APA style uses headings to help organize papers. The headings indicate the topic of a section. Most papers only use one or two levels, but more complicated papers can use up to five levels. How many levels you use dictates the format of your headings. Subheadings must have at least one other subheading at the same level.
The essay heading does not count as a level. The essay heading is centered and uses upper and lower case. It is not bold or italicized or in a larger font.
Sample essay heading using three levels of division:
My Bicycle Trip to Pennsylvania (title)
The paper begins with an introductory paragraph, which does not need the label “Introduction.” It should inform the reader of the paper’s main objective.
Preparing for the Trip (level 1, centered, bold, upper/lowercase)
There were many steps I should have taken to prepare for my bicycle trip, but back in 1979 I was a free spirit and pretty much just set off on my adventure. This section will explore ways in which I was successful in preparation, as well as indicating some ways I wish I had prepared better. The subsections will go into detail.
Routing the Trip (level 2, flush left,bold, upper/lowercase)
section could go on for several paragraphs, but because this is an incomplete
paper, it is only two sentences. Note there is no blank line between chapter
Maps are helpful. (level 3, indented, bold, italicized, only first word is capitalized, ends with a period, text follows after the period) Actually, I only knew that my final destination was Pennsylvania. I picked up maps from gas stations after I crossed state lines.
Bed and breakfast (B & B) reservations. (this is my second level 3 heading) The joy of bed and breakfasts and youth hostels is that you do not have to make reservations. It was, however, quite helpful to have a booklet listing youth hostels across America. This section could have separate paragraphs about the differences between B & Bs and youth hostels.
Setting Off! (level 1, centered, bold, upper/lowercase)
This section will describe my emotions when I said goodbye to my parents, how they took a photo of me, how in retrospect I was brave to set off without knowing where I was going besides the final destination, four states away (I took a ferry across Lake Michigan). I will include several level 4 headings to help the reader understand the organization of my paper. Since it is a personal piece, I will try to balance action with emotion.
Saying Goodbye to Friends (level 2, flush left, bold, upper/lowercase)
See the outline on the next page for how my headings would be organized. Space limitations make this sample incomplete but there should be at least two headings for each level.
Conclusion (level 1, centered, bold, upper and lowercase)
The conclusion reiterates the main points of the paper. It should not be too long or too detailed. It sums up what the author hoped the reader would learn from reading the paper.