Easy Guide on Standard Research Paper Headings

Academic papers are daunting assignments because of their length and complexity. They often include a plethora of ideas that can easily overwhelm the average reader.

This is why it’s important that you break up your paper into sections. It helps make your paper more readable, and it provides readers with a point of reference. If you want to learn how to use a research paper heading properly, read on.

Let’s begin by delving into the essence of the thing we’re trying to write.

click pen on white notebook
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

What is a Research Paper?

A research paper is a form of writing where the author presents an argument, study, or data meant to draw attention to an issue. Research essays are a common assignment in higher education.

Many students dread them because of their perceived difficulty and complexity. However, students shouldn’t feel daunted by them. While research essays do require a lot of work and effort, they aren’t as difficult as they seem.

Most times, you need only follow a specific format. The format of your essay will vary depending on which style guide you’re following. The main essay styles are:

  • APA
  • MLA
  • Chicago

They each vary in terms of font choices, heading format, page layout, and reference page layout. 

In this guide, we’ll delve into the proper research paper format for headings and subheadings. This guide will also explain the relevance of heading formats.

The Importance of Research Paper Heading Formats

The main sections of a research paper have general headers that represent a shift in idea or mark the start of a new section. Headings and subheadings help organize a wall of text to create content that’s easy to read and follow.

Moreover, they make it easy for readers to understand the logical flow of a paper. It’s a way to cluster ideas under a particular section. It also makes it easy for reviewers to check your work.

Headings are a way to indicate the level of importance of your content. Main sections are divided into subsections representing an aspect of the main section. You can compare your research article to a tree made up of branches (Headings) that further separate into smaller branches (Subheadings). Readers must grasp all the parts of the tree to fully understand its essence.

If you’re unsure of how to format your research paper, refer to the next section. It will show you how to format your headings according to the most popular style guides.

How To Format a Research Paper Heading

APA Research Paper Heading Format

The APA style allows writers to use a maximum of five heading levels depending on journal length, topic complexity, and personal preference.

Different header formats indicate a shift to a new section. APA style headers don’t use numbering because the difference in design already indicates a change of section. 

For example:

Level 1 Centered, Bold, Use Title Case

Text forms a new paragraph.

Level 2 Left-aligned, Bold, Use Title Case

Text forms a new paragraph.

Level 3 Left-aligned, Bold Italic, Use Title Case

Text forms a new paragraph

Level 4 Indented, Bold, Use Title Case, Period. Start the text on the same line and continue it as a regular paragraph.

Level 5 Indented, Bold and Italic, Use Title Case, Period. Start the text on the same line and continue it as a regular paragraph.

MLA Research Paper Heading Format

The MLA format isn’t as strict in terms of sectioning format, but it does require writers to follow general formatting guidelines such as:

  • 12-pts Times New Roman font
  • Double-spaced text
  • 0.5-inch indentation for each new paragraph
  • Use title case for sections [Capitalize major words, lowercase for everything else.] 

For example:

1. Introduction

2. Material and Methods

2.1 Subject Recruitment

2.2 Experimental Procedure

2.3 Statistical Analysis

3. Results

3.1 Experiment 1

3.2 Experiment 2

4. Discussion

5. Conclusion

As evident in the example, the MLA format is simpler and doesn’t require a lot of formatting.

In Summary

Headings and subheadings are important because they have a direct impact on our ability to read and understand information. Adhering to the standards of the publication style required of you makes it easy to understand and review your paper.

Remember that structure is the key to good literature. Formatting rules bring order to the body of your research paper, and they make finding the different sections easy. 

Feel free to refer to this guide as you write your paper. Best of luck!

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.

How to Write a Synthesis Essay Outline

One of the most interesting assignments you could have is writing a synthesis essay. For a college or university student,…

November 14, 2022

Learning the Structure of an Informational Essay

Academic writing assignments, primarily essays, are required of all college and university students. That’s because they think it will aid…

November 14, 2022

The Correct Way to Structure an Article

Writing non-fiction has a set format that can be followed, which makes it not all that different from writing fiction.…

November 14, 2022

Exploring the Structure of a Response Essay

You will typically be expected to write in a formal and impersonal voice when you are given the assignment of…

November 14, 2022

Writing a Persuasive Essay? Use This Structure!

Writing essays is a requirement of your academic program as a college student. Whether you love them or loathe them,…

November 14, 2022

Writing a Proposal Essay? Read This!

Are you writing a proposal essay? To write it correctly, we have to know what a proposal essay actually is.…

November 14, 2022