Skip to content

What Is A Subheading In An Essay

The use of headings and subheadings give the readers a general idea of what to expect from the paper and leads the flow of discussion. These elements divide and define each section of the paper. APA recommends five-level heading structure based on the level of subordination.

Table of Content


Levels indicate the hierarchy of importance and scope of each heading and subheading. The extent of using the different levels depends on the length and complexity of the paper. Usually, short papers or articles use two to three levels, but longer papers necessitate up to five levels. Level 1 encompasses a broader topic and levels 2 to 5 covers narrow to more detailed topics.


Level 1 Section heading

Level 2 Subsection heading

Level 3 Subsection of a subsection heading

Level 4 Subsection under a subsection of a subsection heading

Level 5 Subsection under the three subsections heading



  1. No heading is needed for the first part of a paper as it is already assumed as the introduction.
  2. Headings and subheadings are not accompanied by letters or numbers.
  3. Use as many levels as required in your paper to present the most organized structure.
  4. The same level of heading or subheading should be of equal importance regardless of the number of subsections under it.
  5. Use at least two subheadings for each section and subsection, or use none.
  6. Start with level 1 through 5.
  7. Paragraph begins below levels 1 and 2, whereas for levels 3-5, the paragraph begins in line with the headings.
  8. Capitalize each word for levels 1 and 2.
  9. For levels 3-5, the headings are indented and end with a period.
  10. Only the first word is capitalized for levels 3-5.


To give you a clearer picture, here is the recommended format and example for the heading levels.





Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading

    Paragraph begins below with indention just like a regular paragraph.


Flush Left, Boldface, Uppercase, and Lowercase Heading

Paragraph begins below with indention just like a regular paragraph.


     Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period. Paragraph begins in line with the headings.


     Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period. Paragraph begins in line with the headings.


     Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period. Paragraph begins in line with the headings.



Methods (Level 1)

Research Design (Level 2)

Paragraph begins here…

Study Site and Participant (Level 2)

Paragraph begins here…

Data Collection (Level 2)

Paragraph begins here…

Instruments. (Level 3) Paragraph begins here…

Procedures. (Level 3) Paragraph begins here…

Socio-demographic and medical history data gathering. (Level 4) Paragraph begins here…

Anthropometric and body composition assessment. (Level 4) Paragraph begins here…

Dietary assessment. (Level 4) Paragraph begins here…

Three-day food record. (Level 5) Paragraph begins here…

Semi-qualitative FFQ. (Level 5) Paragraph begins here…


 A Couple of Writing Tips

Writing is meant to communicate ideas and get our points across as clearly and as effective as possible. But no matter how informative your writing is, it wouldn’t be as valuable if it is incoherent. You have to write in such a way that every part of your paper will have a logical sequence and sound structure to make it comprehensive and easy to understand. There are certain ways in writing a clear and concise paper, and here are simple tips which are especially useful for scientific studies:


First, state your points clearly and precisely.

Second, integrate parts with relevant or similar information to avoid repetition.

Third, use an active voice.

And fourth, organize the structure of your paper.

As a writer, I think the most important among the aforementioned tips is the organization of structure. Once you have a complete picture of what you will include in your paper, everything else will follow.

Ask the MLAformatting a paperheadings

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

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):

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.


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.)


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.)


Capitalize headings like the titles of works, as explained in section 1.2 of the MLA Handbook.


The shorter, the better.