Easy Style Guide for Research Paper Subheadings

Whether you’re writing in the APA or MLA format, there…

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. 

person writing diagram on white paper
Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash

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:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Material
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

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

The text begins as a new paragraph.

Level 3 Left-aligned, Bold Italic, Title Case

The text begins as a new paragraph.

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:

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

The MLA research style isn’t as strict as APA. It only requires authors to observe formatting standards for both types. 

In Summary

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!

Frequently asked questions

How do I style headings and subheadings in a research paper?

  • The head headings of sections use boldface fonts.
  • Subsection head headings are left-aligned and boldfaced.
  • The third level is left-aligned, indented, boldface.
  • The fourth level follows the pattern of the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.

What is the purpose of a sub heading?

Subheadings are mini-headlines or text that surround the headline to provide additional insight or support. It is usually used to entertain, shock, or hook readers, but the subheading encourages the reader to keep reading or reviewing the information.

How do you do headings in a research paper?

Title case is used for headings. The third level uses boldfaces, left-aligned indentures, and left-allergic fonts. Headings have capital letters only for the first word, and they end in a period. Italicized headings follow the same style used for the previous level, except for their boldfaces.

What are some examples of subheadings?

The headline in the headline read “House burns down on Elm Street” with the subheading “Arson suspected.” You can find the chart in the “Financial Matters” chapter under the sub heading “.

How many subheadings should a 500 word article have?

One 500-word blog article should contain at least three subheadings. Headlines and subheadings follow the same formula and style. Capitalize the first and last words on both when they are 80 characters or less.

Should I number subheadings?

If you are writing a long document such as a dissertation or thesis, it may be appropriate to structure your content under headings and subheadings. If so, you may need to number your headings or subheadings so you can reference them elsewhere in your document, such as a table of contents.

How do you write a subheading for a research paper?

Method subheadings should only be keywords that illustrate what information is being provided, not summaries or conclusions. Hence, “Subject Recruitment” is a good method section subheading, but “Subjections Were Screened Using Questionnaires” is not.

How do you style subheadings?

The subheadings should therefore have the same size, format, and style for easy identification. Additionally, all subheadings in an MLA paper or essay should be flushed to the left margin to avoid confusion with block quotations. Also, no internal level should have only one.

Do you indent subheadings?

Every subsection that falls under the major sections is formatted with the next level of heading. All paragraphs of the main body, including those that fall under subsections of a larger section, retain the same indentation pattern, use Times New Roman font, and are double-spaced.

What is the difference between a heading and a subheading?

Under headings, you can find the title of an article or book in the text below, which adds information about the headline, or that separates parts of an item. A subheading is typically in type that is smaller than the heading but larger than the text which follows it.

How do you format a subheading in APA?

APA headings: double-space all text, including the headings. Use the same font for headings and body text (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt. Do not label headings with numbers or letters. Add no extra “entry” above or below headings.

Can a research paper have subheadings?

Headings and subheadings are great tools for organizing your writing. These are generally longer and more complex works than shorter ones. Avoid using overused headings in short projects; they should never be used to compensate for poor structure or explain an underdeveloped idea.

How do you write subheadings in APA 7?

If a section numbered with a Roman numeral is divided into A and B subsections, there are no subsection headings within it (e.g., an outline would contain neither A nor B subsection, so the A subsection.

How many subheadings must you list under a heading?

Heading Levels In APA Style, if you have a subheading under a larger heading, there must be more than one subheads under the larger heading. In the case of a Level 1 heading and you want a subheading below it, there must be more than one Level 2 heading under each Level 1.

How do you write headings and subheadings in an essay?

Easy Style Guide for Research Paper Subheadings

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.

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…

September 1, 2022

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…

September 1, 2022

Easy Style Guide for Research Paper Subheadings

Whether you’re writing in the APA or MLA format, there are rules that you need to follow. These rules help…

September 1, 2022

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…

September 1, 2022

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…

September 1, 2022

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…

September 1, 2022