heading is “Literature Overview,” so it goes at Level 1. Your writing style and subject matter will determine what your first heading will be.
  • Subsequent headings of equal importance to the first heading also go at Level 1 (here, Method, Results, and Discussion).
  • For subsections, we recommend that if you are going to have them at all, you should aim for at least two (e.g., the Literature Overview section has no subsections, whereas the Method section has two Level 2 subsections, and one of those Level 2 sections is further divided into three sections, etc.). Again, the number of subsections you will need will depend on your topic and writing style.
  • Level 3, 4, and 5 headings are indented, followed by a period, and run in with the text that follows. If there is no intervening text between a Level 3, 4, or 5 heading and another lower level heading following it, keep the period after the first heading and start the next heading on a new line (e.g., see “State anxiety” and “Trait anxiety” at Level 3 in the Results section, which are immediately followed by lower level headings and text). Begin each heading on a new line; do not run headings together on the same line.

Are there other aspects of headings you want to know more about? Let us know in the comments.

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