- Affiliate Program
- UNITED STATES
- 台灣 (TAIWAN)
- TÜRKIYE (TURKEY)
- Academic Editing Services
- - Research Paper
- - Journal Manuscript
- - Dissertation
- - College & University Assignments
- Admissions Editing Services
- - Application Essay
- - Personal Statement
- - Recommendation Letter
- - Cover Letter
- - CV/Resume
- Business Editing Services
- - Business Documents
- - Report & Brochure
- - Website & Blog
- Writer Editing Services
- - Script & Screenplay
- Our Editors
- Client Reviews
- Editing & Proofreading Prices
- Wordvice Points
- Partner Discount
- Plagiarism Checker
- APA Citation Generator
- MLA Citation Generator
- Chicago Citation Generator
- Vancouver Citation Generator
- - APA Style
- - MLA Style
- - Chicago Style
- - Vancouver Style
- Writing & Editing Guide
- Academic Resources
- Admissions Resources
Formatting Research Paper Headings and Subheadings
Different style guides have different rules regarding the formatting of headings and subheadings in a paper, but what information you should actually put into your subheadings is a different question and often up to personal taste. Here we quickly summarize general guidelines, different approaches, and what not to do when choosing headings for a research paper.
Does it matter how I name my sections and subsections?
The main sections of a research paper have general headers and are often journal-specific, but some (e.g., the methods and discussion section) can really benefit from subsections with clear and informative headers. The things to keep in mind are thus the general style your paper is supposed to follow (e.g., APA, MLA), the specific guidelines the journal you want to submit to lists in their author instructions , and your personal style (e.g., how much information you want the reader to get from just reading your subsection headers).
Table of Contents:
- Style Guides: Rules on Headings and Subheadings
- What Sections and Subsections Do You Need?
- How Should You Name Your Sections and Subsections?
- Avoid These Common Mistakes
Style Guides: Research Paper Heading and Subheading Format
Headers identify the content within the different sections of your paper and should be as descriptive and concise as possible. That is why the main sections of research articles always have the same or very similar headers ( Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion ), with no or only small differences between journals. However, you also need to divide the content of some of these sections (e.g., the method section) into smaller subsections (e.g., Participants, Experimental Design, and Statistical Analysis ), and make sure you follow specific journal formatting styles when doing so.
If the journal you submit to follows APA style , for example, you are allowed to use up to five levels of headings, depending on the length of your paper, the complexity of your work, and your personal preference. To clearly indicate how each subsection fits into the rest of the text, every header level has a different format – but note that headers are usually not numbered because the different formatting already reflects the text hierarchy.
APA style headings example structure
Level 1 Centered, Bold, Title Case
Text begins as a new paragraph.
Level 2 Left-aligned, Bold, Title Case
Level 3 Left-aligned, Bold Italic, Title Case
Level 4 Indented, Bold, Title Case, Period . Text begins on the same
line and continues as a regular paragraph.
Level 5 Indented, Bold Italic, Title Case, Period. Text begins on the
same line and continues as a regular paragraph.
If you only need one section header (e.g. Methods ) and one level of subsection headers (e.g., Participants, Experimental Design, and Statistical Analysis ), use Level 1 and Level 2 headers. If you need three levels of headings, use Levels 1, 2, and 3 (and so on). Do not skip levels or combine them in a different way.
If you write a paper in Chicago style or MLA style , then you don’t need to follow such exact rules for headings and subheadings. Your structure just has to be consistent with the general formatting guidelines of both styles (12-pts Times New Roman font, double-spaced text, 0.5-inch indentation for every new paragraph) and consistent throughout your paper. Make sure the different formatting levels indicate a hierarchy (e.g., boldface for level 1 and italics for level 2, or a larger font size for level 1 and smaller font size for level 2). The main specifics regarding Chicago and MLA headings and subheadings are that they should be written in title case (major words capitalized, most minor words lowercase) and not end in a period. Both styles allow you, however, to number your sections and subsections, for example with an Arabic number and a period, followed by a space and then the section name.
MLA paper headings example structure
2. Material and Methods
2.1 Subject Recruitment
2.2 Experimental Procedure
2.3 Statistical Analysis
3.1 Experiment 1
3.2 Experiment 2
What research paper headings do you need?
Your paper obviously needs to contain the main sections ( Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and maybe Conclusion ) and you need to make sure that you name them according to the target journal style (have a look at the author guidelines if you are unsure what the journal style is). The differences between journals are subtle, but some want you to combine the results and discussion sections, for example, while others don’t want you to have a separate conclusion section. You also need to check whether the target journal has specific rules on subsections (or no subsections) within these main sections. The introduction section should usually not be subdivided (but some journals do not mind), while the method section, for example, always needs to have clear subsections.
How to Name Your Sections and Subsections
The method section subheadings should be short and descriptive, but how you subdivide this section depends on the structure you choose to present your work – which can be chronological (e.g., Experiment 1, Experiment 2 ) or follow your main topics (e.g., Visual Experiment, Behavioral Experiment, Questionnaire ). Have a look at this article on how to write the methods for a research paper if you need input on what the best structure for your work is. The method subheadings should only be keywords that tell the reader what information is following, not summaries or conclusions. That means that “ Subject Recruitment ” is a good methods section subheading, but “ Subjects Were Screened Using Questionnaires ” is not.
The subheadings for the result section should then follow the general structure of your method section, but here you can choose what information you want to put in every subheading. Some authors keep it simple and just subdivide their result section into experiments or measures like the method section, but others use the headings to summarize their findings so that the reader is prepared for the details that follow. You could, for example, simply name your subsections “ Anxiety Levels ” and “ Social Behavior ,” if those are the measures you studied and explained in the method section.
Or, you could provide the reader with a glimpse into the results of the analyses you are going to describe, and instead name these subsections “ Anxiety-Like Behaviors in Mutant Mice ” and “ Normal Social Behaviors in Mutant Mice .” While keeping headings short and simple is always a good idea, such mini-summaries can make your result section much clearer and easier to follow. Just make sure that the target journal you want to submit to does not have a rule against that.
Common Heading and Subheading Mistakes
Subheadings are not sentences.
If your heading reads like a full sentence, then you can most probably omit the verb or generally rephrase to shorten it. That also means a heading should not contain punctuation except maybe colons or question marks – definitely don’t put a period at the end, except when you have reached heading level 4 in the APA formatting style (see above) and the rules say so.
Always check your numbering, for example for spaces and periods before and after numbers (e.g., 3.2. vs 3.2 ), because readability depends on such features. But also make sure that your headings are consistent in structure and content: Switching between short keyword headings (e.g., “ Experiment 2 ”) and summary headings (e.g., “ Mice Do not Recognize People ”) is confusing and never a good idea. Ideally, subheadings within a section all have a similar structure. If your first subsection is called “ Mice Do not Recognize People ,” then “ People Do not Recognize Mice” is a better subheader for the next subsection than “Do People Recognize Mice? ”, because consistency is more important in a research paper than creativity.
Don’t overdo it
Not every paragraph or every argument needs a subheading. Only use subheadings within a bigger section if you have more than one point to make per heading level, and if subdividing the section really makes the structure clearer overall.
Before submitting your journal manuscript to academic publishers, be sure to get English editing services , including manuscript editing or paper editing from a trusted source. And receive instant proofreading with Wordvice AI, our ai online editor , which provides unlimited editing while drafting your research work.
Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.
13.1 Formatting a Research Paper
- Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
- Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.
In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:
- AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
- APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
- Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
- MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
- Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines
While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.
If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.
Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.
Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:
- Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
- Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
- Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.
General Formatting Guidelines
This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.
These are the major components of an APA-style paper:
Body, which includes the following:
- Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
- In-text citations of research sources
- References page
All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.
The title page of your paper includes the following information:
- Title of the paper
- Author’s name
- Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
- Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)
List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.
The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.
In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.
Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.
Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.
Margins, Pagination, and Headings
APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.
Use these general guidelines to format the paper:
- Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
- Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
- Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
- Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
- Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.
Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:
- Your title page
- The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
- Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract
APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.
The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:
- Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
- Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
- The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
- The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
- The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.
Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .
Table 13.1 Section Headings
A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.
Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.
Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:
Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.
In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.
This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.
Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).
Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.
Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).
Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.
As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”
Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.
David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).
Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.
Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.
Writing at Work
APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:
- MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
- Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
- Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.
The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.
The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:
- The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
- The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
- The full title of the source
- For books, the city of publication
- For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
- For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
- For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located
The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)
In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.
- Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
- Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
- APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
- APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
- In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
- In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.
Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
- Search Scope This Site All UCSD Sites Faculty/Staff Search Term
- Contact & Directions
- Climate Statement
- Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience
- Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- Social Psychology
- Adjunct Faculty
- Non-Senate Instructors
- Psychology Grads
- Affiliated Grads
- New and Prospective Students
- Honors Program
- Experiential Learning
- Programs & Events
- Psi Chi / Psychology Club
- Prospective PhD Students
- Current PhD Students
- Area Brown Bags
- Colloquium Series
- Anderson Distinguished Lecture Series
- Speaker Videos
- Undergraduate Program
- Academic and Writing Resources
Writing Research Papers
- Research Paper Structure
Whether you are writing a B.S. Degree Research Paper or completing a research report for a Psychology course, it is highly likely that you will need to organize your research paper in accordance with American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines. Here we discuss the structure of research papers according to APA style.
Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style
A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References sections. 1 Many will also contain Figures and Tables and some will have an Appendix or Appendices. These sections are detailed as follows (for a more in-depth guide, please refer to " How to Write a Research Paper in APA Style ”, a comprehensive guide developed by Prof. Emma Geller). 2
What is this paper called and who wrote it? – the first page of the paper; this includes the name of the paper, a “running head”, authors, and institutional affiliation of the authors. The institutional affiliation is usually listed in an Author Note that is placed towards the bottom of the title page. In some cases, the Author Note also contains an acknowledgment of any funding support and of any individuals that assisted with the research project.
One-paragraph summary of the entire study – typically no more than 250 words in length (and in many cases it is well shorter than that), the Abstract provides an overview of the study.
What is the topic and why is it worth studying? – the first major section of text in the paper, the Introduction commonly describes the topic under investigation, summarizes or discusses relevant prior research (for related details, please see the Writing Literature Reviews section of this website), identifies unresolved issues that the current research will address, and provides an overview of the research that is to be described in greater detail in the sections to follow.
What did you do? – a section which details how the research was performed. It typically features a description of the participants/subjects that were involved, the study design, the materials that were used, and the study procedure. If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Methods section. A rule of thumb is that the Methods section should be sufficiently detailed for another researcher to duplicate your research.
What did you find? – a section which describes the data that was collected and the results of any statistical tests that were performed. It may also be prefaced by a description of the analysis procedure that was used. If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Results section.
What is the significance of your results? – the final major section of text in the paper. The Discussion commonly features a summary of the results that were obtained in the study, describes how those results address the topic under investigation and/or the issues that the research was designed to address, and may expand upon the implications of those findings. Limitations and directions for future research are also commonly addressed.
List of articles and any books cited – an alphabetized list of the sources that are cited in the paper (by last name of the first author of each source). Each reference should follow specific APA guidelines regarding author names, dates, article titles, journal titles, journal volume numbers, page numbers, book publishers, publisher locations, websites, and so on (for more information, please see the Citing References in APA Style page of this website).
Tables and Figures
Graphs and data (optional in some cases) – depending on the type of research being performed, there may be Tables and/or Figures (however, in some cases, there may be neither). In APA style, each Table and each Figure is placed on a separate page and all Tables and Figures are included after the References. Tables are included first, followed by Figures. However, for some journals and undergraduate research papers (such as the B.S. Research Paper or Honors Thesis), Tables and Figures may be embedded in the text (depending on the instructor’s or editor’s policies; for more details, see "Deviations from APA Style" below).
Supplementary information (optional) – in some cases, additional information that is not critical to understanding the research paper, such as a list of experiment stimuli, details of a secondary analysis, or programming code, is provided. This is often placed in an Appendix.
Variations of Research Papers in APA Style
Although the major sections described above are common to most research papers written in APA style, there are variations on that pattern. These variations include:
- Literature reviews – when a paper is reviewing prior published research and not presenting new empirical research itself (such as in a review article, and particularly a qualitative review), then the authors may forgo any Methods and Results sections. Instead, there is a different structure such as an Introduction section followed by sections for each of the different aspects of the body of research being reviewed, and then perhaps a Discussion section.
- Multi-experiment papers – when there are multiple experiments, it is common to follow the Introduction with an Experiment 1 section, itself containing Methods, Results, and Discussion subsections. Then there is an Experiment 2 section with a similar structure, an Experiment 3 section with a similar structure, and so on until all experiments are covered. Towards the end of the paper there is a General Discussion section followed by References. Additionally, in multi-experiment papers, it is common for the Results and Discussion subsections for individual experiments to be combined into single “Results and Discussion” sections.
Departures from APA Style
In some cases, official APA style might not be followed (however, be sure to check with your editor, instructor, or other sources before deviating from standards of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). Such deviations may include:
- Placement of Tables and Figures – in some cases, to make reading through the paper easier, Tables and/or Figures are embedded in the text (for example, having a bar graph placed in the relevant Results section). The embedding of Tables and/or Figures in the text is one of the most common deviations from APA style (and is commonly allowed in B.S. Degree Research Papers and Honors Theses; however you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first).
- Incomplete research – sometimes a B.S. Degree Research Paper in this department is written about research that is currently being planned or is in progress. In those circumstances, sometimes only an Introduction and Methods section, followed by References, is included (that is, in cases where the research itself has not formally begun). In other cases, preliminary results are presented and noted as such in the Results section (such as in cases where the study is underway but not complete), and the Discussion section includes caveats about the in-progress nature of the research. Again, you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first.
- Class assignments – in some classes in this department, an assignment must be written in APA style but is not exactly a traditional research paper (for instance, a student asked to write about an article that they read, and to write that report in APA style). In that case, the structure of the paper might approximate the typical sections of a research paper in APA style, but not entirely. You should check with your instructor for further guidelines.
Workshops and Downloadable Resources
- For in-person discussion of the process of writing research papers, please consider attending this department’s “Writing Research Papers” workshop (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).
- How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
- Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
- Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – empirical research) [ PDF ]
- Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]
- Writing Research Paper Videos
APA Journal Article Reporting Guidelines
- Appelbaum, M., Cooper, H., Kline, R. B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Nezu, A. M., & Rao, S. M. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for quantitative research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 3.
- Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 26.
- Formatting APA Style Papers in Microsoft Word
- How to Write an APA Style Research Paper from Hamilton University
- WikiHow Guide to Writing APA Research Papers
- Sample APA Formatted Paper with Comments
- Sample APA Formatted Paper
- Tips for Writing a Paper in APA Style
1 VandenBos, G. R. (Ed). (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) (pp. 41-60). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
2 geller, e. (2018). how to write an apa-style research report . [instructional materials]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.
Back to top
- Formatting Research Papers
- Using Databases and Finding References
- What Types of References Are Appropriate?
- Evaluating References and Taking Notes
- Citing References
- Writing a Literature Review
- Writing Process and Revising
- Improving Scientific Writing
- Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism
- Writing Research Papers Videos
- AI Content Shield
- AI KW Research
- AI Assistant
- SEO Optimizer
- AI KW Clustering
- Customer reviews
- The NLO Revolution
- Press Center
- Help Center
- Content Resources
- Facebook Group
Easy Style Guide for Research Paper Subheadings
Table of Contents
Whether you’re writing in the APA or MLA format, there are rules that you need to follow. These rules help standardize research papers’ structure, making them easy to read and evaluate. This article explains the rules for completing research paper subheadings .
If you want to learn to write proper academic paper subheadings, read on.
What are Research Paper Subheadings?
Research paper subheadings are the most essential part of your paper. Your subheadings are the headings that appear in italics at the top of each page. They give the reader an idea of what to expect throughout the text and serve as tags in a research paper. They may also make it easier to refer to specific ideas or arguments in the article.
Research paper subheadings also improve the readability and flow of a paper, and it helps separate ideas. This helps readers fully grasp your meaning and follow your arguments.
Naming Sections and Subsections
Naming sections and subsections are essential because they will be referred to in the text. Subsections can be named in various ways, including by title or phrase representative of their content.
A research paper’s main sections are often specific to the journal, but some sections are standard in all papers. As a general rule, it’s essential to pay attention to the prescribed style for your paper (e.g., APA, MLA) .
Author instructions will also provide guidelines for writing your sections.
Rules for Research Paper Subheadings
Headers represent the content found in the different sections of your paper. They need to be descriptive and concise. This explains why the main sections of many articles have similar or exact headers such as:
These main sections are divided into subsections representing a facet of the main section. Think of it this way: Your research article is a tree made up of branches (Headings) that further separate into smaller branches ( Subheadings ). To fully grasp the concept of a tree, one needs to appreciate all its parts.
APA style headings structure:
If you’re writing a journal in the APA style, you’re allowed to use a maximum of five levels of headings. This depends greatly on your journal’s length, the complexity of topics, and personal preference.
Every header has a different format to indicate a shift to a new section. These headers usually don’t have numbering because the difference in the design already indicates a change of section. The different heading levels and their formats are illustrated below:
Level 1 Centered, Bold, Title Case
The text begins as a new paragraph.
Level 2 Left-aligned, Bold, Title Case
Level 3 left-aligned, bold italic, title case, level 4 indented, bold, title case, period . the text starts on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph., level 5 indented, bold italic, title case, period. the text starts on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph..
Again, these are the standard header formatting rules for APA. It’s important to take note of particular formatting rules included in the author instructions for your journal.
MLA paper headings example structure:
The MLA structure doesn’t require authors to follow exact rules for sectioning their articles. The structure needs to be consistent with general formatting guidelines such as:
- 12-pts Times New Roman font
- Double-spaced text
- 0.5-inch indentation for each new paragraph
Sections must also be written in title case (Capitalize major words and use lowercase for minor words). Below is an example of MLA section levels:
2. Material and Methods
2.1 Subject Recruitment
2.2 Experimental Procedure
2.3 Statistical Analysis
3.1 Experiment 1
3.2 Experiment 2
The MLA research style isn’t as strict as APA. It only requires authors to observe formatting standards for both types.
Subsection formats are essential in academic writing because they signify a shift in the subject matter . APA and MLA styles have different rules for sectioning. If you need help understanding these rules, feel free to revisit our style guide any time. Good luck with your research paper!
Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.
Explore All Subheading Articles
Subheadings writing guide: overview, benefits & tips.
An essential part of writing is the order in which key thoughts are labeled. Key points are often labeled with…
Using Subheadings For a Paper With MLA
The Modern Language Association created the MLA-style referencing system for literary works. The writing style provides a flexible framework for…
Whether you’re writing in the APA or MLA format, there are rules that you need to follow. These rules help…
Subheadings in Writing: Meaning and Examples
Do you want to divide your text into multiple parts? You must consider reading this article with an example of…
Recommended Guidelines for Using the Chicago Style Format
There are several formatting styles when it comes to writing research papers. Though not without their criticisms, the format for…
How to Use an Essay Subheading Properly
Some essay sub-headings are similar to signposts of topics you will discuss in your paper. They are simply a way…
Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- Research paper
- Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates
Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates
Published on November 19, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on January 20, 2023.
The formatting of a research paper is different depending on which style guide you’re following. In addition to citations , APA, MLA, and Chicago provide format guidelines for things like font choices, page layout, format of headings and the format of the reference page.
Scribbr offers free Microsoft Word templates for the most common formats. Simply download and get started on your paper.
APA | MLA | Chicago author-date | Chicago notes & bibliography
- Generate an automatic table of contents
- Generate a list of tables and figures
- Ensure consistent paragraph formatting
- Insert page numbering
Table of contents
Formatting an apa paper, formatting an mla paper, formatting a chicago paper, frequently asked questions about research paper formatting.
The main guidelines for formatting a paper in APA Style are as follows:
- Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial.
- Set 1 inch page margins.
- Apply double line spacing.
- If submitting for publication, insert a APA running head on every page.
- Indent every new paragraph ½ inch.
Watch the video below for a quick guide to setting up the format in Google Docs.
The image below shows how to format an APA Style title page for a student paper.
If you are submitting a paper for publication, APA requires you to include a running head on each page. The image below shows you how this should be formatted.
For student papers, no running head is required unless you have been instructed to include one.
APA provides guidelines for formatting up to five levels of heading within your paper. Level 1 headings are the most general, level 5 the most specific.
APA Style citation requires (author-date) APA in-text citations throughout the text and an APA Style reference page at the end. The image below shows how the reference page should be formatted.
Note that the format of reference entries is different depending on the source type. You can easily create your citations and reference list using the free APA Citation Generator.
Generate APA citations for free
Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services
Discover proofreading & editing
The main guidelines for writing an MLA style paper are as follows:
- Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman.
- Use title case capitalization for headings .
Check out the video below to see how to set up the format in Google Docs.
On the first page of an MLA paper, a heading appears above your title, featuring some key information:
- Your full name
- Your instructor’s or supervisor’s name
- The course name or number
- The due date of the assignment
A header appears at the top of each page in your paper, including your surname and the page number.
Works Cited page
MLA in-text citations appear wherever you refer to a source in your text. The MLA Works Cited page appears at the end of your text, listing all the sources used. It is formatted as shown below.
You can easily create your MLA citations and save your Works Cited list with the free MLA Citation Generator.
Generate MLA citations for free
The main guidelines for writing a paper in Chicago style (also known as Turabian style) are:
- Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman.
- Use 1 inch margins or larger.
- Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center.
Chicago doesn’t require a title page , but if you want to include one, Turabian (based on Chicago) presents some guidelines. Lay out the title page as shown below.
Bibliography or reference list
Chicago offers two citation styles : author-date citations plus a reference list, or footnote citations plus a bibliography. Choose one style or the other and use it consistently.
The reference list or bibliography appears at the end of the paper. Both styles present this page similarly in terms of formatting, as shown below.
To format a paper in APA Style , follow these guidelines:
- Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial
- Set 1 inch page margins
- Apply double line spacing
- Include a title page
- If submitting for publication, insert a running head on every page
- Indent every new paragraph ½ inch
- Apply APA heading styles
- Cite your sources with APA in-text citations
- List all sources cited on a reference page at the end
The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:
- Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman
- Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
- Center the paper’s title
- Use title case capitalization for headings
- Cite your sources with MLA in-text citations
- List all sources cited on a Works Cited page at the end
The main guidelines for formatting a paper in Chicago style are to:
- Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman
- Use 1 inch margins or larger
- Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center
- Cite your sources with author-date citations or Chicago footnotes
- Include a bibliography or reference list
To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Caulfield, J. (2023, January 20). Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved August 28, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-paper/research-paper-format/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, apa format for academic papers and essays, mla format for academic papers and essays, chicago style format for papers | requirements & examples.
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
Thanks for reading! Hope you found this article helpful. If anything is still unclear, or if you didn’t find what you were looking for here, leave a comment and we’ll see if we can help.
Still have questions?
What is your plagiarism score.
Structure of a Research Paper: Tips to Improve Your Manuscript
You’ve spent months or years conducting your academic research. Now it’s time to write your journal article. For some, this can become a daunting task because writing is not their forte. It might become difficult to even start writing. However, once you organize your thoughts and begin writing them down, the overall task will become easier.
We provide some helpful tips for you here.
Organize Your Thoughts
Perhaps one of the most important tasks before you even begin to write is to get organized. By this point, your data is compiled and analyzed. You most likely also have many pages of “notes”. These must also be organized. Fortunately, this is much easier to do than in the past with hand-written notes. Presuming that these tasks are completed, what’s next?
Related: Ready with your title and looking forward to manuscript submission ? Check these journal selection guidelines now!
When suggesting that you organize your thoughts, we mean to take a look at what you have compiled. Ask yourself what you are trying to convey to the reader. What is the most important message from your research? How will your results affect others? Is more research necessary?
Write your answers down and keep them where you can see them while writing. This will help you focus on your goals.
Aim for Clarity
Your paper should be presented as clearly as possible. You want your readers to understand your research. You also do not want them to stop reading because the text is too technical.
Keep in mind that your published research will be available in academic journals all over the world. This means that people of different languages will read it. Moreover, even with scientists, this could present a language barrier. According to a recent article , always remember the following points as you write:
- Clarity : Cleary define terms; avoid nonrelevant information.
- Simplicity : Keep sentence structure simple and direct.
- Accuracy : Represent all data and illustrations accurately.
For example, consider the following sentence:
“Chemical x had an effect on metabolism.”
This is an ambiguous statement. It does not tell the reader much. State the results instead:
“Chemical x increased fat metabolism by 20 percent.”
All scientific research also provide significance of findings, usually presented as defined “P” values. Be sure to explain these findings using descriptive terms. For example, rather than using the words “ significant effect ,” use a more descriptive term, such as “ significant increase .”
For more tips, please also see “Tips and Techniques for Scientific Writing”. In addition, it is very important to have your paper edited by a native English speaking professional editor. There are many editing services available for academic manuscripts and publication support services.
Research Paper Structure
With the above in mind, you can now focus on structure. Scientific papers are organized into specific sections and each has a goal. We have listed them here.
- Your title is the most important part of your paper. It draws the reader in and tells them what you are presenting. Moreover, if you think about the titles of papers that you might browse in a day and which papers you actually read, you’ll agree.
- The title should be clear and interesting otherwise the reader will not continue reading.
- Authors’ names and affiliations are on the title page.
- The abstract is a summary of your research. It is nearly as important as the title because the reader will be able to quickly read through it.
- Most journals, the abstract can become divided into very short sections to guide the reader through the summaries.
- Keep the sentences short and focused.
- Avoid acronyms and citations.
- Include background information on the subject and your objectives here.
- Describe the materials used and include the names and locations of the manufacturers.
- For any animal studies, include where you obtained the animals and a statement of humane treatment.
- Clearly and succinctly explain your methods so that it can be duplicated.
- Criteria for inclusion and exclusion in the study and statistical analyses should be included.
- Discuss your findings here.
- Be careful to not make definitive statements .
- Your results suggest that something is or is not true.
- This is true even when your results prove your hypothesis.
- Discuss what your results mean in this section.
- Discuss any study limitations. Suggest additional studies.
- Acknowledge all contributors.
- All citations in the text must have a corresponding reference.
- Check your author guidelines for format protocols.
- In most cases, your tables and figures appear at the end of your paper or in a separate file.
- The titles (legends) usually become listed after the reference section.
- Be sure that you define each acronym and abbreviation in each table and figure.
In their article entitled, “Ten simple rules for structuring papers,” in PLOS Computational Biology , authors Mensh and Kording provided 10 helpful tips as follows:
- Focus on a central contribution.
- Write for those who do not know your work.
- Use the “context-content-conclusion” approach.
- Avoid superfluous information and use parallel structures.
- Summarize your research in the abstract.
- Explain the importance of your research in the introduction.
- Explain your results in a logical sequence and support them with figures and tables.
- Discuss any data gaps and limitations.
- Allocate your time for the most important sections.
- Get feedback from colleagues.
Some of these rules have been briefly discussed above; however, the study done by the authors does provide detailed explanations on all of them.
Visit the following links for more helpful information:
- “ Some writing tips for scientific papers ”
- “ How to Structure Your Dissertation ”
- “ Conciseness in Academic Writing: How to Prune Sentences ”
- “ How to Optimize Sentence Length in Academic Writing ”
So, do you follow any additional tips when structuring your research paper ? Share them with us in the comments below!
Thanks for sharing this post. Great information provided. I really appreciate your writing. I like the way you put across your ideas.
Enago, is a good sources of academics presentation and interpretation tools in research writing
Rate this article Cancel Reply
Your email address will not be published.
Enago Academy's Most Popular
- Manuscripts & Grants
- Reporting Research
Research Aims and Objectives: The dynamic duo for successful research
Picture yourself on a road trip without a destination in mind — driving aimlessly, not…
- Old Webinars
- Webinar Mobile App
How Academic Editors Can Enhance the Quality of Your Manuscript
Avoiding desk rejection Detecting language errors Conveying your ideas clearly Following technical requirements
Effective Data Presentation for Submission in Top-tier Journals
Importance of presenting research data effectively How to create tables and figures How to avoid…
Demystifying Research Methodology With Field Experts
Choosing research methodology Research design and methodology Evidence-based research approach How RAxter can assist researchers
- Manuscript Preparation
- Publishing Research
How to Choose Best Research Methodology for Your Study
Successful research conduction requires proper planning and execution. While there are multiple reasons and aspects…
Top 4 Guidelines for Health and Clinical Research Report
Top 10 Questions for a Complete Literature Review
5 Things to Look For on a Research Writing Platform
Sign-up to read more
Subscribe for free to get unrestricted access to all our resources on research writing and academic publishing including:
- 2000+ blog articles
- 50+ Webinars
- 10+ Expert podcasts
- 50+ Infographics
- 10+ Checklists
- Research Guides
We hate spam too. We promise to protect your privacy and never spam you.
I am looking for Editing/ Proofreading services for my manuscript Tentative date of next journal submission:
What are your major challenges while writing a manuscript?
Tips on using major headings, subheadings, minor headings in research papers
Style & Format
Try this test: Choose someone who knows next to nothing about your subject, give her or him a draft of your paper, and get the reader to construct an organogram (also known as an organizational chart) from all the headings you have used. If he or she can construct such a chart with each heading in its right place, pat yourself on the back.
Constructing a suitable scheme of headings and applying it consistently makes it easier for readers to get a bird’s-eye view of your paper while skimming through it. (Remember that few papers are read from beginning to end. If the title of a paper looks relevant, your peers may look at the abstract; if the abstract interests them, they may skim through the paper; and if that quick skim-through looks promising, they may get down to giving serious attention to your paper.) Which is why it is important to pay attention to how you format headings. Major headings should really stand out; if your target journal demands the IMRaD format (Introduction, Materials and methods, Results, and Discussion), then the second-level headings should signal the scope of the paper, and the third-level headings, in turn, should signal the scope of each second-level heading.
If you think that such formatting is unimportant, remember that headings are chunks of information. Steven Pinker, the author of The Sense of Style: The thinking person’s guide to writing in the 21st century , says that as we master a subject, “we master a vast number of these abstractions, and each becomes a mental unit . . . an adult mind that is brimming with chunks is a powerful engine of reason”. The elaborate hierarchy of a taxonomy makes use of this power of chunking. For instance, we can tell something about an unfamiliar animal if we know that it is a vertebrate; if we know that it is a mammal, we know even more; if we are then told that it is a primate or a rodent or a carnivore, we get a pretty good idea of what sort of creature it is likely to be.
If your target journal follows numbered headings, the task becomes easy so long as you know the level of each heading: numbers 1, 2, 3, and so on are used for major headings (the highest level); subheadings are numbered 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 . . . 2.1, 2.2, and so on; and minor headings are numbered 1.1.1, 1.1.2, and so on. In fact, you can even use such a scheme even when the target journal does not use numbered headings but chooses to indicate the levels typographically: for example, major headings are centred, in a large font, and in bold; subheadings are set flush with the left margin, in a font smaller than that used for major headings, and perhaps normal and not bold; and minor headings may be in the same font size as that of text but italicized, with the text that follows beginning a new line.
When submitting a paper to such a journal, you can either follow that design for headings or opt for numbered headings with no elaborate formatting—what is important is that you signal your intentions unambiguously (thereby making it easy for anyone to construct an organogram for your paper).
As an aside, many journals from Elsevier use numbered headings, as the following excerpt from instructions to authors for the journal Water Research shows: “Divide your article into clearly defined and numbered sections. Subsections should be numbered 1.1 (then 1.1.1, 1.1.2, ...), 1.2, etc.” Yet, if you see a sample paper from that journal, you will observe that these numbers also end with a fullstop, as in 2. Materials and methods and 2.1. Study sites and sampling. Lastly, pay attention to how the headings are styled with reference to capitals or lowercase and follow that style. In the above example, the headings follow ‘sentence case’ and not ‘title case’ (Most Words Are Capitalized) or ‘all caps’ (ENTIRELY IN CAPITALS).
 Pinker S. 2014. The Sense of Style: the thinking person’s guide to writing in the 21st century . London: Allen Lane. 368 pp.
Be the first to clap
for this article
Published on: Oct 27, 2015
- Manuscript Formatting
- Manuscript Structure
You're looking to give wings to your academic career and publication journey. We like that!
Why don't we give you complete access! Create a free account and get unlimited access to all resources & a vibrant researcher community.
One click sign-in with your social accounts
Sign up via email
1536 visitors saw this today and 1210 signed up.
Subscribe to Manuscript Writing
Translate your research into a publication-worthy manuscript by understanding the nuances of academic writing. Subscribe and get curated reads that will help you write an excellent manuscript.
Confirm that you would also like to sign up for free personalized email coaching for this stage.
Latin phrases in scientific writing: italics or not
Grammar & Language
Scientific writing: Avoid starting sentences with a number or…
Avoid instructions such as "See Table 2" and "Refer to Figure 6"
Tips on using major headings, subheadings, minor headings in research papers 4 min read
3 Tips to write informative and logical headings 3 min read
How to write the conclusion of a research paper 5 min read
Understanding the importance of post-acceptance copyediting 4 min read
5 Practical tips for writing your first scientific paper [Download publication schedule planner] 5 min read
- Statement of the problem
- Background of study
- Scope of the study
- Types of qualitative research
- Rationale of the study
- Concept paper
- Literature review
- Introduction in research
- Under "Editor Evaluation"
- Ethics in research
- Review paper
- Responding to reviewer comments
- Predatory publishers
- Scope and delimitations
- Open access
- Plagiarism in research
- Journal selection tips
- Editor assigned
- Types of articles
- "Reject and Resubmit" status
- Decision in process
- Conflict of interest
How do I style headings and subheadings in a research paper?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook . For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook .
Headings and subheadings can help organize and structure your writing. In general, longer and more complex works warrant more of them than shorter ones. Avoid overusing headings in short projects; they should never be used to compensate for poor structure or to explain an underdeveloped idea.
When headings are called for in your writing project, observe the basic guidelines below.
The paper or chapter title is the first level of heading, and it must be the most prominent.
Headings should be styled in descending order of prominence. After the first level, the other headings are subheadings—that is, they are subordinate. Font styling and size are used to signal prominence. In general, a boldface, larger font indicates prominence; a smaller font, italics, and lack of bold can be used to signal subordination. For readability, don’t go overboard: avoid using all capital letters for headings (in some cases, small capitals may be acceptable):
Heading Level 1
Heading Level 2
Heading Level 3
Note that word-processing software often has built-in heading styles.
Consistency in the styling of headings and subheadings is key to signaling to readers the structure of a research project. That is, each level 1 heading should appear in the same style and size, as should each level 2 heading, and so on. Generally avoid numbers and letters to designate heads unless you are working in a discipline where doing so is conventional. Note that a heading labeled “1” requires a subsequent heading labeled “2,” and a heading labeled “a” requires a subsequent heading labeled “b.”
In a project that is not professionally designed and published, headings should be flush with the left margin, to avoid confusion with block quotations. (The exception is the paper or chapter title, which is centered in MLA style.)
For readability, it is helpful to include a line space above and below a heading, as shown in this post.
No internal heading level should have only one instance. For example, if you have one level 1 heading, you need to have a second level 1 heading. (The exceptions are the paper or chapter title and the headings for notes and the list of works cited.) You should also generally have text under each heading.
Capitalize headings like the titles of works, as explained in section 1.2 of the MLA Handbook .
The shorter, the better.
When writing an academic paper, the structure is consistent. Higher education papers grow off of what we are taught in elementary and secondary school, but there’s a structure to each format that is obviously important or it wouldn’t be a worldwide standard.
Part of the framework of writing an academic paper is to include headings and subheadings to divide the content into easily manageable sections. Headers and subheaders are used in everything from magazine articles and blogs to classroom textbooks. Although these features are integral in breaking up text into chunks that help the reader navigate through the content, the importance of the way they are worded is often overlooked. With so much content going digital today, the wording of a header and subheader can be the difference between having your article caught by a web crawler and read by your audience or completely overlooked altogether. There’s a purpose to refining your subheadings in research writing that you must understand in order to optimize your work.
Why Headings and Subheadings are Necessary
Academic papers are full of a lot of content. As early as primary school, text is necessary to get information out to the learner. But throwing it all out there on a piece of paper in one big chunk is overwhelming to the eye and, therefore, to the brain. White space is crucial to give our brains a resting point, thus the need for one-inch margins as a set standard for so many academic texts.
Heading and subheadings take this to the next level. They give our brains a chance to breathe and process what we just read, as well as get a heads-up for what we are about to be reading. Subheadings have the main intent of grabbing the readers’ attention and making them pause for a moment. The subheading tells the reader what they can expect to find - the main idea, as it were, of the section.
Each subheading guides the reader through the lengthy text and serves as a table of contents, but there’s an even more important purpose to their job. Your subheading must be eye-catching enough to the reader that they decide the content is worthy of their time and effort. It’s interesting to them and they should continue to read your work.
Those same headings and subheadings are also mined by web crawlers when a user types in keywords in their query. If you’re not using refined choices to carefully create your headings and subheadings, you could be missing out on a lot of potential readers.
How to Know if Your Subheadings are Clear
Subheadings divide the document up into relevant sections, but they also help the reader find their way through your lengthy paper. In academic papers, many readers are searching for something specific. They don’t want to read your entire research experiment to get to what they are looking for, but they do need to know the key parts of your work.
As they are scanning your paper, readers should be able to use your subheadings to understand the flow of the document. To ensure this is possible, make your subheadings clear by asking yourself the following questions as you choose your wording:
● Does the subheading contain keywords that tell the reader specifically what the main idea of the content in that section will include?
● Does the subheading wording match that of the rest of the surrounding subheadings?
● As an impartial reader, would the entire set of subheadings read by themselves create a flow that summarizes your work?
Keep tweaking the wording until all of these answers are yes.
How to Make a Refined Subheading
Ultimately, if your paper doesn’t make it through the web crawlers to get to your audience, it can’t make an impact. Refine your subheading to ensure optimization by using these tips:
● Give each section a unique subheading that includes a description of the content the reader will see until the next subheading.
● Keep the subheadings short and to the point.
● Use keywords in a natural, conversational manner.
● Be sure to separate your headings and subheadings with tags; that is, don’t just change the font and expect the web crawlers to realize it’s a subheading. You have to actually use the formatting option that tags your text as a header or subheader.
● Research keywords that match your content and use them in your subheadings as naturally as possible without stuffing them.
These tips will help your work be seen to as wide of an audience as possible and create a more impactful final result!
- Åland Islands
- American Samoa
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bolivia (Plurinational State of)
- Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Bouvet Island
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- Brunei Darussalam
- Burkina Faso
- Cayman Islands
- Central African Republic
- Christmas Island
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- Congo (Democratic Republic of the)
- Cook Islands
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Curacao !Curaçao
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
- Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
- Faroe Islands
- French Guiana
- French Polynesia
- French Southern Territories
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands
- Iran (Islamic Republic of)
- Isle of Man
- Korea (Democratic Peoples Republic of)
- Korea (Republic of)
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Marshall Islands
- Micronesia (Federated States of)
- Moldova (Republic of)
- New Caledonia
- New Zealand
- Norfolk Island
- North Macedonia
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Palestine, State of
- Papua New Guinea
- Puerto Rico
- Russian Federation
- Saint Barthélemy
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Martin (French part)
- Saint Pierre and Miquelon
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- Sint Maarten (Dutch part)
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- South Sudan
- Svalbard and Jan Mayen
- Syrian Arab Republic
- Tanzania, United Republic of
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- United States of America
- United States Minor Outlying Islands
- Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
- Virgin Islands (British)
- Virgin Islands (U.S.)
- Wallis and Futuna
- Western Sahara